By Brendan O'Neill
Movie star Matt Damon has tentatively, politely suggested that the #MeToo cleansing of Hollywood, this chasing of suspected perverts out of the film world, has hints of a ‘culture of outrage’ to it, and guess what has happened to him? Yep, he’s been consumed by the culture of outrage. He’s been insulted, demonised, Twitter-raged against. ‘Is Matt Damon OK?’, asked one newspaper headline, because if you express an outre opinion these days, people will worry that you’re ill. It feels like a grimly fitting end to 2017: someone raises concerns about outrage, and before he’s even finished explaining himself he’s shut down by outrage.
I’ve read Damon’s comments, which he made in a couple of interviews, five times now, and I cannot seea single controversial thing in them. He isn’t rude, he doesn’t demean #MeToo. On the contrary, he praises it. ‘It’s wonderful that women are feeling empowered to tell their stories, and it’s totally necessary’, he says. The Damon-bashing fury has been stoked by two of the comments he made, both of which strike me as eminently sensible. First, not all forms of sexual advance or assault are equally bad, he said; and secondly, not all men are nasty bastards. For this, for saying what the vast majority of people would consider to be true, he’s been strung up.
Speechcrime No.1 was his suggestion that there’s a ‘spectrum of behaviour’ and ‘there’s a difference between… patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, you know?’. He said ‘both of these behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated’ — so he absolutely isn’t justifying butt-patting — but he says ‘they shouldn’t be conflated, right?’.
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