Why Some Scandals Dominate the News and Others Fade

Article by William Lee

Accusations against Harvey Weinstein—famously thanked more than God in Oscar acceptance speeches—have led to a socio-sexual reorganization without modern precedent. Whereas before a simple denial or apology would have been enough to allow a man to return to public life relatively unscathed, now there are real consequences for accusations of mistreating women.

Donald Trump, who was accused by 19 women of varying degrees of sexual misconduct, is almost assuredly the cause of this moment of reckoning. Horizontal action is the name for a concept that can be seen in oppressive authoritarian regimes. If people realize they can’t do anything about criminals in positions of major power—like a dictator—they begin to redirect their anger and sense of injustice toward those in their own lives. Since Trump was elected president, American women have been angrier than ever. Thus, #MeToo—started in 2006 by activist Taran Burke as a movement seeking “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who have survived sexual abuse—was reinvigorated by celebrity feminists.

#MeToo scandals are a lot like snowflakes. Some dissolve quickly on wagging tongues and others join their fellows, gathering mass and momentum until they wipe out an entire village. Just like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. But the difference is seemingly at random. Why do some fade away and others gain momentum?

Enter the Elements of Scandal. This comprehensive, scientific, and completely accurate theory can predict with 100 percent surety whether public accusations will ruin a man’s reputation. Note: The man’s reputation will almost certainly be ruined by any accusation, but this system will allow us to figure out exactly how ruined that reputation will be.