It can be easy, when we are all zeroed in on the day-to-day minutiae of current events in our always turbulent democracy, to lose sight of the larger picture at times. Last night I got to thinking about some recent controversies in our society over ideas I never would have thought would be controversial.
Like, for instance, the concept of meritocracy. Recently Hollywood star Matt Damon sparked controversy on his show Project Greenlight when he suggested that merit, and not things like skin color or gender, should guide hiring. The show, as I understand it (I’ve never watched), is a competition where the prize is to get a movie project approved for production (or, you know, greenlighted). One of the movies Damon and the show’s panel was discussing (video here) was one in which one of the characters, a black prostitute, gets hit by her white pimp.
One of the panelists, a black woman named Effie Brown, said that the scene should be directed by someone who is a racial minority given the depiction of a black woman being hit by a white man. Damon disagreed, essentially arguing that they should only be concerned that a director, whatever his/her demographic makeup, be professional enough to handle a scene like that.
“It seems like you would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about, which is about giving somebody this job based entirely on merit,” Damon said of Brown’s suggestion that the director be hired based on gender or skin color. In other words, pick a director no ability, not on race/gender considerations.
This sparked social media outrage (what doesn’t these days?) and the #Damonsplaining hashtag on Twitter, the -splaining postfix being deployed any time the left thinks some whitey or male gets too uppity (i.e. #whitesplaining or #mansplaining).
Damon’s sins were manifest in the eyes of the left. Not only did he suggest that diversity simply for diversity’s sake is a little silly, lighting fire to a leftist article of faith, but he did so while disagreeing with a black woman despite the fact that he’s, you know, a rich white man.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Damon’s sins were manifest in the eyes of the left. Not only did he suggest that diversity simply for diversity’s sake is a little silly, lighting fire to a leftist article of faith, but he did so while disagreeing with a black woman despite the fact that he’s, you know, a rich white man.[/mks_pullquote]
Damon now says he was misinterpreted and is now showing the appropriate deference to the social media lynch mob and its notions of justice.
But at least Damon didn’t say “all lives matter” which is now a problematic statement too. In June, while speaking at a historically black church near riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri, Hillary Clinton told the crowd that “All lives matter.” She was immediately subjected to criticism. Meanwhile Clinton’s fellow Democrat, Maryland governor and presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, was nearly booed off a conference stage in July after similar comments.
When the crowd in front of which O’Malley was speaking began to chant “black lives matter,” O’Malley responded by saying: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” The crowd responded angrily, and O’Malley apologized.
Yes, apologized. For saying “all lives matter.” He said that was a mistake.
“I meant no disrespect,” he said. “That was a mistake on my part and I meant no disrespect. I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”
Meanwhile on campus – where opposition speech and comedy challenging liberal dogmas has become so fierce that even President Barack Obama has been critical of late – the idea that serious crimes should be handled by law enforcement and the courts has become controversial.
Federal legislation which would limit investigations of serious crimes on campus (sexual assault is largely the issue here) to legal professionals, and not campus tribunals, has come under fire. That legislation also guarantees that accused students would have access to legal representation, the right to confront their accusers, and the right to know the charges against them.
The legislation is necessitated by the fact that accused students on campus aren’t currently getting these things. Which is a gobsmacking travesty, to my mind, but some think these changes would have a “chilling effect.”
Kevin Kruger, the president of NASPA (Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education), said requiring alleged victims to report a sexual assault would create a “chilling effect” for thousands of women, the majority of whom already don’t report their sexual assault to anyone.
“We strongly believe that victims should have the rights to pursue the course of action that’s right for them,” Kruger told The Daily Beast. “They want and need support.”…
Absolutely, alleged victims deserve support and protection, but then so do alleged perpetrators and the current system of campus kangaroo courts aren’t providing that protection. Which is why accusations of serious crimes should be handled by the law enforcement and court official who we pay to operate within a system of legal checks and balances which has been developed over the course of centuries to investigate crimes and establish guilt or innocence while protecting all involved.
Is it perfect? No. Is it one hell of a lot better than a campus tribunal concocted by activists and untrained, inexperienced academics? Absolutely.
Anyway, it’s remarkable to me that these things are controversial at all. Of course merit should matter more than your skin color or gender, and “all lives matter” should be nothing more than rhetorical fluff ignored simply because it is glaringly obvious. And no, campus victims don’t have the right to dictate the venue of proceedings against the people they’re accusing. They should report their crimes to the authorities for investigation, the same as all the people who aren’t college students.