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Taking Harassment Seriously Requires Serious Distinctions

There’s a consensus aborning: There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment, exploitation, and violence of any kind. Enthusiasm for the new dawn varies widely. Some think it’s a great feminist or moral awakening. Others see an era of witch hunts, prudery, and weaponized politics in our future.

Put me down for all of the above.

As a conservative, this seems natural to me. Almost every good thing comes with a downside, and virtually every bad thing comes with an upside.

We’ve seen cultural, political, and religious awakenings before. The abolition movement also brought with it John Brown. Prohibition had some positive (though hotly debated) effects on public health, and the temperance movement helped pave the way for women’s suffrage. Anti-communism was a good thing in my book, but no one can honestly dispute that it had its unfortunate excesses.

Whenever popular passion swamps politics, true-believing zealots and opportunistic demagogues will exploit that passion. The zealots will overreach. The demagogues will demagogue — using a good cause to destroy political enemies and defend unworthy allies.

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is credibly accused by nine women of preying on teenagers, one as young as 14. Harvey Weinstein is credibly accused by at least 50 women of a long list of offenses, including rape. Democratic senator Al Franken has been accused by two women of inappropriate advances or groping.

These are just the recent lowlights. A host of prominent journalists as well as Hollywood actors, writers, and producers have been accused of varying degrees of misconduct.

We shouldn’t stand for any of it. And yet, the severity of our intolerance should run on a spectrum. Rape should put you in jail. Making a pass at a subordinate in the workplace should have consequences. Making one at a bar? It depends. Taking harassment seriously also requires making serious distinctions.

The problem is that the logic of zero tolerance often renders every bad act as equally unacceptable.

Read more at  National Review. 

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