Several days into the attack on this guy, a few of us began to remonstrate. The online threads about what a monster he was had continued to spread and grow without anyone saying anything. I was horrified that such an ugly and dangerous witch hunt could be mounted online. Yes, the guy had poor boundaries, was aggressive and pushy, didn’t take no for an answer if you said you didn’t want to dance with him. But that didn’t add up to sexual misconduct or the right to bully him on a social forum. I was reminded of Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery in which a small town annually gathers to witness the stoning to death of one of its members. Is that what was going on, a whole community being purged of its sins as a kind of willful character assassination was performed on one of its members?
I had heard there was bad blood between accused and accuser, so that, too, could have been the cause of the smear campaign unfolding before our eyes every time we opened Facebook. It got pretty nasty. What struck me was the gleeful tone of some — actually of many — of the comments. When I jumped in with a comment about the injustice of gang up behavior, a whole bunch of people turned on me, sending a torrent of angry messages. Whoa! All I’d done was point out the wrongness and danger of singling someone out and picking on them without proof.
Soon other people began to agree that the witch hunt had gone too far. The comments died down and eventually the whole subject of the guy’s possible misconduct faded from view on social media. But the damage had been done. The guy, who’d been a mainstay of the dance community, was banned from participation in any of the dances. No one could say whether he’d actually molested anyone, but there were a lot of complaints, so what it boiled down to in the end was the guy was overbearing and obnoxious and a lot of people didn’t want him around. I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth. If a person could be so easily persecuted in the name of sexual misconduct, what did that say about the Me Too movement? Could there be mistakes? Could one person go after the other out of sheer vengeance… and win?