WASHINGTON, October 31, 2017 ⏤ News that Harvey Weinstein was an impressario of serial sexual abuse shocked no one. When he introduced the nominees for the Best Supporting Actress award at the 2013 Oscars, host Seth MacFarlane joked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
Weinstein’s sexual abuse behavior was an open secret in Hollywood.
His contract with The Weinstein Company even set rules for his predation. The contract says that if Weinstein is sued for sexual abuse resulting in a loss to the firm, he would remain employed if he reimbursed the Company any costs of the settlement plus a fine:
“You will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.”
If he was willing to pay, Weinstein was contractually free to play, grope and grab lady parts to his heart’s content.
Sexual abuse: Everyone does it
Since the Weinstein story broke, sexual abuse and assault charges have spread across the industry. Amazon Studios executive Roy Price was suspended and later resigned after accusations that he harassed Isa Dick Hackett, producer of “The Man in the High Castle.”
Actor Anthony Rapp accuses Spacey of an attempted statutory rape when Rapp was 14 and Spacey 26. Spacey chose the moment of his quasi-apology to announce that he is living openly as a gay man. That admission seems to conflate the accusation with his sexuality, which had been as open a secret as Weinstein’s sexual assaults.
Hollywood is shocked. It is shocked that Weinstein, a man whose predatory behavior was enshrined in his contract and in the Oscars entertainment, is, in fact, a predator. It is horrified that the entertainment industry, an industry generally known as a locus of depravity and hypocrisy, is, in fact, full of sexual predators and hypocrites.
That shock is the most shocking thing about the entire, expanding mess.
Hillary Clinton, still blind to sexual abuse by useful men
Hillary Clinton and former President Obama are shocked. Weinstein was a major Democratic bundler, shaking the Hollywood trees for contributions to Democratic candidates. Weinstein’s brother and former colleagues are shocked. He made them more money than most of us can imagine in our wildest dreams of avarice.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is shocked. Weinstein cranked out Oscar winners and brought glam to the party.
Netflix is shocked. It has courageously decided to pull the plug on Spacey’s series, “House of Cards,” after the sixth season airs in mid-2018. The series is a huge critical and commercial hit for the streaming service; Critics say that six seasons were enough. Industry pundits say they did not plan to go beyond season six anyway.
NBC News and MSNBC are shocked about Mark Halperin. Their execs, and executives at other networks are wondering, like executives in Hollywood, who’s next.
The shock is pervasive among people who should have known about sexual abuse and often did know. But they benefited from these men staying in their jobs. They were deliberately mute and blind because they didn’t want to know; it was financially better for them not to.
Everyone’s a hypocrite
Some say that the right is perennially mute and blind to sexual abuse, but Hollywood is no bastion of the right. And neither is this the first time the Hollywood left has been blind and deaf to sexual assault. <cough, cough, Bill Clinton, cough> But the problem here goes beyond sex and power.
The problem is a pervasive belief that you can do almost anything if you’re willing to pay for it.
Harrison Ford, beloved as Han Solo, travels the world to document human assaults on the environment. He’s passionate about climate change. He’s also a pilot who says that he’s “so passionate about flying, I often fly up the coast for a cheeseburger.”
Leonardo DiCaprio is so passionate about climate change that he’s a frequent passenger on private jets as well. He uses them to share his passion around the world. Climate warrior Cher has the carbon footprint of a small town.
And then there’s Al Gore.
What they have in common besides the belief that you and I shouldn’t fly first class is a belief in the power of indulgences. Pope Leo X sold indulgences to raise money for the church, giving people willing and able to pay a fast ticket through Purgatory and cleansing from their sins.
Gore calls his indulgences “carbon offsets,” but the effect is the same: You can burn natural habitat and old tires in your backyard as long as you make up for it by buying some trees and solar cells for a village in Togo.
That’s not unlike Harvey Weinstein’s contract
Wake up and smell the mendacity
There’s no sin so egregious in our secular religion that you can’t make it go away by giving money to the right people and the right causes. Had Weinstein bundled for Republicans, MacFarlane wouldn’t have stopped with his courageous little joke.
Had Weinstein not made his brother and execs and members of the Academy so much money, that joke may not have been so baffling.
The Weinstein scandal is no longer just the Weinstein scandal. It’s spreading up and down the food chain and across the country. And while conservatives might be pleased to draw comparisons between our treatment of sexual predators and climate hypocrites, the problem really transcends party.
Look no farther than at Evangelicals for Trump to see that. Trump may be a gross sinner, but he’s their sinner, and so they believe he’s seen the light on his road to Damascus.
It is tempting to talk of repentance and redemption, but there’s precious little of that in evidence. What is in evidence is a stench. What’s that smell in America? Didn’t you notice it? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this country? There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.
You can smell it. It smells like death.