So George Clooney apparently had no idea that Harvey Weinstein was a serial sexual pervert and also maybe a rapist. Perhaps he is telling the truth, though I am tempted to think that Clooney may be just a bit wiser than the numerous other Hollywood celebrities who have confessed that, yes, they knew about Weinstein’s degenerate sexual behavior for years, but they didn’t say anything because he was basically the Emperor Xerxes of Hollywood. It’s not a good look when you admit to having known for upwards of several decades that one of the great power players in the modern film industry is a nasty little pervo. Generally you’re supposed to, you know, say something about that kind of stuff.
That nobody did up until very recently is a tremendously sad commentary on the ultimately pathetic nature of the entertainment industry, a profession which—more so than most, it would seem—compels people to keep their traps shut in order to advance their own careers. As the Times notes, when propositioned by him in his bedroom, Ashley Judd’s impulse was to wonder: “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” (“There’s a lot on the line,” she told the Times, citing “the cachet that came with Miramax.”) Were she being propositioned by a random weirdo rather than a powerful mogul, it is doubtful that Judd would have taken the time to worry about her career before getting out of the room as fast as possible. (Judd believes that this kind of observation is “victim-blaming,” which is a weird argument: it is hard to square “victimhood,” after all, with the kind of cynical professional strategizing Judd exhibited by her own admission.) Rose McGowan also allegedly suffered harassment at Weinstein’s hands a few decades ago, for which she apparently accepted a hundred grand in hush money. Jessica Chastain claims that “the stories were everywhere” and that she was “warned from the beginning.” Matt Damon and Russel Crowe, meanwhile, allegedly helped squash an exposé about Weinstein in the Times back in 2004. And Tina Fey was cracking wise about Weinstein’s sexual perversity on 30 Rock back in 2012.
Plenty of people knew—probably most people knew, even George Clooney, who is likely just thinking about that congressional bid he’s hoping to mount in 2022. Lurid stories like this are never not-known; they’re just not-talked-about, at least not in any way that could effect any real meaningful change. And this is a masterful exegesis on the craven, opportunistic politics of Hollywood liberalism. Everyone is very happy to debase, mock, slander and criticize the President of the United States for, in part, his pathological mistreatment of women—but nobody will speak out against a temperamental pervert film exec for doing the same thing for decades. As Meryl Streep put it, he supported “good and worthy causes.” What’s a little weaponized masturbation among Democrats?
This ultimately isn’t a partisan thing; it is much more serious than that, and more elemental, and more damning of Hollywood elites than even their stupid liberal political biases. If you’re a low-level key grip’s assistant who’s just starting to work her way up the ladder, maybe you think your best option is to just smile politely at Harvey Weinstein’s ding-dong advances, excuse yourself from the room, and keep your trap shut. But Ashley Judd, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Tina Fey—these are all very powerful, very wealthy people, the kind of folks who, materially speaking, have nothing to lose by exposing the nasty little criminal habits of a nasty little criminal man. If Weinstein’s exploits were so well-known, it would not have been difficult in the slightest for half a dozen moneyed and well-connected celebrities to coordinate a thorough exposé a decade prior to this. Even if the effort ultimately failed, no great loss: you might get blacklisted from those coke parties in Redondo Beach, but you’ve still got fifty million sitting in the bank, and you went out on a high moral note.
But maybe the coke parties and the red carpets and the good reviews in the Chicago Tribune were what really mattered. Maybe these men and women did stop to think about going public about Harvey the Pervert, but then it occurred to them: “I really like my life the way it is now. I don’t want to mess anything up.” Truthfully, one can understand this impulse. But impulses are no substitute for honest thinking. Five minutes’ worth of private deliberation should have been enough. That it wasn’t—that everyone kept silent on such a momentous problem for so long—shows that the desire to be part of the action, on the right side of the in-group, is simply too much for many people to resist, even Hollywood movie starts (maybe especially them). Early career ambitions are no excuse for staying silent in the face of wickedness, but they are, at least from a brutally practical perspective, understandable. Once you’re on top, however, there is no way to justify it—except by the spineless and opportunistic standards of Hollywood, a place which looks the other way and allows men like Harvey Weinstein to thrive.