Woody Allen’s Rambling Response Illuminates Nothing, Inspires Only Exhaustion

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All last week, I was actively dreading the release of Woody Allen’s “response.” So much so that I began joking about it, a bit compulsively really, on social media. I said to friends, “I hope I can arrange to be unconscious when it comes out.” I wasn’t even really kidding. One of my first thoughts when I saw the (awful) result was gratitude that it had been published Friday evening, after we had all left work for the day. That meant I had the freedom to mostly abandon the social media ship for a couple of days, and avoid the fallout.

Another reason: I dreaded it because I didn’t really need to read Allen’s lengthy denial to know that he, well, denies all allegations. Giving him the benefit of the doubt for a second, I certainly find his desire to defend himself at length understandable. On the other hand, if I was his publicist I would have advised against published such a rambling, unedited mess. I might have advised, for example, merely issuing a statement as simple as, “I continue to deny these allegations, and wish we didn’t have to keep litigating this issue in the press.” Because, in truth, that’s the best way to tamp down the discussion, to give people fewer things to analyze and pick apart and fact-check.

But that is not what Allen chose to do, so here we are, in what feels like an inescapable corner of internet hell. Joyce Carol Oates, tweeting over the weekend, offered a sterling example of the kind of “thought” all this has produced:

And we are now in the full-blown, here-are-my-half-formed-thoughts-absent-research phase. See, even assuming that this is the last salvo in the discussion from the family, I doubt it is the end of the internet’s enthrallment with this story. (Mea culpa, of course: all of us out here, even this blog, are implicated.) The Onion did a bit of effective light satire last week with their “New Blog Piece on Woody Allen to Settle Everything.” But I doubt they had much expectation that it would halt the commentary freight train in its tracks last week.

Eventually, there will be no facts left to parse, and then we’ll move on to the moment of Internet Controversy where people write the meta-pieces, in which they question “the Court of Public Opinion.” As that link indicates, in a sense we’re already there. There are already a bunch of posts about the outrage factor on social media. Or America’s terrible record on the prosecution of sexual assault.

All of these are important issues to discuss. I guess I’m glad we’re discussing them. I wish we had a better occasion to do so, and I wish it really felt like these discussions functioned as attempts to answer the difficult questions that inspire them. But it isn’t, they don’t, and all I’ve got, after reading Allen’s piece, is a strong desire to go right back to bed.