Thursday, October 26, 2017

Game Change

Mark Halperin--co-author of the book Game Change--is now being accused by five women of sexual harassment. The Omnivore doesn't know too much about the guy but he's a pretty big name in political reporting.

Forget about that: According to this, George H.W. Bush declared his favorite magician to be "David Cop-a-Feel" and groped a woman's bottom.

The Omnivore says: What the fuck?

It is not--or, at least, should not be shocking that this sort of thing happens--but that an 80+ year old ex-president is using what might be the world's least classy "pick up line" to grope from his wheel-chair is a level of ridiculousness that exceeds The Omnivore's expectations.

Please know that The Omnivore's expectations go pretty high. It takes a lot to shock him--but David-Cop-A-Feel clears the bar easily. That's before you throw in the wheelchair.

What's Going On?

It appears that the age of being quiet about sexual harassment by powerful men is over--Cosby escaped--but he might be the last one. Clearly there is sufficient momentum right now to air these accusations--and women are more willing to back each other up. It's also noteworthy that while Bill O'Rilely blamed God for the "lies", George H.W. Bush apologized for his actions.

In other words: it doesn't all seem to be made up. In fact, given that Bill-O shelled out 32 million bucks, it doesn't really look like any of it is made up.

Essentially, if we look at the headlines over the past year or so, it looks like we've crossed an inflection point of silence to talkin'.

The Ramifications?

The obvious ramification is that some people are gonna get their careers hit--pretty hard, it looks like--maybe fatally. The public's view of this looks akin to the change on drunk driving when it went from something you did because you were a cool dude who could handle his liquor to something you didn't do because you weren't an asshole.

Are there any other ramifications? Maybe.

  1. The Omnivore considers that in some organizations--for some women--there was, in fact, an "exchange of value." Now, it was non-consensual--coerced by the men in power exploiting their victims--but in terms of the net-net, is it possible that landing a lead role in a movie was "worth it"? Did anyone think like that? Was there a channel of ambition that this behavior created that some people exploited? Maybe.
  2. The Omnivore does not think that these claims are false--not now--not yet--but in the future could this be weaponized? Sure it could. Get five women with a decent spread of interaction--work up a story. Have them all tell it. Or threaten to tell it--and extract money. This sort of thing violates the rules of keeping secrets (one, two, by three people it's no longer a secret). It also would require a good roll-out and some decent acting. Remember--there has to be no visible collusion before the allegations. The blackmail has to be done without any traces (unrecorded voice conversations). There has to be interactions without other people present. The Omnivore thinks this is unlikely to be put together--but are we going to reach the age of VP Pence's "never dine alone with a non-wife-woman"? Maybe.
  3. How deep will the initial blow go? The Omnivore didn't see Halprin or Bush coming. The Omnivore, on the other hand, wasn't terribly surprised by Weinstein (the "casting couch" was coined to describe exactly this, after all). However, if this is more rampant than we think it is, could we see a deluge of people being credibly accused? How does this impact politicians? Entertainers? Professionals? Could we see a kind of "extinction event" in some sectors (Hollywood!)?
  4. Does this make women leadership more valuable? Women seem to be less likely to sexually harass than men--or, if it happens, at least it has a different cultural valence to it. If you are trying to protect your company do you prize women at higher levels because they are less likely to abuse their power in this case?

Some Parting Thoughts

There is a case to be made that Social Justice-style cultural changes are coming fast--maybe "too fast." (don't read too much into that--the 'too' just kind of refers to the elasticity of the culture's ability to absorb shifts--if changes happen "too fast" we have more chaos and disruption than if they happen slowly). If this isn't just a blip and is more of a cultural change it'll be a sign that something really has shifted--and that's noteworthy because we don't see that all that often.


  1. And yet Trump coasts along. When will this cultural change hit him, or is his batshit crazy schtick enough to keep him insulated. Sad.

    1. Alternative thesis: The difference between Cosby (got off) and the new guys IS Trump. He sailed through and women were like "fuck--no more!"


  2. But it's playing out like 'fuck-no more, except we'll overlook the fat bald guy in the whitehouse this time'. Maybe the morale outrage from the widespread sexual harassment will double back to Trump at some point and be more lethal for the trip it took.

  3. As the Omnivore notes, false accusations of sexual harassment could very well be weaponized; this is nearly always the case where some socially-undesirable behavior is judged to be so "radioactive" that the mere accusation of it can do immense harm to its target. This gives rise to a powerful temptation to use the mechanism of the law to exact revenge on disliked people in a fairly low-risk way. Now, this is not to diminish the recent spate of allegations in any way; even if one believed it unlikely that all of the accusers were telling the truth, it seems far less likely that none of them were. And if even one-tenth of what's been published is true, the conclusion seems inescapable that Weinstein, Cosby, Toback, O'Reilly et al have committed multiple felonies and consequently belong in prison.

    The Omnivore's right: there's a significant danger that illicit collusion might result in a rush to judgement and "conviction in the court of public opinion". It's easy to convince people that "where there's smoke there's fire" - but then, manufacturing that "smoke" is a lot easier than people think. Of course victims' rights matter and deserve protection, but, considering the stakes, the rights of the accused matter more than ever in cases like this.

    Some have suggested amending the criminal code such that a provably false allegation of a crime results in the punishment for that crime being inflicted upon the accuser. I'm no legal scholar, and don't know whether something like that might be practical, or whether it would have any real deterrent value.

    And as far as DJT is concerned: I don't recall the exact transcript of that infamous Access Hollywood segment and don't care to look it up, but did Trump admit to having actually committed sexual assault, or merely brag in the past subjunctive about how his celebrity status would have allowed him to get away with it, had he chosen to do so? If the former, why then let's lock him up! (See what I did there?). If the latter, he's merely an asshole.

    A yuge one.

    -- Ω