The news about film executive Harvey Weinstein, accused by numerous women of sexual harassment and even assault, is being portrayed in part as a political story. There are a couple of obvious reasons for this. One is he’s a prolific donor and fund-raiser for Democratic candidates and causes, and there’s always a certain amount of “gotcha” by the other side when such a person falls from grace. (The Democratic National Committee’s brazenly self-interested move to part with but a fraction of what Weinstein gave it, with even that going to organizations that try to elect Democrats, won’t help the party turn the page.)
Another reason is denizens of Hollywood have long been vocal and self-righteous about their political beliefs, but perhaps never more so than today, from their disdain for Donald Trump to their views on guns, Planned Parenthood and more. It’s hard to hold one’s community up as having “the best moral compass” — as Weinstein himself did in 2009, while arguing on behalf of convicted child rapist Roman Polanski — and then concede Weinstein’s history of sexual assault and harassment was a poorly kept secret within the industry.
But the best reason to consider this a political story is the adage from the late right-wing provocateur, Andrew Breitbart, that politics is downstream from culture.
One cannot bemoan our lousy politics without recognizing the rottenness of the culture which enables it, and the moral bankruptcy of those like Weinstein (and his protectors) who have done so much to shape our culture. Our coarse, violent, libertine culture.
It is such a culture that elects as representatives some of the creepiest crawlers from our local bogs, decries their new habitat as a swamp, and then sends the biggest bull gator of them all to “drain” it.
It is no coincidence Trump, the man so many Hollywood types detest, came from the same world as Weinstein. Remember: When is it, according to Trump, that women “let you … do anything,” even “grab them by the” — well, you know?
“When you’re a star.”
Why does Hollywood hate Trump so much? Maybe it’s in part because, like Weinstein, he reveals it as every bit as hypocritical as the political world he now inhabits.
Drain the swamp? We’re all living in the swamp.
Here, you might expect me to blame liberalism for today’s culture. That’s too easy. Less self-evident is that conservatives have largely abandoned this space to the left.
We haven’t lost the culture war so much as failed to engage. Oh, we fight about abortion, the line between church and state, and so on, but that’s not what I mean. Those fights are best understood as desperate attempts to stave off the terms of a defeat already suffered, to regulate a culture we failed to shape.
How have we failed? By taking an approach at turns neglectful, incompetent and ham-handed. We too often ignore the shaping of culture — in essence, story-telling. When we stop neglecting it, we tend to do it badly. Then we warn people not to consume what little we have to offer, labeling it as overtly as possible as a “conservative” or, sometimes, “Christian” film, book, etc.
Half of the market won’t give it a look because they know it’s essentially propaganda. Half of the rest will turn away because they know it’s going to be bad; see the point about incompetence. All it does for everyone else is reinforce their isolation. (One might say the same thing about news media, the main cultural arena in which conservatives have actually tried to fight it out in the marketplace.)
When conservatives despair of how to turn the tide in a culture that feels hostile toward them, one important answer is to engage in that struggle to shape the culture. It is a struggle over the very soul of this nation. And as Harvey Weinstein reminds us, it is a struggle in which the other side doesn’t own the moral high ground.