Since it broke I have been struggling to understand the Harvey Weinstein story. It struck me as just another jerk being a jerk. Further, being in Southern California my career has crossed paths with “The Industry” on several occasions. The industry can be divided in half between the workers and the talent/executives. Workers are great people. On the talent/executive level it is an industry largely driven by egos – giant, enormous, out-sized egos. There are exceptions, of course, but those egos are the rule. Sometimes those egos are controlled and sometimes they are not. That an uncontrolled ego with the resources Weinstein has at his disposal would do the things that have been discussed is unremarkable to me – in fact I would expect it.
The cover-up of Weinstein’s behavior is harder to understand. But then I got thinking about it – the cover-up is about more than money. There are two things at stake that help this whole picture come into focus. For one thing the entertainment industry is really the only culture-shaping force left. They have obtained that status by forcing competitive forces out or brought them to heel. They have brought education to heel by incorporating their product into education. They simply have declared religion the enemy and have been incredibly aggressive in pursuing that battle. The Weinstein scandal threatens that position. Secondly, the worldview they have developed, in part to provide them a standing place in opposition to religion, believes that people are essentially good. Thus, they think Weinstein “made a mistake,” not to be repeated, rather than think he is the monster that is now being revealed. The existence of someone like Weinstein in their midst negates some of their most fundamental beliefs. This is something people will delude themselves about rather than face, not to mention mislead others.
Consider Jim Geraghty this morning:
Why do Trump’s fights with pop cultural figures like professional athletes and late-night hosts and ESPN commentators get so much more attention than, say, his fight with the mayor of San Juan? Because as a whole, the American public cares more about celebrities than the mayor of San Juan. Trump alone among Republican presidential candidates was a figure of the world prime-time television, reality shows, People magazine, TMZ, Page Six. Most of the rest of the candidates wasted their pre-campaign careers working in governor’s mansions and the U.S. Senate and studying government; Trump studied America’s celebrity culture. He was the only presidential candidate who had already hung out with the Kardashians.
The celebrity/entertainment culture is now THE predominate force in our nation. In his Monday column, Patrick Buchanan attributed much of the loyalty Trump enjoys to his willingness to tackle this predominate culture force, but I tend to think Trump is as much part of it as he is opposed to it. Not to mention, Trump fights battles with them on the most superficial grounds. NFL players standing for the National Anthem surely gets the appearance and symbolism right, but I wonder if anyone’s mind will actually be changed by forcing them to do so? Their actions are, even by their own admissions, purely symbolic. The problem is not the expression, but the perception/thought/idea that leads to the expression. But regardless, the Trump phenomena is evidence of the suffocating nature of the entertainment industry as a cultural force.
Would you want to give that up? However, that said, properly played, the Weinstein scandal could be played to their advantage. They are, after all, experts at communication. Which is why the second factor I mentioned is really the important one.
The hardest thing there is about being a Christian is figuring out why we need Jesus to begin with. It means facing our shortcomings. It means coming to terms with the fact that there is someone remarkably like Harvey Weinstein in each of us and it is only God’s grace that prevents us from becoming such. Even if you never thought nor even dreamed of the sorts of behavior that has been seen from Weinstein, there is something in you equally monstrous. Maybe you have never really had to face it. Maybe God’s grace grabbed you at a point in life where such revolting tendencies never had a chance to show themselves, but they are there. Once you understand that, you come to understand that the reason behind the Weinstein cover-up is because he is a mirror. He is not exceptional, save in his ordinariness.
Nobody wants to face the monster in themselves so nobody really wants to see Harvey Weinstein – that’s how he got away with it for all these years.
That also explains how entertainment came to be such a dominate cultural force. They have been feeding us a worldview that tells us we are not monsters. They have allowed us to hide from ourselves for a very long time now. They have provided us with “bread and circuses” that not only keep us complacent, but reinforce our desire to delude ourselves about our own nature.
We live in extremely turbulent times. There are two ways to view them. One is that things are crashing in on us. It certainly has that feel. Natural disaster piled on human disaster, piled on monstrous behavior from the seemingly admirable and in cases like Las Vegas the unexplainable.
But there is another way to look at these troubled times. They are a necessary difficulty. It is the pain we have to go through to realize how far off course we have gone. It is the prelude to course correction.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The times we are experiencing are no fun, but they are revelatory. Let us resolve to embrace the revelation with joy – and from there move towards perfection and completeness.