On 25th September in Paris, a woman has been sentenced to pay a compensation to a man she was publicly accusing of sexual harassment. The facts, on the details of which the man and the woman agree, do not constitute sexual harassment according to the court.
There is a bitter taste to this legal victory. Because the damage the man has suffered do not come from the woman's accusation, which was nothing but a sort of long-delayed response to his own words, at a similar level of vulgarity and posture.
The damage was done by society. And it has been harsh. He lost all his clients, many of his friends, his wife, and struggled to explain the event to his children, who were informed by social media.
That he had apologised the next day, that the accusation was done after a 5-year delay, counted for nothing. 5 years after he apologised for his words, society as a whole stood by his accuser's words, no less crude, and put her on a pedestal, and made her feel, not like an unimportant opportunist, but like the crusader of a great cause. So when he asked her, not even to apologise, but to withdraw her accusation, nobody would have understood or supported her if she had done that, even if she wanted. Society would not have accepted it. He went to court.
And now, the court has condemned her for defamation.
Of course, a court of law cannot judge society, whatever harm it has done to a person. It can only judge another person, in the name of society. There is no other way.
But this strange thing happen: There are 2 victims here, the man and the woman, and both are innocent. Or at least, they are the most innocent of us all: The signatories to incendiary calls to crusade, the twitting and re-twitting, the stylish commenters, all those who try to keep themselves clean, who hope to pre-empt accusation by prudent virtue-signaling and safe distancing.
But society is unable to inflict a punishment on a person. The person always escapes unhurt. Society only hurts itself. Machiavelli's famous quote, "It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles", inescapably has the opposite consequence: Society does not judge individuals, individuals judge society. History is replete with famous bandits and heroes who illustrated this reversal, including Gandhi who dictated to his judge the sentence he inflicted on him, Edward Snowden who reminded us that "Justice does not defend people, people defend justice", and Julian Assange, who has gradually lost, not only all his supporters, but even the most elementary respect, after he started, years ago, to rot in confinement, after having exposed some terrible crimes of our time. One cannot escape the feeling that our attitude has made him one of the cleanest persons on earth right now.
More simply, Sandra Muller and Eric Brion, by enduring our collective, sub-human, "sexual harassment by procuration", have unwillingly exposed our lazyness and darkness . We owe both of them, an apology.
We need to invent real justice, founded on the strength of the person. It is sprouting already, in many places, we just have to make silence and open our ears to listen to it. We must look at our real heroes, love them, and become so ourselves, day after day, humbly.
We deserve better than the sub-human hate of "twitter".