Tom Leaman argues that not enough is being done to regulate the tabloid media and the attacks on individuals such as Raheem SterlingWritten by Tom Leaman on 17th June 2018
Morgan Freeman’s Trial by Social Media
In light of recent sexual abuse allegations made against actor Morgan Freeman, Comment Editor Natalia Carter considers his inadequate apology and the unforgiving nature of social media
Morgan Freeman has become the latest household name to be sullied amongst recent accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. 16 women have come forward accusing the Hollywood icon, 8 victims and 8 witnesses, sparking an investigation. This has established a strong pattern of behaviour from Freeman who has been accused by one woman of persistently ‘trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear’. Other women have claimed that when Freeman was on set, they would avoid wearing form-fitting clothing to avoid inappropriate comments regarding their bodies.
The media has been quick to accuse and label Morgan, prompting a less than satisfactory apology from the actor. Freeman’s apology stated, ‘Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected – that was never my intent’. On the surface, this appears like yet another harmless apology from a panicked actor. However, it doesn’t sit right with me. With 16 different individuals coming forward, the case seems grounded in a rather concrete assumption that these incidents were not just jokes gone wrong. Freeman seems to turn the accusation away from himself and towards the victims. It reads as though the individuals coming forward are clearly being dramatic spoilsports that couldn’t handle a bit of fun. Any apology that says, ‘I’m sorry you felt uncomfortable’, rather than apologising for the actions themselves, is not a valid apology.
“On the surface, this appears like yet another harmless apology from a panicked actor.
Freeman has since issued a second apology claiming that his actions should not be seen as sexual assault or harassment in the workplace, instead they should be seen as just a bit of fun. He states, ‘All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them. But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humour’. Whilst I appreciate that addressing accusations must be difficult to word without incriminating yourself, Freeman seems to be digging a deeper hole with each sentence he utters. Once again, he seems to bend the knife and point it at the victim. Instead of being too sensitive, the victim is seemingly now ‘unable to take a joke’ and ‘unappreciative’ of his compliments. If your jokes and compliments are making people feel uncomfortable then there is something wrong with your jokes, not the audience.
However, could this all be a witch hunt? Freeman seems like a respectable man, and it is entirely possible that the incidents had innocent intentions. Yet once you are accused, can you really be innocent until proven guilty? Social media platforms were quick to label and accuse Freeman. It appears nobody is willing to entertain the idea of innocence and even the media are parading the label of guilty. So much so that Freeman has accused CNN of ‘journalistic malpractice’ and demanded that they retract their harassment report. Are we treating accusations of sexual harassment in the best way possible?
If Freeman were to be proven innocent, his image will have been tarnished and his stellar reputation damaged. Morgan Freeman has a very high standing in Hollywood, and with the #MeToo campaign storming across Twitter and the red carpets, should we be making an example of such an influential figure? Is it becoming a case of sacrificing one influential figure for the good of the many? By setting a standard using the treatment of Morgan Freeman, a code of conduct would be established and a set expectation of treatment towards sexual assault and harassment would be founded. The strong treatment of Freeman would establish a zero tolerance policy that has been missing from Hollywood for years.
“Is it becoming a case of sacrificing one influential figure for the good of the many?
However, if the investigations resulted in his innocence, this would be entirely unjust. For such a pivotal Hollywood figure to be accused of sexual harassment in the ‘witch-hunt’ era is not unheard of, yet it still leaves the public sad to see their favourite household names become terrible people in the blink of an eye. There is no way of knowing whether someone is innocent or guilty, yet the Twitter jury is always out and in full force. I am always perplexed as to how the news spreads to social media so quickly when there is no established verdict. It seems unfair to pin a label to an innocent man before the investigation is done. Would these accusations have come to light with such force if it wasn’t for the #MeToo campaign? Evidence and accusations can be misinterpreted. Perhaps it is best to treat accusations as rumours, harmful gossip that can seriously affect somebody’s life. After all, accusations are not convictions.