Well, what if we put a golden calf on a white horse?


Charles Pierce comments on the recent abrupt resignation of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a liberal Democratic politician — one of our guys! — whose career “went into the acid bath because, at one level or another, they failed to see women as actual human beings”. The article resonates with me because this is a universal problem everywhere, not just in politics. I run into it in science, in atheism, everywhere. It’s a problem with the human condition.

The search for the person on a white horse is an open invitation to counterfeit engagement and artificial activism. The impact of celebrity on our politics has been devastating enough; see the current tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for details.

See also the list of Intellectual Dark Web phonies. Every time an organization looks for the guy on the white horse to lead them, they are going to experience a colossal pratfall because there is no end of grifters with a bucket of whitewash and a broke-down mule ready to announce their candidacy.

Schneiderman is one of those terrible people with a history of assaulting women, and it’s good that he’s out (for now; expect a comeback attempt soon. The standard waiting time seems to be a few months.) But the rot goes deeper. Who are all these people who knew, but did nothing?

His swift resignation was more than justified and his disappearance from the ongoing drama of this presidency, while unfortunate, is wholly appropriate. He should’ve been in jail years ago.

Instead, for the purposes of this story, we should focus on one small slice of the account.

After the former girlfriend ended the relationship, she told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose. She described this response as heartbreaking. And when Schneiderman heard that she had turned against him, she said, he warned her that politics was a tough and personal business, and that she’d better be careful. She told Selvaratnam that she had taken this as a threat.

Who in the hell counsels a friend to hush up a violent assault on these grounds? My politics are as important to me as anyone’s are but if, say, Sherrod Brown came and burglarized your house, I wouldn’t tell you to let him keep your jewelry because we need him to save Social Security. (Note to Senator Brown: I do not believe you are a cat burglar.) This is turning your politics into a graven image, a golden calf of the soul. Believe it or not, there are some things that politics ought not to touch. Physical abuse of any kind is high on that list.

The metaphor may be apt, but it’s also kind of incongruous that so many atheists are hauling around golden calves of the soul. The argument that “So-and-so is an asshole, but he’s our asshole, and his book/podcast/videos are soooo good” is tiresome. They aren’t worth it.

Comments

  1. whywhywhy says

    I am still confused by all the people who believe Franken was unfairly pushed to resign.

  2. Usernames! 🦑 says

    Is it that too many people have such underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes that they are not able (or willing) to moderate their behavior, or that our culture so steeped in Male Privilege such that those in power feel free to act as stupidly as they wish?

    I don’t doubt the problem was there all along and we are finally now hearing about it. My hope is the current crop of abusers are flushed out and a new generation is allowed to take over. Hopefully they’ll do a better job.

  3. says

    When the Schneiderman story broke I was reading stuff on Raw Story. The response of a lot of the commenters, including some I see regularly, was that this had to be a plot by Trump to stop the collusion investigation. The timing was said to be “too convenient.” Right or left people are good at making excuses for why “it’s not my guy.”

  4. thirdmill301 says

    I think it takes a certain personality type to become a US Senator, a University President, or a Hollywood movie mogul, and that personality type also happens to be the same type of person most willing to step on other people to get what they want, sexually or otherwise. The skill set that it takes to get oneself into that kind of a position of power includes the willingness to reach out and take, by fair means or foul, what you want. It’s in the nature of those kinds of jobs.

    So long as those skill sets are what get people ahead in life, the problem may not be fixable.

  5. says

    a liberal Democratic politician

    This seems to me to be at the heart of the problem for (wannabe) progressive organisations: Unless the whole organisations sees treating women as things as something incompatible with being a member, this will happen again and again. But the prevailing idea is that you can still be a “liberal” progressive guy and treat women like shit, as if those things were separate from each other, like your politics and your taste in ice cream.

  6. says

    A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.

    Not to be a repeat of timguegun @3, but this reminds me of commenters I saw just a few weeks back on Raw Story defending Al Franken on this story about some donor threatening to withhold funds over the calls for his resignation. So. Frustrating. Rather than seeing these resignations as some terrible loss, it would be great if people would instead see these as opportunities to find better politicians. But, as PZ and Pierce note, not necessarily the ones that come riding in on a white horse. Perhaps look for the ones who have an actual damn history (like, many years of it) of fighting for good causes. Maybe ones who started as activists. That should be a good sign they’re sincere. Just a thought.

  7. Saad says

    Mike Smith,

    Yeah, why should job security while attacking women be a luxury only Republicans get to enjoy?

  8. rpjohnston says

    @8 because they’ll enjoy it whether we do or not and ESPECIALLY if we don’t, at this time.

    And I feel absolutely fucking gross saying that. And I Am gross saying that. But I see a decision either way: Either you destroy someone, or you don’t, bot are a decision. And one will have certain consequences for women, and one will have other consequences.

    There’s a lot of variables here. What if destroying Schneiderman, terrible as he is, is the mistake that allows the rightwing terrorist to fundamentally reform the country and enslave women? Will you walk by women wearing red cloaks and white hats and say, well, at least you got rid of that one asshole? That condemning ALL women was worth your self-righteousness?

    I don’t know the future. I don’t know how critical he is. It’s great that he’s being replaced by a woman. I hope that she can be at least as solid as h was against this regime. I hope that she can do even better. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. Maybe this is the breakthrough that ushers in utopia. Maybe this was our last chance at avoiding dystopia. If I had to bet, I’d take the devil I knew. I may be wrong. But I’m certainly not pleased, not by the revelations, not by my own position, not by my lack of clairvoyance, not by seeing in instrumental chesspiece fall. I can only hope that everything works out.

  9. says

    @Saad

    The point is the Republicans are a group of amoral vipers hellbent on destroying the liberty of if not the lives of a good portion of the populace. They are not to be trusted. You should not hand them tools. All moral standards should be applied equally or not at all.

    #Metoo and #Timesup have done nothing but allowed the Republicans to decimate liberal institutions. Franken should not have resigned unilaterally and he should have forced the GOP to denounce Moore as a price of his head.

    Unilaterally disarming leads to death.

    No one should be able to abuse women. But when 62 million voters don’t care because they rather bash liberals heads in it is folly to think holding liberals accountable is anything be self-destructive.

    This is what #metoo sounds like to informed people:

    https://entertainment.theonion.com/dnc-aiming-to-reconnect-with-working-class-americans-wi-1819579456

  10. logicalcat says

    If democrats dont live up to the morals they express, we call them DINO. When they try to walk the walk, we now accuse them of weakening the base. I’m starting to think its not them, its you.

  11. unclefrogy says

    change is not liberal nor conservative
    Moore lost
    there is no change unless things really change.
    the change we need is not partisan.
    death rides a white horse he is no hero to fight our fight.
    we are the people of we the people who formed this constitution
    we are not the followers of some great leader
    it is by our consent that things are done.
    resist, consent or participate
    if not now when?
    uncle frogy

  12. rpjohnston says

    @10 #MeToo is one of the few movements that can actually claim to be apolitical, or more correctly, panpolitical; it has taken heads of both liberals and traitors. Hell no to attacking it.
    @11 I’ll still vote for a DINO over a Republican in any general, and vote against them in almost any primary.

  13. Tethys says

    Is Mike Smith trying to demonstrate the pretzel logic of those who claim to be liberals, but not at the price of holding white liberal men accountable for misogyny.

    Unilaterally disarming leads to death.

    Your metaphor is ridiculous, and a basic form of toxic masculinity. We aren’t engaged in a military battle dude. Senator Tina Smith is a capable and seasoned liberal, with an excellent track record. Testerically claiming that moral principals be damned, losing the white man who finally resigned due to his disgusting habit of minor sexual assault is a net loss for liberals? Seriously?

    No one should be able to abuse women. But when 62 million voters don’t care because they rather bash liberals heads in it is folly to think holding liberals accountable is anything be self-destructive.

    You do realize those sentences contradict each other? Franken resigned, as well he should have. No one should be able to abuse women, right? I really don’t care how good a job he was doing, the amount of minor sexual assault allowed a U.S. Senator (or a NY AG) is zero. That you yourself find it acceptable is a demonstration of deeply ingrained misogyny.

    FYI, liberals generally don’t advocate for sexism or violence, or think that war and military might are acceptable and moral methods of conflict resolution. Putting people who aren’t hypocrites or abusive douchebags in postions of power is in fact a strategy to fight against the GOP’s whitemalemisogynists that are currently in power.

  14. vucodlak says

    @ Mike Smith, #7

    Oh sure, let’s do that. Let’s keep abandoning our principles, and reduce this whole fucking thing to a race to the bottom, where the only difference between the teams is the color of jersey worn by the players. That’s not at all how we got into a situation where we have to vote for the lesser of two evils that get more evil every single election. Certainly, that thinking isn’t what ultimately delivered us Donald godsdamned Trump.

    This isn’t a fucking sportsball game. If we don’t take a stand on morality, then we’ve already lost. If we can’t even say “A serial-assaulter of women will not represent us,” then just let us get on to exterminating one another already. Because if we do things your way, then there won’t be anything left worth fighting for. It will be nothing but a sea of terrible creatures hurting themselves and everything around them for reasons they can’t even remember anymore, stretching on into infinity. A hell of our own making.

  15. zenlike says

    No one should be able to abuse women. But…
    No one should be able to abuse women. But…
    No one should be able to abuse women. But…

    I literally feel dirty after reading this thread.

    Also, the “reasoning” employed by our “liberal ally” is literally the same as used by rightwing nuts to say we should commit war crimes and torture against muslims, because we cannot afford to hold ourselves to higher morals.

    Maybe, just maybe, strengthening the Democratic party is not done through alienating a significant part of your voters, or by pushing valuable women out of the party because the “important men” are needed over them.

  16. ck, the Irate Lump says

    rpjohnston wrote:

    What if destroying Schneiderman, terrible as he is, is the mistake that allows the rightwing terrorist to fundamentally reform the country and enslave women? Will you walk by women wearing red cloaks and white hats and say, well, at least you got rid of that one asshole? That condemning ALL women was worth your self-righteousness?

    What if destroying Schneiderman opens room for another person who both expresses and practices the principles they express, which allows that person to go on to become a leader that helps move your country out of these current dark times?

    To engage in a somewhat more realistic and less apocalyptic/utopian “what if”, consider this: About half of the eligible population of the United States don’t vote, and a non-trivial number of these are those who would consider themselves left or progressive, and proportion of non-voters continues to rise practically every election. This demand to do the right thing is a demand to take a risk, and risks are always a bit frightening, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile.

    And if we become accepting of this behaviour because they’re necessary, how can we assume they will remain “one of the good ones”? If we allow Democrats to be indistinguishable from Republicans, why vote for one of them over the Republican? Hell, why vote at all in this scenario?

  17. Saad says

    Mike Smith,

    Okay, let’s look at this more closely then. You seem to be thinking you’re saying something good without looking at what putting it into practice actually entails.

    So first of all, combating misogyny (particularly in the form of rape culture, sexual assault and men in power harming women) is part of the main platform that we all should be fighting for. So saying we need to stick to the important platform by sacrificing a main part of the important platform makes no sense. Your position is blatantly sexist because you’re regarding women’s well-being a disposable thing. You’re literally making a discussion of sexual violence against women about the men who are committing the sexual violence by saying “but he’s a strong proponent of gun control and hates genocide!”

    Second, when news breaks of a prominent democratic male member of congress sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women, according to you, the people and the democratic party (including women) should turn to him and say, “Hey, that’s bad. But it’s okay. Don’t quit because we need your vote on prison reform. Also, we will coerce your victims to not press charges because being convicted will also get in the way of our important platform of which women’s basic safety isn’t a part.”

    Third, let’s look at a scenario: Imagine two democrat male senators have a history of sexually assaulting four women. All these women formally bring pretty credible accusations against these senators. One senator is a paragon of progressive liberal values with a great voting record. The other senator often meets Republicans half way, doesn’t stand strong against the NRA, isn’t strong on abortion rights, is okay with boots on the ground, etc etc. Do you get rid of the second senator and keep the first one? If your answer is yes, then you’ve proven you don’t care about sexual assault against women at all.

  18. Saad says

    rpjohnston, #9

    What if destroying Schneiderman, terrible as he is, is the mistake that allows the rightwing terrorist to fundamentally reform the country and enslave women? Will you walk by women wearing red cloaks and white hats and say, well, at least you got rid of that one asshole? That condemning ALL women was worth your self-righteousness?

    First of all, LOL @ “destroying”

    But anyways.

    What if destroying [insert hypothetical male democrat who has murdered/robbed/defrauded/embezzled/vandalized], terrible as he is, is the mistake that allows the rightwing terrorist to fundamentally reform the country and enslave women? Will you walk by women wearing red cloaks and white hats and say, well, at least you got rid of that one asshole? That condemning ALL women was worth your self-righteousness?

    The way you and Mike are arguing, it sounds like something straight from Sam Harris’s “But what if we don’t torture and a bomb goes off! It’ll be YOUR fault!” playbook.

  19. Saad says

    Sorry for the triple post, but this part deserves special attention:

    Will you walk by women wearing red cloaks and white hats and say, well, at least you got rid of that one asshole? That condemning ALL women was worth your self-righteousness?

    Holy Jesus, are you actually reading what you’re writing?

    So we’re doing this for women’s sake? Why didn’t you say so! Of course it makes sense to tell women to shut the fuck up about dudes literally assaulting their bodies because it’s for their own good to prevent those other dudes from literally assaulting their bodies in the future.

  20. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    So here’s a question:

    What if allowing the men of the party that’s supposed to be **against** women’s subjugation to get away with rape? What if that leads to politicians not giving a fuck about punishing rape, ever? What will you do when rape is legalized and you have to walk past some stranger literally holding your mom down at knife point and raping her right there on the street for all to see just because you let this **one rape** go unpunished. OMG WHAT WILL YOU DO???? OMG THERE ARE NO STEPS BETWEEN LETTING THIS GUY GO AND YOUR MOM BEING RAPED 5 MINUTES FROM NOW!! YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO TAKE ANY ACTION AGAINST RAPE UNLESS YOU THROW THE BOOK AT THIS ONE GUY RIGHT NOW!!!!!

    Jeez, those imaginary stories are really scary aren’t they? No, but seriously, what will you do rpjohnston, about the possibility that relaxing our standards for one second is the mistake that allows a rape free-for-all victimizing literally more than a hundred millions of women? Really. What will you do. We have to know that answer before we can decide what to do about Schneiderman. Please hurry. The prosecutors are paralyzed with indecision until you weigh in. Jeez, what are you waiting for? We have to know!

  21. Dunc says

    Is it really so fucking difficult to find people that are on the right side of the issues and aren’t serial sexual abusers? Are people who aren’t serial sexual abusers some kind of rare minority or something?

  22. says

    Is anyone else amused by how unique Mike Smith’s brand of extremism is?

    Instead of using extreme measures to achieve some extreme goal, he’s advocating extreme measures (sacrifice all) to achieve …what the majority is already in favor of (Democrats in power).

    It’s so silly, it’s kind of adorable.

  23. says

    I’m personally wondering if people like Mike Smith have some sort of list that shows which behaviours “progressive men” are entitled to as rewards for their good work.
    One small change to a law that closes a minor loophole = one groped butt
    Extending medicaid so it covers 200.000 vulnerable people = one rape?

  24. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    y’know, I wrote what I wrote directed at rpjohnston, and although I wouldn’t write what rpjohnston wrote, rpjohnston wasn’t actually advocating inaction, merely feeling conflicted and confused. I still disagree with what appears to be too much generosity toward those who would advocate inaction in the face of Schneiderman’s crimes, but I realize belatedly that I really should have targeted my harshest criticism toward Mike Smith.

    rpjohnston, you can keep some respectful disagreement and criticism, but please allow me to retract the vitriol for reuse in the general direction of Mike Smith.

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