But it doesn’t have quite the same finesse, does it? You’d be mighty miffed to be called a witch... but a warlock? Hell yeah! Sounds nothing but empowering.
Alas, quite the opposite I fear is happening to the diminished male specimen of the 21st Century. And just who has usurped man of his libido and crushed under foot any last remaining morsel of charm? The bloody media, that’s who.
The coven of global newsrooms and tabloids has conjured a mad and relentless McCarthyist witch hunt over any semblance of the male figure. Wizards and warlocks the world over have less ‘shazam’ left in their hats than Harry, Ron and Hermione after a big night out on Bangla Rd.
How did this feeding frenzy come about? Like most distorted news stories in recent times, it’s an abhorrent feedback loop that now seems to undermine the quality of serious journalism. What starts off with good intentions and a great story gets distorted by the deafening scream of the revolting mass on social media, which is then feverishly regurgitated back to them via the mainstream media as the ‘true’ story.
To my case, let’s take the recent #MeToo campaign. ‘Me Too’ was actually first used as far back as 2006 by the US civil rights activist Tarana Burke. Burke began using the phrase ‘Me Too’ to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. Burke is an inspiring and significant figure among a group of other prominent female activists dubbed “the silence breakers”.
Fast forward to October 2017, following the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the American actress Alyssa Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about their experiences, to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem” via the hashtag #MeToo.
So far so good. But it’s what happens to these serious and credible stories once they are turned over to the hoarding masses that worries me. The feedback loop almost instantly distorts the original sound like Hendrix’s Marshall stack turned up to 11, and the once tender notes of understanding and empathy are suddenly a screeching wall of sound that relentlessly blares at us all until we submit.
Before you all start dunking me in the nearest klong and proclaiming I’m guilty if I float, and innocent if I drown, please let me cast a clear caveat over this entire line of questioning.
Of course any form of sexual harassment is wrong. The world needs to wake up to inherent sexism, and women need to be protected from a magnitude of misogyny both in the workplace and society in general. Agreed? OK. But that doesn’t by association make man guilty of being a man.
There are many examples where this campaign has gotten out of hand, where basic rights and reputations have been torn down in the rampant momentum on little more than hearsay, let alone insubstantial evidence. It’s a broad and concerning hypocrisy about injustice.
Let’s take the recent case of Bryan Singer, the American director of films such as The Usual Suspects, the X-Men series and, most recently, Bohemian Rhapsody. Singer is openly gay. He has also been accused of sexual misconduct by various male claimants over the years. Worth noting that these are charges the director denies, and any legal claims that have been made to date have either been dismissed on insubstantial evidence or withdrawn by the accuser.
My point is not to second guess his professional behaviour or sexual conduct. The point is that any and all claims to date have not been proven. He is, by definition, currently innocent. But you wouldn’t think so if you searched his name online.
His name for journalists is now synonymous with serious sexual ‘claims’. ‘The disgraced director’, ‘the accused rapist’. Yes, accused. You wouldn’t think so by the actions of his industry or peers.
At the Oscar Awards last month, his film Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars, more than any other film. No mention of Bryan Singer. No winner of each award took a stand nor denounced the director. By doing so they’ll either become part of the witch hunt by mentioning him, or libellous for inferring the allegations as ‘truth’. Welcome to the zeitgeist madness. Everyone is running scared due to guilt by association.
At the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) earlier in that month, BAFTA took the rather unprecedented and precarious decision to remove Singer’s nomination for Best Director ahead of the awards, citing, “In light of recent very serious allegations, BAFTA has informed Bryan Singer that his nomination for Bohemian Rhapsody has been suspended, effective immediately”.
So we’re now passing absolute judgement on individuals who are implicated in the #MeToo campaign. Guilty until proven innocent is, quite literally, all the rage. For Bryan Singer, it’s game over.
In a previous career, I was fortunate enough to win one of the much prized bronze statuettes. However, if an independent art charity whose purpose “is a world where everyone’s life is culturally and creatively enriched through excellent work in film, games and television” feels it is now authorised by public trend alone to pass blind judgement on whomever it likes, then they’re welcome to have it back.
It’s concerning times for the modern Romeo when Cupid points his arrow at the impending law suit and public flogging.
But there has been some sanity amidst the mayhem. 100 French female celebrities, including Catherine Deneuve, signed an open letter criticising the #MeToo social media campaign. The campaign, they said, had gone beyond exposing individual perpetrators, and had unleashed a torrent of “hatred against men and sex.”
“Puritanism” was running rampant “like in the good old days of witchcraft”, they argued, stating that the freedom of men to pester was “essential to sexual freedom”.
Around the world – notably the US – instant rage at their misguided folly followed.
“It’s hard to imagine a US movie star not being comprehensively pilloried” for signing such a letter, stated Emily Yoffe, contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine.
US actor Matt Damon drew the wrath of the online law-givers for much milder reservations about the #MeToo movement. His withdrawal back to the shadows was immediate.
We are now being governed by intimidation. Where do we go from here? It’s down to the lake, I fear. Social media? Here’s to the ever growing faceless and empowered monster of mass hysteria and public hangings.
If there’s a stairway to Heaven for the self-righteous, thank God there’s a highway to Hell for the rest of us.