"Guess who's perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It's the men in this country… And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.”
These were Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono’s comments last week placing blame on an entire gender for what she perceives as the unfairness of the process concerning Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Alyssa Milano, the actress often credited with furthering the #MeToo movement on social media, chimed in with her own thoughts, focused not only on Kavanaugh but also on another man, President Trump: “The courage of survivors will always be stronger than Donald Trump’s misogyny. The lives of survivors will always be more important than Brett Kavanaugh's career.”
Shut up “men”? “Survivors” of alleged crimes never prosecuted and currently uncorroborated, more important than a man’s 30-plus-year unblemished career?
This could not have been the goal of the #MeToo movement that just this time last year was so instrumental in outing sexual predator monsters, as seen with the overwhelming evidence uncovered against media mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Do all women really feel that an entire gender has nothing meaningful to contribute to this debate? Worse yet, do they agree that the objectives of #MeToo are worth the unilateral imposition of a career death penalty sentence for sexual assault accusations made without due process and the right of the accused to confront his accuser and test their credibility?
Make no mistake. This piece is not critical of the original purpose of #MeToo. Far from it.
Sexual harassment and assault are significant issues in the U.S. and abroad. #MeToo, to date, has primarily focused its efforts on the worst of powerful men who sought or even forced “quid pro quo” sexual relations on their female job or industry status subordinates.
These achievements aside, so much more meaningful work can be done on the issues most prevalent in small to big business 2018 America.
As general counsel to several businesses across the country, the most prevalent issue I see is the daily potential for virtual hostile work environments due to the now omnipresent “mobile work day” and sexually charged text and social media messaging between co-workers, including supervisors to their subordinates.
There is a dire need for better training on what sexual harassment and sexual assault are, as well as for open dialogue as to best-practice prevention efforts between co-workers of both sexes.
What happens when movements launched to seek fairness and justice morph into crusades built on fear?
Sadly, we’ve been here as a country before.
In February 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a little-known senator from Wisconsin, took full advantage of the fear postwar Americans felt toward the growing communist threat, placing his focus on citizens of status and accomplishment:
“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores . . . but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate, or members of minority groups who have been traitorous to this Nation, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest Nation on earth has had to offer . . . the finest homes, the finest college education and the finest jobs in government we can give.”
Senator McCarthy and his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations went on to harass and ruin the reputations of countless Americans he and the Subcommittee labeled communist sympathizers.
The victims of what became known as “McCarthyism” included several well-known celebrities, from Nancy Davis (later best known under her married name, Nancy Reagan), Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, and Orson Wells.
Was there any evidence that any of these people were actually communists or even communist sympathizers? None. Didn’t matter, McCarthyism focused on fear, not fairness and due process.
Until one man had enough. A direct-speaking news reporter of unquestioned character, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow made his fame reporting across the Atlantic over the radio as World War II raged in London. The famous closing to all of Murrow’s broadcasts was “good night, and good luck.”
In spring 1954, Murrow took McCarthy on directly via his CBS program "See It Now," famously pleading with his audience:
“We must remember always, that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”
Murrow’s and his CBS colleagues’ relentless efforts to expose the inherit unfairness, fearmongering, and anti-due process nature of McCarthy’s tactics led to the Senator’s censure late in 1954. Senator McCarthy was then relegated to the position of powerless bystander for the remainder of his career in government, ultimately passing away of what was later determined to be liver disease from alcoholism in 1957.
Regardless of the outcome of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, where will we as a country go from here? Who will speak up for due process and the rights of the accused against high profile government officials, celebrities, or even a mob looking to blame an entire group while asking questions later or never? Senator Lindsey Graham did his best to push back during the hearing last Thursday. Even staunch liberal celebrity political commentator Bill Maher has warned of the concerns of a #MeCarthyism. Of course, this was in reference to a Democrat under scrutiny, Senator Al Franken.
A small sampling of lone constitutional defenders won’t be enough. Fear opportunists walking the Senate’s chambers have successfully infected the American psyche before. The voices of American men and, importantly, the women in their lives, who worry about their dads’, husbands’, brothers’ and sons’ right to fairness and due process, must let their voices be heard.
Otherwise, say “good night and good luck” to #MeToo and “good morning” to #MeCarthyism.
Bryan often says he’s lived a "Forrest Gump" life – from his experience working for two Ohio governors, his first legal job with the California firm made famous by the movie "Erin Brokovich," to his counsel on a successful presidential campaign. Bryan was inspired to create his unique "Lawyer Differently” model after seeing holes in the lawyer-client relationship in his years of experience defending high exposure liability lawsuits and serving as Assistant General Counsel to a $1.1 billion-dollar national nursing home company. "Lawyer Differently" is a unique, non-hourly rate "Outside General Counsel" model that has been successfully pressure-tested as the corporate legal solution for a wide variety of regional and national businesses. Bryan is also regularly featured by national media on legal, political, and health care policy. To read more of his reports, Click Here Now.
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