Dear Al Nisbet – it’s not a witch hunt men fear, it’s a witch trial


There seem to be two enormous forces hurtling towards each other.

On one side you have feminists and women incandescent with righteous rage at sexual harassment in the work place that has gone unchallenged for centuries upon centuries upon centuries.

On the other side you have men fearing that they will be unfairly outed on social media in a witch hunt.

This latter response seems to be ill educated because what is confronting men is far more fundamental a swing of the pendulum against them than a witch hunt, it’s a witch trial.

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A ‘witch hunt’ is an angry lynch mob hunting for a mythical monster and what we have learned and seen about harassment in the work place over the last couple of years tells us that harassment isn’t a myth, it’s real, it’s visceral and it’s unacceptable.

We don’t have a witch hunt against men here because there clearly are monsters deserving of being hunted, but we do have the ingredients for a witch trial.

The Salem Witch trials in 1692 were made infamous because the evidential threshold was lowered to mere allegation. All a woman had to do was stand, point and say, “Goodman Ezekiel made me fornicate with the Devil’ and Goodman Ezekiel was executed.

Current debate stipulates that anyone claiming harassment or sexual assault must be believed and that any attempt to challenge, critique or question any allegation is slut shaming, victim blaming or perpetuating rape culture.

While that is a valid means of supporting victims in a system where few ever see justice, it can not in of itself replace the hundreds of years of established evidential thresholds that make Court’s arbitrators of the law.

Within the #MeToo movement there is a fierce debate between radical feminists and liberal feminists. Radical feminists do not care if innocent men get destroyed by false allegations because all means justify the ends of patriarchy. Liberal feminists argue you can’t write off 50% of the species as rapists and due process matters. Trial by Twitter would be a great leap backwards even if  those being destroyed are loathsome.

Why Alison Mau’s #MeTooNZ campaign is such a positive addition to the debate however is because her investigations will need to occur within investigative journalist standards and defamation law.

NZ has some of the most stringent defamation law in the world and many on social media seem to have no understanding of it. The cost to successfully sue a defamatory comment on social media is offset by the fact that most on social media have no money to cover the legal bill let alone the damages. Fairfax on the other hand is a multi-million dollar transnational corporation who would be under intense scrutiny from defamation law if a story simply relied on an allegation against an individual.

This means any investigation will need to be on solid ground and removes the fears of a witch hunt or witch trial.

Ultimately I think the #MeToo campaign will out some abusers and they will be punished and women will see some sense of justice however once men fully comprehend that their entire career, reputation and life can be destroyed with just one single allegation on social media, we will see a polarisation of the sexes that will make Orthodox Jews look liberal.

When men understand they could lose everything with no due process whatsoever they will rush to remove themselves from any situation where they are alone with women be it social or business.

Such social polarisation isn’t new or unheard of, we’ve seen this before with men and children. Throughout the 80s and 90s the narrative was any man who hangs around children was a pervert and there was an exodus in male primary school and secondary school teachers and it simply became untenable for any man to be anywhere near children.

Even now, any man who voluntarily hangs around children is viewed with deep suspicion socially.

American Vice President Mike Pence was mocked for his rule to never be alone with a woman, as the power of allegation eclipses due process, many men will come to see Pence’s position as the only survivable tactic in a post #MeToo world.



  1. Brave of you Martyn, but I think you’re right.
    I want to hear more about Geoffrey Rush, who was forced to stand down from his position as head of Australian film and theatre academy because of historic allegations derived from social media and an anonymous email.
    Swept up newspaper articles made Rush too hot to handle. He’s taking the newspaper to court for defamation,and strongly denies the charges.
    When someone loses their job because of unproven allegations we should all be worried

  2. You miss the point Martyn that taking a defamation action against an outfit like Fairfax costs a small fortune.
    Never suggest people don’t sue because what is written is true.

  3. #ME TOO may though achieve what politicians and administrators have failed to achieve so far, that is stop the unsustainable population growth on this planet, once and for all.

    When men stop hanging around women, when they avoid anything suggestive of any sexual advances, and thus ‘protect’ themselves from any potential accusations, they will also not engage in procreative activities.

    This seems to be the best birth control measure that anybody could ever have thought out, we may finally achieve sustainable population levels, after many men may choose not to procreate and not to make babies – as a consequence of activities with women, that may in the worst case be labeled ‘sexual harassment’, ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘rape’.

    Humanity tends to have a habit of going over the top and to extremes, here we may have another one such example.

    HIV and AIDS did not achieve it, but #ME Too may just achieve something after all, as a side effect.

  4. “I’m going on a witch hunt after men!”

    Subtext: No more women should come forward to complain of harassment (ie, unwanted sexual attention). Otherwise privileged white men will use clever media tactics such as Al Nisbet’s cartoons to paint such complaints as a “witch hunt”.

    As someone who was on the receiving end of unwanted attention by an older male in a position of authority (I was 17 in my first job after leaving school; he would’ve been in his 40s) and was eventually driven from my workplace, all I can say is,


    Mr Nisbet might draw different cartoons on workplace harassment if it ever happened to one of his children. (Though it’s a shame some people can’t empathise with a situation unless/until they’re directly impacted.)

    • Frank, what happened to you was terrible.
      And Nesbit’s cartoon is ridiculous
      But trial by media is not the answer.

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