Tag Archives: sex scandals

The Lessons (And Misguided Agendas) Of The Harvey Weinstein Scandals

I promise I’m going to stop talking about the Harvey Weinstein scandal at some point. I know everyone is probably sick of it. Make no mistake, I’m sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those issues that grows way beyond its original context.

It’s not enough to highlight the sheer breadth of the transgressions committed by such a powerful man. It just has to be part of a larger issue that brings out the best and worst of all those eager to comment on it, myself included. Never mind the fact that Weinstein is being punished severely for his many transgressions. People just have to make it part of a much larger agenda, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s that component of this tragedy/crime/outrage that compels me to keep talking about it. Make no mistake, I’d much rather be talking about resolving love triangles in superhero comics and products made specifically for female breasts. However, I see the massive uproar over the Harvey Weinstein affair as entering dangerous territory.

Now, I don’t deny the good that this scandal has inspired. Sexual assault is a serious crime and powerful men like Weinstein have too long a history of getting away with it. In a just and peaceful society, these kinds of crimes shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, there’s a big difference between pursuing justice and a misguided moral panic.

To provide some context, there’s plenty of recent history that should provide some perspective to the ongoing outrage. Back in the 1990s, before hashtags and dick pics, there was a huge outrage over the impact of violent video games and the role they played in mass shootings like Columbine.

Never mind the fact that there’s no established causal link between violent video games and actual violence. Never mind the fact that all available data has shown an overall decrease in violence over the past several decades. The moral panic allowed people with agendas to pursue those agendas to the utmost, even when the truth isn’t on their side.

This brings me back to sexual crimes committed by men like Harvey Weinstein. What he did was egregious. What he did to his victims, if even half-true, warrants full prosecution to the utmost. Unlike the panic over violent video games, this issue involves real people who were subjected to real harassment. That’s beyond dispute.

Unfortunately, the media, the public, and everyone with a Twitter handle aren’t content to just ensure that Weinstein faces justice for his crimes. They just have to turn it into a kind of rallying cry that exposes the depths of misogyny, corruption, and abuse. It happened with video games in 2014. Now, it’s happening again.

It’s getting dangerous because people who express concern about the implications of taking every accusation of sexual assault seriously are being labeled sexist, misogynist monsters. Like many moral panics before it, there comes a point where anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the panic is guilty of thought crimes that deserve the kind of scorn that even George Orwell would find excessive.

We’re already seeing this happen as everyone gets in line to voice their outrage and virtue signal, accordingly. In wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, everyone seems eager to become the hero in the battle against powerful men abusing vulnerable women. I’ve mentioned before how that kind of mentality is dangerous and misguided. We’re seeing a similar mentality emerge as everyone seeks to push their agenda.

Among those pushing that agenda include our friends at Cracked.com, a website I usually enjoy and often cite on this blog. They’ve already jumped at the chance to push an agenda, conflating the Harvey Weinstein scandal as an indictment of all men who ever dared to lust after a pretty woman.

It’s not just websites like Cracked either. There’s already a hashtag on Twitter called #MeeToo that has people recounting their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of these stories that are both disturbing and true. However, there is a context to consider.

Sexual assault is a crime. It’s prosecuted like a crime. Like all crime, there are standards by which to process it. Chief among those standards is evidence. Those voicing outrage over the fact that neither Weinstein, nor Bill Cosby, are being charged with a crime is seen as a failure of justice. However, there’s another point to consider.

Sexual assault is hard to prove. So much of the evidence relies on testimony and in a court of law, that often gets conflated with anecdotal evidence. Science has revealed, time and again, that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable forms of evidence you can have. Without better evidence, the high burden of proof that comes with a justice system that presumes innocence takes over.

In a sense, I can understand why those lamenting over men like Weinstein are so furious. It is frustrating to think that a man can commit such crimes against women and get away with it. In that frustration, things like facts and context tend to lose meaning.

I still don’t doubt that men like Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly are guilty of making life miserable for women. However, the extent and veracity of that misery is hard to quantify. The fact that they haven’t been charged with sexual assault tells me that the evidence just isn’t strong enough, even if it occurred. Where the justice system fails, though, mobs of hate and disdain will fill the gaps.

While that can help the voices of victims, it can also be dangerous. It can, in some respects, drown itself by claiming everything is harassment, everything is sexist, and everything is some sort of agenda to silence women. People want to believe that they’re Superman and men like Harvey Weinstein are the Lex Luthors of the world.

At some point, though, outrage burns itself out. Our collective capacity for emotional catharsis has its limits. Once it reaches that limit, we start rolling our eyes and become numb to it. For something as serious as sexual assault, we cannot and should not let that happen.

That’s a challenge, though, when everybody is so eager to virtue signal and ally themselves with the so-called right side of history. By over-blowing the outrage, victims of true sexual assault get lumped in with those who just didn’t like the person flirting with them.

Since harassment is so subjective and some people are more sensitive to it than others, the context will often get skewed. However, a scandal like Harvey Weinstein provides a sense of clarity on an issue that is so frustratingly subjective.

Therein lies the issue, though. Harassment, unlike assault, is subjective. Sexual assault is not. One is an emotional reaction. The other involves real, physical harm. Conflating one with the other is a dangerous precedent that will make people more reluctant to interact. As a fan of love, intimacy, and sexy novels, that’s not a world I want to live in.

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The (Kind Of) Silver Lining To Recent Sex Scandals

Given the number of lurid sex scandals that have popped up in recent years, and not just the ones I’ve mentioned, you can be forgiven for thinking that there’s an epidemic of powerful men being a dick to women. Go to any social media site or comments section and you’ll usually find angry rants that are nothing short of apocalyptic.

I certainly don’t blame people for being angry about these scandals. What the Harvey Weinsteins, Bill O’Reillys, and Bill Cosbeys of the world have done is egregious. There are no excuses for being that unapologetically crude.

These are men in positions of power. They know, on some levels, that they have leverage that they can use to exploit others. It’s impossible to know whether they would do what they did without this power. So few people have that kind of power that it’s difficult and disturbing to know how most people would use or abuse it.

At the end of the day, though, they still decide whether or not to exploit their power for personal gain. Even if they’re able to cover it up for years, it’s still their choice and it’s all the more egregious.

As bad as these scandals are, though, I think it’s worth taking a step back to acknowledge an understated upside to this string of lurid news. It’s easy to forget sometimes that good news hides in the shadows of bad news. In fact, good news in general tends to hide behind the glut of horror and dread we’re fed every day by the media.

So what kind of good news can we possibly glean from the increasingly lurid sex scandal involving Harvey Weinstein? What good can come out of any sex scandal where a powerful man exploits his position to seduce desperately driven women? Well, if you’re willing to look beyond the infuriating details, it’s actually pretty revealing.

It’s getting MUCH harder for people to get away with sex scandals in general.

Think about it for a moment. Take a step back and look at the world we’re in now, with respect to sex scandals. Ignore, for a moment, the extreme voices from radical feminists and men’s rights activists who would use this scandal to push an agenda. The fact that everyone is so outraged by this scandal should count as good news.

Very few people are making excuses for Harvey Weinstein. Former allies are abandoning him. His wife is leaving him. The film industry that he helped expand is cutting ties with him at every turn. Despite being such a powerful, influential figure in Hollywood, this lurid scandal is costing him dearly.

Compare that to how scandals of the past often unfolded. Other than hilariously dishonest tabloids claiming that Madonna had a secret affair with Martian ambassador, most scandals rarely drew this kind of scrutiny and condemnation.

One of the most infamous examples is that of O.J. Simpson, who had a documented history of spousal abuse prior to the murder of his ex-wife, Nichole. However, despite this abuse, he was still largely a beloved celebrity figure. He was so beloved that some people just refused to believe that he was the kind of monster who would beat a woman.

If O.J. Simpson had carried out such abuse today, it would trend on social media immediately and there would be no way to sweep it under the rug. Say what you will about the prevalence of the internet, but it does carry out one important function. It makes hiding bad, sometimes criminal behavior a lot harder.

Go back 30 years and it was possible, albeit inconvenient, for someone with money and influence to hide a scandal. They just had to pay off the right people, sweet-talk the authorities, and have some damn good lawyers. When used wisely, it’s like it never happened.

Fast forward to today and no amount of money, influence, or overpaid lawyers can stop some random person with a smartphone from tweeting about a celebrity having a major meltdown or cheating on their spouse. Once it’s online, it’s next to impossible to stop.

Now sometimes, this can be a problem. Every now and then, a false rumor will start trending and lead to a lot of frustration. However, given the breadth and speed of modern media, it tends to correct itself. Once a rumor is obviously false, it tends to disappear quickly.

When it’s not a rumor and there’s a lot of digital evidence to back it up, as was the case with Harvey Weinstein, social media does not hold back. No amount of lawyers, PR agents, or hit men can stop it. Once the lurid truth gets out, people will respond and the internet ensures their responses won’t be filtered by the FCC.

This is where we, as a society, show another kind of progress. When it comes to powerful men exploiting women, we as a people have very little tolerance for that these days. We’ll tolerate a certain amount of douche-baggery, but when it becomes criminal, most people draw the line.

Harvey Weinstein is now paying the price. While I think it’s still important to see how valid the accusations against him are, the amount of evidence that has come out thus far leads me to believe that a significant chunk of these lurid stories are true. For what he did, he should pay a price.

Given the price he’s already paid, in terms of his reputation and loss of job opportunities, it sends a powerful message to powerful men. This isn’t the era of “Mad Men” anymore. You can’t expect to get away with these kinds of sex scandals anymore. Social media and the reactionary masses that use it will find out. When they do, you will pay a huge price.

In a world where powerful people can get away with atrocious behavior, some of which is downright criminal, it’s hard to have faith in people. While our world is far from perfect, I think the response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal shows that we’re making progress.

Even powerful men like Weinstein can’t hide their misdeeds anymore. People today are far less willing to turn a blind eye to these kinds of crimes. It won’t completely eliminate the kinds of lurid scandals that frustrate celebrities and titillate gossip magazines, but it will ensure that those kinds of scandals will be much harder to avoid. It won’t stop certain people, but it will help prevent them from using celebrity to hide their misdeeds.

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How NOT To Respond To An Old Sex Scandal (Too Late For Harvey Weinstein)

Whenever a celebrity or person of influence becomes the subject of a sex scandal, sometimes the most you can do is just pop open a cold beer, put your feet up, and enjoy the show. There’s sure to be a mix of hilarity, disgust, and anguish along the way. You might as well be comfortably drunk.

Last year, it was Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly who got caught thinking with the wrong head and that cost them their jobs. While I’ve expressed my concern about the precedent those scandals might set, I never doubted for a second that there would be more like them in the future. I also didn’t doubt those involved would find a way to handle it poorly.

Sadly, I was right, albeit not surprised. Last week, the New York Times broke a story about Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, paying off sexual harassment accusers for decades. Among those accusers are famous names like Ashley Judd and not-so-famous names like Emily Nestor, who found themselves in a woefully unequal power dynamic where Weinstein held the kind of power that would make Christian Grey envious.

For those who are fans of Weinstein’s work, which include famed Miramax productions like “Pulp Fiction,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Good Will Hunting,” these are pretty distressing allegations. This isn’t the kind of playful flirting that goes too far. This is the kind of harassment that involves luring ambitious, vulnerable women to hotel rooms and demanding massages.

Granted, it could’ve gotten much worse, as we saw with the Roman Polanski scandal. For the most part, though, Weinstein’s conduct is not that different from what we saw with Ailes and O’Reilly.

He was a powerful man who could make or end careers. He was surrounded by young, attractive, ambitious women over which he had a great deal of leverage. Some men will take advantage of those opportunities and spend decades of their lives trying to shove it under the rug.

Eventually, secrets and hush money only go so far. Just a few days after the scandal broke, Weinstein was terminated from the Weinstein Company that bears his name. Even though many of the accusations haven’t made their way through the court system, the company heard enough and isn’t waiting for the verdict.

Before you start feeling any measure of sympathy for Harvey Weinstein, I think it’s worth pointing out that he hasn’t exactly denied the allegations, nor has he made any sincere apologies. Instead, he’s been making excuses and anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows how I feel about excuses.

homer simpson fail. . EPIC AIL Sometimes, youjust have no excuse.

Shortly after Weinstein was fired, he did exactly what nobody should do in a sex scandal and started making excuses. Instead of the old, “She told me she was 18,” excuse, this is what he said according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

In terms of excuses, this is basically the kind of D-level effort of a lazy high school student during a mid-term. He’s not apologizing. He’s not denying or asking for understanding. He’s just claiming that the times were different and somehow, harassing women like he did was okay back then.

Now, I wasn’t alive in the 60’s or 70’s. I don’t entirely know or understand what kind of culture Weinstein was talking about. I just know that in nearly every era and culture, being a dick to women is pretty frowned upon, especially if you’re in a position of power.

Weinstein wasn’t just some creepy guy following women home from bars. He was the head of a major movie company that could turn people into stars. Given the sheer breadth of people seeking stardom, and the vast majority of those who fail, it’s hard to understate how powerful Weinstein was.

It’s for that reason that his excuses come off as even more egregious. It goes beyond the “that’s just how things were” gimmick that we see glorified in “Mad Men.” This is a man who preyed on women who had dreams of being a star. He held those dreams in his hand and used them to take advantage of those women. There are just no excuses for that and his effort to make excuses just makes it worse.

Now, as bad as Weinstein’s excuses are, I also have to give him the same courtesy I gave Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. By that, I mean I need to point out that these stories the New York Times reported are not completely verified. There is a possibility, however remote you might think, that Weinstein’s conduct wasn’t as bad as the women claim.

It may even be the case that some of Weinstein’s accusers were never actually harassed, but are seeking damages because they want to extort money from him. That does happen. Men and women are equally capable of exploiting a situation. While Weinstein’s conduct and responses have made that unlikely, there’s often a chance that the media will exaggerate the story for dramatic effect.

At this point, though, it’s too late for Weinstein. He’s effectively sealed his fate by making poor excuses and doing a pitiful job of managing the narrative. Even if the accusations were all fake, his response to them has shattered any sense of sympathy or understanding he might have garnered. He basically shot himself in the foot and tried to treat it with sulfuric acid.

It’s almost certain that Harvey Weinstein won’t be the last big mogul or media icon to get caught up in a sex scandal. It’s also fairly likely that whoever gets caught next will make the same excuses.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle a scandal, even if you’re guilty. However, the kind of people who make excuses in being dicks to women probably don’t care much about the right way to begin with. That’s not just tragic. That’s downright cold.

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