Abuses of Power: Notes on Harvey Weinstein

Enough is enough.

This should not be about politics, or not in the way we’ve come to define politics. This is not an issue of left or right. This is about abuse, about misuse and abuse of power, about what essentially amounts to violence, to rape.

Harvey Weinstein, the hyper-powerful Hollywood producer, is like too many other men in authority. That he’s contributed thousands to liberal candidates and causes, that he’s helped raise money from others for those same candidates, is unfortunate, though not surprising. But Weinstein’s despicable behavior is not about liberal politics or the Democrats any more than Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly’s abusive behavior were about Republicans or conservatives. It is about power, privilege, a cultural readiness to accept a “boys will be boys” excuse that robs women of their agency, that turns them into passive players without a say is the desires of men.

And we are talking about mostly wealthy white men. Yes, black athletes have been protected from prosecution, for the most part, but not because they have power. Their protection derives from the power of their bosses, the team owners who make the rules and can make or break a player’s reputation and career.

Ray Rice, the Ravens running back, became the center of a storm a few years ago when a video tape surfaced of him punching his wife and knocking her out in an elevator in Atlantic City. He initially received a two-game suspension, but then was banned for the season. Had he still been a top runner — and had there not been a tape — he likely would have kept his job. The tape and his diminishing skills made him a liability for the league, costing him the protection of his bosses. I say this because the league’s sexual assault policy was changed only after the Rice tape surfaced, and because there still are numerous players in the NFL who have been accused of sexual assault but continue to play because they can contribute enough on the field to offset their off-the-field costs.

White men of power do get punished, but usually only after years of abuse come to light. Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman, was shamed from office after he sent sexually explicit photos via Twitter. But he apologized, his wife standing by his side, and made an attempt to revive his career with a mayoral run that was taken seriously — until further pictures and new allegations surfaced, including several that finally landed him in jail.

Bill O’Reilly thrived at Fox despite evidence of abusive behavior toward women, until Ailes was forced out (with a massive golden parachute) and O’Reilly’s transgressions became too numerous to ignore. And yet, he remains an important voice on the right, his name continuing to help sell shoddy but popular books of history and raking in money by selling subscriptions to his website.

Second and third chances abound for these creeps, their power and wealth insulating them from the repercussions others might face — assuming, of course, that women are listened to, which is not always the case.

But instead of talking about how Weinstein’s power and privilege (wealthy white male) insulated him from not just the accusations but also from the kind of public gossip that could have ended his reign much earlier, the right is focused on Weinstein’s association with Democrats, using it as a political cudgel and ignoring the fact that their party’s de facto leader, President Donald Trump, is an admitted predator himself, a fact that we knew before Nov. 5, 2016, and which did not stop his supporters from turning out in enough numbers to carry him to the White House.

This should not be a partisan issue. There is enough culpability to spread around. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, have all been willing to overlook these abuses of power when convenient. Institutions like the films and music industries, Fortune 500 companies, the media, sports, politics — all have excused abusive behavior until they couldn’t.

Addressing this requires a different kind of politics than we’ve grown accustomed to, a politics that reaches beyond party labels and focuses on the way powerful institutions and people use their power. We need to state unequivocally that we, as a society, as a body politic, will not accept abuses of the powerless by the powerful. Men, of course, need to stop behaving badly, but we also need to acknowledge the power imbalances that encourage bad behavior in the first place. Whites need to acknowledge that the same imbalances distort race relations in the United States, leaving black Americans prone to abuse by government, by police, by business. The same goes for our treatment of all minorities.

Until we address these inequities of wealth and power, women will continue to be victimized by people like Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, African Americans will continue to be targeted by police departments, Mexican immigrants and Muslims will remain under suspicion, and workers will continue to have their limited power erased.

We have to look beyond individuals like Weinstein and address this as the systemic problem it is. The excuses must end. As I said, enough is enough.

Hank Kalet is a poet, essayist and journalist in New Jersey. Email,; blog,; Twitter, @newspoet41 and @kaletjournalism; Instagram, @kaletwrites;

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2017

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