I have no idea whether or not Geoffrey Rush is innocent or guilty. And neither, probably, do you. To his credit, Rush said in a statement that he has voluntarily stood down as the president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, “effective immediately and until these issues have been resolved”. But the problem is, the damage has already been done, and it doesn’t seem to really bother anyone whether people like Rush are guilty or not. As Janet Albrechtsen argued in The Weekend Australian:
Emily Lindin, a columnist at Teen Vogue, echoed the unspoken zeitgeist last week on Twitter: “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations. If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay”.
As Albrechtsen went on to explain though: “Except she’s not paying the price. The price is paid when innocent men or those who commit minor infractions are caught up in this modern maelstrom of trial by media where reputations are instantly destroyed and careers ended.”
What is happening in Western countries – such as America, Australia and the UK – is that a massive trial by social media is being unleashed. Where the reputations and careers of many of the most wealthy, famous and influential men, in particular, within the Australian entertainment industry is just about to come crashing down ingloriously around them.
Just like when former prime minister, Julia Gillard, made her famous “misogyny speech” against Tony Abbott, many feminists will be cheering from the rafters. Because this is the one weapon they have in their arsenal to which they know there is no defence. Because here’s the thing. Simply by recounting a single act of indiscretion or vulgarity, a person’s entire livelihood and even legacy, can be instantly brought to naught.
Tracey Spicer in particular, has been running her own criminal investigation where she has been actively collating every grievance that has ever occurred, and when it’s finally published – which, we’re being told is ‘imminent’ – then the day of judgment will have finally arrived. In fact, it is being increasingly referred to as, “the reckoning.” When every misogynistic male will get his just deserts, even if the normal legal procedures of due process and natural justice have been jettisoned along the way.
Spicer has made herself the chief prosecutor, jury, judge and even executioner, in this trial by social and mainstream media. In this inquisition of misandry, she has requested that people specifically contact her, so that their alleged abusers can be added to the list she is compiling. But has she ever bothered to direct people immediately to our police sexual abuse crime units under the jurisdiction of our various States and Territories?
Spicer has stated that more than 500 women have come forward so far with accusations against 65 men. (It looks like she is running the office of the special prosecutor and her own AFP unit combined) She has exonerated them from not taking their complaints to the appropriate legal authorities stating: “These women have internalised society’s misogyny – a culture of victim shaming and blaming. Of course, the only ones responsible are the perpetrators and power brokers.”
The problem with this whole approach is that the “culture of victim shaming and blaming” has ironically been transferred to those who are accused of being the perpetrators. It’s as though one form of abuse is being countered with another. Because now the power is in the hands of the sisterhood. And hell, hath no fury, like women scorned. Thus, the ‘reckoning’ has come full circle.
Now, there is never an excuse for sexual assault. But at the exact same time, there is a Judaeo-Christian principle of justice upon which our entire legal system is based, that must be acknowledged. And the fact that it isn’t, is something that should make any freedom loving person deeply concerned.
Justice is a theme that dominates the Biblical narrative. And significantly, it should never be jettisoned simply because someone happens to identify as the victim. As Douglas Wilson, recently explained:
Those… who have adopted the judicial theories of identity politics are those who are willing to pronounce publicly on a person’s guilt or innocence without knowing the first thing about the case in question. To challenge this way of proceeding is NOT to side with the perpetrator over the victim. It is to side with Western civilization over the barbarians. This contemporary Alinskyite contempt for due process is cultural Marxism, pure and simple, and it is frankly sub-pagan.
[Trigger warning: what follows is a short discussion of key scriptural texts at which, many people immediately switch off. However, for anyone who is the least bit open to considering an alternative point of view to their own please read on.]
According to the Old Testament, the verbal testimony of only one witness is not enough to convict someone. There needs to be corroborating evidence. And the reason for this is that it is a safeguard against people being malicious, as well as ensure the veracity of the accusation. As Deuteronomy 19:15 says “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offence he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”.
When it comes to the New Testament the most important principle is that there is only one lawfully instituted authority to dispense justice, and that is the state. (i.e. Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:14ff). It is the task of the state to administer retributive justice and make provision for restitution for those who are aggrieved.
And this is what seems to be missing in this latest witchhunt against misogyny. Where is the justice administered by the impartial authorities? And who’s going to administer the restitution?
You see we rightly cringe at how our forebears publicly shamed people who were guilty of having committed a certain crime by being placed in the stocks of the city square. How could they be so cruel? But the personal vilification and condemnation that is meted out through social media can be just as brutal. Some suffer emotional breakdowns; others take their lives and others lose their professions.
We need to reaffirm as a society once again the principle that a person should be presumed innocent until they have been proven guilty. Following on from that, there needs to be privacy involving issues that affect a person’s reputation, especially when it can have such a grave impact on their career. What’s more, those making accusations, especially when they are being communicated through social media should be held accountable.
But the most important point of all is that the motivation for addressing past wrongs should be retributive justice and restitution, rather than personal vengeance and retaliation. This is the only way to treat people fairly. Just because you may have been treated badly in the past, doesn’t justify acting unjustly towards the perpetrator in the present.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Cartoon: Ben R Davis.
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