Catcalling and the fine art of manufactured crisis

In response to In Defense of Catcalls:

Catcalling, of course, an entirely manufactured “crisis,” done clumsily enough to where you can still see the “insert tab A into slot B” stickers on the parts.  Judging by Allahpundits lively “Quote of the Day” roundup at Hot Air, it worked beautifully, creating a 24-hour social-issue flash-in-the-pan that everyone felt obliged to weigh in on.  That most definitely includes skeptics who realize the importance of getting into these discussions early.  The memory of how a Democrat campaign operative posing as a “debate moderator,” George Stephanopolous, kicked off the “War on Women” by blindsiding the 2012 GOP candidates with a planted question will linger long in our minds.  We’ve learned that we can’t let the Left have a field day with social issues for months, until we end up responding with a snort of disbelief that anyone is taking their latest goofball crusade seriously.

From a technical standpoint, the “catcall” video is an interesting example of how editing can be used to generate any impression a media supplier wishes to create.  The young woman in this video evidently spent her 10 hours in New York City stomping straight ahead with a faintly annoyed expression on her face, completely ignoring everything from polite greetings to boorish behavior.  If we dug through those ten hours of video, I suspect we would find more than two minutes’ worth of footage of people being exceptionally nice to her, which we could edit into a video showing that New Yorkers are less rude than their stereotype holds… but of course, that isn’t the video these activists wanted to make.  There’s also the highly suspicious matter of their claims that they couldn’t find any “usable” footage of white guys being ultra-rude to the actress, while assuring us such encounters took place, to fend off criticism that their end product was racially biased.  Give me ten hours of footage from just about anywhere, and I suspect I could edit it into anything from a heartwarming slice-of-life story to a horror movie.  This whole genre of secretly filming a large number of people and editing it down to a reel that supposedly “proves” some group is horrible is inherently disingenuous.

But on the social-issues front, there’s the question of exactly what this “movement” against “street harassment” (so described by its aspiring activists) plans to do about the “crisis.”  If they’re raising money to cut PSAs and publish brochures emphasizing the importance of good manners, that’s great – more power to ’em.  But they seem determined to go further than that, at which point one has to wonder how you can force men to stop addressing women unless expressly granted permission to do so, without running afoul of the First Amendment, to say nothing of how such laws would be enforced.  (A vast crew of Polite Police swarming through the streets of every major city, ready to write a citation against every man who uses the term “baby” to address a female over three years of age?  GoPro video cameras affixed to the breast of every woman, capturing evidence to be used in the trial of every man who looks in the vicinity of the camera too intently)

This is one of those “consciousness-raising” things: a “crisis” that can never actually be solved, a facet of society that existed for long before any modern-era “movement” coalesced around it.  No surprise that liberals gloomy over a bad election would leap at the chance to spend a day or two talking obsessively about something that can be plugged into the fading “War on Women” campaign.  It’s also one of those things you’re not supposed to be able to challenge, at all, without indicting yourself as insufficiently understanding.  To ask tough questions of the Catcall Movement is to charge yourself as a boor, an apologist for boors, or a doormat woman brainwashed by the patriarchy, and thus useless to your feminist social-justice warrior sisters.  Stage One of getting a manufactured social-issue crisis off the ground is establishing that all questions about the legitimacy of the crisis only prove its urgency.  Even a moment’s hesitation to get on board means you’re part of the “problem.”

Hence the paragraph from Slate captured in one of Allahpundit’s Quotes of the Day: “Some men, though, still aren’t seeing it. On Twitter, some are pushing back against the video, claiming that it’s not harassment, it’s just annoying, and that refusing to reply is, frankly, impolite.  Of course, it’s largely women who are singled out for constant annoyance just for stepping outside, and are dismissed as rude for not accepting it graciously.  If you don’t get it after watching this video, the problem isn’t just the guys caught yelling at Roberts.  The problem is you.”  

See how that works?  The “street harassment” video isn’t just an indictment of the men captured in that minute-and-a-half of footage, culled from ten hours of tape.  It’s an indictment of the viewer.  If your response is, “I’m not sure if this is as bad as the filmmakers think,” or “some of the guys in this video aren’t being all that rude, really,” or “sheesh, guys have been shouting out to women since before my great-grandpa was in diapers,” the problem is you.  In the spirit of Halloween, we might compare it to the cursed videotape from “The Ring.”


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