Al Franken and Our Paris-in-the-Terror Moment

Image result for paris in the terrorThe set of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” will never be confused with The Algonquin Round Table. If for no other reason than Dorothy Parker would never allow Joe [Scarborough] to bloviate on as long and as loudly as he so often does. But the show’s cast of supporting characters — plenty of New York Times and Washington Post reporters and columnists — is bona fide, and given a topic in her wheelhouse, in this case th gross sexual misbehavior by men, soon-to-be Mrs. Joe, Mika Brzezinski, (a.k.a. “Mika-Boo”) is a force of nature.

And Mika the Force is all over our “me too” moment. Amid much high dudgeon about sexual harassment she has also been pushing the nuancy questions of proportionate punishment and “What do we do with the apologies?” This isn’t to say Brzezinski is the first to pose these questions, only that she’s making a persistent point of them.

And that it directly affects Al Franken.

Even following the latest accusation of … butt-palming … at the State Fair, liberal women are having a hard time lumping Franken in with Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore. For her part, (as a very committed feminist and liberal), Brzezinski is conceding her tribal affinities, while arguing that if this “moment” is going to accomplish something of lasting value, every woman has to have the right to speak and every offender should suffer or at least endure some measure of punishment. But, that said … butt palming/patting/caressing is not in the same universe as rape or pedophilia.

What Mika-Boo hasn’t yet gotten into in this Paris-in-the-Terror moment for men, is the twisty down side to a flat-out, unequivocal “believe the women” episode.

Some of us are old enough to remember the truly bizarre (and remarkably under-examined) frenzy over satanic sexual abuse, murder and mutilation of very young children in schools and day care centers in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Sociologically and psychologically, it was a mind-boggler.

Here in Minnesota the focus was in Scott County. A zealous prosecutor, Kathleen Morris — like prosecutors in the McMartin Pre-School case in California and the Little Rascals Day Care case in North Carolina — insisted the public at large had a moral obligation to “believe the children”. (BTW: The PBS series on the latter case, “Innocence Lost” remains one of the most riveting documentaries I have ever seen. If you want a case study in tribal psychosis, there it is.) Eventually, after millions in court costs and the total ruination of reputations and lives, all of the cases fell apart and the frenzy subsided.

The media took the “believe the children” bait, big time.

My point is that in those environments it was difficult-to-impossible to not “believe the children” just as, for progressive liberals and Al Franken in particular it is not functionally,  socially possible to “believe the women” in this environment.

For example: Even if Franken knew for certain the tongue-in-the-mouth business with Leeann Tweeden was a “bit” or that the butt-caressing at the State Far never happened … he can’t in effect call either of the women liars by saying so. That simply isn’t allowed under the rules of this “cultural moment”. Not for liberals anyway. Conservatives, especially Donald Trump and Roy Moore, are free to condemn all female accusers as liars (and in Trump’s case argue that none of them were good-looking enough to warrant his attention, and then threaten to sue them).

It’s a liberal dilemma … and one that is ripe for exploitation.

Now, before I wander off into the bat[bleep] conspiracy phase of this screed, let me issue the disclaimer that: The United States has always been exceptional in the long march of human nature, in that unlike every other culture on the planet, here in the USA malicious adversaries have never ever concocted a plan to destroy a political opponent through nefarious means. That sort of thing only happens someplace else.

Personally, I don’t find it unimaginable that people like Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and the toxic-but-well funded netherworld of Breitbart and the Mercers might find a way to, shall we say, “encourage” women like Ms. Tweeden and the State Fair victim to come forward with stories (and photographs) deeply damaging to a politician enjoying high regard as a clever, mediagenic assailant of their pet policies and personalities.

I know how insane that sounds. It’s real Elvis-stepped-off-the-UFO stuff. But I’m simply saying I can imagine it. (And yes, I’m taking medication to treat the hallucinations.)

Also, as we collectively try to come up with the appropriate scale to judge all the misbehaviors being tossed up, let me suggest that abuse and harassment stories coming through some form of professional vetting — like the editing pipeline of a major news organization — strike me as having more credibility than just someone holding a press conference.

Big news organizations have reputations to protect and don’t like getting sued. But no nationally renown public figure, of the progressive political persuasion, is in any position to denounce much less sue one poor woman recovering, like Ms. Tweeden and the young lady at the Fair, from the terrible, psychological scarring of sexual abuse.

16 thoughts on “Al Franken and Our Paris-in-the-Terror Moment

  1. You are brave to write this. I know a lot of women who would become very angry if they read it.
    I appreciate that you’re looking at things from the side of “innocent until proven guilty” — which we seem to have lost sight of. And I also like the idea of a “scale to judge all the behaviors being tossed up.” I’m 61, and have been through quite a bit, and I will say that if what Franken did is the worst thing that ever happened to Ms. Tweeden at the hands of a man, I’d trade with her in a second if I could.
    Finally, I appreciate your calm tone. There’s too much screaming around this issue right now. If we’re going to get through it constructively, we need to stay calm.

  2. Let’s mention the Scottsboro Boys hoax of the 1930’s. “Believing the women” put those innocent young men onto Death Row in Kirby prison. They were saved, eventually, but hundreds if not thousands of other falsely accused Black Men were lynched or executed despite innocence. The Tawana Brawley hoax of the 1980’s–a reversal where a Black woman falsely accused a white man. I still recall seeing those bumper stickers: “I believe Tawana.” Not quite.
    Instead of being stampeded, let’s be logical.
    I suggest that Trump or other persons holding federal office should be subjected to polygraph tests in these situations.
    After all, those tests, while not admissible in courts, are in fact used by police and spy agencies, the FBI, CIA, etc., to vet their employees; and if they are thought good enough for those important agencies of the federal government to rely on, then how can self-proclaimed champions of law and order like Trump and Moore refuse themselves to face the “lie detectors”?
    They would refuse, of course, but then the accusers should take the tests and be verified. And there it would be admissible to the court of public opinion.
    If Democrats had brains, that’s their way out of this morass. But I won ‘t hold my breath waiting.
    Incidentally, there are millions of women who voted for Trump, a million in Alabama who will vote for Moore, and every one of them is more of an enemy of her sex (and of mine!), in socio-economic terms, than Al Franken ever could be.
    Women, no more than any other demographic group, and a lot less than some, aren’t all going to think the same, act the same, react the same, or feel the same about issues or personalities in politics, and in life generally. Anyone who pretends otherwise, or who assumes to speak for either sex as a unit, is stretching it. (As I may have done in a previous paragraph.) Biology may be “destiny” but it doesn’t determine ideology. Cf, Michelle Bachmann . . .and the Governor of Alabama, Mrs. Ivey.

    • I’m also wondering how Franken (with Schumer’s assistance) might use an Ethics Committee investigation/hearing to develop a coherent scale for abuses in Congress. Ideally, the Senate would create definitive standards of punishment for the wide range of offenses. Of course, I’d include among the most serious offenses being the paid stooges of Sheldon Adelson. But that’s just me.

  3. Agree with Ruth Henriquez Lyon. As soon as I read about Ms.Tweeden and that she was a friend of Sean Hannity I thought that Al Franken was being set up as the fall guy on the coattails of the current sexual harassment feeding frenzy. I am 66 and what most of the men being accused of was typical behavior until a few years ago (ask any woman who worked in a male dominated environment). Is there a statue of limitation on when something happened? Acceptable behavior 20-30 years ago is different from today. Some of the accusations were a pass, the other party wasn’t interested and it was dropped but is now sexual harassment or assault because they were approached. But some of the accusations are very bad (Roy Moore) and the person should be held accountable (but somehow Trump is not).

    • The State Fair photo thing needs explaining to me, perhaps by a woman. You meet a person for the first time, in a public setting, with friends and relatives in the vicinity. You pose for a photo and this person grabs your butt. Is the natural reaction to keep on smiling like nothing’s going on? Isn’t there some kind of reflexive negative reaction?

      • I think some are intimidated by the perceived power of the grabber. Also, if they’re not used to dealing with it, they don’t have a chapter in their behavioral “playbook” to work from.
        This butt grab thing sounds similar to George H.W. Bush’s “David Cop-a-feel” move. Kind of gross but not too menacing given the context.

  4. Unless more women come forward with credible stories of Franken misbehaving (a la Charlie Rose or Glen Thrush) I think it’s wholly plausible that Roger Stone-Breibart types were trying to set up Franken. Which is why I’m unmoved by demands for Franken to resign.

    All accusations must be looked at with context and with credible evidence. Period. The end. The fundamentalist creed that insists that all women must be believed at all times is simplistic and opens the way to another kind of abuse.

    Like nearly every other woman out there, I’ve been sexually harassed. It’s pervasive and gross and I’m down for the fight in making it end. But that doesn’t mean we must throw standards of evidence and context out the window.

    • I just think we have to avoid being naive. Far stranger things have happened. (Trump-Russia, anyone?) But what’s diabolical is a scheme to turn liberal “political correctness” (i.e. “believe the women” and zero tolerance) back on a liberal figure, thereby instantly neutralizing him via a far, far less serious offense than conservative harassers.

  5. Yes, Franken’s case does not seem at this stage to be anywhere near as bad as Moore’s serial pedophilia, Weiner’s weinering, or Trump’s taped admission of sexual abuse, with a backdrop of 16 other accusers. Yes, he did the right thing by immediately admitting and apologizing, and by not blaming and shaming the victim. Yes, conservatives might have been involved in the timing of the accusation. Yes, “always believe the accuser” is unjust and will lead to abuse, and saying so in this environment takes guts.

    Still, at age 55, this guy was willing to grab and humiliate a woman without her consent to get a laugh, and he doesn’t deny that he did at least some of it. Knowing this, I wouldn’t vote for him in a nomination fight, because I think Minnesota has other capable citizens who don’t act like middle school bullies.

    Someone as politically savvy as Franken knows the infamous photo makes all the difference. With that photo out there spotlighted over and over and over, his reputation and ability to represent Minnesota and promote progressive causes are severely compromised. With that photo continually in news coverage, “what about Franken” will be the perpetual false equivalency rally cry used by defenders of Moore, Trump, and future creeps.

    If it were me facing this circumstance, I’d like to think I would put my causes and state above myself, step away, and empower Mark Dayton to appoint Tina Smith or another respected and capable leader so progressives could hold that seat in 2020 and have effective representation in the meantime.

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