First, it was Harper’s. In their October issue, the magazine published an essay by John Hockenberry, the disgraced former public radio host who was accused of sexual harassment and racially inappropriate comments by women he worked with. He sent them emails asking for dates, made comments on their appearance and made sex jokes. In August 2017, after multiple complaints about his behavior were made to WNYC management, Hockenberry quietly retired from his program, The Takeaway. His behavior was only made public later, in reporting by Suki Kim for The Cut.
Hockenberry’s Harper’s piece, titled Exile, reached nearly 7,000 words – extraordinarily long for a personal essay – and details the suffering that Hockenberry claims to have endured since his behavior was made public. In the essay, Hockenberry relies heavily on the notion that his disability is exculpatory of his behavior – Hockenberry uses a wheelchair – and compares himself to Lolita, the teen girl who is kidnapped and raped in the Vladimir Nabokov novel.
He claims that he has reached out to his accusers and has been ignored or rebuffed, an assertion denied by the women, who say that they have not heard from him. Later, Hockenberry likens the Me Too movement to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, and characterizes his harassment of colleagues as “courtship”. “Do I dare make a spirited defense of something once called romance from the darkness of this exile, at the nadir of my personal credibility?” He does dare.
Then, there was the New York Review of Books. In an issue titled The Fall of Men, centered on what editor Ian Buruma called “Me Too offenders who had not been convicted in a court of law but by social media,” the magazine ran a similar piece, entitled Reflections from a Hashtag, by the Canadian former broadcast star Jian Ghomeshi.
The piece, like Hockenberry’s, was a first-person account from a man accused of sexual misconduct – in Ghomeshi’s case, sexual assault – that detailed the suffering he said he had endured as a result of his behavior being made public. Like Hockenberry, Ghomeshi seems not to have much considered the impact that his actions had on the women he targeted, and like Hockenberry, he downplayed the allegations against him and distorted the facts in a self-serving and myopic piece that is short of self-reflection and long on solicitations for pity. [Continue reading…]