Justice for Harvey Weinstein?
The trial of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is charged with five counts of rape and predatory sexual assault, has become a cause célèbre for the #MeToo movement. When I speak of justice for Harvey Weinstein, I am not thinking of vigilante justice, mob justice, or moral comeuppance. I am referring to the concept of impartial justice, based on the principles of “due process” and “beyond a reasonable doubt,” conducted in an atmosphere of evidence-based fair procedure. My suspicion is that Weinstein will find himself judged in a kangaroo court fueled by moral outrage, irrelevant testimony, and the drive toward emotional sentencing.
To be clear, I have no qualms with describing Weinstein as a moral barbarian, an irredeemable narcissist, a sexual raptor, and a thoroughly reprehensible character. I have no sympathy for the man. Cathy Young called him “loathsome,” Tucker Carlson dissed him as a “creep,” Christina Hoff Sommers dubbed him a “monster,” Roger Simon branded him a “pig,” Andrea Widburg called him a “sociopathic brute,” and so on. Indeed, I know and know of quite a number of such people, some of them famous, and you do as well. But, all things being equal, one does not go to prison for being a douchebag.
Weinstein is accused of rape, a crime that must be punished in law. But the problem for the prosecution is that the evidence substantiating the ostensible crime is far from “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It seems that Weinstein abused his position as an influential movie producer, using his power in return for sexual favors. He exploited young women seeking careers in the Hollywood glitter world, but this is not a felony since these budding wannabes and actresses were free to reject his advances at any time. He made them an offer they could refuse. What actually took place seems to have been a long series of personal trade-offs in which both parties agreed to exploit one another for mutual gain: sex in one case, parts in movies in the other. Fair if sordid trade.
A brief, personal anecdote. Many years ago when I was first seeking employment at a teaching institute, I found myself in an embarrassing position. With a wife and young infant, my situation was rather pressing. I soon discovered that the job hinged on embarking on a sexual affair with the head of the department, a bossy, unattractive woman (shades of Weinstein) used to getting her own way. One can see the dilemma—providing for the family on the one hand, prostituting oneself on the other. I walked away, as any self-respecting person would, regardless of consequences. It was, as they say, a no-brainer. Perhaps the 19th-century American Transcendentalist Theodore Parker was right when he assured us that the moral arc “bends toward justice,” for I soon found another job, far less remunerative but adequate. I can’t see why the aspiring petitioners at Weinstein’s hotel room door could not have done likewise. Desire is not necessity. There is such a thing as personal integrity. And there are other jobs out there, even if they are not those one covets or prefers.
At any rate, the essential claim is that Weinstein forcibly assaulted his victims. But the evidence plainly shows that his supposed victims continued to seek him out, were seen convivially together with him in public during and after the time of the alleged assault, sent him friendly and affectionate emails, and failed to come forward until many years had passed.
Moreover, of the hundred or so women he is said to have molested, only two are at present facing him, both of whom had persisted in meeting, wishing to meet, and appealing to Weinstein in many different ways. A so-called “expert forensic psychiatrist,” Barbara Ziv, reportedly testified that continuing an intimate relationship with one’s assailant or even pretending that the atrocity never really happened is actually a coping behavior. These alleged victims, she argues, lie to themselves and others about the event—but we are, apparently, to believe they are not lying when they come forward even a decade later.
This is perfectly circular feminist logic. If a woman avoids her rapist, that makes sense. If a woman pursues her rapist, that also makes sense. If a victim persistently lies, then she will tell the truth. Win-win for the plaintiff. As Janice Fiamengo points out in a corrosive video on the Weinstein travesty, The #MeToo Trial of the Century—and I urge the reader to access it—“The fact that such empty theorizing as Ziv’s is now considered authoritative and is quoted with respect by pretty much every news source covering the trial gives us some indication of feminism’s terrifying success in the realm of psychological theory.” (Full disclosure: as some readers will be aware, Janice is my wife, but I can assure them there is no special pleading on my part.)
Let me go on record saying that I not only despise Weinstein’s squalid behavior; I also detest his pro forma, Hollywood-vetted leftist politics. Sexually, morally, and politically, Hollywood is a cesspool. There are only a few exceptions to the general rule. In one way or another, just about everyone seems complicit in discreditable behavior. But this is not what is at issue here. It is not only Weinstein who is being judged but also our judicial system. In my estimation, there is no credible case to be made for rape, which is precisely what the trial is attempting to establish. Despite photographs, tears, and panic attacks, the evidence manifestly does not rise to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” especially considering the email documentation attesting to the alleged victims constantly pursuing a sexual and affectionate relationship with him during and after the events in question, the lamentable Ziv notwithstanding. In addition, although corroborating witnesses may refer to Weinstein’s past behavior, this is not the issue that the trial is focusing on. There are only two plaintiffs and their depositions are problematic.
I suspect as well that the judge may fear that his career may be in jeopardy. Running counter to massive public sentiment, standing up to the media, defying the baying mob, and dealing with the case exclusively on its merits is hazardous to the health. One remembers the fate of Justice Aaron Persky in the Stanford University Brock Turner case, whose fair verdict predicated on law led to his being torn to shreds by a maenadic mob, eventuating in his recall, his loss of status and earnings, and his inability to find subsequent employment even as a tennis coach.
As Janice concludes her video exposé: “If we really care about seeing a loathsome predator get his just deserts, it would make sense to ensure that he is convicted in a fair trial. Whichever way things turn out for Weinstein, it’s not a great moment for American justice.”