Misconduct in an age of cheap accountability

My latest piece is up at Religion Dispatches. It’s about how we handle allegations of sexual misconduct when we lack recourse to real justice or real amendment:

Where electoral politics offer no protection, however, consequences have been more dully uniform. People have been fired from jobs or had projects cancelled. Spacey’s latest film role is being re-shot with another actor. Reputations have been damaged. Those are the currencies in which our society exacts its extra-legal penalties: money and prominence. There is a clear practical and moral logic to these particular levies. In most cases these were men whose professional and workplace actions are the cause, and whose prominence enabled their abuse. The companies that employ or collaborate with them are exposed to financial and reputational risks of their own if they don’t cut them loose.

Still, these financial and professional repercussions are too shallow and removed from either satisfaction or restitution to constitute anything like justice. Most of the actions are beyond the reach of law. And we do not share the kind of moral code that could exact penalties between those of the state and those of the employer or marketplace.

This is one of those problems that I can articulate without being able to conceive of an answer beyond “lots more people should go to church, but, like, a good church.” But, well, it’s still a problem. We don’t know what kind of future we’re creating by rationing accountability and restoration like this.

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