Back in November of last year, the New York Times reported that comedian Louis C.K. had been accused by at least five women of acts of, er… manhandling in front of them. He was only one of many men to be sent to Hollywood exile as the #MeToo moment unfolded. There was only a brief pause before the comedian issued a statement saying that the stories were true. (You can follow that link for the seedy details and his “explanation” of why he thought it was okay at the time but now understands it was wrong.) That seemed to be the end of it.
So how long does it take after such a revelation before the accused has had enough time to repent, improve, seek help or whatever else and is welcomed back into the fold? In the case of Louis C.K. apparently, it’s just over nine months. He showed up at the Comedy Cellar in New York this week to do a set and received a standing ovation before he even took the stage. This has left some activists and #MeToo proponents feeling frustrated. Is all just forgiven and forgotten? Is there nothing further they can do to punish Louis C.K. now?
I'm reading about Louis CK's comedy set and one thing that occurs to me is that in the absence of a specific product, employer, or corporation to boycott, Twitter reaction will ultimately have very little to do with when/whether/how sexual predators work again. >
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 28, 2018
This led Sonny Bunch at the Free Beacon to find the entire exercise a bit exhausting it seems. While not advocating for giving C.K. a free pass, he suggests that public pressure against the comic’s peers and the clubs who let him perform might be enough. Or, failing that, perhaps everyone could return to their corners, make up their own minds, and simply not pay to go see Louis C.K. themselves and let everyone else tend to their own gardens.
Contra the tweet from Mark Harris above, there are ways to attempt a blacklist against the likes of C.K.: Twitter campaigns aimed at encouraging boycotts of comedy clubs that allow him to perform backed up by comedians refusing to cross a picket line, of sorts. But he’s right, it’ll be far more difficult. Instead of making this effort, however, I wonder if folks could maybe settle down for a moment and ask if, instead, they’d be better off just, I dunno, not going to see Louis C.K.
If you don’t want to see Louis C.K., you don’t have to see Louis C.K.! If he shows up unannounced at a show and you’re one of the folks who didn’t hop to his feet to give him a standing ovation, you can leave the club. If you see he’s going on tour, instead of attempting to mount a boycott of the venue maybe just accept that not everyone shares your values and move on with your life. It’s a big country. There’re a lot of people in it who don’t think like you. The sooner you move on and accept that, the happier we’ll all be.
Sonny is referring to the boycotocracy which we’ve discussed here frequently. Such efforts come almost entirely from the left but are generally aimed at Republicans and conservatives. It’s apparently significantly more difficult for them to start their engines if it means going after institutions and businesses they would otherwise support. But is that even the main lesson we should be taking away from this?
Louis C.K. has publicly confessed to something which I believe is still a crime in every state of the union, though that’s not the same as a confession to the police. And yet, as of this morning, I see no indication that any charges have been filed against him by law enforcement. That means that the trial is once again being held in the Court of Public Opinion. This is a less than satisfactory solution to say the least, but the only “punishment” available would be coming from the free market. Sadly, that’s not how law enforcement is supposed to work because there is no mechanism to protect the accused if they profess innocence.
It’s all too reminiscent of the recent case of comedian Chris Hardwick. I originally thought the claims against him sounded dubious at best, but later we saw a number of women who worked directly with and for him over a period of years quit their jobs and walk away when he was given his old television gigs back. Did we miss the call on that one? More to the point, without any sort of criminal trial, how will we ever know?
Simply following Sonny’s advice and letting everyone make up their own mind works for me, but I also live in the real world. This is the connected world where boycotts and massive attacks must be coordinated among critical masses of people coming from the same community. And if you are found not participating in the boycott you face the prospect of wearing your own scarlet letter when your fellow progressives see you walking into a club where C.K. or Hardwick are performing. Sadly, the internet has changed everything, and simply making up your own mind about how these alleged perpetrators are to be treated simply won’t do.