Blowing Water

Loyalty has its limits, but the court of public opinion is no place to find real justice and the #MeToo movement needs to remember that

  • Judi Dench’s decision to speak up for Kevin Spacey was brave, but misguided loyalty can be a dangerous thing
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 10:17pm

When renowned Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench defended Kevin Spacey after he was cut from the film All the Money in the World, it inevitably caused a stir.

But nonetheless, most reactions were not vicious, and critics mainly regarded it as an act of kindness. Dench said she extended a friendly hand to the embattled actor, simply because he was a good friend to her after her husband died.

Dench went further, and questioned the decision to take Spacey out of the film. In some ways, she was hitting back at the court of public opinion, and defending the principle of innocent until proved guilty.

Speaking up for someone considered to be a sexual predator in the midst of the #MeToo movement may have taken guts, but how far can blind loyalty take us?

People were less kind when Julie Chen gave her unequivocal support to her husband Leslie Moonves, who resigned as chairman of CBS, following multiple allegations of workplace sexual abuse. Venomous comments abound – some attacked her loyalty, and some questioned her motives in standing by him.

Backlash in Hong Kong against the ‘Me Too’ campaign

Her detractors claimed she was only doing it because Moonves was her cash cow, and she married him for money and nothing more. Some even called her loyalty a cold and calculated move. Nevertheless, it could also be the blind loyalty of a wife.

Can we be too loyal to a point that we maybe are at fault? That means we are being loyal to a person, an institution, or a cause, even though they do not deserve it. Misplaced loyalty makes us so biased, we throw common sense and reasoning out the window.

Misguided loyalty can have a pernicious influence on our judgment and objectivity, and can be dangerous. More often than not, it can be misused and exploited.

Many of us are understandably torn between keeping the patience to allow justice to take its course, and choosing to trust in the hope of swift justice being delivered in the court of public opinion, in the belief that the accused’s reputation, career, and credibility being shredded to pieces is the best retribution.

Those who support this category of justice argue that, in reality, the rich and famous often seem to manage to escape criminal punishment, because they can afford legal talent and tools to circumvent justice. So, maybe the court of public opinion is a reasonable alternative to seek justice.

Blind loyalty to the anti-sexual harassment cause has been feeding the herd mentality, and has stripped the sense out of many #MeToo followers, who have made it abundantly clear that whoever dares to differ and not go along with this revolution will be banished or, worse, purged.

While it is a noble cause, we should not be fixated on merely keeping up with the momentum of the movement, and losing sight of the true meaning of the campaign. One year on, it may be time for us to take a deep breath, take stock, and define sexual harassment in meaningful terms, and not just use it indiscriminately.

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To allow the #MeToo movement to continue to be a force to be reckoned with, we must keep a clear head. Not only do we need to stop people in powerful and influential positions from normalising their sexual misconduct, we should not turn a blind eye to misguided loyalty, or tolerate herd mentality. We must follow our conscience, not blind faith, and give our utmost to a movement worth fighting for.

So next time someone close to you commits a wrong of any kind, whether it be an act of petty thievery, or something far worse, we must always follow our conscience and do the right thing. Loyalty is an admirable quality, and something one should never lose sight of, but loyalty has its limits.

In Dench’s and Chen’s case, they put their faith in the wrong people and may pay dearly for it.

We all know what a just and fair world looks like, so let us fight to keep it that way.

Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post