When a decent old stiff such as Mitt Romney talks earnestly about looking for suitable female job candidates and clumsily distills the effort into the phrase "binders full of women", all the smart sophisticated types jump on it and make it a punchline for an antiquated condescension that only confirms how irredeemably misogynist the GOP is.
By contrast, when Harvey Weinstein corners a TV reporter in the corridor of his restaurant and forces her to watch as he unzips his pants, masturbates, and finally concludes the performance by ejaculating into a pot plant, all you hear, from a couple of larger leaves round the back of the plant, are drenched crickets chirping. Three decades of crickets chirping.
"Binders full of women": what an appalling sentiment!
"Stand there and shut up while I masturbate in your general direction": well, say what you like but Harvey has always supported, as Meryl Streep noted today, "good and worthy causes" - like the Hillary campaign.
Not so long ago, picking up a Golden Globe for her turn as Mrs Thatcher, Meryl was happy to salute Harvey Weinstein as God, notwithstanding that the previous occupant of that position was famously antipathetic to the sin of Onan, with or without attendant shrubbery. Harvey, more modestly, saw himself as the ""f**ing sheriff of this f**king lawless piece-of-s**t town". So, when he pounded the crap out of some journalist on a city sidewalk, a hundred cameras snapped, but, mysteriously, not a single photograph saw the light of day. When a junior reporter at The New York Times noticed that the head of Miramax Italy was a guy who knew nothing about movies but was paid 400 grand a year to procure broads for Weinstein, Matt Damon and (alas) Russell Crowe personally called her to talk her out of pursuing the story (subsequently gutted by an editor). As recently as this weekend's "Saturday Night Live", Lorne Michaels, head honcho of the world's most cobwebbed edgy comedy show, declined to address the Weinstein controversy, presumably in case Harvey was merely temporarily hors de combat and a week or two hence was minded to beat Lorne up, too.
Possibly Lorne, Matt and Russell have Harvey's name tattooed on their butts. Dame Judi Dench, who played Queen Victoria in another upscale Oscar-bait Weinstein production, does - and she's happy to lower her knickers and show it to you. Or she was, until Sunday. Maybe, all over town, Hollywood A-listers are frantically booking emergency removals of their Weinstein tramp-stamps.
Harvey thought those "good and worthy causes" would come through for him again. In response to the disclosure that he had attempted to force Ashley Judd into joining him in the shower, he announced that "I've decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. " Sure, that seems an even longer shot than Wayne would attempt, but why wouldn't it work? Twenty years ago, Time's Nina Burleigh said of Harvey's pal Bill Clinton, "I would be happy to give him a bl**job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs." If the chicks'll swallow that, why wouldn't Ashley Judd be lining up to give him an assisted shower for regulating bump stocks? Happy the land in which a "semi-automatic" means Harvey reflexively dropping his trousers when a comely reporter enters the room.
Why do Mitt's binders full of women outrage liberal sensibilities but not Harvey's pot plants full of semen?
Well, in the old days, the bourgeoisie expected bourgeois values throughout society. The wealthy and powerful disdained them, but discreetly. Now they disdain them openly. Indeed, they wage war on them, relentlessly. Instead, they enforce "progressive" values. Institutions fundamental to the nation-state, such as citizenship, have to be rendered meaningless - so that what matters in any immigration debate is not the citizens but the invaders, to the point where Nancy Pelosi thanks the parents of "Dreamers" for breaking American law and bringing them here, as a precious gift to a nation crying out for even more low-skilled immigrants. As for institutions that pre-date the nation-state - institutions almost as old as humanity - they're as easy to redefine, so that marriage can no longer be confined to those of opposite sexes. Speaking of the sexes, human biology can be vaporized, so that two sexes become 57 genders, and grade-school boys more interested in Barbie than GI Joe get to be pumped full of puberty blockers and directed to the girls' bathroom. And after all that, religion has to be put on the back foot, so that any recalcitrant mom'n'pop bakery for whom two men atop a wedding cake is an abomination, must be hunted down, dragged into court and financially ruined pour encourager les autres. And in a revolutionary present it is necessary ultimately to throttle the past - eliminating Robert E Lee, Christopher Columbus, Dr Seuss, Stephen Foster, the national anthem, to dam up the stream of history, the flow of past to present to future, and thus sever the citizenry from their entire inheritance, so that we are mere flotsam and jetsam on the frothing surface of the moment - a world where, in a certain sense, Harvey Weinstein is God.
What's left? The military? Sports? The boy scouts? Traditionally masculine institutions are now among the most cowed and craven and politically correct - far more so than, say, a Weinstein junket to the Cannes Film Festival. Country music? Hey, if that's your bag, don't come crying to CBS vice-presidents when your yee-haw hoedown gets shot up - because "country music fans often are Republican gun toters". So you got what was coming. (In fact, the 58 dead in Las Vegas were overwhelmingly from "blue" states plus a couple of Canadian provinces; over half were from California. But so what? As that network veep sees it, that's what you get for going country when country isn't cool.)
The contempt is not always that explicit, but it's ever present. Increasingly in America all the real divisions seem less like political differences - left/right, progressive/conservative, big government/small government - and more like class indicators: Those Who Matter vs Not Our Kind Of People. Poor Hispanics give Nancy Pelosi a warm fluffy sense of her own virtue and moral superiority (as long as they keep their distance, and we ramp up security next time those Dreamers try to rush the stage), whereas poor whites are just a bunch of yahoos. A touch of #BlackLivesMatter in an awards-show dance routine is edgy and radical (as long as the actual BLM types are on the far horizon torching some other guy's neighborhood), whereas upcountry losers ODing on oxycontin and heroin is hicky and depressing. Transgender bathrooms is a modish boutique issue with an appealing exotic frisson, whereas Christian florists ...whoa, who the hell would trust evangelicals with your centerpiece anyway? What's up with that?
Those on the receiving end discern this contempt - even without careless Tweeters making it explicit and rejoicing in dead country-music fans. Indeed, the palpable, remorseless condescension of the elites was as responsible for Donald Trump's victory as anything else. And, on the evidence of the last eleven months, it's likely to be equally responsible for his 2020 victory. But they can't help it - because, again, it's a class thing: Trump is rich, but insufficiently refined for Meryl et al.
Amid the condescension, there are contradictions. So a century-old statue of someone dead a hundred and fifty years who does not conform to the identity-group pieties of 2017 must be torn down - whereas an actual flesh-and-blood human being who does not conform to the identity-group pieties of 2017 can stagger around Hollywood and New York and London and Rome treating women like garbage.
And, more specifically, I see from this week's Multiplex releases that Hollywood is so exquisitely sensitive that, when it options a novel called The Chinaman, it feels obliged to change it to the far more insipid The Foreigner, lest any, er, man from China take offense at the word "Chinaman". Is that a Weinstein movie? Did he modify the title? "Geez, we can't call it The Chinaman, are you crazy? Gimme a minute, I'll think of something - I'm just finishing up with a Chinabroad from the Shanghai accounts department..."
Once upon a time, the elites chafed under middle-class morality, and found sly workarounds for their darker appetites. Then came liberation. And in the ruins of bourgeois society a new moral hierarchy arose: Dreamers trump citizens, sexual identity trumps religious faith, female empowerment trumps the manly virtues...
And yet, as the case of Harvey Weinstein suggests, in the end nothing much has changed: As the old elite declined to be constrained by middle-class morality, the new elite decline to be constrained by their own purported morality. In the end, it's still about who has power, and who is disposable. As Lee Smith points out, the truth about Weinstein is only in the papers because Hillary lost. Were President Rodham in the Oval Office, this story could not run - because the First Gentleman has done everything and more that their longtime donor has done.
But then Hillary's very candidacy makes the same point as Harvey's drenched pot plant - for, if Democrats believed their own pap about "glass ceilings", they would have found an Angela Merkel or Helle Thorning-Schmidt or Theresa May or Julia Gillard or Helen Clark or Portia Simpson-Miller, rather than nominating not merely the wife of a former president (which is pure banana republic) but the creepy enabler of the most sociopathic exerciser of droit du seigneur in the modern era (which is even more pathetic). And, as the cherry on top, they saddled her with a slogan that sounds like a pledge of solidarity with sexual-assault victims - "I'm With Her" - but is, in fact, the precise opposite: I'm with Hillary, and Hillary's with Meryl, and Meryl's with Harvey, and Harvey's with that gal from the TV station in the corridor to the kitchen, but once he's zipped up and returned to the fundraiser, he'll be with Hillary, too.
As a female-empowerment story, the Clinton candidacy was a joke. All Harvey Weinstein has done is provide an ugly but apt punchline. Rim shot - straight into the pot plant.
~Tomorrow Mark will be hosting another audio edition of our Clubland Q&A, taking your questions live around the planet on the theme of this column - the assault on bourgeois values and the toppling of those societal pillars that support them. We hope you'll join him - at 4pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, which is 1pm Pacific, 9pm in the British Isles, 10pm in Europe, 11pm in the Middle East, the wee small hours in Asia, an early breakfast in Oz, and a somewhat more civilized hour of Wednesday morning for our Kiwi and Pacific listeners.
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