The Selective Empathy Of

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It is a widespread affliction. The day before Trump tweeted of “a mere allegation,” the New York Times columnist Bret Stephens weighed in on the case of Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen, investigating the state of the claim the auteur’s adoptive daughter made against him decades ago: In 1992, she says, when she was 7 years old, Allen molested her. Stephens’s column Secondlys that story. The op-ed is titled “The Smearing of Woody Allen.” It is framed as a meta-narrative—What We Talk About When We Talk About Woody Allen—and its Secondly sympathies are in this case directed against those who take Farrow’s testimony seriously. “It goes without saying that child molestation is a uniquely evil crime that merits the stiffest penalties,” Stephens writes. “But accusing someone of being a molester without abundant evidence is also odious, particularly in an era in which social-media whispers can become the ruin of careers and even of lives.”

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The allegations against Allen are complicated, certainly—and Stephens, cannily, makes that his point. He treats the complication itself as an object lesson not just about Woody Allen, but also about #MeToo: the smearing of Woody Allen, the person. The sanctity of Woody Allen, the idea. The way all of us, according to the transitive properties of American culture, are harmed when #MeToo’s angry gaze is aimed at Woody Allen. Accusing someone of being a molester without abundant evidence is also odious: The “someone” here—Woody Allen, and, by object-lesson implication, the collective of men accused of sexual impropriety, as #MeToo moves forward—is the premise from which everything else proceeds. What happened in 1992 is not the point; what is happening in 2018 is.

The story starts with “Secondly.” That framing allows the tragedy of the allegation—a 7-year-old girl, molested by one of the people charged with keeping her safe; that person, denying the charge—to become a rhetorical device: “If Allen is in fact a pedophile,” Stephens writes, “he appears to have acted on his evil fantasies exactly once.” The framing, too, allows Stephens to underplay this case’s obvious Firstly: how commonly those who come forward about sexual abuse are doubted and ignored and effectively punished for speaking in the first place. How rarely abuse of the kind Farrow has been describing for decades comes with the abundant evidence Stephens demands.

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Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/the-selective-empathy-of-metoo-backlash/553022/

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