Have the Hollywood abuse floodgates opened?

The allegations of sexual harassment and rape against movie producer Harvey Weinstein (who has admitted bad behaviour and committed himself to a ‘clinic’ but denies ‘non-consensual sex’) has raised an issue that has been swept under the red carpet for a long time.

A number of big name actresses have now spoken out, adding attention and weight to the issue. It has also spread much further than Hollywood stars, with online actions pointing out how widespread and insidious sexual harassment is.

There is a danger that it could go too far, with complaints ranging from rape and professional coercion to leering. And there are also valid concerns about making accusations public and ostracising people who have not been found guilty.

But while there will inevitably be overreach, exaggerated and possible false allegations, and potentially unfair consequences for some, this is a dirty secret that is long overdue for a big clean up. Some collateral damage may be unfortunate but it’s necessary to lance the boil.

That’s if the publicity is sustained and it results in major attitudinal and behavioural changes.

New York Times: Harvey Weinstein’s Fall Opens the Floodgates in Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein is certainly not the first powerful man publicly and credibly accused of sexually harassing or abusing women in recent years.

Since 2015, the Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, the Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly and the comedian and actor Bill Cosby have suffered professional, financial or reputational setbacks after numerous women told stories of their sexual misconduct.

Those stories dominated news cycles, to be sure, but the outcry accompanying Mr. Weinstein’s downfall seems louder and more impassioned — perhaps because Mr. Weinstein’s accusers include stars like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

“I think this is a watershed moment,” said the producer Gail Berman, who had top jobs at Paramount Pictures and the Fox network.

That became clear on Sunday, when Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were flooded with messages from women who used the hashtag #MeToo to acknowledge that they had dealt with sexual harassment or assault.

There is no doubt it has been a widespread and serious problem.

The Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow applauded the movement. “The democratization of the spread of information can finally move faster than a powerful media mogul’s attempts to bury it,” she said by email.

Powerful forces have been largely able to sweep things under the red carpet until now.

Kicked off by reports on the allegations against Mr. Weinstein, the outpouring came a little more than a year after The Washington Post published leaked excerpts from an “Access Hollywood” tape in which Donald J. Trump, then a candidate for president, boasted of groping women.

Melinda McGillivray, who stepped forward last year to accuse Mr. Trump of groping her at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2003, told BuzzFeed last week that Ms. Paltrow and Ms. Jolie had an impact her accusation did not because of their star power. (Mr. Trump has denied harassment accusations.)

The problem goes right to the top.

Mr. Trump’s election had put some women here on guard against a return to male misbehavior that was more common 40 years ago. And one list circulating among ranking female executives in the industry has tracked a string of promotions of men to senior jobs — at Apple and AMCSony and HuluFox and CBS — amid fear that progress for women has stalled since November.

“Most of the available senior management television jobs this year have gone to men,” said Katie O’Connell, a chief executive of Platform One Media, and formerly the chief executive of Gaumont Television. “While those men were all qualified, it does highlight diminished access for these highest-level positions for women in 2017.”

It’s difficult to know how much is merit, and how much may be prejudice and punishment for not being promiscuous.

At issue now is whether or not Hollywood can continue its old way of doing business, with self-styled “outlaw” executives and auteurs getting away with sexual misconduct as lawyers and publicists protect them.

“I think it’s upsetting and devastating, all of the stories that have come out,” said Nina Jacobson, a film producer who was formerly the president of the Walt Disney Company’s Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group.

“But I think the floodgates being opened is something that had to happen and that finally brings a subject to the surface that has sort of gone unchecked for countless years.”

Ms. Jacobson, the film producer, said, “There’s an importance to a careful vetting and a careful reposting and not just a free-for-all.”

Some care needs to be taken to be as fair and just as possible, while still enabling victims to come forward without fear.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance of a leading example being set from Trump to confront this problem, but along with Weinstein the president could become a public example of an insidious problem that needs to be once and for all dealt to.

Weinstein got away with it for a long time

Harvey Weinstein has been exposed as a sexual harasser – he has accepted some faults, but has denied non-consensual sex. His wife has separated from him over the revelations.

A number of actresses have now come out and say that Weinstein harassed them. How did he get away with it for so long?

NZH: How many fixers helped Harvey Weinstein?

 Finally, after decades, his come-uppance has arrived.

It’s an all-star cast of complainants. Not to mention the volume. The names just keep going, like donors on a crowd-funding site. He was prodigious, he was consistent. And his people – his efficient, whip-smart team of people – kept sending women up to the room.

Actresses went up to that doorway, to fulfil their dreams. But instead of a genie behind the door, doling out wishes, there was a creepy ogre instead, all-powerful, all-wealthy. Indeed, above wealth. Above even fame – so far above fame, he was capable of bestowing it.

The New Yorker site has police audio, taped by a brave actress who’d been molested by him previously, wearing a wire.

It’s chilling. He works every angle in the space of a minute, trying to get the actress into his room – good cop, bad cop, multiple-personality cop, beggar, bully, confidant, henchman, ally, assassin, and back again – no doubt the negotiating tactics that made him a successful producer. The menace is stone cold.

But the audio doesn’t seem to have been enough to start a prosecution.

When you’re a star, they let you do it. More like, help you do it.

How many fixers were there? The people who delivered the actresses. Then the people to draft the settlements, haggle the victims down to below six figures, collect the signatures promising silence, agreeing nothing had happened. What a team. They really put the HR into harassment.

The US legal and entertainment systems have allowed this sort of thing to go on for a long time, actively enabled by some, abetted by silence.

(It’s not clear whether that was written by Toby Manhire or Raybon Kan).

Guardian: The allegations against Harvey Weinstein: what we know so far

New Yorker: From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

 

 

 

Dotcom overkill and US puppets…

…but how much is our government involved?

A Waikato Times editorial points out some major concerns over the Dotcom fiasco.

NZ: 51st state of the US

In a brief media statement Prime Minister John Key heightened suspicions that this country’s relationship with the United States has become one of servility rather than friendship.

The statement said the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has been asked to inquire into “the unlawful interception of communications of certain individuals” by the Government Communications Security Bureau.

It seems unlikely we will ever know the full truth about the circumstances surrounding GCSB’s breach of the law, despite the prime minister’s recognition that intelligence-agency operations depend on public trust. He wants us to believe this was a rare error, rather than egregious wrongdoing by agents keen to help the Americans bring Mr Dotcom to book, by hook or by crook.

Mr Dotcom is wanted in the US to face nothing more threatening than breaches of copyright laws. The GCSB’s involvement – like so much about this case, including FBI agents, helicopters, heavily armed police and botched search warrants – has turned the pursuit of him and the operations of our law-enforcement agencies into the stuff of farce.

It is preposterous to suggest Mr Dotcom threatens our national security. The Government’s unquestioning readiness to co-operate with American authorities, on the other hand, seriously corrodes our claims to be an independent state.

But we don’t know how much the Government has been involved in co-operating with American authorities.

We know that the police have been heavily involved in what appears to be a gungho operation panedering to the FBI. And both pandering to Hollywood business interests and overdoing Hollywood type dramatics.

And the police involved the GCSB – that is a major concern, even though that involvement appears to have been on a relatively minor scale.

But so far, despite many accusations, there is scarce evidence of Government involvement.

So while New Zealand police and spies look to be guilty of overkill the Waikato Times seems to be over-emphasising  the known Government role.

There should be a clear separation between policing and governing, and ironically most criticisms of John Key and his government have been that he has been too separated from the GCSB he has overall responsibility for.