Once in a while a scandal comes along in society that encapsulates and lays bare our most shameful human traits. The recent wave of accusations of sexual harassment against prominent figures in the world of entertainment, sports and politics has done this and more. There are those who automatically condemn and those who automatically defend the accused, these positions not taken according to the facts available, but in order to justify whatever their particular pre-adopted ideological stance requires. All have an agenda to push that goes beyond mere facts, but hypocrisy, greed, self-interest and the tyranny of political correctness all play their role.
The firestorm that started with accusations against Miramax founder and producer Harvey Weinstein should not be news. The “casting couch” has been a symbol of the moral decadence of Hollywood since the movie industry moved to Hollywood from its original home in New Jersey in the early 1900’s, and some would argue that it even predated Hollywood. Apparently the cliché goes back to the New York theatre. Dancer Agnes de Mille reportedly stated, “If you didn’t sleep with them you didn’t get the part”. Referring to the Shubert brothers, noted Broadway producers in the 1920s and 1930s, de Mille went as far as accusing the Shuberts of running “a brothel” and in defiance of any attempts to silence her, fearlessly added for good measure, “Let them sue me” .
Hollywood and the casting couch are virtually synonymous and yet those in Hollywood who have remained willfully blind and deaf would have us think that Weinstein represents a disgraceful aberration rather than the norm. Those who claim that they had no idea that such abuses and indeed, crimes, were being committed have lost no time in jumping on the bandwagon of denunciation and finger-pointing. At the same time it has become increasingly clear that these goings-on were an open secret. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, longtime associate at Weinstein’s production company, Miramax declared that “There was nothing secret about [Weinstein’s] voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm”. Rosenberg is only one of many who has come out to decry what can only be described as a long practiced cover-up in Hollywood protecting the aggressors, just as Weinstein is only one of many who have been “outed” as criminals.
The lengths that Hollywood is willing to go to dissociate itself from these rogues is impressive. In an unprecedented move in Hollywood, they have even erased accused pedophile Kevin Spacey from a film that was already shot and ready for distribution. Not to mention that Netflix has canceled his series, “House of Cards” and that dozens of other people have had their contracts canceled because of allegations made against them. It would be futile to go through the complete list, the point is clear and the list of the accused grows even as I write this. Television personality Charlie Rose has been fired from PBS and CBS, after what was a respected career of 23 years with those networks. The important thing in the entertainment industry is not to alienate any prospective audiences that might boycott a particular movie or actor. Loss of revenue is a powerful motivator to do what is publicly perceived to be the right thing.
Like the proverbial oil slick that eventually engulfs everything in its path, accusations of sexual misconduct have now spread to virtually all segments of society. Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate in the upcoming special election to be held in Alabama on December 12 is a good case to consider. Accused by almost a dozen women of sexual misconduct over the decades, he has remained defiant and continues to claim his innocence, regardless of the heavy proofs alleged against him. Proofs so convincing as to lead the most highly placed Republican lawmakers, like House Majority Speaker Mitch McConnell, to demand that he step out of the race. The complexity of these minute-by-minute developments makes our heads spin. When Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of groping Leann Tweeden, a former model and radio host with whom Franken shared a USO tour to Afghanistan when he was still a comedian before his election to the Senate, Donald Trump quickly condemned him.
This despite the fact that he had remained silent over the Moore accusations, hypocritically suggesting that it was not his place to express his opinion on Moore, the voters would do that. We had assumed that Trump had chosen silence over the Moore allegations out of self-interest, the fear that to say anything would be to revive the accusations leveled against himself when the infamous “grab them by the pussy” tapes came out during the Presidential campaign. But now we see that the silence was due also to self-serving political partisanship. In the latest stunning development, Trump virtually endorsed Moore. In his characteristic inarticulate and buffoonish style, Trump declared: “He denies it. Look, he denies it…If you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours. He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And look, you have to look at him also.” Not only does he make it clear that as long as the man denies it his word must prevail over any number of accusations made by women, but he seems to suggest that denial is proof of innocence. Therefore people like Franken, who admit wrongdoing and apologize, must be punished, but those who brazenly deny their culpability, as Trump himself did in the infamous tapes and continues to do so, can go scot free.
This cynical abdication of moral responsibility is also politically expedient, because the real compelling reason for Trump’s endorsement of Moore is easily inferred from his statement that, “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on military…I can tell you for a fact we do not need somebody who’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad for the military, bad for the Second Amendment.” He could have added that the dominance of the Republican Party is in serious jeopardy and that they cannot afford to lose even one seat in The House of Representatives or the Senate. So while his daughter Ivanka has gone on record to denounce Moore with, “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” Trump must energize the Republican base and make sure that Moore wins at all costs. Ivanka should understand that it isn’t Moore who is going to hell, it is moral principles and integrity.
While Hollywood throws the accused to the wolves in a frantic attempt to save its bottom line of profit, and Washington to save its seats in the Congress and Senate, the newly founded “Rose Army”, whose motto is “we fight for truth,” demands univocal support in the name of justice, equality and morality. As more and more people join the #Metoo movement and the Rose Army grows, so does the pressure to toe the line and condemn the accused. Today there is no one old or venerable enough to be given a free pass (think former President George H. Bush). At this point none of the accused have had any sort of “hearing” or trial that would determine their guilt or innocence, but in this current climate that is not necessary, being accused is enough to “make it true”.
All sides are adopting the convenient position that will advance their interests, whether those interests be financial, political or idealistic. Leann Tweeden, much like the Rose Army, says she wants “to leave the world a better place for our children” (CNN-New Day with Chris Cuomo, Nov. 17, 2017). Donald Trump wants the GOP to dominate, Hollywood wants its profit. But who is defending the truth and the right to express your opinion when it’s not politically correct to do so?