A nationwide epidemic of sexual harassment is a scandal too good to be true. From all appearances the problem is rampant at the highest levels of our society and that means the hype is what counts even though it mocks this vulgar abuse of power. We love having the dirt dished up about prominent people behaving badly.
That means harassment is welcome everywhere we can find it with hardly a thought to the facts or the damage it leaves behind.
Harassment is welcome because it attracts attention
Our society is eager for scandal, so eager that our new obsession with harassment takes innocence off the table. A suggestion that something out of line occurred is enough to ruin a career, lose a congressional seat, or even set the criminal justice system in motion.
This is a good thing for those who benefit from trending harassment hype. It’s a bad thing for victims thrust into the spotlight and for those who didn’t do what they are accused of.
That assumes not everyone is guilty. So far most of the accused have disappeared before we can give what they were accused of a second thought. That’s not justice exactly, but when too many years pass real justice is off the table.
Political payoff to a nationwide scandal
For conservatives harassment brought back Bill Clinton. This makes a mockery of Democrats’ insistence that Roy Moore be judged immediately and harshly for allegations yet to be proved. With most things Democratic the ends justify the means so anything that discredits the right is ethical and fair, but the tolerance for Clinton’s behavior and Hillary’s tacit acceptance should be too much for any American to bear.
Harassment is welcome for reasons you haven’t thought of
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, harassment is welcome in our society because it can be put to good, if not entirely ethical use.
Harassment ruins careers
Is this about revenge, justice, or just desserts?
The scandal is still growing. The accused are stepping down or being forced out, except for a notably defiant Roy Moore who was quickly abandoned by his own party.
It’s easy and satisfying to judge others based on our likes, dislikes, and prejudices. Years ago that meant Bill Clinton got a pass and was allowed to remain in office. It means conservatives can gleefully sit back and watch Al Franken’s slow slide into oblivion. It also means that every candidate during the 2018 midterms is likely to be accused of being a harasser.
Whether or not they are guilty won’t matter. It’s the hype that counts.
Harassment is good politics
Like most issues lawmakers are terrified of appearing soft on, Congress got behind this one right away. The push for harassment legislation is underway. D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton announced:
Norton has required herself and her congressional staff to complete sexual harassment training, and has urged her colleagues to mandate training even before a formal House requirement.1
Is this a valid issue for Congress to take up? The House and Senate bills follow a predictable partisan trend. H.R.4155, the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act requires mandatory training every two years for anyone whose job places them under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.2 93 Democrats said yes. Only 7 Republicans agreed.3
A half-hearted Senate effort followed with another bill mandating harassment training. There were only 12 cosponsors and only half as many Republicans as Democrats. That’s an interesting strategy for the GOP considering the tenuous relationship of Republicans with women voters and the fact that S.Res.323, STOP Sexual Harassment, was sponsored by Republican Charles Grassley.
Harassment is an easy issue
I just found out what my new health premiums are for 2018. Another massive increase nearly quadrupled my yearly bill compared to what I was paying four years ago. That’s because pointing fingers, writing go-nowhere partisan bills, and rooting out immorality is a lot easier than fixing real problems that hurt ordinary Americans.
Instead, we’re focused on the issue of bad behavior by the rich, famous, and notable. Do working class people also harass? Of course they do, but when they do it it’s not nearly as much fun.
We enjoy seeing the privileged fall from grace
Admit it. We love this kind of stuff. If we didn’t there would be no such thing as tabloid journalism. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching someone who is rich and famous stumble and fall.
It’s not nice and it’s not right, but it’s what we are.
Sex is dirty
Sexual harassment has an unclean feel to it that’s hard to beat when you want to discredit someone, though to be fair if anyone in the headlines is innocent we haven’t heard about it yet. Corruption we can tolerate. Sex? Not on your life.
Harassment is welcome anywhere headlines = profit
At the end of the day this is why harassment is welcome in America. Headlines are profit. That’s the cynical truth about a national sensation that unlike other trends shows no signs of fading away just yet.
When we get our collective hands on a serious issue we can forget what the real problem is. Sexual harassment is a bad thing, but not for the reasons we enjoy it or the ways our society responds.