Johnny Depp Tells Us #MeToo Needs a Course Correction

New evidence has come out strongly suggesting that Johnny Depp is not the domestic abuser society had labeled him as just a few years prior. Further, this evidence – which allegedly includes 87 surveillance camera videos, 17 depositions of witnesses, and photos of significant injuries inflicted by Amber Heard on Johnny Depp – strongly suggest that it was Depp that was the victim of domestic abuse.

A complete reversal of revelations involving a true A-list superstar celebrity and his ex-wife whose own fame is growing with her role in DC’s billion dollar Aquaman should be a front in center news item, yet it’s been barely a blip. I’d be willing to bet the majority of people reading this had no idea about this before I wrote that first paragraph.

The answer, of course, is that reports that contradict the widely agreed upon “cancelling” of Johnny Depp makes the same media outlets who assumed his guilt look bad. As long as the story doesn’t go viral, it’s best for most outlets to simply pretend it didn’t happen. From my own anecdotal experience, I only saw a single tweet about it, and then investigated because I trusted the individual tweeting. A google search found the only outlets reporting on the new evidence were tabloids with no shame, the usual alt-right white male propaganda sites, and the single ABC news article I linked to. I don’t mean to suggest this is some kind of cover-up, but rather the digital equivalent of printing a story’s retraction months later on page 14. While websites typically aim to use Search Engine Optimization to make their articles as visible as possible on services such as Google, they can also do the opposite when they want to.

The other more important problem is just because sources claim Johnny Depp has 87 surveillance videos and photos of him being physically abused by Amber Heard doesn’t mean that’s true. We, the public, have not seen any sort of of the alleged photographic evidence, and we’ve already established above that the mainstream media is often unreliable and compromised by corporate interests.

One of the founding principles of America’s justice system is the idea of one being “innocent until proven guilty.” The underlying conceit of #MeToo – best reflected in the accompanying hashtag #BelieveWomen, is that we should assume accusations of sexual assault are true. The unspoken but obvious implication then is that we should also assume the opposite principle of the accused man being guilty until proven innocent.

The counter-argument to this would be that false-accusations are far less common than actual sexual assaults and domestic abuses, which is completely true. False accusations amount to a proportion between a rounding error and the average 3rd party presidential vote depending on who you ask. Unfortunately, the minority of false positives still matter as long as they exist. Accepting a tiny fraction of innocent man fatalities for the greater good is a completely understandable thought given how society has treated women like garbage for centuries, but it’s also the same mentality American neocons use to justify civilian fatalities caused by reckless drone strikes.

I strongly doubt most #MeToo supporters would agree with reversing centuries of widely agreed upon legal precedent. There is some argument in favor of lowering the bar required to reach a guilty verdict, but the general idea is ingrained in the American zeitgeist. Yes, civil suits exist, but a monetary settlement hardly makes up for the damage caused domestic abuse and sexual assault – not to mention abusers of low financial means wouldn’t be able to adequately pay for their crimes monetarily.

Most of this article has been some variation of “here’s why #MeToo” is flawed, and I want to make it clear, that doesn’t mean it should go away. It’s important that one of the worst crimes one human can commit on another human is adequately prosecuted and punished. Men in position of powers have gotten away with human rights abuses for far too long. Instead, what I suggest is a course correction – a more nuanced and malleable approach that that works in conjunction with widely agreed upon legal principles instead of against them.

Last year, I wrote an article on ways I think the #BlackLivesMatter movement could improve its effectiveness by focusing on long list of measurable and specific goals, and I used the massive strides in progress made along the way to legalizing gay marriage as an example of a more effective and focused civil rights movement. I’m suggesting a similar correction to #MeToo.

Admittedly, this is much harder because we can’t legislate a general trend of shitty attitudes towards women in the same way we can legalize abuses of power by police officers. That said, shifting the movements focus would help wonders. At times, #MeToo resembles a lynch mob, shifting its focus to one abusive man in power to another. Not only does this run into all the problems I’ve already outlined, but this also (usually) only helps women who are already in socially privileged positions. Instead, the focus should be twofold.

  • Expanding legal and societal protections for women (and men) to prosecute their abusers.
    • This means creating a infrastructure for the abused to report anonymously and for adequate (key word here) investigation actions to take place.
    • This means removing a sort of guilty/non-guilty binary from both how we treat this legally and in society. Instead of assuming women are telling the truth of lying, make no assumptions one way or the other. Don’t assume if an alleged abuser is found “not guilty” that the other person is guilty. Don’t assume every case in cut and dry either. Take Aziz Ansari’s #MeToo case, where he pressured a woman into having sex with him.  Men should obviously always try to do better than this, but it’s also not comparable to what I’ve been speaking about above, and also decisions and judgment will unfortunately happen in a world of imperfect communication.
  • Massively expanding sex-education.

I didn’t even get into the difficulties of proving a crime that by its nature often leaves little tangible evidence. That’s a problem to be solved by legal experts and not twenty-something liberal bloggers. In many ways, this article could be simplified by simply saying “care about celebrities less,” and that’s also true, but if we can’t even get it right when trying to protect the rights of the privileged, what the hell kind of chance do the rest of us have?

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