The depraved cynicism in the capital of America’s popular culture — Hollywood — has been on abundant display in the news media for over a week now: the horrible story of Harvey Weinstein and his predatory ways. From all accounts, Weinstein’s habit of imposing himself on people who wanted his support was an open secret. Insiders joked about it, and young women who arrived in Tinseltown hoping to become movie stars were warned not to be alone with the movie mogul. Even successful actors knew he had the power to destroy their career.
But only after a long article appeared in the New Yorker were Hollywood insiders shamed into admitting his predatory ways were well known. The author of that story — Ronan Farrow — shopped his article to the New Yorker after his home network (NBC) told him it was “not yet ready for prime time.” NBC News has denied its president, Noah Oppenheim, spiked Farrow’s story to protect Weinstein, but it’s unlikely the story would’ve emerged except for the New Yorker and Facebook.
Hollywood’s reputation as a place where young men and women traded innocence for a chance at star billing preceded Weinstein’s arrival as a successful producer and Oscar winner. But none of the previous history featured stories with such overtones of unequal power relationships and demeaning treatment that emerged from the Weinstein saga. Recent stories are so troubling Weinstein’s banishment has become epic: his own company fired him, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled him, the Producers Guild did the same, and his wife said she was leaving. It has even been reported French President Macron is taking action to strip his Legion of Honor and Italian police are considering legal action. Richard Winton reports in the L.A. Times police in New York and London are also considering criminal charges.
As sordid as these stories are, a whole week passed before top level Democratic politicians who had received massive financial support from him — particularly President Obama and Hillary Clinton — spoke out about the scandal. They must have known what kind of person he was in real life, but they prized his money and the entrée he offered to Hollywood A listers. His support for Planned Parenthood and other women’s causes helped comfort any Democrats troubled by the rumors, as ironic as that appears in light of what we have learned about his humiliating treatment of women.
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg penned a moving — and damning — Facebook post this week, reported in Dateline Hollywood, saying “everybody knew” about Weinstein’s evil ways. He goes onto say he knew, and he saw all his associates and friends there in the same circles surrounding Weinstein, so “if I knew, you knew. And neither of us said anything.”
He wonders briefly how anyone could have said anything — you couldn’t tell the press, because Weinstein owned them. Nor the internet, because there was no internet in the early days. Actors wouldn’t talk about his predations, nor would politicians either, because Weinstein as much as owned them, too. So you heard the stories, but you partied in the flickering light from the flames of your shared decency.
Rosenberg concludes his long post: “Harvey was nothing but wonderful to me. So I reaped the rewards and I kept my mouth shut. And for that, once again, I am sorry.” There are a lot of politicians — particularly on the left — who can, and should, say the same.
The Weinstein saga is ultimately about hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who didn’t speak of a horror they all knew intimately. Shame on them all.
Fred LaSor observes American society from retirement in the Carson Valley.