The story of Justin Trudeau’s ‘handling’ of a female reporter eighteen years ago fascinates me. Not the events of eighteen years ago, but rather how it is unfolding, and how it will end. We’re in the middle of it right now, which gives me the opportunity to foolhardily offer predictions of the future.
The events of eighteen years ago are better documented than many #MeToo allegations: Trudeau was ‘forward’ with a female reporter in Creston, British Columbia, on August 4, 2000. She was sufficiently upset about it to write an editorial the next day, complaining about the inappropriate ‘handling’, later characterized in the article as ‘groping’. According to the article, he did apologize the next day: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward”. A relatively unbiased report is here.
Digression: The story was actually reported in Frank Magazine six weeks earlier, on April 28, 2018 (Frank), but no other media outlet picked up on it at that time. Not surprising, since its reputation isn’t the best (link), reaching its nadir in the early 1990s with its ‘Deflower Caroline Mulroney’ contest.
The Canadian media didn’t deem it newsworthy until June 22, 2018, when the National Post published an editorial “Why an 18-year-old groping allegation against Justin Trudeau is not a #MeToo moment” (link).
Digression: It’s an interesting article, mainly because the only support in the article for the title is a quote from Tanya Oliva, the festival’s PR manager, and Trudeau’s chaperone at the time, saying “Come on, people. This is not how we activate #MeToo”.
Digression: I don’t buy the theory that this delay in reporting is evidence of a conspiracy by the liberal media to keep negative news about Trudeau out of the media, and thus support a progressive agenda. I think that it is more likely evidence of group-think in the media; they all have similar ideas about what constitutes news and this story didn’t make the cut for a couple of weeks.
Consider this story in light of Trudeau’s policy in his area “As a government, we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do.” (link). And he has walked the talk, with Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti (link).
Warning! Major cognitive dissonance ahead! For all of us! How to reconcile the credible allegations against Justin Trudeau with his policy that such allegations must be believed and acted upon. He’s the Prime Minister! No one is going to fire him. He is about as close to a dictator as it gets in a democracy, at least until the next election. So what will happen?
- There will be no repercussions for Justin Trudeau. He won’t resign, he won’t address it, and at some point it will fall off everyone’s radar. The PMO’s response, that Trudeau “remembers being in Creston … but doesn’t think he had any negative interactions there” is brilliant. It’s like Muhammed Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy.
- Public figures will continue to be caught by the zero-tolerance policy of #MeToo.
- The lack of consequences for Trudeau will be seen as a pivotal moment for the #MeToo movement; the moment when the #MeToo movement began to mature.
I think that a future in which the above three predictions come to pass will be a good one. The zero-tolerance, black-and-white policy that drives the #MeToo movement makes no sense and will ultimately destroy it. We live in a nuanced world and our policies should reflect that. We will all benefit if the #MeToo movement becomes more nuanced, even if the price is that Trudeau gets away with something that others didn’t.
But don’t hold your breath. To quote Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning“