There is a saying that my friend Bushka quotes on occasion: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is part of a quote attributed to John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
This seems to be quite true, at least in most cases, as can be witnessed in many, many places and situations today. But one in particular stands out today, for the headlines have screamed the name Harvey Weinstein over the past few days. Who, then, is Harvey Weinstein?
According to Wikipedia …
“Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and film studio executive. He is best known as co-founder of Miramax, which produced several popular independent films including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Crying Game, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. He and his brother Bob have been co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company, their film production company, since 2005. He won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love, and garnered seven Tony Awards for producing a variety of winning plays and musicals, including The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical, and August: Osage County.”
But that does not tell us who Harvey Weinstein is, nor why he is in the news. Turns out that ol’ Harvey is not a very nice man. On October 5, 2017, Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment by a number of women, including Ashley Judd. In a statement to the New York Times, he said, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”
Some twenty years ago, Judd recalls Weinstein invited her to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what she expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower. In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked.
An investigation by the New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.
One of Weinstein’s attorneys, Lisa Bloom, minimizes the situation, saying he’s just “an old dinosaur learning new ways,” and said she had “explained to him that due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating.”
Why does it matter, apart from the obvious, that it is wrong? It matters because Weinstein is just another in a long string of media moguls who seem to believe that women are a lower, sub-species of human placed on earth only for men’s pleasure. It matters because it is an abuse of power, one that you and I pay for every time we watch Fox News or a film produced by one of Weinstein’s companies. It matters because too many do not take this abuse of power, abuse of women seriously.
On Fox Network alone, there have been Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Shine, Jesse Waters, and Charles Payne. Men in a position of power, holding women hostage if they want to keep their jobs. The Times investigation found accusations of sexual harassment going back decades, and at least eight cases where Weinstein had paid settlements to women. When the story broke on Thursday, at least three members of the Board of Directors resigned, and angry employees are demanding swift action. Mr. Weinstein will be taking an indefinite leave of absence and will seek psychiatric counseling.
Weinstein’s atrocities spread their tentacles far and wide, even touching members of the U.S. Congress who have received donations from Weinstein. Four such members, Senators Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts each said they would transfer money to charity in amounts equal to donations they had received from Mr. Weinstein. Others say they will follow suit.
What gives these men the idea that they can sexually harass women? Power. Greed. Money. And a sense of entitlement, perhaps, because somewhere deep down, they still believe that men are superior and have the right to dominate women. This is becoming a cultural norm, at least in the entertainment industry, but also in other venues, I would bet. It needs to stop, but will it? The person at the top of the food chain in this nation is one who has indirectly given a green light for this behaviour by his own treatment of women and comments he has made denigrating women for all to hear.
Just last month, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, said she will ‘re-write’ the rules on sexual assault on college campuses to protect the assaulter as well as the victim. Excuse me, but this is not the direction we need to go! Remember the case of Brock Turner, the Stanford University student who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman on campus? He served three months in jail. Thus far, Mr. Weinstein has not seen the inside of a jail cell, and I am betting he never will, just as Ailes did not and O’Reilly and the rest will not. He will pay more settlements, likely out of court, and it will not matter to him, for he has money to burn — $150 million, according to Forbes. Sexual harrasment is against the law, but that particular law is not taken seriously. It is brushed aside with the attitude of “oh, well, boys will be boys”.
Power. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Think about it.