Lately our whole culture has been brought into the circle of mistrust, to this little secret: We pretend we hold elites to a high standard, but we do not. We pretend we value women’s dignity, but we do not.
Carroll, in listing the predatory men of her life, wrote that many unpleasant sexual encounters did not make the cut: “My hideosity bar is high.” This is one way, too, to understand the muted response to an allegation that, if we all really held the values that we claim to, should have been explosive.
Those of us inclined to believe Carroll agree that her allegation should be a much bigger deal. Nearly two years into the collective cultural reckoning of the #MeToo movement, the story holds a particular weight for us, a quality of social seriousness that goes beyond the already ample evidence of Trump’s selfishness, corruption, and greed. But perhaps we have endured so much, witnessed so much that is grotesque and dishonest from this president, from these times, that our bar for what we consider hideous has been raised high, and our standards for what we expect from those in power have sunk low. Or it might be more accurate to say not that we do not consider these things hideous, but that we have become comfortable with the hideous, made a friendly acquaintance with it, and are now at home being ugly, content to live alongside horrible things.