Interlude—Possible hint of a brilliant disguise: Finally, there's someone to admire in the wide-ranging discussion of Harvey Weinstein's decades of misconduct.
That person is Sarah Polley, the actress and writer/director who wrote an essay about the matter in Sunday's New York Times.
Polley's essay is unusually intelligent throughout. But our respect for Polley turned to admiration fairly late in her piece.
Earlier, Polley had described an unpleasant encounter she had with Weinsten when she was just 19. As she neared the end of her piece, she added a type of confession:
POLLEY (10/15/17): Harvey Weinstein may be the central-casting version of a Hollywood predator, but he was just one festering pustule in a diseased industry. The only thing that shocked most people in the film industry about the Harvey Weinstein story was that suddenly, for some reason, people seemed to care. That knowledge alone allowed a lot of us to breathe for the first time in ages.To a person, the analysts cheered.
Here is an unsettling problem that I am left with now: Like so many, I knew about him. And not just from my comparatively tame meeting with him. For years, I heard the horrible stories that are now chilling so many people to their core. Like so many, I didn’t know what to do with all of it. I’ve grown up in this industry, surrounded by predatory behavior, and the idea of making people care about it seemed as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky.
In the previous week, they had seen an array of players finesse the question of whether they had known about Weinstein's decades of misconduct. By way of contrast, Polley said that she had known about Weinstein. And she hadn't just known in some general or anodyne way.
"For years," Polley says she heard the stories about Weinstein. And she hadn't just heard some array of tame, murky stories. She had heard "the horrible stories" concerning which people suddenly, "for some reason," suddenly seem to care.
Like many others, she didn't act on what she knew, in part for perfectly sensible reasons. That said, Polley described her own failure to act as "an unsettling problem." In our view, her admission of knowledge and her statement of regret are the marks of a person with an active conscience. So is an insightful statement which got dropped from her text in the hard-copy Times:
"This [film] industry doesn’t tend to attract the most gentle and principled among us," Polley was willing to say at an early point in her piece. Keep that thought in mind.
Sarah Polley was willing to say that she had heard "the horrible stories." Elsewhere, attempts to sidestep, avoid or finesse this question seemed to come early and often.
For our money, the Morning Joe program was especially shameless in its repeated attempts to reinvent Mika Brzezinski as a courageous culture-war hero with respect to Weinstein's misconduct. As Mika, a star of Weinstein Books, lodged her non-denial denials, the Morning Joe gang seemed to be working from script.
We have no idea of Mika knew, but her program's journalism was utterly bogus, suspect. That said, others sidestepped this question too, and not just with respect to Weinstein's behavior. At yesterday's Washington Post, a code of silence was in effect when Kathleen Parker insulted her readers' intelligence concerning a similar, earlier matter—the behavior of Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly at the Fox News Channel.
According to Parker, Greta Van Susteren certainly didn't know about that conduct when she was earning those millions of dollars over at Fox! According to Parker, this fact qualifies as "obvious." After all, that's what Greta has said!
PARKER (10/15/17): Ailes, of course, left the company he created two weeks after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment. They reached a settlement amount of $20 million, and he died soon thereafter. Justice doesn’t get any plainer than that. O’Reilly left the same company after revelations that he had settled with five women who accused him of sexual harassment, although the dethroned king of cable news has said the claims had no merit.Over at Fox, many people knew about what Ailes and O'Reilly were doing, or at least so Parker suspects. But according to Parker, it's "obvious" that Greta didn't know. To Parker, this fact is "obvious" because Greta has said so again. She said so again just last week!
Moreover, “everyone” sorta knew about these men, at least by reputation and rumor. Not everyone [knew], obviously. Greta Van Susteren, who left Fox News soon after Ailes, told me again on Thursday that she never had any idea what was going on. But many did, apparently, and they looked away, including some of the alleged victims, who kept silent for fear of retribution or, perhaps, because they were ultimately willing to suffer humiliation in exchange for advancement. This seems an obvious, if painful, truth.
It's obvious Greta didn't know because Greta has said so? Your intelligence and decency are being insulted when a fully competent journalist hands you such manifest nonsense.
That said, codes of silence—guild protection rackets—are widespread within the upper-end press corps, which, like the film industry, may not, through the size of its rewards, always attract and produce the best people. We think of the time when Rachel Maddow also vouched and covered for Greta, back when Greta split from Fox and took her talents to The One True Liberal Channel.
Did Greta Van Susteren know about Ailes and O'Reilly's conduct? We have no earthly idea.
That said, we do know this: for four long and guesome years, she knew all about Donald J. Trump's birtherism. Indeed, she served as Trump's main enabler, as his caddie, as he became the king of the nation's birthers.
Through 2015, Greta Van Susteren played dumb for Trump concerning his birtherism. But so what? When Greta brought her talents to MSNBC, Rachel vouched for Greta intensely.
We should all watch Greta's program, the cable star told us gullible liberals. Greta wasn't just a fabulous journalist, we were told. She was also Rachel's drinking buddy and her bestest best friend!
Why did Rachel say those things? We can't answer that question. That said, we've long suggested that Rachel's laughing, joking on-air persona may perhaps and possibly be a bit of a brilliant disguise.
In the October 9 New Yorker, Janet Malcolm described that brilliant disguise—but she approves of the on-air practice, which she admiringly describes as Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure."
Is Maddow cloaked in a brilliant disguise when she performs her "sleight of hand" every night—that is to say, in "her performance of the Rachel figure?" Next question:
Is it possible that "cable news," like Hollywood, may not necessarily "attract the most principled among us?"
In our view, our nation's journalistic and political culture have collapsed beneath the weight of these questions, perhaps beyond the point of repair. For that reason, as the world turns, crashes and burns, we'll discuss those questions all week.
Janet Malcolm says she's mesmerized by Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." What in the world is she talking about?
We'll start with the baby poop.
Tomorrow: "Baby-poop-colored cannisters" and "the Rachel figure"
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