Overreaction, Overcorrection & Overkill Can Stop Us From Overcoming Sexual Harassment

Would you kill a cockroach with a sledgehammer?  Not if you want to save whatever its crawling on.  There is no question that we are in a necessary period of cultural reckoning.  It has been brewing for a while but now it has come.  Predatory maleness is out of fashion, in decline and is now officially on the run.  We just need to make sure that we don’t go about killing it like killing that ugly cockroach with a sledgehammer.  Adjusting to the period of reckoning requires that we only swing that sledgehammer when it is truly necessary. No disrespect to Mrs. Alred, but she’s kind of like that hammer that may leave your marble floor cracked up even though it did kill that ugly roach.

Lawyer Gloria Allred holds a photograph of Jessica and Drake Donald Trump, taken in 2006 at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Calforinia, after she speaked to reporters about allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump in Los Angeles

One thing we know from history is that a period of reckoning can get very messy.  The phrase “when there’s blood in the street buy real estate” became a part of the Western cultural lexicon in the 18th century when Napoleon was finally getting his long-overdue ass-kicking and it is as true today as it was back then.   The blood running right now may be figurative (and financial) but the impact will prove in time to be analogous.  I’ll put a fine point on this thing in case anybody is missing it:  When a Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, or Charlie Rose goes down, SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE gets a big come-up.  An opportunity for a big pay-day is there for whoever can fill the vacuum.  So don’t let Megyn Kelly’s crocadile tears for Matt Lauer fool you- she probably broke out into the electric slide when she heard the news of his firing like black folks at a wedding.

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This is a word of caution to the people of good conscience out here who will be making decisions bearing on allegations that will come their way over the next couple of years:  Slow your roll.  At this moment everybody is so intent on demonstrating that they are on the right side of history that they are willing to suspend their discernment.  And everybody is so determined to ride the great wave of public opinion and a shifting paradigm that they are willing to accept unnecessary collateral damage.  If we are not careful we will wind up with a new crisis on our hands as we work in earnest to address the old one.

We cannot forget the fundamentals of human nature as we work to remodel our cultural and societal norms.  In sum:  people do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Sometimes people embellish the truth for dramatic affect.  Sometimes people even outright lie.  And not too far back in American history, lies costs men their lives- especially when those lies revolve around matters of sexual misconduct- however that may have been defined at a given time.

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This is neither new, nor is it news.  But in this moment, many people are ignoring these unpleasant realities because they just don’t fit in neatly with the overly-simplistic and ultra-convenient “zero tolerance” policy on sexual misconduct that people say they want us to live under.

We have already seen how the #MeToo movement has balooned and swallowed up men from the high end of the employment scale in the entertainment and pop culture arenas.  We have no reason to expect it to slow down anytime soon.  But what we have also seen moving on an almost parallel track is the underground movement to weaponize the sexual harassment charge for personal and political gain.

The biggest news of the week was the dramatic fall of NBC’s Matt Lauer- by far the biggest fish to get fried in #MeToo movement.  But the most lasting and impactful news was when The Washington Post caught a woman posing as a sexual assault survivor of Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore.  She contacted The Post with a far flung tale of child rape, pregnancy, and a trip with Moore across state lines to procure an abortion- all while she was 15 and Moore was in his early 30’s.

It did not take The Post long to discover that the entire story was a lie- a rouse orchestrated by right-wing nut job and conspiracy theorist James O’Keefe.

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O’Keefe’s goal was to expose The Post (and presumably all other major news outlets) for printing outright lies for the purpose of sinking Roy Moore’s candidacy.  That is obviously abject stupidity but what the f*ck do we expect from James O’Keefe and anybody who is foolish or deranged enough to be mixed up with him?

The biggest problem is that it proves that we have officially crossed over into the phase of this social re-ordering that people are willing to lie about sexual misconduct in order to achieve a political end or serve a personal agenda.  Are we naive enough to believe that this is an isolated incident and that nobody else would ever do such a thing?  Are we still so blind that we insist on standing firm on the position that Nicole Wallace articulated one recent morning on MSNBC that “No woman would lie about being harassed or assaulted!  When a woman comes forward, she is to be believed!

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Really, Nicole?  Well the Washington Post has proven otherwise and we had best be cognizant of the fact that this is the very tip of the iceberg.  I am not suggesting that a flood of false allegations is about to wash us away down the river of denial, but let’s consider this:  What happens when these claims begin to trickle down from the mountain tops of multi-millionaires and start to hit a much wider swath of the workforce?  Some car dealership finance manager busting his ass to make $90K a year may live a nice life but if he loses his job because two or three women he worked with ten years ago say he touched her asses when he brushed past them in the break-room all hell is going to break loose.  You can count on it.

Because men like that cannot afford to lose their job at age 35 over something they may have done when they were 25- assuming for the sake of argument that they did it.  When those guys fight back out of survival necessity because they are now unemployed and unemployable there will certainly be the blood running in the streets- legally speaking.  Crippling litigation, claims and counter-claims, revolving door employment and even old-school corporate espionage can tie us up in knots of uncertainty that would distract and dampen the American workplace like few things we have seen before.

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If you happen to ask an EEOC executive level professional about this scenario or even a principled employment lawyer my bet is they will probably decline politely to discuss it in any detail.  Why?  Because people speaking in their official capacity tend to avoid causing a panic or fomenting chaos in our legal system. And that is exactly what we will have if people don’t calm their asses down, take a breath and think about what they are doing.  The simple fact is that a zero tolerance policy is the perfect example of our societal tendency to overreact, over-correct, and to cross into over-kill when we have a big problem to solve.  We just can’t do that here and now.  The stakes are too high and the costs too difficult to really project.  So slow your roll, folks.  Here is how you deal with the harassment allegations coming your way:  Take all allegations seriously. Listen to all of the facts you can get.  Take everything into account.  Then make your judgment on a case by case basis by whatever rules you have in place.  The only thing that you should have zero-tolerance for is the very idea of a zero-tolerance policy.

In short, put down the sledgehammer when a shoe will do the job just fine.

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