We’re Shocked! The New York Times’s embarrassing coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal

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Photo Credit: David Shankbone

I don’t know what I find more disturbing, the fact that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is yet another Hollywood pig producer who leveraged his power to coerce sexual favors from women; or the galling faux-outrage exhibited in the New York Times’ coverage of the matter.

And who does the Times think its kidding with its reporting on this sordid affair, especially in covering up its own failures to honestly report on Weinstein — not coincidentally a major Democratic Party donor — while blaming other media outlets for missing the tale?

In the Times first big story about the case (see more below) it said that Weinstein’s appalling behavior stretched back “over nearly three decades.” We read about him pressuring women to look at his naked, droopy pink Play-Doh ass, give him massages, watch him bathe and other creepy shit that no one should ever be subjected to.

Of course, this sort of debauchery has been going on literally forever in Hollywood. From the beginning, when the original California studios were constructed in an orange grove agricultural town, the modus operandi has been chronic, cool lawbreaking.

Thomas Edison, who was a prick, had a habit of hiring thugs to rough up people who broke his patents and then burn down the houses of said patent violators (just ask a guy named Tesla about it). So when a bunch of bohemians, theater rejects, queers, and Jews figured out how to break his cinema camera and projection technology patents, they did the smartest thing possible: put a whole continent between his New Jersey laboratories and their new studios.

In such circumstances, inappropriate sexual behavior is not just likely, it’s a law of nature. Charlie Chaplin for instance was infamous for impregnating teenagers on a semi-regular basis, to the point that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had him exiled to Switzerland. Hoover said he had political reasons but, in hindsight, we all know his secret files were generally his own little erotic reading stash. Hollywood has been a neurotic sexual disaster ever since. (To read all about early Tinsel Town debauchery and corruption, read Kenneth Anger’s wonderful book Hollywood Babylon.)

The Times‘s first big story about the now unfolding scandal ran under the bold headline, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” It followed up with a terrible piece by the always insufferable Jim Rutenberg, titled “Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers.”

The latter predictably blamed other media outlets for failing to write about Weinstein’s predations, while pretending, more or less, that the Times itself was innocent because Hollywood is on the West Coast, making it supposedly too far away for the newspaper to cover. Rutenberg wrote:

Now that the New York Times has put together a stomach-turning chronicle of alleged sexual harassment by the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — complete with brave, on-the-record statements from, among others, the actress Ashley Judd — we’re hearing a lot about how the story of his misconduct was “the worst-kept secret” in Hollywood and New York. But until now, no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.

Anyone counting at this point is thinking “nearly three decades” is, like, the late ’80s, right? Like at the earliest 1987.

Where was the Times all these years? Because back then Weinstein was still at Miramax, when it was making a killing as a New York-based independent film distributor, and he and his company were regularly praised in the Times pages. So please Rutenberg and other Times reporters, spare us the Mr. Innocent pose.

Here’s some important context. In yonder days of ye olde VCR, Bob and Harvey Weinstein ran Miramax and had a significant corner on the market for independent film talent. Back then, their hip and trendy appeal, which media outlets like the Times helped polish, was partly based on the fact that they were outsiders, doing their thing in New York, not like those rich industry sell-outs in Hollywood. (How ’80s punk rock can you get?).

The routine was fairly straightforward. A filmmaker would put together a piece of garbage they said was the crown diadem of cinema history. They’d bring it to someplace like the Independent Feature Film Market or another such hip New York City film festival. Miramax or a competitor would buy the film, slap together a promotional package on its front end, and maybe even throw it into rotation at Sundance or Cannes, along with some hyperbolic twaddle on the poster about why this film was so astoundingly different from the rest of the offerings.

And all the while, in the front row, for “nearly three decades,” one New York Times film critic or another had a front row seat that allowed him/her to go slumming by night amongst the peons while escorted by Weinstein or some other Miramax executive to a film premiere or other flashy event.

I’ve been to a New York press junket for a movie. It’s a lot of gossip and posturing around overpriced food at some trendy restaurant in SoHo. The idea that at least one cub reporter at Times Square never knew that Harvey Weinstein was a pig is the most fucking absurd thing you could possibly say to someone who has ever been to a New York junket.

Here are two quotes from the story that explain everything:

Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him. Only a handful said they ever confronted him… In speaking out about her hotel episode, [Ashley] Judd said in a recent interview, ‘Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.’

In public, he presents himself as a liberal lion… A longtime Democratic donor, he hosted a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton in his Manhattan home last year. He employed Malia Obama, the oldest daughter of former President Barack Obama, as an intern this year, and recently helped endow a faculty chair at Rutgers University in Gloria Steinem’s name.

The number of women who continued to be subjected to Weinstein’s pig shit can be laid partly at the feet of a Gray Lady that has been nothing more than a newsletter of Wall Street Democrats for decades. It could have written this story years ago and didn’t because it would not have gone down well with the reliable Hollywood donor class that funds the Democratic Party and is also a key segment of the newspaper’s shrinking core demographic.

  • paulalexander

    God damn this is fantastic! And not only is Hollywood Babylon a terrific book, it’s very obviously in a lot of respects a guiding light for Washington Babylon, both the book (very obviously) and this website.

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