The Harvey Weinstein saga, so sordid that it started an avalanche of dialogue about Hollywood’s casting-couch dirty laundry, has bloomed outward into social media and the broader culture. Actress Alyssa Milano started a hashtag movement, #metoo, given women from all walks of life the opportunity to aver their own experiences with creeps and predators, both providing solidarity with those who might feel alone, isolated or powerless, and calling out those who may have stood silent or been complicit as such behavior went on. This a good and long-overdue thing, especially in the entertainment industry. There is a great shame, however, in the fact that it took someone like Weinstein, who was reportedly so over-the-top lecherous and who won’t fit anyone’s criteria of handsome or charismatic, to break the collective silence.

It’s not, after all, like Hollywood has had a shortage of creeps to expose. The history of the casting couch coincides with the history of Hollywood itself, and countless producers and directors have leveraged their positions of power to exploit young women eager for fame, no matter how fleeting. To be sure, there have also been plenty of women who’ve leveraged their charms for competitive advantage – only a fool or a rank partisan would pretend otherwise – but today we are talking about the coercers. Lets make no mistake. Assuming even a handful of the allegations about Weinstein are true, he was a coercer and a predator, not merely someone who accepted proffered sexual favors in exchange for a movie role. The casting couch culture is apparently alive and well even today, and women of Hollywood finally have an opportunity to share their tales of exploitation without fear of career suicide.

That last bit – fear of career suicide – is one reason the lid hasn’t been blown off all this already. It is another reason, however, that I address today: what some have dubbed the “rape pass.” Weinstein got away with as much as he did not only because he was powerful enough to destroy careers, but because he was successful enough to make many others. He was also a powerful political player in all the correct ways: supporting the preferred candidates, advocating for the correct issues, and wielding his power in a way that advanced the agendas his peers all embraced.

This attitude is starkly expressed in this quote from Joy Behar:

He is a dog. Let’s face it… But I still will vote for Bill Clinton because he votes in my favor.

Consider the word “dog” in this context. How different is it from “creep?” It seems to me that someone who crosses boundaries and makes unwanted advances a “dog” if he’s charismatic, and a “creep” if he’s not. Charismatic, or perhaps offering enough positives to counterweigh the transgressions. Thus, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy were dogs. Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein are creeps.

Then there’s the Gloria Steinem standard, dubbed “one free grope,” that suggests those who advance causes important to feminists and the Left should get the occasional mulligan.

Double standard? Obviously. In all such things, politics matters, and it becomes nearly impossible to address a problem like workplace sexual harassment (and worse) without some filtering it through or shoehorning it into political squabbles. And, one politics enters into the picture, it is the rare person who puts principle above partisanship. We all know this, and

Consider this Facebook post from the page Iron Ladies:

When I saw #MeToo trending on Twitter, my first reaction was to mention the man who flashed me when I was 12, which was the most frightening experience of my life. I was going to blog about it one day anyway, so why not?

I am naturally a suspicious person, however, something that encounter I had 30 years ago in a dark hallway of our apartment building didn’t help to alleviate. And so, looking at the hashtag started by actress and liberal activist Alyssa Milano, I couldn’t help thinking that my tweet would add to some sort of political agenda which would inevitably include abortion or Hillary Clinton, and I don’t like to feel used that way

There’s an interesting angle: Despite the Weinstein scandal residing fully in the realms of the Left, cultural discourse has become so toxic that it’s not out of bounds to expect it being turned into a Left-Right thing, with the Right being wrong. How, exactly, this might unfold remains to be seen, but we have a bit of a preview in Rob Reiner’s combination of deflection and tu quoque remarks.

Then there’s the counterpart: where the cultural Right denounces womens’ free expression of sexuality, and indeed the entirety of the sexual revolution, as problematic and as a contributor to or root cause of the predations of some men. I’ve seen some of that already, stuff that isn’t quite “blame the victim” but is definitely “blame the moral breakdown of society.” Fact is, the casting couch has existed as long as movies have, and movies predate the sexual revolution and any associated “breakdown of society” by decades. Fact is, were this not Hollywood, a predator of Weinstein’s “magnitude” would have been outed long ago. So, no, I don’t for a moment buy that this is the product of a broader cultural sickness. As John Podhoretz writes in the NY Post, Hollywood has certain unique aspects that make it the “perfect hunting ground for pervs.”

It’s in our nature to want to exaggerate the transgressions of those in the other tribe and to downplay or ignore those in our tribe. Even politicians, who we’d expect be most sensitive to public appearances, fall prey to this tribalism. Consider that Hillary Clinton’s camp took a full five days to issue a mealy-mouthed statement about her pal Harvey, and that calls for the return or donation of Weinstein’s contributions have been dismissed (I, personally, don’t buy into that “return the dirty money” narrative, but Clinton’s failure to engage in this particular virtue-signal stands out as really bad optics).

Lets engage in a thought experiment. What if it was someone other than the unattractive Harvey Weinstein who turned out to be a serial creep? What if it were someone of George Clooney or Brad Pitt stature and attractiveness? We can only speculate how the story would have unfolded, of course, but it’s not hard to conclude that there’d be more of a “he’s a dog” than “he’s a creep” narrative. Would that make it any better for the women who were harassed and worse? Quite the opposite – it would perpetuate the presumption that this is how Hollywood works, and that it would be better to suffer in silence than come forward. The “rape pass” and “one free grope” notions put forth by liberal women certainly contribute to such a presumption.

I’ve written before that the only way politically-charged matters can be properly addressed is when people elect to clean their own houses. This is amply true with the casting couch culture exposed by the Weinstein scandal. If tribalism prompts people on the Left to give a softer look at misbehavior in Hollywood because Hollywood is doing all the correct things politically, there’s nothing that outsiders can say or do that will lead to the end of such predation. Like it or not, the Left and Hollywood’s elite needs to take the lead in busting entertainment world “dogs,” even if it means taking down some liberal heroes.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

2+

Like this post?