Current Climate of “Sex Assault” Accusations: McCarthyism Redux?

In my previous two posts on this topic, I discussed how seemingly every day, more and more accusations of sexual “assault” are being leveled at people in public life (as well as private.) Many of these events are reported to be years, if not decades, old, and highly questionable. Worse, it has been observed by more than one responsible journalist that if anyone dares to question the veracity of an accuser, or seeks to merely provide context to these accusations, that person is savagely attacked in the public square: Pilloried for having the audacity to inject perspective into this latest “debate” within a society that is addicted to controversy – the “Rage of the Day” or Crisis du Jour.”

Exhibit ‘A’ on this point: Actor Matt Damon. Damon had the utter audacity to opine in a recent interview that there are major differences between touching someone’s buttocks, and rape or attempted rape. Obviously, he was not speaking as an attorney because he isn’t one – and to me as a Massachusetts sex charges attorney, that made his comments all the more valuable, because he was commenting from a common-sense perspective. Damon wasn’t speaking from political correctness – and that what is made his comments so important. He noted how, prior to this current, frenzied climate of accusations of sexual assault, reason and probity would have otherwise prevailed – reason and probity that are now all but gone. He urged a return to healthy skepticism and careful investigation of such accusations, while not losing sight of needed context.

The result? He was violently attacked in the public eye – by feminists and far left liberal activists that have dominated this public ‘discussion.’ It should be noted that Damon is himself a noted liberal, who has devoted much of his time and efforts to solving serious problems surrounding poverty and clean drinking water for impoverished countries. That fact meant nothing to the politically correct liberals who are driving this public ‘debate: They even went so far as to initiate a petition to ban Damon from being cast in the new film “Ocean’s Eight”: Their version of career payback for Damon daring to question liberal orthodoxy. The politically correct, far left elements in this country are truly a mentally – and sometimes physically – violent group. In a piece titled “Matt Damon Is Right About Sexual Misconduct”,  Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote a laudable defense of Damon’s comments and the balance that he brought to this “debate.” She deserves a great deal of credit for that.

I think it can be accurately said that far left extremists – primarily those who claim the mantle of “feminists”-  have taken this subject so far out of context, even accusing someone of “attempted rape” who merely patted someone’s rear – that much of this discussion can be accurately described as a witch hunt.

Men without respect for women have little respect for themselves.  Such men lack both character and decency. But another trait is requisite to leading an honorable life, and that trait is public courage.  Yet within this current ‘debate’ on this subject, I have seen this trait vanish in many men, at the altar of political correctness:  Many men, public and private, have ‘piled on’ to join the mob or pack mentality against anyone accused of the slightest “offense” on this subject – no matter matter how minor, or how old (accusations against some public figures involve events alleged to have occurred almost a quarter-century ago.)

Exhibit ‘B’ on this point originates right here in Massachusetts:  Consider the case of state Senator Stanley Rosenberg. Rosenberg is an openly gay man, who rose through the ranks of the Massachusetts state senate to become President of the senate. He is a liberal Democrat, and is married to another man by the name of Bryon Hefner.  Hefner was recently accused of sexually accosting several men who work or previously worked on Beacon Hill in the field of public policy in Massachusetts.  Some of these alleged victims have reported that Hefner allegedly inferred to these men that if they accepted his sexual advances, that their legislative bills would meet with favorable action in the state Senate.  Critically, at no time has it been alleged by anyone that Sen. Rosenberg himself ever knew what his spouse was saying or doing with these alleged male victims.  Nor has it been alleged that any bills or other legislative matters received any expedited action in the Senate under Sen Rosenberg’s presidency.

None of that mattered:  Rosenberg was ‘piled on’ by every liberal activist in Massachusetts (his fellow liberals,  no less) and forced – under accusations of possible wrongdoing that have never been proven to the slightest degree – to resign his position as President of the state Senate.  Many men on Beacon Hill joined in this pack mentality.  The ‘reasoning’? His spouse has been accused of sexual assault offenses – so ‘naturally’, it’s ‘presumed’ that Sen. Rosenberg’s official actions as state Senate President were somehow affected. The translated result for Sen. Rosenberg? “Somehow, you’re just as guilty as your spouse.  Get out. “

What is happening in this frenzied climate of “sexual assault” allegations now arising seemingly everywhere from California to Massachusetts, is a travesty of justice.  As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, I am proud to remind feminists and far left activists that we live in a nation of laws, not witch hunts. We live in a nation where an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt. Not in newspapers. Not on the internet. Not on talk shows.  And not as the product of a social media campaign, whether “#Metoo” or others.

Readers of this blog who are of a certain age will, together with students of history, recall a similar social phenomenon evocative of a witch hunt, that occurred in the 1950’s in this country. It was called “McCarthyism.” It referred to the unjust witch hunt that former U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin waged against what he claimed was rampant communist infiltration in America, and in this witch hunt he ruined the lives of many Americans, public figures and private, by publicly accusing them of being ‘silent’ communists. To Joe McCarthy, anyone who ever attended a labor meeting, or belonged to a union, even lawyers who belonged to the Lawyers Guild, deserved to be publicly accused of being a communist – with the resulting destruction of the lives and careers of those he accused.

This social hysteria reached a fever pitch, when finally, after months of Sen. McCarthy accusing scores of public and private figures of being communist sympathizers, an historic event occurred on television sets across America: An attorney by the name of Joseph Welch, who had previously served as the chief counsel for the U.S. Army while it was being investigated for communist infiltration by Sen. McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, called McCarthy out after he publicly accused an associate of Welch’s of having communist leanings.  Atty. Welch’s now iconic response to Sen. McCarthy:  “Enough of this.  At long last, have you left no sense of decency, sir? Have you no sense of decency?”

That moment proved a turning point in modern American history – and its message now echoes across time to the present. This is a question we should all ask ourselves now, surrounding the current frenzy of sexual assault accusations being made against many people, public and private – together with the concomitant threats to destroy the careers of anyone who dares to inject any element of doubt, reason or context within this so-called ‘debate.’

P.S.   As of Jan. 10 2018, French actress Catherine Deneuve and 99 other French women have signed a letter denouncing the #Metoo” social media campaign as “punishing men when the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations.”  It was further stated that “As women we do not recogni[z]e ourselves in this feminism, which beyond denouncing the abuse of power, takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality.”

Predictably, these women have been vilified and belittled by feminist extremists.  And if same were offered as constituting yet more evidence of just how extreme far-left “feminists” can be, that person will be roundly denounced as a “misogynist”; a veritable woman-hating, knuckle dragging troglodytic fossil.  I expect that will happen to me, in publicly posting my thoughts on this subject, as a Boston criminal defense attorney.  Then again, I won’t lose any friends I that I didn’t want to begin with.  In all likelihood, I’ll gain some friends with a conscience.  And that’s a great way to begin any new year.