November 4th, 2017

The Spacey protection pattern

The accusations against Kevin Spacey follow a certain pattern, one of attempted unwanted seductions, some so overt as to be harassment and non-violent assaults. A great deal of it seems to have been in the context of drinking, which doesn’t excuse it at all but probably is an indication of a drinking problem, too. I get the impression of a closeted gay man fighting the idea that he’s gay, but drinking quite a bit and taking advantage of the lowered inhibitions involved with drinking to make passes at any youngish man he saw as gay or possibly gay or willing to have a gay encounter.

Some of this behavior merely amounted to propositioning people. Some of it was worse, such as grabbing for their (clothed) genitals, or lying next to them or on top of them while they were sleeping. Some involved underage teenagers, but many involved young adults. But two things strike me about this. The first is how repetitive and compulsive it seems to have been. The second is how he managed to keep the secret all these years.

Perhaps that later phenomenon is the strangest of all. You’d think that, as a closeted gay person, Spacey would have a greater fear of being outed. But he never was, until Harvey Weinstein was accused and the MeToo campaign got started. Suddenly, it became okay to accuse famous and powerful Hollywood figures.

In all these matters it’s also possible that some of the accusations are lies, people piling on. In this case I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of that, although I can’t swear to it. If it’s all or even mostly true, one of the things Spacey apparently counted on was the fact that he was in the closet. From the article:

In the early 2000s, a journalist, then in his early twenties, interviewed Kevin Spacey in London for a national magazine, he told BuzzFeed News…

The interview, which took place at Spacey’s office at the Old Vic theater, went fine. “He was charming and doing impressions of Jack Lemmon and so on,” he said. Then Spacey invited him to go out with some friends for some drinks. Almost immediately after they arrived at the club, he said, Spacey began aggressively groping him…[[what follows is a lengthy description]…

When the journalist returned home, he said he told his editor immediately about his encounter with Spacey. (The editor confirmed this account to BuzzFeed News.)

…He said that he was astonished by Spacey’s behavior during the encounter because he was a journalist, and what “he’s not realizing is that I can f—ing hang him.” But in the days that followed, the reporter was hit with another realization: Sharing his account would out Spacey as gay.

“I consider that a pretty important principle: You don’t out people,” he said. “But it tied my hands. If I were to publish a story about Kevin Spacey sexually harassing me on the job … there’s no way without making it quite clear that he likes guys.”…

…”Being closeted has for him enabled him to use this privacy claim as a shield against anybody looking closely at his actual behavior. And then it may have served as this strange, protective mechanism, to say, ‘My whole sexual life is off limits because of my sexuality.'”

Well, I don’t think he’s alleging that Spacey actually said that. The reaction, and the decision, was all in the mind of the journalist. I find it interesting that he considered outing a gay man against his will to be a greater offense than keeping mum about his own sexual harassment at that man’s hands (literally at his hands) and facilitating future behavior of the same sort.

I’m not saying it was an easy decision either way. It sounds as though it was a horrible situation and a dilemma—like one of those hypotheticals that teachers give you to write an essay about on an exam in an ethics course. But it seems to me that once someone is doing that sort of thing to random people in a bar, the question of outing is secondary to the question of calling him on his behavior.

No one was doing Spacey any favors, either, by covering up for him. Just for starters, an intervention about his drinking might have been a good idea.

I can understand why young aspiring actors might have personal reasons for not outing Spacey. After all, he was a powerful man in the business (at the time of this interview, for example, he was director of the Old Vic) and he could hurt them in their careers in two ways: keep them from getting jobs and also out them as gay, if in fact they were. But journalists?

18 Responses to “The Spacey protection pattern”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    When you are famous you can grab them by the …..

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Cornhead:

    Touché!

  3. F Says:

    Another good analysis, Neo. And an interesting framing of the dilemma: to out or not to out?

    I cannot remember where we were in terms of national attitudes toward gays in the early 2000s, when this article appeared. My gut instinct is that we had come pretty far and Spacey would not have suffered from such outing. For one thing, he was already pretty well established, and for another, he was in the theater, which (I think) was open-minded about homosexuality.

    Which makes me wonder if the writer was protecting himself more than Spacey.

    File this (if you care, which I really don’t) under “Things we’ll probably know.”

  4. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The homos in the Vatican and elsewhere used the reverse trick. They blamed it on their priest powers and protections. It made it easier for their Leftist handlers as they didn’t have to target homosexuality.

    Or perhaps that was the decision of the trial lawyers that made off with 70+% of the profit in damages.

  5. Frog Says:

    Reminds me of Salem Witch trials.
    No evidence whatsoever.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    The trouble with nearly all sexual harassment allegations is that there almost never is any evidence for them, whether they are true or whether they are false. This is very disturbing, but it’s the case. There’s no way around it.

    The reporter here (if his editor is telling the truth), however, apparently reported to his editor what Spacey had done to him the day after it happened, and asked to be taken off the assignment. This tends to indicate that it’s true. But yes, there is absolutely no way to know.

    That’s true of Weinstein, too, and just about all those accused. We do have some evidence for Weinstein, however, because one of his accusers went to the NYC police and then wore a wire (I believe it was in 2015). He said some things that arguably incriminate him, but even then it’s not 100% clear.

    In both cases (Weinstein, Spacey), my gut feeling is that the bulk of the accusations are true, although I would never say I am sure of it and I think it’s always important to be cautious.

  7. delta6 Says:

    imho, much if not most of the factor involved here is that this subject has been (maybe still?) even more ‘political’ than it it was/is ‘personal’.
    It was simply a politically ‘Liberal’ No-No to out a gay person who was living a public Life as being straight – particularly in such self-enclosed ‘industries’ as Hollywood, show-biz, fashion, etc.
    Indeed, the entire subject of sexual behavior was laissez-faire. This Harvey horror only went public because all-of-a-sudden the ‘Feminist’ politics became more critical than the Liberal attitude toward sexuality and Harvey was already disliked for other reasons. I’d say the male-on-male end of that stuff is still mostly buried and may well remain mostly so. Meanwhile we hear a stream of female ‘verbal rape’ stories from 25 years ago and scandalous behavior by wheel-chair ex-presidents

  8. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    For the last decade or so, until it ceased very abruptly a week ago, no less than 3 or 4 times per year, each year, I would be approached by complete strangers and asked if I were aware that I have “a Kevin Spacey thing going on” – or some variant of those words.

    I had heard of Spacey, of course, as a popular actor and more recently as a bona fide star playing a convincing and alpha POTUS, no less, in House of Cards.

    On each of these occasions the internal monologue in my head proceeded as follows: “hmmm.. not the most classically handsome of men, but accomplished and renowned for playing an alpha – so I ‘ll take that”;

    Occasionally over the years what I took to be other well-meaning strangers would throw into the mix of my alleged doppelgangers Bruce Willis, (“the Die Hard Alpha – I’ll take that”) and less often, Nick Cage – (“off-beat looking, sure, but can still carry an action movie… I’ll take that”) – so overall I have been feeling quite chuffed these last ten years.

    Anyway, when this Spacey thing blew up last week I really took notice for the first time of the photos of Spacey appearing in the press.

    An unpleasant niggling and the seeds of a most unwelcome thought thereupon descended to threaten my (inflated) ego and to send me scampering immediately for photos of Messrs Willis and Cage.

    Oh what a cruel epiphany! Imagine my disappointment when, with photos in hand, I emerged from the fog of self-delusion to confront the ugly truth that it wasn’t my presumed leading-man “alpha-ness” that had turned the heads of complete strangers all these years: but the receding hairline!

    As the real POTUS might say: “Sad, so sad”. But I had a good run – and what I have is still its natural blonde. I choose to believe that it is better to have it fall out before it goes grey.

  9. MollyNH Says:

    Steve if you can’t readily see Spacey’s toupee, it’s time to get those eyes checked 😉

  10. Caedmon Says:

    Yes, it is rather like a problem form an ethics exam, so let’s reframe it slightly:

    I am a young British journalist and I go to interview a celebrated crime novelist. After the interview she invites me to join her for a drink. During her second gin and tonic it emerges she is not keen on immigration, and during her third some of her remarks are definitely coloured by racial prejudice.

    What to do? This was private conversation not an interview, yet she knows I am a journalist who is going to write about her. Do I ruin her, while getting a much bigger story for myself, or shall I be discreet?

  11. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    Thanks, Molly.

    I fear that, as well as my life-long short-sightedness, I may be on my way to developing “Spacey-pattern-baldness”

  12. MollyNH Says:

    Lol, Steve

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Stephen Ippolito:

    I always liked Spacey’s looks, and his acting too.

    He was one of the few actors today I thought was interesting, and he did GREAT impressions.

    Troubled souls can be talented. He seems to be one. I really think the guy absolutely must stop drinking, and then some of this behavior may get under control. Because it seems he’s been way out of control for a long time. What a mess.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Caedmon:

    I see little resemblance between the two hypotheticals in terms of the ethical dilemma involved.

    Your hypothetical has to do with (left-defined) thoughtcrime. This need not be reported because it harms no one. The Spacey incident wasn’t about his being gay (which certainly did not need to be reported), it was about acts of unwarranted sexual harassment and even actions that would be considered minor sexual assault. These are grounds for prosecution, either civil or perhaps criminal in the case of the latter. It is also pretty clear that, since the reporter unequivocally conveyed the idea that the touchings were unwanted by him, that one could conclude that Spacey was doing this to other people.

    Thoughts and acts are very very different, are treated differently under the law, and there is a very different ethical duty involved.

  15. The Other Chuck Says:

    I see echoes of Oscar Wilde in this. Of his flamboyant excesses he said:

    “It’s not whether I did it or not that’s important, but whether people believed I did it.

    Eventually they believed it, with tragic results for Wilde.

  16. Gordon Says:

    The reporter was willing to cover for Spacey because Spacey has the right opinions. If Spacey were a brilliant actor, impressionist, director of the Old Vic and star of a hit TV show, and a conservative, this would have been seen by the reporter as His Chance To Show The World What a Monster That Fascist Kevin Spacey Is.

    Note how Harvey’s first reaction to the public charges was to tell us that he was going to take on the NRA and Win! and thus burnish his credentials of having the correct opinions. And then all would be forgiven.

  17. TommyJay Says:

    There’s a few interesting points here taken out of order.

    Was the journalist off the record at the time he was groped? Clearly the interview was over. It may not sound like much to us, but I think it is rare that a journalist reneges on such a claim.
    ________

    Not speaking from personal experience, I think the gay community can put into two groups. Those that engage in PnP and those that don’t. Party and Play refers to crowds, loud music, lots of drugs; and lots of indiscriminant sex. I think there is an element of this in the Spacey allegations.
    ________

    The dynamic between Spacey and the journalist reminds me of the film “Almost Famous.” The stars are wary of journalists because the salacious sells. But they need the journalist to inflate their public persona and make them look cool. So an effective means to this end is to bring the journalist inside their inner circle and into their parties.

    The mentor to the very young music journalist in the film says:

    “You CANNOT make friends with the rock stars.”

    “And they’ll buy you drinks, you’ll meet girls, they’ll try to fly you places for free, offer you drugs… I know. It sounds great. But they are not your friends.”

    Later in the film the mentor says:

    “Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.”

    “My advice to you. I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.”

  18. AesopFan Says:

    “I find it interesting that he considered outing a gay man against his will to be a greater offense than keeping mum about his own sexual harassment at that man’s hands (literally at his hands) and facilitating future behavior of the same sort.

    …But it seems to me that once someone is doing that sort of thing to random people in a bar, the question of outing is secondary to the question of calling him on his behavior.”
    * * *
    This though underlies much of the unethical behavior of people-in-groups. I’m specifically reminded of the hospitals, clinics, and other doctors who allowed incompetent, even deadly, practitioners to continue because calling them out (and culling them out) would “reflect badly” on the institution that was seen as more important than the victims.

    Another example is the horrifying degree to which people will allow criminal and often despicable behavior by Muslims (Rotherham) or illegal-immigrants-committing-felonies, because prosecuting / stopping them would be “Islamophobic” or “uncompassionate” — the perpetrator-group, again, being deemed more important than the victims.

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