With sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the headlines daily due to allegations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein, some commentators in the far-right media are longing for a highly moral and largely mythical past.
They’re blaming the sexual revolution, loss of religious faith, and even, to some degree, feminism for opening the door to misdeeds like those Weinstein is accused of committing — when, in truth, sexual abuse has been happening since time immemorial in all cultures, and societal policing of consensual sexual relationships was oppressive and fraught with hypocrisy.
That’s one of our major takeaways from our recent reading of the far right, which we do so you don’t have to. Also, we’re still seeing a lot of crazy theories about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, plus praise for the Trump administration’s latest repressive actions.
“The movie industry was never a monastery, but its better days went on before the moral crumbling of 40 to 50 years ago,” he wrote. “In other words, there used to be rules — sociocultural rules. There were things you did out of feelings of obligation and duty; for the same reason, there were things you didn’t do.”
He allowed that during Hollywood’s classic era, “there weren’t many things that the likes of Errol Flynn and any number of studio moguls wouldn’t essay for personal gratification,” but they “toiled within a larger cultural understanding that had effects of restraint.”
“The rules were protective in nature,” he continued. “A woman wasn’t a target; she was a woman. You had to show a little respect. Even if you didn’t show such respect, you were supposed to.”
Oh, please. This set of rules, which was still having some effect when yours truly was coming of age in the 1970s, held that women lost their respectability for merely having consensual sex outside the bounds of marriage. There was much talk of men losing their respect for any woman who joined them in bed without being safely wed; never mind that the women were doing the same thing as the men, and supposedly weren’t losing respect for the guys. And same-sex relationships? Sick! Perverted! Illegal!
Also, before the latest phase of feminism got going, sexual harassment was often excused as “boys will be boys,” and assault as “she must have led him on.” Unfortunately, that sometimes still happens. And not that women can’t be perpetrators of sexual abuse and men can’t be victims — but of course, traditional gender expectations made it even harder to report cases involving female abusers or male victims and have them taken seriously.
David French of the National Review was likewise on the “good old days” bandwagon in discussing Weinstein. We don’t often feature that conservative publication here because it’s more mainstream than the likes of Breitbart or World Net Daily, but French’s column, calling for a return to the “Christian sexual ethic,” mirrors the things being said in extreme-right outlets.
He blamed sexual abuse scandals on the “ethic of the sexual revolutionary,” which is that “Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms.” Uh, the whole problem is that abuse, by definition, is something that happens without the abused party’s consent.
“Consent is determined by the request,” French continued, “and in a completely sexualized culture, the request can come at any time, anywhere, and from any person you encounter — regardless of the power imbalance or the propriety of the location.” He apparently thinks it’s too much to ask that people consider factors like power imbalance and propriety before making the request. And no one is exactly saying that people like Weinstein, former Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, and, yes, Donald Trump simply “requested” sex.
Michael Brown, who’s carried on several far-right sites, used the recent scandals to defend Mike Pence’s practice of never dining alone with a woman other than his wife. “Vice President Pence, being aware of his humanity, knows all too well how easy it is to fall,” Brown wrote in a World Net Daily column.
He went on to make the argument that men are essentially uncontrollable sexual beasts (although any time a feminist says something resembling that, she’s accused of hating men). “It’s true that most men are not sexual predators,” he wrote. “But I’m pretty sure that if the secret thoughts of most men could be revealed, they wouldn’t be all that wholesome. And in a sexually charged culture like ours today, where women are expected to wear suggestive and skimpy attire (and some love to do so), where seductive images greet you on countless websites, where your junk folder is filled with invitations to chat rooms, where prostitution and stripping are glorified, where 8-year-olds access porn on their cell phones, we need to be all the more vigilant.” Yes, blame those women for skimpy clothing! Blame the porn! Blame anyone but the abusers!
Brown did admit that sexual abuse is “as old as the human race,” which is more than John Nolte did in a Breitbart column that ran before the Weinstein scandal broke, being occasioned instead by the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
“By taking pornography out of the backroom and mainstreaming it into urban chic, Hefner forever altered our view of women,” Nolte wrote. “Before Hefner, mainstream American culture idolized and idealized women, placed them on pedestals as goddesses, never went beyond presenting them as the precious objects of our dreams.”
Again: Oh, please. Women have been subject to sexual abuse forever (and some men have been as well). This reporter has no love for Hefner — his version of sexual freedom was one in which men still held the advantage — but although he engaged in the sexual exploitation of women, he certainly didn’t invent it. Plus, the pedestal wasn’t exactly an empowering place to be, and it was ridiculously easy to fall off of. (See the earlier passage on “respect.”)
And back at WND, in the wake of Weinstein, Jesse Lee Peterson worried that “the left is politicizing and weaponizing this issue to attack all men.” Really. “Leftists hate the order of God (God in Christ, Christ in man, man over women and women over children), and they will not rest until it’s turned upside-down. … Feminists and LGBT activists are attacking and degrading anything that is good, tough and independent,” he continued.
The Boy Scouts of America also came in for some of Peterson’s wrath for the recent decision to admit girls to some programs. “This is not about helping girls or making them ‘stronger’ — it’s about weakening and destroying masculinity,” he contended.
Some others on the right blamed Hollywood liberalism for sexual abuse or tarred all liberals as corrupt. “We all know that Hollywood is a sewer; Weinstein is just the latest sewer rat to be nailed,” WND contributor Brent Smith wrote. “But, as I said — it’s not just Hollywood. Hollywood is a mere subset. For the left, immoral and amoral behavior is common. Harvey is a just another product of the system — the progressive leftist system.”
And at Breitbart, the reliably inflammatory James Delingpole called out the left for hypocrisy, although that’s certainly not lacking on the right either. “You could point out, correctly, that there are plenty of examples of prominent conservatives who have behaved badly too,” he wrote. “But here’s the difference: conservatives are not in the business of trying to appease their consciences by creating a year zero and remaking the world according to a warped ‘progressive’ philosophy which seeks to deny human nature.” Not that the right ever tries to deny human nature…
The recent tragedy in Las Vegas is still much in the news, and some far-right commentators are still spreading fact-challenged conspiracy theories about it. A certain Pastor David Whitney wrote on BarbWire that shooter Stephen Paddock, who committed suicide after killing more than 50 people and wounding hundreds in Vegas, had ties to the Antifa movement, a loosely organized network of antifascist groups — but there’s no evidence to that effect, reports FactCheck.org.
Whitney also claimed that “leftists” including Michael Moore and the moderate centrist Al Gore had predicted a violent revolution would come to America in October of this year, the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. No truth to that either.
Alex Jones of Infowars has kept on promoting “irresponsible — and often contradictory — conspiracy theories” about the mass shooting, notes watchdog group Media Matters. He has variously claimed that Paddock was “a left-wing extremist who attended anti-Trump rallies, a patsy, ‘an Islamist,’ and a spy who ‘got set up and double crossed,’” the group reports. And he has linked various people and groups to the attack, including “ISIS, supporters of the Bolshevik Revolution, ‘deep state Democrats,’ former Vice President Al Gore, former high-level CIA officials, ‘the shadow government,’ antifa, globalists, the Democratic Party, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Resort, and supporters of restrictions on guns,” according to Media Matters. It sounds like he’s been reading Whitney, or Whitney’s been listening to him. That’s how these things gain traction.
Also at BarbWire, a minister named John Barber (no relation to site founder Matt Barber) defended Pat Robertson’s comments blaming the shooting on “disrespect for authority,” including “profound disrespect of our president,” and lack of a “vision of God.” “Now, I am not a fan of Pat Robertson,” Barber wrote. “However, I understand his point. And there is a great deal of Scripture in support of his point. … I don’t find Robertson’s musings out of line with the historic tradition that has wrestled with the whole of God’s Word.”
And Jeffrey Lord, the conservative commentator who got kicked off CNN for making a Nazi salute, went on Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show to talk about the Vegas attack and blamed it on … legalized abortion. “How many millions of babies have lost their lives here because of a ‘right to choice’ that was written by the Supreme Court out of thin air?” Lord said. “If we have a culture that disrespects human life and teaches people to have disrespect for human life, how else are we going to wind up than we did with this guy in Las Vegas who had no respect for human life?” (Thanks to Media Matters for originally spotting this.)
Meanwhile, far-right activists and media are thrilled with the Department of Health and Human Services’ new rule offering virtually any nonprofit or for-profit employer an exemption (previously available only to a narrow group) from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for contraceptive coverage, saying it’s about “life” and conscience rather than putting up barriers to vital health care. There might be room for a discussion about whether it’s appropriate to have a co-pay for contraceptives, except some on the right make it clear they just hate contraception altogether — and they contend that it’s really abortion.
“It was an absolute abomination for both people of faith and of no faith when President Barack Obama’s administration ordered that institutions, service organizations and businesses must pay for drugs that induce abortions and that chemically prevent conception,” wrote Rebecca Hagelin on Townhall.
Well, actually, they don’t induce abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. “The campaign to conflate contraception with abortion is based on the assertion that certain methods of contraception actually end — rather than prevent — pregnancy,” reads a paper the institute published in 2014. “That assertion, however, contradicts what science says about how pregnancies are established and how contraceptives work.” Intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives (the latter popularly known as the “morning-after pill,” a drug given after an incident of unprotected intercourse) are usually in the cross hairs of the right, but “none have been shown to disrupt an existing pregnancy — meaning that none can accurately be called an abortifacient,” according to the institute. They either prevent ovulation, fertilization, or, rarely, implantation of a fertilized egg — but a majority of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant, so pregnancy is defined as beginning after implantation.
To anti-abortion (and anticontraception) absolutists like Townhall contributor Terry Jeffrey, though, these drugs and devices extinguish the lives of “newly conceived human beings.” He called on the Trump administration to lift the contraceptive mandate altogether, as insurance subsidies for low-income people buying plans under the ACA “will still force taxpayers, regardless of their own moral or religious beliefs, to underwrite this coverage for others.” Trump’s now rescinding the subsidies, but Jeffrey will undoubtedly find another argument against the coverage.
There was a curious dearth of commentary on far-right media about the guidance Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued the same day as the HHS rule, allowing business owners and even federal employees a broad license to discriminate against those who offend their religious beliefs, such as by being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Many right-wing groups, however, issued press releases praising the action.
And the few commentaries we did find were over the moon, such as Arthur Schaper on BarbWire lauding both the so-called religious freedom guidance and the contraceptive exemption. “Instead of going along with these corrupt, perverse LGBT and Abortion lobbies, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have taken a stand for life and liberty,” he wrote.
And Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council (which recently hosted Trump at its Values Voter Summit), gave an exclusive interview to Breitbart saying Trump had kept “the most important promise that he made” with those two actions. Oh, we can hardly wait to see what he does next.
That’s all for now — we’ll be back soon with more information gleaned from reading the far right so you don’t have to.