If hypocrisy were a greenhouse gas, the ice caps would be gone by now.
Let’s start with the obvious: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein wasn’t fired for being a pig, he was fired for being exposed as one. The Weinstein Co. board members probably didn’t know everything, but they surely knew enough. The only relevant “new revelation” was public outcry.
The New York Times, which broke the story, knew what was going on long before the publication date, too. Former Times reporter Sharon Waxman claims she had the goods on Weinstein in 2004. The Times “gutted” the piece after Weinstein, who was not just a Hollywood player and political rainmaker but also a major advertiser, visited the paper “to make his displeasure known,” Waxman said. Now some at the paper are denouncing the media’s long silence about Weinstein, even though it was part of the problem for years. Still, they’re heroic in this story compared with everyone else.
Consider Hollywood itself. If God punished hypocrisy with lightning bolts, that town would be in smoldering ruins. Even as various insiders condemned Weinstein, they admitted that his alleged wrongdoing had long been an “open secret.”
Why didn’t they speak up earlier? Perhaps because attacking Weinstein had downsides, while attacking, say, Donald Trump promised only rewards.
At last month’s Emmys, the stars of “9 to 5” – an old feminist-lite flick about sexual harassment in the workplace – reunited. “Back in 1980, in that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” explained Jane Fonda.
“And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” Lily Tomlin added.
The crowd roared with approval. Take that, Trump!
How many people in that room knew about Weinstein? How many refused to speak up – even after he was fired? “Saturday Night Live” went silent when it came to Weinstein. “It’s a New York thing,” executive producer Lorne Michaels explained.
So far, many right-wing readers are probably nodding along to this column. Well, stop. If you never spoke up about Trump, or if you responded to those accusations with a dismissive, “What about Bill Clinton?” you should probably just sit this one out.
Because if you decry piggish behavior only when it helps your side, or if you think accusers are telling the truth only when they speak up about people you hate – or don’t need professionally – then you don’t actually care about sexual harassment.
Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com reported this week that Weinstein had visited the Obama White House 13 times. The horror! This is the same Bannon who insists that the first and greatest test of loyalty to Trump was whether you supported him after the “Access Hollywood” video was released.
I can’t wait for Sean Hannity to ask Bill O’Reilly – ousted from Fox for his crude sexual behavior – to opine on the latest news about those pervs in Hollyweird.
It may be that liberals Weinstein, Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby together have a worse rap sheet than Trump, ousted Fox News head Roger Ailes and O’Reilly. But, my God, who cares?
Is it the new standard of the tribalized right that so long as “our” guys don’t sink to the lowest standards of “their” guys, it’s OK?
Is the rule for the left that you can be a personal and professional pig so long as your public politics are correct? I still remember Gloria Steinem dismissing Bill Clinton’s exploits, leading wags to proclaim a “one free grope rule.” No wonder Weinstein thought he could buy off Hollywood by promising to attack the National Rifle Association.
That brings me to the one group that has understandably been spared any criticism at all: the victims. I don’t condemn their silence when young and powerless. But there’s a real problem: Many stayed silent for decades, happily pocketing money from people they were willing to denounce only after it was safe – or even profitable – to do so.
That hypocrisy may be the most dangerous, because it sends the signal to young women that such compromises pay off and you can buy indulgences after you’re successful. That’s not a message I want my teenage daughter to hear.
Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @JonahNRO. Copyright, Tribune Media Services Inc.