October 11th, 2017

Weinstein unveiled: what the Farrow article reveals

Even though I’ve twice said that the Weinstein story fills me with a sense of exhaustion, I’m writing about it at least one more time—not because of Weinstein himself, but because of how much his tale says about the use of power and intimidation to instill fear and shame in some victims and potential victims, and how it can compromise other people to become confederates in that process. Since writing yesterday’s post on the subject, I’ve read the Ronan Farrow expose on Weinstein that appeared in The New Yorker, and I suggest you read it, too.

I think I may have an answer, or at least a partial answer, to the question of why this story came out now. Weinstein stories appeared almost simultaneously in both the New Yorker and the NY Times, with the latter article coming out first. Farrow himself has said that he’s been researching the Weinstein article for ten months. He first shopped it to NBC, where he’s employed, but they didn’t run it (read this for a discussion of why; the answer, at least according to that article, appears to have been intimidation and fear). After NBC wouldn’t run it, Farrow shopped it to the New Yorker and they decided to go with it. NBC says they declined it because it wasn’t well-sourced enough (it was a different and earlier version than was ultimately published in the New Yorker), but I very much doubt that was the reason. Farrow has also said that he was threatened with a lawsuit by Weinstein.

Farrow has a personal reason for relentlessly pursuing the story, and that personal reason’s name is Woody Allen. Allen didn’t just have sex with Ronan’s sister Soon-Yi when she had barely reached the age of legal majurity (he later married her), resulting in enormous family upheaval and estrangement, but Farrow’s sister Dylan has alleged that Allen sexually abused her (Dylan, that is) as a child. It’s no surprise that the Weinstein abuses—which Ronan Farrow, with his Hollywood connections, had to have heard about for quite some time—pressed a button for him. He’s a determined guy, and he wasn’t going to back off from this no matter who threatened him with a lawsuit.

As far as the Times story goes—I believe that the Times got wind of the Farrow story brewing, and they didn’t want to be scooped by Farrow and The New Yorker. So they got their own story together—somewhat more hurriedly—and ran with it. I also believe that Farrow may have been particularly good at getting the women to talk because of his own activism on behalf of his sister Dylan, and his understanding of the phenomenon of sexual abuse in situations in which there is a potential abuse of power.

There is also speculation that the person who turned Weinstein in to the Times was none other than Weinstein’s own brother:

Bob Weinstein, who co-founded The Weinstein Company with his brother and who currently serves as a board member, has reportedly been trying for years to unseat Harvey Weinstein as the sole head of the studio.

‘Bob’s wanted Harvey out for years,’ a former staffer told Page Six.

The source claimed that ‘the two brothers are becoming increasingly suspicious of each other.’

It has even been suggested that Bob Weinstein ‘may have even fed this story’ to the Times as a means of orchestrating Harvey Weinstein’s downfall…

A statement issued by four board members said that The Weinstein Company will be run in the meantime by Bob Weinstein and David Glasser, the president and COO.

I suppose it’s possible; it would certainly make a good movie plot. But I hold with my theory that it was Farrow who led the charge, and the Times that followed. I think that if Weinstein’s brother did feed information to the Times, it was probably because he smelled the blood in the water as a result of rumors that Farrow was getting the women to tell him their stories.

The Farrow article describes a repetitive pattern of behavior by Weinstein. The exact details differ in each of the cases, but Weinstein’s alleged modus operandi is similar in each. Get the woman alone—by subterfuge, if necessary. Touch her on a breast or other private place, and/or expose yourself. Ignore repeated “no’s” and keep on going. Sometimes force was not necessary. The woman’s isolation, the overwhelming size and strength of Weinstein, and the fear (either of an implied danger or through an explicit threat) of career repercussions and/or legal action and/or other forms of reputation assassination was enough to induce some women to surrender.

I say “surrender” rather than “agree” or “cooperate” because that is what it seems like to me. The women felt overpowered by a hostile force that could harm them greatly. Their “no’s” were completely ignored by the physically overpowering Weinstein, and they stopped saying “no” after a while because of increasing fear and hopelessness as well as shame.

This was not a playful domination game for them. This was the real thing, and the danger they felt was real as well. They were not on dates gone bad—they weren’t on dates at all. These were meetings for ostensible professional reasons, prior to Weinstein’s turning the tables on them.

As I was reading the article I realized that some of these accounts had the ring of familiarity. Because of my training, I’ve had to read a great deal of information about child abusers, and that’s what I started thinking about. These women were not children, of course, but they were uniformly young and new to the profession at the time of the assaults, and Weinstein held all the power cards, both physical and professional and in the realm of media and public relations as well.

Child abusers often choose certain children they see as particularly vulnerable in some way, and then they groom them by being nice to them so that by the time of the sexual advance the abuser knows how to coerce the child—either through flattery or threat or lies or whatever will do the trick. Legally, children cannot give consent, but they often surrender out of fear and/or confusion. The women Weinstein came on to were adults and could have given legal consent, but they felt a similar fear and confusion.

A different classic ploy of child abusers—in this case, those who approach children they’ve never met before—is to tell the child they’ve lost a puppy, and then to ask the child to help them look for it. A puppy! What could be more enticing? The child eagerly starts to assist in the search, and is led to an isolated spot where the assault occurs. In the accounts in the Farrow article, a meeting about a part in a movie was the puppy Weinstein held out to get the women into a compromising position (often through trickery in which the meeting started out including other people but ended up being just with Weinstein), and all the rest followed. In his case, though—unlike the child abusers—not only was the woman an adult, but there really was a puppy, at least in the metaphoric sense. The “puppy” was the movie role—and maybe other future movie roles, as well as fame and fortune—and the woman knew it. That puppy was what led the women to take an initial meeting with him, and then Weinstein used his tried and true methods of coercion mixed with fear afterwards.

There are differences in how far it went for each of the women Farrow interviewed. Some, like Mira Sorvino, successfully fended off his advances (she came up with a clever ploy to accomplish this). Sorvino believes she paid a price professionally as a result of her refusal, and I’m inclined to believe her. Some submitted one time and never again placed themselves in a position in which they were near Weinstein. One recent victim went to the police and later wore a wire in a talk with Weinstein (an audio has been made public). At least one of the Weinstein accusers, Asia Argento, later developed a consensual sexual relationship with him that seems to have been motivated in part by shame and resignation and in part by what he could do for her.

I think what was going on with Weinstein—in addition to the abuse of power to satisfy his own desires—was his ability to rationalize to himself what was happening. I think the following statement Weinstein is said to have made to a young woman named Emily Nestor, who was seeking a job on the production end of things, may express Weinstein’s way of changing his own internal narrative to salve whatever he might still possess that could be called a shred of a conscience:

In Nestor’s account of the exchange, Weinstein said, “Oh, the girls always say no. You know, ‘No, no.’ And then they have a beer or two and then they’re throwing themselves at me.” In a tone that Nestor described as “very weirdly proud,” Weinstein added “that he’d never had to do anything like Bill Cosby.” She assumed that he meant he’d never drugged a woman.

Weinstein may have thought himself so powerfully irresistible that no woman could actually say “no” to him and mean it. Or he may have been lying to Nestor, and the knowledge of doing something sexual to these women against their will was one of the things that most turned him on.

Rosanna Arquette is an actress who described an incident to Farrow in which she refused Weinstein’s advances. When he kept pressuring her, describing how he’d helped the careers of other women who’d given in, she reports having said to him, “I will never be that girl.” Arquette believes her career suffered as a result, and she kept silent out of fear that he would further harm her.

What causes one person to say “I will never be that girl”? And what causes others to become “that girl,” sometimes much against their better judgment? Inner strength, a sense of morality, courage, all those things we seek to instill in people are often sorely lacking or just aren’t powerful enough to overcome fear and/or ambition.

People who worked for Weinstein and who knew that he was arranging such meetings and in some cases helped him to do it weren’t sexually compromised themselves. But they were morally (and even spiritually) compromised. Farrow talked to some of them, too, and it seems to me that they have been feeling considerable amounts of guilt and shame, and saw talking to him as one small way to expiate at least some of their own guilt.

Who on earth thinks Weinstein is the only one? He may have gone further than most, but it isn’t for nothing that people say power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

[NOTE: For those who are curious, here was my take on the October 2016 disclosure of the Trump “pussy” remarks.]

19 Responses to “Weinstein unveiled: what the Farrow article reveals”

  1. zat Says:

    Allen didn’t just have sex with Ronan’s sister Soon-Yi when she had barely reached the age of legal majurity (he later married her), resulting in enormous family upheaval and estrangement, but Farrow’s sister Dylan has alleged…

    „Alleged“ means: it may be true (so says Dylan’s brother Ronan), it may be not true (so says Dylan’s brother Moses). If not, then Allen did just have sex with Ronan’s sister Soon-Yi when she had barely reached the age of legal majurity.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    zat:

    I am writing to explain Ronan’s motivation, and he most definitely believes the allegation is true. That’s the point of my bringing it up; it’s his point of view that concerns me here.

    But as for whether it actually is true or not, see this previous post of mine on the subject.

  3. zat Says:

    Thanks for the clarification and the links.

  4. Cornhead Says:

    Good for Ronan Farrow.

    Now that Harvey has been discredited, let’s discredit his political beliefs starting with global warming.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    The Weinstein affair just shows how horrible and corrupt the liberal establishment is starting with the media and ending with the politicians. The Clintons are Exhibit A.

  6. miklos000rosza Says:

    I want to know where the talent’s agent was in all this. Because the agent is generally like a father-figure or mother-figure to the talent (actor or actress) and every nuance of which way the wind is blowing is confided — there are no secrets here.

    To what extent would an agent pimp the talent to Harvey Weinstein, so that the actress knew very precisely what might be involved in a meeting with HW?

    I don’t trust Ronan Farrow here as any kind of objective observer one tiny bit.

  7. miklos000rosza Says:

    Ronan sees this as a career opportunity for him. He “wrote” (or had ghostwritten) an article vs Woody Allen that led directly to him getting his own MSNBC show — where he failed. He was terrible. He was tongue-tied, froze on camera, etc.

    Now he has another shot.

  8. TommyJay Says:

    I thought this story reeked of power politics from the beginning. And then there was Weinstein’s response that he is now going to commit himself to destroying the NRA. ??? What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

    Then I saw this.

    Rabbi Spero believes this is all about Weinstein’s support of Israel and their strong national defense. He had also intended to make a period film about the Nazi destruction of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto and its people, based on Leon Uris’ “Mila 18” book. The film would have emphasized the Jews lack of weapons.

    Could Weinstein have made an oblique comparison between Warsaw Jews fighting Nazis and Israel fighting Hamas etc.? Oh, the horrors!

    Rabbi Spero wonders if the NYTimes and others have been accumulating a “dossier” on Weinstein over the decades in the hopes of keeping him in line.

    So now Weinstein has been ousted from his company and can’t or won’t make his Mila 18 film. AND he will help take down the NRA, because self defense is not an individual right, dontcha know. It’s only the right of a well regulated community militia. (If that.)

    Couldn’t care less about what happens to a pig like Weinstein, BTW.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    miklos:

    I have little doubt that Ronan sees this as a potential career-making article that stands to benefit him personally. But I believe that’s only one of his motives. His other motive—and the thing that drives him the most—is outrage at what happened to his mother and his sister Dylan, and to the family in general, at the hands of Woody Allen, and at Allen’s shrugging it off and most of Hollywood’s shrugging it off.

    Also, Farrow did not make these stories about Weinstein up. He got people to go the record, names and all. I think their stories have the ring of truth, and I don’t necessarily reflexively think that with such stories. I’m well aware that false accusations sometimes occur. But I don’t think these are false.

    If you want to see how Ronan feels about Allen, see this from May, 2016:

    Being in the media as my sister’s story made headlines, and Woody Allen’s PR engine revved into action, gave me a window into just how potent the pressure can be to take the easy way out. Every day, colleagues at news organizations forwarded me the emails blasted out by Allen’s powerful publicist, who had years earlier orchestrated a robust publicity campaign to validate my father’s sexual relationship with another one of my siblings. Those emails featured talking points ready-made to be converted into stories, complete with validators on offer — therapists, lawyers, friends, anyone willing to label a young woman confronting a powerful man as crazy, coached, vindictive. At first, they linked to blogs, then to high-profile outlets repeating the talking points — a self-perpetuating spin machine.

    The open CC list on those emails revealed reporters at every major outlet with whom that publicist shared relationships — and mutual benefit, given her firm’s starry client list, from Will Smith to Meryl Streep. Reporters on the receiving end of this kind of PR blitz have to wonder if deviating from the talking points might jeopardize their access to all the other A-list clients.

    In fact, when my sister first decided to speak out, she had gone to multiple newspapers — most wouldn’t touch her story. An editor at the Los Angeles Times sought to publish her letter with an accompanying, deeply fact-checked timeline of events, but his bosses killed it before it ran. The editor called me, distraught, since I’d written for them in the past. There were too many relationships at stake. It was too hot for them. He fought hard for it. (Reached by The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Times said the decision not to publish was made by the Opinion editors.)

    When The New York Times ultimately ran my sister’s story in 2014, it gave her 936 words online, embedded in an article with careful caveats. Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and advocate for victims of sexual abuse, put it on his blog.

    Soon afterward, the Times gave her alleged attacker twice the space — and prime position in the print edition, with no caveats or surrounding context. It was a stark reminder of how differently our press treats vulnerable accusers and powerful men who stand accused.

    There’s more, but you get the idea.

    I have virtually no doubt that this was Ronan’s main motivation. In fact, it may have been not long after that that he hatched the idea of being the reporter who broke the Weinstein story, about which he’d probably already heard rumors. This was very very personal for him. Part of the piece from 2016 that I didn’t quote mentioned that he felt bad because he hadn’t pushed the Cosby story when he had a chance.

    In addition, I confess I have a soft spot in my heart for Ronan because of this quip he tweeted in response to the report that he might be Frank Sinatra’s son.

  10. Ann Says:

    Possibly, Ronan could also have been influenced by this — Woody Hits Bull’s-Eye at Miramax: After being shunned by Hollywood over a domestic scandal, the writer-director has struck a deal with the company to release his film ‘Bullets Over Broadway’:

    While Allen was shunned by Hollywood’s movie community after his highly publicized courtroom war with Farrow last year, as well as his affair with her oldest adopted daughter, it’s no surprise he would team with an unconventional company like the New York-based Miramax, which is in his own back yard and is run by the scrappy brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

    “Shunned by Hollywood means nothing to Miramax. We’re talking about a comic genius,” Harvey Weinstein said Thursday. “Chaplin was shunned by Hollywood; so were a great many other international filmmakers, including Fellini–and those are the people who belong with Miramax.”

  11. miklos000rosza Says:

    neo —

    You’re probably right and I’ve been too hard on Ronan Farrow. I had a bad reaction when I first saw him on MSNBC. I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan, and I objected to the central conceit of ‘Manhattan” (a beautiful 16 yr old madly in love with the much older, homely nebbish) and didn’t even like “Annie Hall.”

    It’s an irrational aversion, unfair to Ronan, and I should just wait and see. I once, by the way, had an interaction with Mia in which we got along very well and she did not to the tiniest degree play the star. It’s Ronan Farrow’s looks and how he talks.

    So I have an irrational factor prejudicing me.

  12. Lizzy Says:

    Good analogy that this was like child abuse. After reading Farrow’s article it was appalling to see this shrugged off as regular ol’ casting couch shenanigans, such as was portrayed in “Bowfinger” (where Heather Graham’s character keeps, er, rising up the Hollywood power ladder). The interesting thing will be if the Hollywood pedophiles are outed next. Maybe Farrow can set his sights on that…

  13. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    If I’m reading the timeline correctly, Mr. Farrow started digging into Weinstein’s past shortly after the 2016 elections.

    I can only wonder what people would have said, had revelations like these become public before the election…

    (Yes, I know. Hillary would have had one more person to blame for losing the election.)

  14. theduchessofkitty Says:

    Neo,

    Re: Ronan’s tweet.

    No one can ever tell how many of the 77 Baby Boomers were conceived while an LP of Frank Sinatra’s was being played on the RCA player in the background.

  15. theduchessofkitty Says:

    77 million, I mean. Silly me!

  16. Ymar Sakar Says:

    This isn’t even half of what goes on at Hollywood people. And for those that have been reading my comments, they can probably infer what else is going on.

  17. Jim Kearney Says:

    Excellent insights into the mind of Weinstein, and the minds of those who he abused. Adults can, out of need become like children when their careers which also define their identities of success or failure. Young actors have often tied up their identities with whether they are making it or not. Their survival needs and ego needs leave them vulnerable to a powerful Weinstein who can deny or grant them anything. AND, it may also give insight into the rampant virtue signaling and projection of Hollywood type abuse onto a Donald Trump, and the need to seem virtuous in other areas to cover up their own complicit shame and guilt.

  18. John Smith Says:

    I am not a big fan of Woody Allen, but there are some important facts that seem to have been left out of this discussion.

    1. Soon-Yi is not Farrow’s biological sister, but an adopted sister. She was never adopted by WA.

    2. Mia Farrow was never married to WA. They never even lived together.

    3. In 1969, Mia herself was the younger woman who broke up a marriage; she became pregnant with twins by André Previn.

    4. Barely legal is still legal. WA and Soon-Yi got married in 1997 and are still married.

    5. Soon-Yi is on record as having enthusiastically pursued WA:

    Soon-Yi issued her own statement to Newsweek, asserting her independence, savaging Mia, and declaring, “I’m not a retarded little underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather—not by a long shot. I’m a psychology major at college who fell for a man who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Mia.” Soon-Yi declared in writing exactly what Woody had said, that Mia would have been just as upset if he had slept with “another actress or his secretary.”

    6. MF’s response was to call SY retarded:

    Mia’s family were astounded by the statement. “Soon-Yi doesn’t know half those words, what they mean,” one close to them said. Equally astonished was Audrey Seiger, who has a doctorate in learning and reading disabilities and had spent hundreds of hours tutoring Soon-Yi from the sixth grade all the way through high school. When Soon-Yi was in the third grade, her I.Q. tested as slightly below average. She went to Seiger with “very deprived early language development, which carried on throughout the years.” Seiger and Soon-Yi became close, and Soon-Yi worked very hard. “She’s a very typical L.D. kid, very socially inappropriate, very, very naïve,” says Seiger, who is deeply worried about Soon-Yi today. “She has trouble processing information, trouble understanding language on an inferential level. She’s very, very literal and flat in how she interprets what she sees and how she interprets things socially. She misinterprets situations.”

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    John Smith:

    No one said Mia Farrow is a model of rectitude. She certainly was a marriage-wrecker in her younger days. But that’s a far cry from what Woody Allen did; I don’t think there’s much of a comparison. Mia never took up sexually with a young quasi-stepson, for example, and she never molested a child.

    As for the “molested a child” part, please see this. I think the evidence is very strong that it’s not a false accusation, as you may see if you read the history there.

    Also, in that post, pay attention to the story about the photographs.

    Also see this.

    Woody Allen never adopted Soon-Yi (even if he’d wanted to , he couldn’t have, because she already had a living father). But he had a child with her mother (that child is Ronan, unless you believe the Frank Sinatra story), and he adopted a child with her as well (Dylan, whom he is alleged to have molested, and who I think he did molest, and with whom he had documented and witnessed-by-others inappropriate behavior). Woody and Mia were a couple for many years, with a family (and two children they co-parented), although they never married. When he took up with Soon-Yi it was a profound betrayal to the entire family, including his own children (such as Ronan!), a betrayal Woody has not only never acknowledged but which he doesn’t seem to understand as a concept.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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