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Trump’s thug-power, or does anybody still like Woody Allen?

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Let’s go back to when we were all a little younger and less terrified. Obama is president. I am talking to a slightly older, white, heterosexual male, highly esteemed by the academic world and by me. I, a lesbian, admire and trust this guy. We’re catching up, talking about life, books, friends. I tell him my friend Beth is having a hard time writing her memoir. She’s trying to decide if she should include the fact that her very famous father, a renowned attorney, had sexually molested her for years while she was growing up.

I assume my friend’s reaction will be nuanced, temperate, compassionate – as it is concerning anything we discuss. That he’ll consider Beth’s pain and ambivalence. Instead, he takes a quarter-second to gasp, then blurts:

“Why would she want to destroy her father’s reputation and shit on his entire life’s work?”

See, two years ago, sexual abuse was nothing, compared to an alleged perpetrator’s power and fame. These days, bigger dudes than Beth’s father: Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Donald Trump, Russell Simmons – the list grows almost hourly – are being called out as sexual predators. Although government men and multinationals like Google and Uber usually shrug off or fight back, famous men in media – pundits, producers, performers, broadcasters – now often admit they did wrong. That’s because people who work in news and entertainment are now more accountable to the public than government and corporations, which have moved far beyond our control. Sometimes, these famous men even express regret for hurting people. Finally, power is redistributed: even men who apologize can lose their jobs.

Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein (Photo: Getty/Kevin Winter)

This must be Woody Allen’s worst nightmare. Remember how Woody warned, in the wake of Weinstein’s demise, of a brewing “witch hunt atmosphere … where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer”? Well, one man’s wink is another man’s grope, is another man’s rape. But what Woody probably meant was that, whether or not they’re guilty, he cares about his famous-dude colleagues and doesn’t want them to lose their careers.

This is how justice rolls down in the Trump years. Given the blaring excrescence that is the Trump administration, when the legislative and judicial branches of our government are being gutted and the executive branch is decomposing, maybe it’s time to let go of checks and balances and turn to the media for reason and moral authority.

I’m not the only one to feel this – you too, maybe? There are still some ethical reporters, right? A few media outlets with journalistic standards? And how about that First Amendment – not dead! Probably.

So we’re galvanized by these media sex scandals, not only because they remind women and trans people that fear of sexual abuse daily permeates our lives – but also because, for once, on TV, radio, newspapers, and all over the Web, we get some attention, a little accountability. I feel energized, like I’m part of a conversation with millions of good people who’ve also been through a lot. And! We’ve been given an exciting new power: Should we let these men go on with their careers? Should we still enjoy their work?

People like me now feel that, weirdly, even as America slips into full-on Götterdämmerung, we matter. Until we don’t.

Media-driven justice may trickle down, but it’s never going to reach folks in East New York or Sioux City. Across this country – as if you didn’t know – sexual harassment, assault, and humiliation is a normalized, everyday atrocity. It misshapes the lives of millions of women and children of any gender – anyone seen as too female or helpless or transgressive or uppity.

I used to work at a rape crisis center in Illinois. There were, of course, cases of rape, but there were other obscene acts of festering power perpetrated by men whose power in the world would always be thin and dinky. Some husband, having a really bad morning, didn’t like the way his wife fixed his eggs, so he drove a fork through her hand. Some little girl’s daddy, angry at her sassing off to him, threw her down and sprayed Easy-Off Oven Cleaner up her vagina.

But these are cases for small town emergency rooms; they’ll never make it to prime time. Even if they did, they wouldn’t find justice there. Because the most anyone can get from the media court of public opinion is an apology.

The #MeToo campaign, heartening though it is, offers consolation, not institutional empowerment or compensation. And the 700,000 female farm workers who reportedly “Stood with Hollywood Actors Against Sexual Assault” last November can hope only for a little solidarity.

History has a spotty memory, in part because the media, over the long haul, do a sucky job of doling out either morality or justice. News media are great on attention-getting firsts, like King’s March on Washington or ACT UP invading St Pat’s Cathedral or Watergate. But media know that we, their consuming public, can consume only so much. So, for instance, the benchmark for government corruption remains Watergate, not the far worse, Constitutional dismemberment now perpetrated by Trump’s mob.

Before this sex-scandal wave ends – and it will – we need to realize that, though media can take down a few powerful men, they’re not the keyhole through which we can peep the real power in Trump’s America. The thugs now annihilating Palestine, net neutrality, immigrants’ rights, healthcare, environmental protections, safeguards to nuclear war, and what’s left of the New Deal, are impervious to media news, “fake” or not. They’re almost impervious to petitions and protests. The thing is, beneath the hopeful social-change discourse we create in the media and on Facebook and Twitter, we are losing everything.

Whether or not we still like Woody Allen, Trump and his hired goons are grabbing everything by the pussy. I only wish we knew how to stop them.

A version of this article first appeared in Gay City News

References:

“Since Weinstein, here’s a growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct”:
https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/harvey-weinstein-scandal/weinstein-here-s-growing-list-men-accused-sexual-misconduct-n816546

“New York’s TV industry riddled by harassment accusations”:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2017/12/03/matt-lauer-charlie-rose-new-york-television-industry/908345001/

Woody Allen witch-hunt:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/15/movies/woody-allen-harvey-weinstein-witch-hunt.html

700,000 Female Farmworkers Say They Stand With Hollywood Actors Against Sexual Assault:
http://time.com/5018813/farmworkers-solidarity-hollywood-sexual-assault/

Susie Day
About Susie Day

Susie Day writes a regular political satire column and lives in NYC.

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11 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle
    Emory Riddle
    December 8, 2017, 1:44 pm

    “But what Woody probably meant was that, whether or not they’re guilty, he cares about his famous-dude colleagues and doesn’t want them to lose their careers.”

    I think he is more worried about himself.

    This guy has gotten away with a helluva lot worse than the first guy on your list, Moore, is accused of.

    • Boomer
      Boomer
      December 8, 2017, 2:25 pm

      re: “I think he [Woody Allen] is more worried about himself.”

      So true. I’m pretty sure that his favorite charity favorite is close to home.

      • Boomer
        Boomer
        December 8, 2017, 3:12 pm

        This reminds me of something I read recently about Allen that echoes a phrase I’ve often seen “good liberal Zionists” such as Paul Krugman employ when the subject turns to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians: “it’s complicated.” There is an echo in the “logic” as well, when the “allegation is apparently still just too complicated, too difficult, too ‘dangerous,’ . . . to confront.” The article quotes Dylan Farrow asking why Woody Allen has been treated differently than Harvey Weinstein, et al. The article concludes:

        “Farrow also celebrated actors like Ellen Page who said she regretted working with Allen on To Rome with Love. “It meant the world to me when Ellen Page said she regretted working with Allen, and when actresses Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon told the world why they never would,” she wrote.

        “While Farrow said she is happy to see the culture “shifting rapidly,” she noted, “My allegation is apparently still just too complicated, too difficult, too ‘dangerous,’ to use Lively’s term, to confront.”

        “She added, “It isn’t just power that allows men accused of sexual abuse to keep their careers and their secrets. It is also our collective choice to see simple situations as complicated and obvious conclusions as a matter of ‘who can say?’”

        http://people.com/movies/dylan-farrow-asks-why-woody-allen-has-been-spared-after-harvey-weinstein-scandal/

  2. Atlantaiconoclast
    Atlantaiconoclast
    December 8, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Can we please stop pretending the Left has no thugs? ANTIFA are documented to have committed violence.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      December 8, 2017, 4:16 pm

      Only a Dim would call that sh|t “left”

    • John O
      John O
      December 8, 2017, 4:23 pm

      Which of us is pretending that the left have no thugs? I think we should be told.

      Furthermore, being seen as a liberal (in Weinstein’s case) and doing lots of work for charity (in the case of the nearest British equivalent to Weinstein, Jimmy Savile) is great cover for your crimes.

  3. Keith
    Keith
    December 8, 2017, 6:18 pm

    SUSIE DAY- “Whether or not we still like Woody Allen, Trump and his hired goons are grabbing everything by the pussy.”

    Say what? Why are you conflating Donald Trump with Democrats and Hillary supporters Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein? Clearly you are a Democratic Party loyalist who refuses to discuss Hillary’s relationship with Weinstein, a major Democratic Party donor. A quote from an interesting article on how Weinstein got away with it for so long.

    “Magazine editor Tina Brown also told the Times she had warned Clinton’s inner circle about Weinstein in 2008. “I was hearing that Harvey’s sleaziness with women had escalated since I left Talk in 2002 and she was unwise to be so closely associated with him.”

    Up until the accusations against Weinstein were first published, Clinton and Weinstein were planning a documentary TV series about her campaign, the Times reported.” (Rachel Leah) https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/how-weinstein-got-away-with-it/

  4. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    December 8, 2017, 6:27 pm

    It is surely progress when victims of powerful men who in the past could commit any crime with impunity are able to get their revelations widely publicized and some at least of the perpetrators are penalized in some way. Even if the penalties are inadequate, even if it proves to be a temporary opening, even if there are still even more powerful men whose impunity remains (for the time being?) intact — it is still movement in the right direction. So a wholly pessimistic assessment seems to me perverse.

  5. JosephA
    JosephA
    December 8, 2017, 7:03 pm

    Susie,

    Wow, very powerful read. You are correct. There is certainly an element of distraction going on. Of course, sexual harassment is real and it matters, but what else are they doing, gutting, ruining, plotting behind the scenes?

  6. Qualtrough
    Qualtrough
    December 9, 2017, 11:19 pm

    This article belongs somewhere, but not here. Keep your eyes on the prize people.

  7. JWalters
    JWalters
    December 10, 2017, 1:33 am

    I sat in a jury selection panel from which a jury was to be selected, partially randomly. (I was not selected). Due to the nature of the charges, an extra large panel was assembled for jury selection, they said (explaining a room change). The charges were child molestation. During the selection process about 20% of the people on the panel had a story of being personally sexually assaulted as a child, or having a family member who was, mostly women. That is a pervasive problem.

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