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Culture War Roundup for the week of September 18, 2023

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Update to prior CW topic, in another round of America's favorite game Everyone Has a Sex Scandal Eventually: Vice reports that Tim Ballard’s Departure From Operation Underground Railroad Followed Sexual Misconduct Investigation

From Vice's reporting:

Tim Ballard’s exit from Operation Underground Railroad earlier this year followed an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct involving seven women, according to sources with direct knowledge of the organization.

Sources familiar with the situation said that the self-styled anti-slavery activist, who appears to be preparing for a Senate run, invited women to act as his “wife” on undercover overseas missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking. He would then allegedly coerce those women into sharing a bed or showering together, claiming that it was necessary to fool traffickers. Ballard, who was played by Jim Caviezel in the hit film Sound of Freedom, is said to have sent at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear, festooned with fake tattoos, and to have asked another “how far she was willing to go,” in the words of a source, to save children. These sources requested anonymity because they fear retaliation. The total number of women involved is believed to be higher than seven, as that would only account for employees, not contractors or volunteers.

OUR states only that:

Tim Ballard resigned from O.U.R. on June 22, 2023. He has permanently separated from O.U.R. O.U.R. is dedicated to combatting sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization.

The Mormon church meanwhile chips in to scold Ballard as well:

Last week, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement to VICE News that contained a pointed rebuke of Ballard. The statement accused Ballard of inappropriately using the name of a church elder, President M. Russell Ballard—the two are not related, despite sharing a last name—“for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable.” The church did not specify in its statement what activity it regarded as “morally unacceptable.”

Prior thread on Ballard's film here; My own prior comment here

My read on all this is that it is a human psychological tragedy, Ballard got lost in his own masculine heroic fantasy. Good men nearly all carry the fantasy of, as they say, wishin' a nigga would. We want a reason to give our World of Cardboard Speech. We have the urge to engage in violence and adventure, but we want justified violence, righteous adventure. We want to fight, but fight for the right. Ballard found it in child trafficking investigations. He got to play James Bond in real life!

And what does James Bond do? He sleeps with every woman he sees, "as part of the mission." One can see the logic, if these OUR operatives were in an undercover role pretending to be a couple, that making love would be important. Blowing their cover could cost their lives, could endanger the children they are there to rescue, so whether they want to is irrelevant, they have to! But that was also part of the fantasy for him: he wanted to have to, he wanted an environment where he just had to sleep with these women, which he would then enjoy. No doubt, in his mind, the women involved shared the same fantasy. After all, while else would they join OUR and put themselves in these operations?

Ballard never meant any harm to anyone, he never meant to take advantage, he just thought he had found a moral loophole, an opportunity to enter a morals-free zone for a good cause. Apparently the women involved, the rest of the organization, and the Mormon church disagreed.

We should be wary of our fantasies of righteousness, as men. Engage in self-criticism, when we want to have a reason to use righteous violence, sometimes we just want violence. Which itself isn't necessarily a fatal flaw, there is value in harnessing masculine urges in positive ways, that can be seen as the basis for all social function. But we can't let our fantasies obscure our real mission, or harm those around us.

As the author of the first thread I feel a need to comment, though I don't have strong feelings on the matter. My impression from my original research was that Ballard is a weirdly motivated guy who actions were probably on net good. My guess here is he, like many men with a little power, simply couldn't keep it in his pants. Disappointing, but not surprising. Of course now the media is feeling vindicated and taking this opportunity to do victory donuts over the conservatives who rallied around the film. I doubt it will have any large effect since the public has already moved on from the spectacle of the "weird conservative Christian Qanon etc. movie" hitting it big. People who disliked the movie will feel smug, and the people who liked it will ignore the scandal and make excuses, or simply move on.