The ever-eloquent Christopher Hitchens, in his memoir Hitch-22, perfectly described the hypocrisy that seems to plague society's loudest moral proselytizers:
"Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever," he wrote, "I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch.
"Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine."
Hitchens was making a point specifically about the Christian right, but in practice this phenomenon goes well beyond those who fret publicly about a couple of guys holding hands on a park bench.
Indeed, just as a "traditional values" demagogue will inevitably find himself making a tearful public apology to his wife for something that just happened once — promise — so too might a well-known Hollywood champion of women's rights — say, one who participated in a recent women's march and helped endow a Rutgers faculty chair in Gloria Steinem's name — find himself apologizing for a sordid past of sequestering young women in hotel rooms and confronting them with his sweaty erection.
The hypocrisy of Harvey Weinstein — Hollywood king, Democratic darling, Hillary Clinton supporter — is what makes his recently revealed three decades of alleged abuse all the more scandalous to those who consider themselves none of those things.
Not only has this particular sanctimonious goon proven himself to be an utter fraud and all-around grotesque character, but complicit in his alleged abuse are all sorts of other players who normally enjoy basking on society's moral high ground.
Among them: the New York Times, which, yes, broke the news last week, but also reportedly quashed a reporter's pursuit of the story more than a decade ago; NBC News, which passed on a Weinstein exposé; the numerous Hollywood players who knew of and in some cases helped to cover up Weinstein's predatory behaviour and a few feminist champions who are normally quick to call out men who use their power and influence to inflict harm on women, but who waited an awkwardly long time — five days, in the case of Hillary Clinton — to issue a statement.
It is no wonder, then, that Harvey Weinstein would become a weapon for all those who, for example, were triggered by the attacks on President Donald Trump during the Academy Awards broadcast. The Republican Party itself has taken up the cause, adopting the tactics of its most puerile followers and demanding that the Democrats return Weinstein's campaign donations, lest his grimy dollars somehow infect party coffers with toxic masculinity. Or something.
Democrats: put your money where your mouth is. Return all the Weinstein money. pic.twitter.com/3uQN0dm76A— @GOP
This is all rich with irony and hypocrisy, too, of course: coming from the party whose leader has been accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct, who was recorded boasting about how fame yields the ability to impose one's slovenly body on any and all women.
It seems so obvious, which is why I'm loath to even acknowledge it. But apparently it bears repeating: being a scumbag knows no political orientation. Being a hypocritical scumbag knows no political orientation.
Months ago, it was the same story in reverse: conservative Fox News host Bill O'Reilly — defender of traditional values who was scandalized by sexually suggestive Beyoncé lyrics and literally wrote a book on the proper ways to treat women — was outed as the subject of numerous sexual harassment allegations spanning decades. It was revealed that he'd paid out more than $13 million to settle various claims.
Complicit in his alleged indiscretions was the leadership at Fox News, which was reportedly instrumental in covering up his behaviour. The response from Trump came a few days later — about the same amount of time it took for Clinton to respond to the Weinstein allegations — but instead of castigating O'Reilly for his apparent misconduct, Trump called him a "good person" and said: "I don't think Bill did anything wrong."
The point here is not to determine whose putrid sexual advances are more offensive, or which political leader had the better response, or on whose side the hypocrisy is more glaring. The point here is there is no side to really take up. This sort of creepy predatory behaviour is not of a particular domain: left or right, black or white, young or old and so forth. It is unfortunately ubiquitous, making it everyone's sin.
So the next time a media organization comes out with an explosive story about a man on the right — or the left — with a shameful history of sexual impropriety, we would all do well to mentally enter his name in our notebook and contentedly set our watches.
Sooner rather than later, we'll read a parallel story about a man on the left — or the right — cornering a young actress in a Beverly Hills hotel, wearing a bathrobe, holding a bottle of lotion and pathetically begging for a massage.