The current wave of allegations against high profile figures, be it Weinstein or someone else, do not have as much to do with changing laws or protecting women, but rather more to do with money and attention.
Hollywood has always known about Harvey Weinstein. Film and television players on both sides of the camera remained quiet for the sake of their careers. Studio and network players are prohibited from speaking about private matters related to work, and violating a non-disclosure agreement is rarely a good idea.
Last year, Trump was an easy target for film industry types on Twitter, as railing against him was like picking on the dumbest kid in class. But with Weinstein, Hollywood isn’t tweeting the same amount of outrage.
This wave of sexual misconduct allegations at the celebrity level is a goldmine in the era of clickbait. It’s great that Weinstein’s victims have come forward, but let’s see where it goes.
What is it about this story that has created the fire we’re witnessing now?
Since the New York Times broke the Weinstein piece on October 5, high-profile entertainers, politicians, and journalists have either been fired, or they’re about to be. Senator Al Franken (D), Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, Charlie Rose, Glenn Thrush, Louis C.K., Roy Price, Brett Ratner, Michael Oreskes and Mark Halperin, to name a few, are scrambling, apologizing, and hiding.
A recent op-ed from UK journalist Owen Amos explained that when a person sues someone in Great Britain before media can print allegations, they need to be proven, which explains why the Jimmy Saville story didn’t break until after his death.
In 2014, American filmmaker Amy Berg released or tried to release, “An Open Secret,” a documentary exposing pedophilia in Hollywood. The film featured allegations against Bryan Singer, director of the multi-billion-dollar international franchise hit, “X-Men,” among other films. The documentary appeared on a few “Best Of” lists in 2015, but then it went away. Where was the sweeping outcry then?
Other industries remain mired in harassment issues without a media spotlight shining down on them. For women in the US agriculture industry, reporting sexual misconduct, especially for immigrants, is not the clickbait most readers respond to. Plus, most of the women in this industry don’t have Twitter accounts. Hashtags meant to serve as rallying cries for change have yet to emerge.
The PBS documentary series, Frontline, aired “Rape in the Fields” in 2013, four years before the Weinstein report. It didn’t go viral. Rape or sexual harassment stories at chicken plants do not generate the same kind of attention or advertising revenue.
“Hundreds of female agricultural workers have complained to the federal government about being raped and assaulted, verbally and physically harassed on the job, while law enforcement has done almost nothing to prosecute potential crimes,” said one report from the PBS episode.
In one case involving a fruit company, over two dozen women came forward with sexual harassment allegations against the same foreman. When their case went to trial, the jury ruled against them. The verdict didn’t go viral, but the foreman was fired by the company’s owners for “stealing money.”
South Korean actress Jang Jae-yeon was a rising star when she hung herself in 2009. She left behind a list of senior-level media professionals she allegedly was forced to sleep with during her brief career. Seven people from her list were eventually prosecuted.
For some, the celebrity allegations make up the latest hit reality show since last year’s US election. Interest will wane within a month, and something fresh and more compelling will emerge. None of the celebrity allegations will advance to a courtroom. This time next year, people will be talking about how great American films were in the 90’s, wondering whatever became of Harvey Weinstein. It’s always been this way. Bill Cosby couldn’t be any happier.