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Quillette: Placido Domingo’s accusers are too unimportant to be allowed to sully the reputation of a star

By David Futrelle

Twenty women have accused opera singer Placido Domingo of sexual harassment and, in at least one case, of outright sexual assault. In Quillette, reactionary propagandist Heather MacDonald argues that, regardless of the truth or falsity of their accusations, these women are simply too unimportant to be allowed to derail the career of “an artist of Domingo’s stature.”

MacDonald, a Manhattan Institute fellow whose politics lie in the general vicinity of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web,” devotes a good deal of her essay to glorifying the talents of the “Three Tenors” alum — praising his “warm, soaring voice” and his “remarkable pitch control” and declaring him “one of classical music’s greatest ambassadors and impresarios.”

Never mind that, according to an Associated Press investigation, Domingo’s reputation as a predator was such an open secret in the profession that staffers went through elaborate machinations to try to ensure he he was never alone with a woman. MacDonald treats Domingo’s mostly anonymous accusers with a deep disdain, dismissing these “females” as “small-time soloists” and “disgruntled bit players.”

MacDonald seems to have no trouble imagining that at least some of the accusations are true; she just can’t bring herself to care. The alleged incidents took place long ago, she repeatedly notes, and besides, it’s not like the now-elderly singer is going to keep harassing and groping women in his vicinity.

At one point, astoundingly, she posits that he might well have felt a professional obligation to act out the part of a sex-obsessed lothario.

“As the object of so much sexual attention” from fans, she writes,

Domingo could have been forgiven for thinking that his own advances were part of the mix. He clearly belongs to the “Latin Lover” prototype, a good-natured, charming seducer from the old Hollywood era. Learning to deal with such types used to be part of a woman’s skill set. 

But MacDonald’s most outrageous argument, one that makes clear her profound elitism and lack of empathy for whole classes of human beings she clearly considers disposable, is that Domingo is too important to accuse.

It is a grotesque inversion of the proper hierarchy between public accomplishment and private sexual behavior to sacrifice an artist of Domingo’s stature for the sake of 20 disgruntled bit players, laboriously harvested from thousands of professional interactions characterized by graciousness and consideration.

How dare these unimportant women sully the reputation of such a star — especially because he only (allegedly) harassed a small percentage of those he interacted with. Which is a bit like saying we should ignore a serial killer’s crimes because most days he wasn’t killing anyone at all.

Put simply, the discomfort of these belated accusers decades ago is not worth Domingo’s head.

Harassing and groping is evidently a-OK if you have perfect pitch control.

Civilization rests on the realm of public achievement in ideas, politics, and art. The private realm of Eros should be subordinate to the public realm; how someone behaves in or getting to the bedroom is irrelevant to his achievements in the public square, absent criminality.

Do I need to point out that sexual assault is a criminal offense?

If we discovered that James Madison, say, was a skirt-chaser, that fact should have no bearing on his achievements as a political theorist and statesman.

The flaws of even the most eminent of thinkers are highly relevant to our assessment of their legacies. Historians have long wrestled with the fact that many of America’s “founding fathers” were both champions of freedom (for white people) while at the same time owning and, in the case of Thomas Jefferson, raping slaves.

Yes, as MacDonald argues, “Domingo brought beauty into the world.” He also seems to have brought great ugliness into the lives of many women around him. No amount of talent can absolve a sexual predator.

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tim gueguen
2 years ago

@Catalpa it’s a minor miracle that the NDP did as well as it did. A lot of people expected a near wipeout, one bad enough that they might have lost official party status. Instead they came out with 24 seats, which is still a loss of 20 seats since the last election.

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 years ago

lot of people expected a near wipeout, one bad enough that they might have lost official party status

They did? Hm, I must run in different circles than you, because that isn’t what I heard.

What was the reason for the expected wipeout? Racism against Jagmeet, I assume? (That seems to be most of the reason for the lost Quebec seats, which make up the majority of the NDP losses.) I don’t know of anything else that the NDP have done to merit being wiped out.

Bluecat
Bluecat
2 years ago

In amongst the validation of entitlement (the “when you’re a star they let you do it” excuse), may I mention the racism?

He’s a “Latin lover” and apparently that explains/excuses/permits him to treat women like commodities. Like “Latins” do.

littlem
littlem
2 years ago

Okay, well, wow, M. Quillette.

It sounds to me as if we need to let Ronan Farrow and Sil Lai Adams know about that.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/its-not-just-ronan-farrow-nbc-news-killed-my-rape-allegation-story-too

The other side of the racism Bluecat mentions is that one of the reasons Sil Lai Adams’ allegations were suppressed is that Black and Latino perpetrators aren’t revealed unless their *victims* are white.

So it’s quite possible that the other reason they’re trying to dismiss the allegations is that none of M. Domingo’s victims are white either.

tim gueguen
2 years ago

Expectations of an NDP collapse were based on the party’s low standing in a number of polls throughout 2019. For example the polling firm Nanos had the NDP with numbers as low as 13 percent amongst decided voters in the first half of 2019. One poll after the start of the campaign, by the Forum firm, had the NDP as low as 9 percent. CBC’s Poll Tracker predicted a mere 16 seats for the NDP on September 11th, and at the time some pundits thought they might end up with 12 seats or less.

Perceptions weren’t helped by reports the NDP was still trying to find candidates for ridings as the campaign started, or the defection of several NDP candidates to the Greens in New Brunswick.

The NDP also has financial problems. They’ve been operating at a deficit for several years, which limits the kind of campaigning they can do. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/2018-ndp-annual-financial-filings-1.5271927

Orion Anderson
2 years ago

Given how many PUAs are out there doing so much terrible stuff, I wondered what line this guy crossed to actually bring law enforcement down on him. I have a sinking feeling the answer might be “being named Ahmed.”

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
2 years ago

@Moggie – Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about your job. Sending positive vibes your way. Hope you can find a new position soon.

Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.”

This makes zero sense, when you think about it. They’re trying to argue that men are superior because they compartmentalize information, thus ensuring that each concept remains isolated from the others. But that means pancake brains, which have no arbitrary syrup boundaries, are more holistic, more creative, and more adept at solving problems. Pancakes would thus be more suited to big-picture jobs, while waffles should focus on more narrow (menial) tasks.

They forgot one other category: crouton brains, which are stale, unabsorbent, and painful.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
2 years ago

@tim gueguen: Well, that explains why the NDP is always begging me for money I don’t have (or, at least, can’t easily get to them). Or to “phone bank” … not only am I terrible with phone calls, but the “battleground ridings” they’d want me to call people in aren’t the one I’m in, which means they’re asking me to make a buttload of long distance (= expensive) calls on their behalf …

Moggie
Moggie
2 years ago

@Buttercup:

Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about your job. Sending positive vibes your way. Hope you can find a new position soon.

Thanks, but I’m feeling quite burned out, and, looking at the jobs available, I’m seriously considering taking early retirement. I’m a semi-old, and the pension package on offer through the redundancy programme is quite attractive.

This makes zero sense, when you think about it. They’re trying to argue that men are superior because they compartmentalize information, thus ensuring that each concept remains isolated from the others. But that means pancake brains, which have no arbitrary syrup boundaries, are more holistic, more creative, and more adept at solving problems. Pancakes would thus be more suited to big-picture jobs, while waffles should focus on more narrow (menial) tasks.

The more I think about it, the harder it is to believe that anyone thought this material would fly. Maybe it’s relevant that the woman who wrote it came out of Ross Perot’s EDS? They always seemed a little cult-like to me.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
2 years ago

Out of Topic : a superb example of corporatisme stupid misogyny : https://www.huffpost.com/entry/women-ernst-young-how-to-dress-act-around-men_n_5da721eee4b002e33e78606a

I can’t even. I can’t start to have a beginning of even. It’s insulting for everyone in several thousand way, even if like usual the crux of doing anything is entirely on the women.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants

They forgot one other category: crouton brains, which are stale, unabsorbent, and painful.

Also, biscotti brains, which need tea or coffee to be usable. I know a number of people who are actually like that.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
2 years ago

Re: my last post, it seems like another big name in IT has decided to come out as an obnoxious, misogynist jackass, coming out on the side of that “simpleprogrammr” shitgoblin. Step forward, Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin¹²!

#MeToo is coming to tech and a lot of the bros are spooked…

¹ TBH, I was always a bit meh on the guy. I heard him once on an episode of the Stack Overflow podcast and thought he came across as insufferably smug. Also, I worked in a place where his books were held in almost cult-like reverence. Didn’t seem to improve the quality of the code, though. ?

² Who calls themselves “uncle” FFS?!

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
2 years ago

@Cat Mara

Uncle Bob has been awful for a while unfortunately. Clean Code apparently uses sexual fantasies about Angelina Jolie as an example to demonstrate… something? The quote read like he was hunting for a way to shoehorn that in, TBH.

And yeaaahhhh, I don’t think “Uncle” is a coincidence.

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
2 years ago

@Orion Anderson

That was my suspicion as well. A distant second possibility is the the underage girls that he was trying to pick up. But I think it’s more likely because his name was Ahmed.

@Cat Mara

I read the post you linked, and I have to confess I did not see the relationship to the shitgoblin of the first comment? Or is it just an overview of the dude’s work? I read the Manhandled post, which did come across as clueless old codger and gave advice from the perspective of someone who can afford to follow it from both a personal and financial safety perspective, but not unsympathetic to women.

Katamount
Katamount
2 years ago

@Catalpa and @timgueguen

Tim has it exactly right. The NDP coffers were so bare that the candidate in my riding couldn’t even get signs up for about a week into the campaign. I have seen analysts point to the lack of money as a point against the NDP’s leverage, which is likely true and something the Liberals will be keeping in the back of their minds.

Either way, I’m looking to get more involved myself. I’ve checked out the NDP Socialist Caucus as one way of getting involved. There are some spots that trouble me but at least they’re fighting to push the NDP back to where it belongs.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
2 years ago

Our team watched a couple of Uncle Bob clean code lectures at work recently. As a presenter, he’s a bit jumpy and gimmicky, rather like a birthday party magician. I found the props really distracting, and I had the disquieting sense that he wasn’t talking to me, but to an imaginary twentysomething techbro.

Uncle Bob is from a different era, and he freely admits that being a boomer white male has colored his outlook and his sense of humor. He acknowledges he has a lot of catching up to do on #metoo and the social aspects of tech. For someone so prominent in the field, though, he’s moving at a glacial pace. At his keynote talk at RailsConf in 2009, he got a lot of flak for his comment that C++ is the testosterone of languages and Java is the estrogen of languages. He apologized for that, but then he later went on to defend James Damore’s memo. Two steps forward, one step back.

@Moggie I hear you. It’s a tough dilemma to unexpectedly lose a job at a later stage in life. Starting over can be exhausting, and a financial drain if you have to take a pay cut somewhere else. Older workers don’t have a long enough time horizon to work their way back up the ladder at a different organization.

Wishing you the best, and I hope you have good support around you as you figure out what comes next.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
2 years ago

@Ohlmann:

Just looking at the title of that thing reminds me of my mother. She was always telling me what to wear and do around boys so I wouldn’t cause any problems. She accused me of sexually harassing men with my clothing on multiple occasions (I like wearing tank tops because my arms get really hot and I’m tall so a lot of times dresses that fit my body end up being short on me).

What awful conditions to work under!

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Buttercup A. Skullpants

At his keynote talk at RailsConf in 2009, he got a lot of flak for his comment that C++ is the testosterone of languages and Java is the estrogen of languages. He apologized for that, but then he later went on to defend James Damore’s memo. Two steps forward, one step back.

The Damore memo was relatively recent, so if he’s still defending that, I question whether he’s made much progress at all.

He acknowledges he has a lot of catching up to do on #metoo and the social aspects of tech.

Then he ought to actually do something rather than staying the same.

Moggie
Moggie
2 years ago

@Buttercup:

He apologized for that, but then he later went on to defend James Damore’s memo.

I think anyone who defends Damore’s screed ought to be asked to critique Yonatan Zunger’s response to it.

It’s a tough dilemma to unexpectedly lose a job at a later stage in life. Starting over can be exhausting, and a financial drain if you have to take a pay cut somewhere else. Older workers don’t have a long enough time horizon to work their way back up the ladder at a different organization.

Wishing you the best, and I hope you have good support around you as you figure out what comes next.

Thanks. I’m more fortunate than most. I have no dependents, no debts, a lot of saleable experience, and live in a city where there are numerous and often lucrative jobs. Except… none of them excite me, and in fact the thought of earning 50% more in fintech is just depressing.

If I take early retirement, I don’t actually have to stop working. But I’ll be drawing a pension, enough to live on, which gives me the possibility of finding work which I enjoy, even if it’s part time, low paid, or even unpaid volunteering. Or I could spend a couple of years retraining. Or I could work hard on an open source project, and hope that I can parlay that into a dev job. My plans aren’t firm yet.

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
2 years ago

[Deleted, thought better of it.]

Lesley
Lesley
2 years ago

I’m actually more right of center than anything and even I got sick of Quillette after a short time because I realized it’s pretty much nothing but a protracted whine in magazine form. I make a point of reading stuff across the political spectrum and it was one of many websites I used to visit once or twice a week. I stopped fairly quickly after realizing that every one of its articles just recycles three arguments over and over:

1. Postmodernism irrevocably ruined the university

2. People in recent years have raised concerns about traditional gender roles and even biological categories and this is intrinsically calamitous

3. Crackpot theorist, rude eccentric, or person with no verbal filter #7582 said or did something outrageous and people shunned them and now free speech or art or genius or whatever is in imminent threat of vanishing from the face of the earth

I even think there is some underlying truth in those claims but the level of apocalyptic exaggeration and pearl clutching over these same things over and over just left me rolling my eyes.

numerobis
numerobis
2 years ago

Catalpa: for me, Singh lost me early in the election cycle because he was so quiet — if you can’t be loud and obnoxious in parliament, what’s the point of voting for an opposition party? So I voted Green.

Singh found his voice during the election, which made me less certain when I went to vote.

Racism is what got the Bloc elected in the same places the CAQ won — not racism against Singh so much as being for Blanchet, who is a pretty good speaker.

Not over-the-top blatant racism like Bernier was selling or like the previous Bloc leader was moving towards, Quebec is too polite for that. Similarly the ADQ had to tone it down before rebranding and getting elected provincially and cutting immigration and banning school teachers from wearing a hijab.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
2 years ago

@Lesley:

I’m actually more right of center than anything

Why?

I even think there is some underlying truth in those claims

Evidence?

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

Oh jeez, yeah, I’m also going to need to know what the ‘underlying truth’ to those claims is, @Lesley. Because, to my dog-whistle trained eyes, they read like this:

1. We’re admitting too many women and PoC to universities, and focusing on making sure they are listened to/succeed/have an environment that isn’t toxic. (I know this is debatable, and we have a long way to go, but this is their argument.)

2. Uh, there are no dogwhistles here. What is the underlying truth you agree with to ‘people are challenging gender roles, and that’s bad’?

3. Free speech means ALL SPEECH IS SACRED (as long as it is preformed by White Men), you aren’t allowed to assign any consequences to FREE SPEECH or we will all be living in a totalitarian gulag comrade.

So, yeah, please expand on what is true about these statements, because I’m a little confused about how we get there, from this website.

Fraser
2 years ago

” If we discovered that James Madison, say, was a skirt-chaser, that fact should have no bearing on his achievements as a political theorist and statesman. ”

I sort of agree with Mac Donald. Madison’s political achievements wouldn’t be less because of his womanizing. Jefferson’s writing on religious freedom is just as insightful to me despite his being a complete racist.
But saying Jefferson’s flaws doesn’t affect his achievements doesn’t mean he gets a free pass. Jefferson was a racist and a great thinker both; if we’re judging him as a historical figure, both have to be considered. And if they committed crimes, they don’t get off because of the awesome stuff they’ve done, any more than Polanski gets to handwave the rape conviction away because he’s a talented filmmaker.
I’ve never heard any claims Madison was a skirt-chaser. I wonder if Mac Donald picked him because he isn’t, so it’s a less controversial argument than “being a slaveholder should have no bearing …”

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