The New York Times is the complaints office of liberals all over the world. Last week the newspaper (May18, 2022) featured a column by Michelle Goldberg headlined: Amber Heard and the Death of #Metoo.
The context was the Johnny Depp defamation trial. Depp, in Virginia, sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million. Ms Goldberg may not be the most incisive or insightful of columnists in the world. But she represents the general mindset of the woke liberals, who tend to mistake an apriori position for an argument, or a kindly attitude toward fair play when it costs them little more than hot air.
In her piece, Ms Goldberg said: 'Online, there's a level of industrial-scale bullying directed at Heard that puts all previous social media pile-ons to shame. Countless videos skewer Heard; … a makeup brand even took part in the anti-Heard melee, posting a TikTok video meant to contradict her lawyer's description of how she covered her bruises.'
In fact, what the makeup brand said was that they were not available in the market at the time Heard said she used it to cover up her bruises allegedly inflicted on her by Depp. But, then, most of us want to win the argument, not to know the truth.
Goldberg went on to say: 'If Depp somehow prevails one can expect similar lawsuits against other women who say they survived abuse.'
In short, the liberal position is that there should be no trial or legal investigations in cases where women allege abuse because that is not fair to them. It does not strike Goldberg or her ilk that what they are arguing for is the end of the rule of law. Which is another way of saying that there need not be a court of justice. Not at least, when it comes to cases related to alleged or real abuse of women. The social media mob will take over that pleasurable duty.
On Monday, when the trial resumes, it would be the 21st day of mutual humiliation for both Depp and Herd, with intimate bedroom and bathroom scenes played out to millions of viewers whose only trip in life is to express their views round the clock, a new compulsive behavioural need mutated into existence by social media technology.
Though Depp's personal deposition with which the trial opened has been far more convincing and powerful a performance than Heard's uneven if theatrical rendering of the evil done to her, last week has been a tough one for Depp. Video testimonies from earlier trials and hostile witness accounts by Heard's 'friends' have changed the momentum that in the first few days of the trial gathered in favor of Depp.
Media outlets like the NYT and The Guardian articulate their reports and columns from what they take to be a civilized and humanistic perspective. But when someone like Goldberg, representative of the Members of the Good Society whose numbers are a legion, says that irrespective of the outcome of the trial, Heard's reputation has been ruined, we must pause. Because that is exactly what Depp said at the beginning of his trial. He said that no matter whether he wins or loses, he has already 'lost nothing less than everything,' because both media and social media have been at it for years.
Every marriage goes through its highs and lows. More lows than highs. It is an indication of the faith, hope, and charity in Man that he or she still considers marriage a necessary institution.
Of course, we now know that its days are numbered. One of the low points of the Depp-Heard marriage has been the allegation of the Depp team that Heard, after a particularly provocative altercation pooped on the Depp side of the bed.
Heard and her team have blamed it on Depp's Yorkshire dogs, one of the smallest of canine breeds. Based on the act of indiscretion – either by the human in question or by the pets – hundreds of thousands of memes and jokes have appeared since.
The liberal contention is that the social media editions of this incident alone are indicative of the hell Heard is going through. Even if it is proved that Heard is not responsible for the poop, they say, it would be too late as the punishment for the act has already been administered by social media, and her reputation will never recover.
But that precisely is what movements like Metoo draw their strength and sustenance from. Social media is a non-state player, and the groups or mobs on it have assumed for themselves a magisterial role. It conducts trials and awards punishments. It cancels; almost hangs the victim by other means. Heard, like many others, rode that wave and had, in fact, in her op-ed article (in The Washington Post, the other globally acknowledged handmaiden of the liberals, and which allegedly defamatory article is the bone of contention in this trial) assumed for herself the leadership of victimhood of women subject to domestic violence.
Now to turn around and say that the social media trials and tribulations of Amber Heard are unfair because no matter what the outcome of the case, her reputation has become unsalvageable is to argue for double standards. A fair point must cut both ways.
The Good People of the world unleashed the beast, the social media lynch mob. It has come home. And they must now feed it even if the pound of flesh is carved from their own hands and legs.
(C P Surendran is an author and senior journalist. Views are personal.)