The Court of Public Opinion Versus

In 2017 the entertainment world was rocked by a mass of sexual abuse allegations against some of its most powerful members. In the center of all this was the #MeToo movement, a social justice campaign dedicated to giving a voice to victims of sexual abuse stemming from said powerful people. Among those caught up in the movement were producer Harvey Weinstein, House of Cards star Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K, and NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer. Each have faced varying degrees of punishment and accusations, but all have one thing in common- they were all brought down by the Court of Public Opinion.

If you’ve never heard of the Court, that’s because it doesn’t really exist. And yet, we’re all a part of it. It is an imaginary entity consisting of anyone with social media access and the urge to judge people. Anytime a celebrity, politician, or any other prominent figure is accused of a wrongdoing on social media we judge them. If the wrongdoing is considered serious enough, we will make hashtags and post our opinions and ask that something be done to the accused as punishment for their slights. And sometimes, it works.

201 people lost jobs to the #MeToo movement. Just the #MeToo movement. That’s not even counting others like Roseanne Barr, who got her own show cancelled after making a horribly racist tweet; or Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault over social media which cast a cloud over his nomination.

The apparent success of the Court raises some interesting questions- exactly how far is this going to go, and should we allow it to continue?

The answer to the first question seems fairly obvious. Given current Internet trends and the fact that famous people are most likely going to continue to do stupid and disgusting things, the Court should be able to hang around for a while. But should it? After all, it’s  a dangerous system. For example, James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for some extremely inappropriate tweets after they were brought to Disney’s attention over social media. The only problem was, these tweets had been made a little over a decade earlier, Gunn had never been reported for doing anything else since, and he had admitted his guilt and apologized. He has since regained his job, but the fact that Disney fired him from the incredibly successful franchise he had helmed shows just how powerful social media can be. Or what about the Covington incident? A group of Catholic high school students were accused of intimidating a Native American who was leading a protest march after a clip of the incident was released online. But once the full video was released, it was revealed that the kids had not initiated the encounter and that another group was responsible.

The point is, this system is not reliable. All it takes is one person accusing another of something and soon the whole Internet will be jumping on it and tearing the accused apart, even if they haven’t really done anything. Essentially, it is a disaster waiting to happen. But how can it be stopped? After all, jumping to conclusions is a part of human nature. Just ask the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. The best we can do is try to get the facts and hope that the truth prevails in the end.