Harvey Weinstein: How Power Works in America

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Harvey Weinstein: How Power Works in America

Law! What do I care about the law? Ain’t I got the power?
— Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Here’s a pitch for you: Harvey Weinstein, American monster. According to allegations published by the Times, Harvey Weinstein harassed women. For decades. They say he harassed them in rooms, he harassed them in the workplace. They say he harassed them young, and he harassed them older; they say it was a universal sisterhood of repulsion and sexual grossness that is nauseating to read and must have been horrific to live through. According to reports now streaming across every media platform in the world, he harassed Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, and he harassed women you haven’t heard of—women with hearts, with dreams—he allegedly harassed Emily Nestor and Lauren O’Connor, and Laura Madden and Zelda Perkins and Ambra Battilana.

Eight women made these claims—God knows how many more are out there, silent. As the Times noted: “One woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances.”

According to the Times, each of these reports followed a “common narrative”:

Across the years and continents, accounts of Mr. Weinstein’s conduct share a common narrative: Women reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Mr. Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different interests. His home base was New York, but his rolling headquarters were luxury hotels: the Peninsula Beverly Hills and the Savoy in London, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc near the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Stein Eriksen Lodge near the Sundance Film Festival.

“Years and continents.” Harvey Weinstein—as allegedly malicious and malignant a predator as in any of his movies—has been exercising his brand of shitty tyranny over women across the world. According to court reports, Weinstein creeped on these women, words and money were exchanged, the cancer of Harv would go into remission, and then the play would repeat.

I read a Stephen King book last night: a character has to fight malicious, exploding spiders. I used to think King could nauseate better than anyone. But compare that to the detached, forensic accounts in the Times. Every horror novelist in America ought to look for new work:

But movies were also his private leverage. When Mr. Weinstein invited Ms. Judd to breakfast in Beverly Hills, she had been shooting the thriller “Kiss the Girls” all night, but the meeting seemed too important to miss. After arriving at the hotel lobby, she was surprised to learn that they would be talking in his suite; she decided to order cereal, she said, so the food would come quickly and she could leave. Mr. Weinstein soon issued invitation after invitation, she said. Could he give her a massage? When she refused, he suggested a shoulder rub. She rejected that too, she recalled. He steered her toward a closet, asking her to help pick out his clothing for the day, and then toward the bathroom. Would she watch him take a shower? she remembered him saying.

Weinstein’s own statement to the Times must be read to be believed. I have reproduced it here, in full. It’s worth reading as a psychological curiosity—the mental equivalent of the bombed-out ruins of London, or the island of plastic bottles in the Pacific:

I came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office — or out of it. To anyone.

I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person, and my interactions with the people I work with have changed. I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.

Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year, I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me, and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists, and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women, and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more. Jay Z wrote in 4:44 “I’m not the man I thought I was, and I better be that man for my children.” The same is true for me. I want a second chance in the community, but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it. I have goals that are now priorities. Trust me, this isn’t an overnight process. I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years, and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt, and I plan to do right by all of them.

I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom, and I won’t disappoint her.

It takes the cake, all right. You know what? That description is inadequate. This statement commandeers the entire bakery. The only precedent, I think, is the appalling entitlement shown by the father of Stanford sex criminal Brock Turner.

In June 2016, Dan Turner wrote a letter to the judge in his son’s rape trial. This document has become infamous, and for good reason. In his letter, Dan Turner had the audacity to mourn, publicly, that his felonious son wasn’t a fully positive person any more. Do you remember that? I sure as hell do. Here’s a selection from Dan Turner’s letter to the judge. Weinstein himself could have written these words, talking about himself in the third person:

As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th. He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite. Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.

Turner’s pretzel-mourning letter was an appalling apology for a criminal. But Harvey Weinstein’s mea culpa trumps that twenty times over. He quoted fucking Jay-Z. These guys see their behavior as an opportunity for a new regimen of improved self-care.

What is wrong with these people? Are they stuck forever at fifteen? What makes them this way? Is it the perversity of brain chemistry or the corrupting influence of environment? What raises up a creature like this? Was he always waiting to be a shithead or did he become one by his success? Good God, does it matter?

Even in an age of prominent sexual predators, including the President, Weinstein seems a special kind of carnivorous freak. He appalls me, and I write about political monsters for a living. Any decent society would see him hogtied to a radioactive Russian submarine and plummeted a thousand fathoms deep into the abyss. His bones would be rendered into coral so future generations of wannabe creeplords could be warned off following the dictates of their dicks.

Weinstein is more than a traffic sign for the sexist bogs of Hollywood or the toxins of patriarchy in general. He’s exhibit one in how power works in this country. That’s the especially fucked-up factor here: This was not a goddamn secret. Weinstein allegedly spent decades purchasing sexual harassment. He joins the ranks of Bill Cosby and a dozen other prominent vampires, like Roger Ailes. All of Weinstein’s flunkies go on their own list, right next to homegrown night creatures like Joe Paterno. You generation of vipers.

The Times sounds a deep knell here:

But in interviews, some of the former employees who said they had troubling experiences with Mr. Weinstein asked a common question: How could allegations repeating the same pattern — young women, a powerful male producer, even some of the same hotels — have accumulated for almost three decades?

How indeed? Why, the all-forgiving, ever-remedial power of money. That’s what those settlements do. Apparently, Weinstein purchased the right to keep on rockin’ in the free world. A nonstop massage party crossing the decades.

If the Times is right, Weinstein honest-to-God bought himself a license to abuse people. This is the end result of the one percent, folks. This is where elite wokeness gets you. You get to buy people. You can do anything, if you’ve got enough scratch. Apparently, Weinstein baited a hook with ambition, and then bought silence. What was a few dollars to him? The man’s worth $200 million. Christ, if you were that rich, you probably could afford to kill a few orphans while you were at it. I’m surprised Weinstein allegedly stopped at harassment.

“How could allegations repeating the same pattern … have accumulated for almost three decades?” I’m not sure what is so baffling about the poisonous power of great wealth. The Weinsteins are mega-brokers in Hollywood. If the allegations are true, it doesn’t matter how many liberal causes Weinstein supported. He did this while he was telling Hillary Clinton to slam Black Lives Matter. The pledge at the end to attack NRA is classic misdirection: Weinstein’s been doing this deflection shtick his entire life. According to the Times, Harvey Weinstein sold people dreams to pay for nightmares.

Rachel Millman had the same take:

His continued existence reveals the sham at the heart of our society. Those of you reading this, put your hands up: will Weinstein ever go to jail? On any crime, ever? Of course he won’t. Our civilization rewards the Harvey Weinsteins.

Do you know the difference between a society that permits Harvey Weinstein, and a society that scolds Weinstein but doesn’t punish him?

Absolutely nothing.

Hollywood  is the land of fantasy, after all. They just don’t say for who.

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