The Easiest Trick in Town

Harvey Weinstein poses for photographers upon arrival at the amfAR charity gala during the Cannes 70th international film festival, Cap d'Antibes, southern France, Thursday, May 25, 2017. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
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I just reread this Times OpEd “Will Liberals Give Weinstein the O’Reilly Treatment?” It’s by a staff writer at the Times opinion section, Bari Weiss. I’ve seen a number of articles like it. The subtext of all of them: While O’Reilly may have been run out of town on a rail for entirely legitimate reasons, a big part of the equation was not his behavior but politics and partisanship.

Will Weinstein get similar treatment?

Before digging further into this, one of the most annoying things about this (and this isn’t directed to Weiss) is that the idea that progressive politics is somehow responsible for the craziness, nonsense and hypocrisies of Hollywood. Yes, Democrats raise a lot of money there. They raise money from other places too.

Setting that aside, did Weinstein get what Weiss calls the “O’Reilly Treatment”?

This seems pretty straightforward.

The Times story went live on Thursday October 5th. It’s now October 9th. Weinstein was immediately forced to take a leave from his company. A parade of Democrats ostentatiously coughed up his campaign contributions. His legal team abandoned him. Yesterday was fired from his eponymous company. Various Hollywood luminaries have denounced him. I’m at least not aware of anyone in that world who is publicly sticking up for him.

Meryl Streep, one of the most frequently name-checked potential Weinstein hypocrites, just released a statement in which she roundly denounced Weinstein on basically every front.

More notably she pushed back on the idea that ‘everyone knew.’

One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn’t know about these other offenses: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.

Is that credible?

Based on my quite limited understanding of these people and that world, it strikes me as dubious. Perhaps Streep didn’t know these particulars. But it certainly seems that Weinstein’s rep was widely rumored. Who knows? People see what they want to see and look away from what they don’t. Perhaps this is a reconfiguration of the old line that hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue. If she ignored it before she’s certainly not defending it now.

I agree that the real test is whether Weinstein reemerges in a year or two with another company or new film projects after a period of ‘recovery’ from being an asshole and a serial sexual harasser. At least for the moment though it’s hard to see any standard by which Weinstein hasn’t gotten the O’Reilly treatment, the Ailes treatment and then some.

Should we consider this question now answered?

I cannot help but note that the Times piece is filled with the musings of Camille Paglia on Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Paglia claims that the “hypocrisy by partisan feminist leaders [about Clinton] really destroyed feminism for a long time.” I think the portrayal of prominent feminists here and Bill Clinton is skewed at a minimum. I’m on firmer ground when I say that Paglia is one of recent American history’s greatest concern trolls. Whatever the value of her critical work, her main public role has been as a willing and lavish provider of cover for the likes of Rush Limbaugh making comically disingenuous and often wildly dishonest attacks on progressives of all stripes but especially feminists.

“Liberals” are as hypocritical as anyone else. Yes, “Hollywood” is hypocritical and ten other sins that are worse than hypocrisy. But ‘liberal hypocrisy’ is also a roughed up and thoroughly recycled trope that is easy, seemingly always on offer and always toasted wildly even when it’s shabbily argued and doesn’t pan out. It reads like a clever cut against the groove even though it’s actually one of the most well-worn around.

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