12 November 2017

The Weinstein Effect and It's IOKIYAR Exception

I am immensely enjoying the daily parade of powerful men who are finally shamed for sexually harassing or assaulting women for decades.

And there seems to be no end in sight. The latest being the disgraced FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

Others, as yet unnamed power players, must be shaking in their boots.

The scandal has a name: the Weinstein Effect.

It is also a very different than any previous scandals in two respects: the swift reaction of the companies and the equally swift apologies that followed their dismissal.

Everybody Knew 

In the early days of the Weinstein saga what was puzzling to me was how quickly the associated companies and institutions severed their ties with these predators.

Until now, unless these powerful men would deflect any accusations by categorically denying all allegations. Their publicists would issue carefully parsed denials and their lawyers would quash rumors by sending threatening cease-and-desist letters.

And studios or media outlets would demure and spout homilies about everyone being innocent until proven guilty.

Remember Bill O'Reilly's infamous loofah-falafel incident from 2004? He settled it for a lot of money with scarcely a blemish on his reputation.

He settled five more cases over the years and never suffered professionally.

In fact, as late as this January he had his contract with Fox News renewed (with a raise) after he settled another sexual assault allegation for $32 million.

Then came the Weinstein story and there was a paradigm shift.

Within days, the man was unceremoniously dumped by The Weinstein Company (TWC). And the guy who did so was his brother.

The Academy and BAFTA and TV Academy followed suit.

At first I couldn't figure out why such a dramatic turnaround took place. Then it occurred to me that's because everybody knew.

And they knew that too many other people knew to try to contain it.

You see, for decades, Harvey Weinstein's paid off a large number of victims gagged by ironclad NDAs. And The Weinstein Company (TWC) knew about these payoffs for years.

This is a man who loved belittling, berating and bullying people, especially women. He threw ashtray to his assistants, called them the C-word. And his exploits were the stuff of legend.

As Scott Rosenberg wrote, "everybody-fucking-knew."
You, the big producers; you, the big directors; you, the big agents; you, the big financiers. And you, the big rival studio chiefs; you, the big actors; you, the big actresses; you, the big models. You, the big journalists; you, the big screenwriters; you, the big rock stars; you, the big restaurateurs; you, the big politicians.” He writes, “You know who are. You know that you knew. And do you know how I know that you knew? Because I was there with you. And because everybody-fucking-knew.” 
That's why TWC also knew that they couldn't survive this by denying it.

That is the real Weinstein Effect.

And it is true in all cases.

It seems that every comedian knew about Louis CK and like TWC, many powerful structures protected him.

Same goes for the editors and publishers about the New Republic's Leon Wieseltier. Editor Peter Beinart and owner Marty Peretz knew about Wieseltier and they covered for him.

James Toback was exposed by Spy Magazine as early as 1989 and also by Gawker several times. His autobiography was entitled "The Pick-up Artist." Everybody knew of his habit of accosting women with the cheesy line "I am a famous director and you could be in my next movie."

Brett Ratner jerking off in front of actresses was covered by Gawker many years ago.

At Fox News, it was common knowledge that "the Chairman" was a serial harasser.

Besides Bill O'Reilly there was also Eric Bolling and I am sure there are many more in their current roster of on-air talent who acted the same way.

Google "Kevin Spacey and orgies" and you will find many stories from a few years back. I can't find the links now but I once stumbled upon many more explicit stories. He was notoriously tactile with young assistants or grips on every set.

Once again, "everybody fucking knew."

Which explains why, after Weinstein was fired, Mark Halperin was dropped by NBC, MSNBC, Showtime and his book publisher.

And Louis CK's movie company absorbed the cost of not releasing his movie and FX Network and HBO cut their lucrative relationship with him.

Because they knew that "everybody fucking knew."

With Kevin Spacey, possibly because he was gay and his first accuser was 14 years old at the time of the incident, the reaction was even more drastic. Netflix fired him from its popular and acclaimed franchise House of Cards and Ridley Scott decided to erase him from his latest movie by re-shooting all his scenes.

Then there are the unusual and swift apologies which stood in sharp contrast with previous vociferous denials.

My understanding is that, when these powerful men realized that their enablers did not hesitate to throw them under the bus to prevent people asking questions about how much they knew, they were told by their publicists and lawyers to apologize promptly and whole-heartedly.

Just think of Harvey Weinstein, who, a year earlier hired ex-Mossad agents (and a supposedly feminist lawyer) to destroy the same women. Now, his first reaction to the New York Times piece  was to apologize for all the hurt he caused.

Followed by the previously mandatory check-in to rehab for a non-existent condition.

Where is Amy Winehouse when we need her.

Halperin too apologized right away, as did Kevin Spacey, who claimed to be beyond horrified about his own actions.

Also deeply sorry were Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, Louis CK, Chris Savino (the creator of Nickelodeon's Loud House), Michael Oreskes (top editor of NPR) and "David cop-a-feel" George H.W. Bush.

So far, Roy Price (the head of Amazon Studios), John Besh (celebrity chef) and Lockhart Steele (Top editor of Vox Media) are silent. I am sure their time will come.

One irony about all this is the fact that Weinstein has been telling his friends that his past behavior was designed to bring about these changes.
Disgraced Harvey Weinstein’s been telling what friends he has left that there’s a bigger reason he’s embroiled in his ever-widening sexual harassment scandal: to “change the world,” sources tell Page Six. 
“Harvey believes he is a savior,” a Hollywood insider says.
The source adds that the pervy former Weinstein Co. and Miramax macher has been telling confidantes “that he was born to take the fall for his behavior in order to ‘change the world.’ He is resigned to his punishment — as a martyr for social change.”
That's men for you.

Not A Few Bad Apples

I am glad that these people are exposed and women are having a moment of empowerment. But I wonder how effective this will be since, thanks to the clever maneuvering of the enablers we are focusing on the individual.

This is not a case of a few rotten apples. It is about power structures that foster this behavior.

This is about organizational culture and patriarchal permissiveness. Look at any institutions with men in power and women in subordinate positions, this is the natural outcome.

Universities were horrible in that respect and they still are. And they are also in denial:
A man called Brett Sokolow, who has made a name (and a lot of money) for himself by offering US universities advice on sexual misconduct, picked up on this a while ago. In a 2014 interview with al-Jazeera America, Sokolow explained how, while touring universities over a decade ago, he noticed campuses were very “squeamish” about the word rape and sexual misconduct hearing boards were unwilling to label offenders as rapists. So he tested the phrase “nonconsensual sex” with focus groups and found that it made people a lot more comfortable than a nasty word like rape. Now it has become standard terminology – Sokolow estimates that between 700 and 800 campuses have adopted the language in their sexual misconduct policies. And thank God for that. What a disaster it would be if we used language that made rapists, sorry I mean nonconsensual sexual penetrationists, uncomfortable!
Read the whole piece as it shows how the enablers distorted language at every turn.

The same goes for media outlets.

Remember the Good Girls Revolt? A series inspired by true events at Newsweek around 1970 where women could only do research and all writing was given to men.

Ironically, it was cancelled after one season by Roy Price, the Amazon studio chief who just resigned for sexual harassment. And there are talks to bring it back thanks to Weinstein Effect.

Overall, 45% of women polled said they have been sexually harassed at work. This translates to about 33.6 million women in the US. 
The group that experienced the most harassment were women between the ages 30 and 44 — almost half (49%) said they had been sexually harassed at work. Not far behind, 47% of women ages 45 to 64 said they were sexually harassed at work, followed by 41% of women ages 18 to 20, and finally 40% of women 65 or older.
You already know the so-called "Bro culture" in the largest tech companies. Susan Fowler anyone?

How about the culinary world and its sexist macho kitchens.
In March of that year, Ivy Knight, a Toronto writer and former cook, published a piece on Vice’s Munchies site called “What It’s Like to Be Attacked by Your Sous Chef,” in which she recounted a long list of horrifying stories from her time working in kitchens, including being slammed against a counter and choked after a bad service. A few months later, a cook named Kate Burnham came forward with hideous allegations about her experience as an employee at the Toronto restaurant Weslodge. In her complaint, she alleged, among other things, that three male colleagues at the restaurant had grabbed her breasts, slapped her ass with a spatula hard enough to leave bruises, and that a popular brunch activity for some of the cooks was to spray her face and hair with aerated hollandaise, an act whose inspiration is self-evident.
Read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" it is worth it.

What is positive about the Weinstein effect is that it forces people to review the systemic nature and the power component of sexual misconduct.

But there is one group that is immune to the Weinstein Effect. The Republicans and of course the truly pious evangelicals. The original flip floppers, the group who were fine with abortion until they couldn't stand it.


Last September, as you no doubt remember, a tape was leaked to the media.

It had Donald Trump boasting that he routinely grabbed women by the pussy and forced them to do vile things against their will.

Right after that, former underage beauty pageant contestants revealed that he would barge in on them while they were naked and leer.

24 women came forward alleging various acts of sexual misconduct like forcible kisses, touching genitalia and in one case (Ivana) brutal rape.

When the stories came out the picture on the right was the reaction of Trumpkins.

A few days ago, the colorful racist Alabama judge turned GOP politician Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl when he was a prosecutor.

Three more women came forward to claim that he prayed on them while they were 14-18 years old.
One of the accusers said she was a 14-year-old working as Santa's helper at a shopping centre when Mr Moore first targeted her.
We are talking pedophilia and just days earlier Kevin Spacey was completely destroyed for hitting on a 14 year old.

Do you know what the reaction was to these serious and extremely disturbing accusations?
Alabama's state auditor Jim Zeigler came under fire on Thursday for his remarks defending Mr Moore. 
He was quoted as saying that even if the Washington Post report were true, "it's much ado about very little".
Mr Zeigler told the Washington Times newspaper: "Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."
And many Republicans rushed to his defense.

Unsurprisingly, the evangelicals, Roy Moore's core base were fine with his pedophilia.
As Thomas Edsall recently noted, from 2011 to 2016, the percentage of white evangelical Protestants who believe that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life” shot up, from thirty to seventy-two per cent. Evangelicals went from being the least forgiving religious group to being the most forgiving religious group.
That's IOKIYAR for you.

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