On open secrets, cover-ups and systemic denial

Late in 2015 Best Picture winner “Spotlight,” which details The Boston Globe’s 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning report on systemic pedophilia in the Catholic Church, editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) remarks that everyone in Boston already seems to know the story, except the reporters themselves.

In the weeks following The New York Times’ disturbing revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who now stands accused of using his position to sexually intimidate or abuse more than 40 women, the news has turned to questions of a cover-up. Legal experts told the Associated Press that it was “highly implausible” that The Weinstein Company board of governors didn’t know about Weinstein’s out-of-court settlements, and Weinstein’s personal lawyer, David Boies, whose firm represented both TWC and Weinstein’s old studio Miramax, has said that the company was aware of at least a handful of the payouts as far back as September 2015.

Dozens of celebrities have described his behavior as an “open secret.” Warnings from Courtney Love in 2005 and a joke from Seth MacFarlane in 2013 that he’s now saying wasn’t meant in jest have gotten the most play, and prominent actresses are saying they had been warned about Weinstein from the beginning of their careers. Twitter has been alight with actors saying they are shocked and disgusted by the producer’s alleged behavior.

So it was an open secret that Hollywood starlets were warned about their entire careers, but also insiders are shocked and disgusted by these out-of-nowhere revelations.

Someone’s lying.  

While the focus is and should be on the cover-up and Weinstein’s active accomplices, no possible cover-up could function without the systemic denial of the people around the issue. A lot of people made the choice to keep their mouths shut about this, and I find it highly implausible that this is the only thing they’re keeping their mouths shut about. Even within all the hand-wringing about the end of this sort of behavior, we’re still seeing the systemic denial that enabled Weinstein for so long.

We need to see unprompted accusations against any Harvey Weinsteins that remain at large. We need to see an Academy that is less afraid of becoming an inquisitional court than it is of enabling sexual predation by tip-toeing around the issue. We need to see the world’s trendsetters prioritize their dignity, and the dignity of however many other victims their silence creates, over their careers, even if that means risking it all.

Until then, wealthy and powerful men sexually abusing everyone they can get within arm’s reach of and then using their wealth and power to cover their tracks will remain a completely normal fact of life.

Not because of any cover-up. After all, this wasn’t covered up — it was an open secret.

Because of accusations that are either taken as a joke or deliberately delivered as one.

Because of stars who were in the know all along, but only spoke up after the Times’ exposé.

Because no matter how vociferously and by how many people Weinstein is denounced, this scandal affirms to wealth-based serial rapists that victims’ silence can still be bought with money or favor, and the industry they’re entrenched in still won’t turn on them until a major newspaper can do what it takes to break through, a process that in this case took more than a decade.  

Because everyone seems to have already known the story, except for the reporters themselves.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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4 Responses to On open secrets, cover-ups and systemic denial

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