What introverts know that predators or people — mostly men — could stand to learn in the midst of the reckoning #MeToo has wrought is the art of the pause.
Pausing is free. It is tremendously underrated & yet, invaluable.
Eric Schneiderman is the latest example of someone who could have used the pause more judiciously, though the excellent reporting by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow for the New Yorker published last night revealing the courageous details of accounts from women New York’s top law officer abused would have likely led to his resignation anyway.
A pause is not a panacea. A pause would not indicate guilt or innocence. The point of the pause is not to be in service to truth or fiction, but rather to give the accused a moment to think very hard about whether this is the one time he (it is usually a man) can divest himself of his e
ntitlement and privilege for long enough to garner empathy within himself.
You don’t need to take a lot of time. What you should not do is immediately — as Schneiderman seemed to do, as Al Franken did, as others have done — categorically dismiss allegations that are corroborated and published in vetted, legacy institutions by award-winning journalists (one of whom just won a Pulitzer for taking down dudes just like you) in a statement.
You don’t need to pause for a very long time. Just…take long enough to consider what contesting facts or allegations will look like from you in the moment and beyond. Just enough time to consider if it’s worth it to dig in one’s powerful heels, to say one knows the actual truth and those people are liars.
I can’t think of a single instance when moving forward without considering the message first worked. It didn’t work for Al Franken or Charlie Rose. We know now that it most certainly did not work for Harvey Weinstein, who, right before the bombshell New York Times piece that led to his downfall was published, was still so smug that he said he would option the movie rights to whatever information the Times thought it had on him.
We can’t go back to a time before hot takes, obviously. The appetite for a quick distillation, for quick justice, for swift social punditry is as great and voracious as our addiction to our phones and to the external validation of one another. Pausing becomes a kind of abstinence in the midst of an orgy of information.
It is almost never better to say nothing. But it is extremely important that powerful people accused of preying on others exhibit some aspect of self-control for once. If for no other reason than it prolongs any hope they have for self-preservation.