There are volumes of stories, accusations, denouncements, apologies, takes, and responses that have been written about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior in Hollywood. Chances are, there will be volumes more, and they very likely won’t just include Weinstein, but his enablers.
I am reminded, somewhat ironically, of one of my favorite movie scenes. It comes from the Miramax-backed Kevin Smith film, Dogma, and features a scene where the now-himself-scandalous Ben Affleck goes around a major corporation’s board room and recounts every one of the board members’ gravest sins (save one woman who was completely innocent).
You can watch the clip here (it has some naughty language and some violence, so I won’t be embedding it here, but you’ll get the idea when you view it).
There is something that is touched on in the scene, and something that we all know, but only talk about in hushed whispers, that explains Weinstein. It isn’t that he’s sick. It isn’t that he is inherently evil. It is that, somewhere along the way, one man gained untold amount of power over other people, and he became so corrupted by it that it changed him and the people around him.
Based on a growing number of reports, it isn’t just Weinstein who is guilty of some extraordinary acts of social and sexual deviancy. His influence, like the touch of a much more twisted King Midas, has reportedly turned many of the people around him into deviants themselves.
Power can do that. Money and fame can grant power, and if misused, that power can become dark. Power like Weinstein had – power over people’s lives and work, and control over their life course – can so easily corrupt. It can destroy a person’s ability to recognize deviancy as such, and it can twist anything into being acceptable so long as it doesn’t take away power.
This is not, however, something unique to Hollywood. This is something that can be witnessed in any institution that grants power to people. Business and government are just as capable of twisting and corrupting people if it grants power to someone who cannot handle it.
Look no further than Donald Trump.
A mix of wealth, business power, and celebrity status shaped him into a man who feels it’s okay to openly talk about grabbing women by their genitals. It is okay, in his eyes, to walk into a dressing room filled with half- and fully-naked women who are competing in his beauty contest. It is okay, in his eyes, to cheat on a wife with a younger model, openly brag about affairs, and flaunt women as trophies.
That’s not to mention the numerous claims of sexual assault against him, too.
Or how about Bill O’Reilly, who was considered the prototypical Fox News conservative. He led the network, was a permanent fixture there, and loved and craved the attention it gave him. His platform gave him power over people. The easily-convinced masses looking for confirmation of their beliefs flocked to him, while people who worked directly under him – in his eyes, beneath him – were forced to endure his presence. Women became his victims, and numerous settlements eventually brought down his career.
Bill Clinton, a former governor and U.S. President, has been followed by accusations of sexual misconduct and assault his entire political career, and the women who became his victims were shamed into silence by his wife, the equally power-hungry Hillary Clinton.
But it isn’t just the people with power who are to blame for what’s going on in Hollywood, business, or government. It is the people around them. The people who see what those in power have, and they want access to it. They want to be in the know. They want to rub shoulders with their gods. Staff, colleagues, up-and-comers, and groupies all want to bathe in the light of that power. And, lord, don’t forget the lawyers that can bury a victim in who knows what paperwork.
Reporters can often be guilty of this to a degree (some a higher degree than others), because after a certain time covering a beat, you become part of it, and it’s tough to let go of that access when you’ve worked so hard to get it in the first place.
These idolaters play the role of enablers, allowing the corrupted in power to stay corrupt and in power. They see and recognize the deviancy, but they do what they can to ensure that their access doesn’t get taken away. They become addicts, hopelessly devoted to the next hit, and they would do anything to make sure the hits keep coming.
There are political angles, of course – Weinstein and Clinton are big figures in Democrat circles, Trump and O’Reilly remaining popular in Republican circles – but the sheer inhumanity of their actions begs for a more universal answer to the question of how we stop this… But that’s an answer that won’t easily come.
The circles and the layers that are constructed to shelter the corrupted and their minions, to keep them in power and keep their access, must be deconstructed. The voices who speak out are a start, because they’ll enable the next round of voices, who will speak out about more. And slowly, barring any interference from the minions, maybe we can dismantle the shady network of enablers. However, we must also hope that we’ve learned enough to prevent the next ones from becoming corrupted themselves.