Two controversies from last week — the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment accusations, and the exposure of Milo Yiannopoulos’s neo-Nazi ties — probably won’t move any electoral needles, as most Americans don’t know who Weinstein or Yiannopoulos are, the lucky bastards. But the reactions to the two cases provide us with a pretty good insight into how conservatives and liberals deal with fires in their own kitchens, and how the press deals with both.
The mogul Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most successful producers and a supporter of liberal causes and candidates, was the subject of a bombshell New York Times report revealing multiple sexual harassment complaints that had been brought against him over the years, which he had bought off with money and/or threats.
Weinstein initially attempted to brass it out, threatening to sue the Times and assembling a topflight legal team to that purpose. But surprisingly quickly, he began to fold, issuing a bizarre demi-confession and taking a leave of absence from his company. A key member of his legal team, Lisa Bloom, resigned after it was revealed she’d outlined a victim-blaming legal strategy for Weinstein that included circulating “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct.” Eventually, his board of directors fired him.
Bloom’s discarded photo strategy was instead picked up by rightbloggers, who circulated pictures of Weinstein with liberal women (“Tell us again, Ms Streep about your outrage at @POTUS,” quoth Stacey Dash), including and with special vitriol Hillary Clinton.
This trend reached a sort of wing-nut singularity when it was taken up by Julian Assange (“America’s leading fake feminist, @HillaryClinton, still silent on Harvey Weinstein”), the WikiLeaks guy who has been in hiding since he fled rape charges five years ago. If only Roger Ailes were still alive to denounce Weinstein too!
Conservatives also pressed Democratic politicians to return any contributions Weinstein had given them (“Feinstein Dodges on Whether She’ll Return Weinstein Contributions”). Multiple Democrats said that, rather than give the money back to the tainted Weinstein, they’d give their contributions to nonprofits and charitable organizations — which of course wasn’t good enough for the brethren, since this would mean liberal nonprofits and charitable organizations rather than, say, the John Birch Society.
“If DNC Hands Weinstein’s Donations To Emily’s List Is The Money Still Tainted?” asked John Sexton of Hot Air. “Does Emily’s list have a problem taking money from Harvey Weinstein? Because that’s what this donation will be.” Maybe the Democrats’ only solution is to burn all the cash — or, better still, forget about trying to please their mortal enemies, whose own heroes’ campaigns are funded by comic-book-villain-evil billionaires. (As if to emphasize the point, the New York Post editorialized, “Returning his cash doesn’t solve Democrats’ Harvey Weinstein problem.” OK, fuck you then, we’ll keep it.)
Other conservatives complained that liberal media outlets were trying to spike the Weinstein story because it wasn’t on Saturday Night Live (“Nation’s Beloved Leftwing Late Night Clowns Somehow Omit Any Commentary on the Story of the Day, Harvey Weinstein,” burp-talked Ace of Spades) — notwithstanding that the investigation into Weinstein had been conducted by the New York Times, the flagship publication of the “liberal media,” and the story has been covered by every media outlet on planet Earth from the Huffington Post to the Australian Financial Review.
And if you’ve started to wonder how anyone belonging to a movement headed by Donald Trump, who enjoys continuing conservative support despite his admitted pussy-grabbing and alleged other improprieties, has the stones to say anything about Harvey Weinstein, you may have underestimated the willful suspension of self-awareness that is required of modern-day American conservatives. All that matters to them is that Weinstein is a Democrat — and from Hollywood, the scary liberal place where their readers’ violent blockbuster fantasy fare comes from — and so could be used to attack female Democrats, who had been rendered hypocrites by Weinstein’s very existence.
For example: “Harvey Weinstein should force media to admit Hillary Clinton is not a feminist icon,” wrote Eddie Scarry of the Washington Examiner. “For someone so heralded by the media as an example of female empowerment, Clinton is close with a lot of abusers.” The “lot of abusers” Scarry named consisted of Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill (whose reputation for “abuse” is a conservative article of faith needing no evidence), and Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who is not directly connected to Hillary Clinton, despite rightblogger efforts to do so via unnamed sources. (The same can’t be said for Donald Trump, who has shared billing on a sex crimes complaint with Epstein.)
Scarry also noted that Miley Cyrus once thanked Clinton for being “a constant beacon of strength, hope, and determination for me and millions of other young women,” and sneered, “May those millions of other young women never get a call from Clinton’s friend Weinstein asking for a massage.” As if they didn’t have local sexual harassers to handle that for them!
Ross Douthat, having (unaccountably) a New York Times position to justify, chose to distinguish himself from the dumber brethren by briefly mentioning Trump (“in the age of Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly…the right is its own sort of cautionary tale”). Having thus inoculated himself from hypocrisy, Douthat tore into what his column title called “The Pigs of Liberalism,” who in his judgment were responsible not only for Weinstein and all his works but also for the recently deceased Hugh Hefner (“Hefnerism endures as the effective philosophy of many liberal men, for whom sexual individualism justifies using women because hey, we’re all cool consenting adults here”), Chappaquiddick, and the whole very wide range of consensual sexual activity endorsed by liberals’ “facile sex-positivity” of which Douthat and the Holy Mother Church disapprove.
Douthat recommended that liberals, who apparently regulate American sexual morality from a faculty lounge at Oberlin, protect women from predatory other-liberals with “a few conservative ideas,” such as not allowing women to be alone with men. No, I’m not kidding: While “many liberals were horrified by the revelation that for a time Mike Pence avoided one-on-one meetings with women not his wife,” said Douthat (though “amused” might have been a better word), sexed-up libs have to admit “life is easier for women if their male bosses don’t feel entitled to see them anywhere, anytime.” Depending on emphasis, that last clause can be taken one of two ways, and I suspect Douthat is happy with either one.
“Older rules of moral restraint were broader for a reason,” Douthat went on. “If your culture’s code is libertine, don’t be surprised that worse things than libertinism flourish.” He also mentioned the Republic of Gilead, probably as an inside joke. In short: Sexual harassment is bad, and we can get rid of it by totally getting rid of the sex part.
Meanwhile, a BuzzFeed investigation obtained a trove of emails that revealed Milo Yiannopoulos — the onetime right-wing It boy generally referred to simply as Milo (like Prince or Mussolini) who has fallen from favor but yet retains a following in the more Nazified precincts of the movement (and among the multibillionaire Mercers, who finance him) — worked with former Breitbart boss and Trump minister of propaganda Steve Bannon to recruit actual white nationalists (i.e. crypto-[at-best]-Nazis) to help mainstream their ideology via his public platforms.
Mainstream media people who’d pimped Yiannopoulos in print backed away (“I obviously didn’t anticipate then that Milo would come to be associated with nazis”), and Vice actually fired one of his cat’s-paws at their organization (though probably not from political unorthodoxy, as Vice’s co-founder is a close to being a white nationalist himself). Yiannopoulos has naturally deflected, claiming he couldn’t see the Nazis because of his bad eyesight, among other counterclaims.
As for rightbloggers — well, all of a sudden it was “Milo who?” Even Milo’s biggest rightblogger fans could only duck and cover. “To be clear, it’s two Nazis in a Karaoke bar, not a remake of Triumph of the Will,” flinched Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds.
Most of the bigger rightblogs like Hot Air (which at this writing has six Weinstein-related stories on its front page) just reproduced a few grafs from the BuzzFeed story and ran, leaving it to their commenters to provide the spin (“That old LIE that being anti-illegal is racist. That old LIE that being for Voter ID is racist,” etc.).
And if you’re looking for any mention of this at Breitbart, Steve Bannon’s home turf, good luck. The day BuzzFeed published its story, Breitbart ran an interview with Islamophobe scream queen Pam Geller, who said, “It’s very important that we support people like Milo, and I take my hat off to him for publishing my book.” But nothing about the BuzzFeed exposé can at this writing be found on their pages.
Who could defend Milo after this? His co-conspirators, for one. Vox Day, mentioned in the BuzzFeed story as one of Milo’s colluding crackpots, seethed about “Buzzfeed and the stolen emails,” then affected to find the whole thing “hilarious” and complained that a quote of his used by BuzzFeed (“calling a black writer an ‘ignorant savage’ ”) was “incomplete and incorrect,” then produced the full quote, which was even worse.
Who else stood for Milo? Libertarians, those clown fish of conservatism! Cathy Young announced her disgust with her old buddy Milo, saying, “I take full responsibility for condoning his behavior and accepting the ‘just being provocative’ defense for the indefensible.”
But Young wanted some other things read into the record: First, she insisted she and Milo were still right about GamerGate — “I still believe [it] was wrongly portrayed as a right-wing misogynist harassment mob,” ha ha ha — and second, Nazi as Milo may have turned out to be, “if people who gave Yiannopoulos a pass on bad behavior (myself included) were his enablers, so was the politically correct culture that fueled his ascent.” Bothsiderism — now applied to Nazis!
Young cited web battles in which she believed Milo was in the right against little-known feminist internet scolds, thus showing “that the progressive ‘social justice’ culture to which Yiannopoulos fans were reacting can be as ugly and toxic as the culture of Breitbart and the alt-right.… PC culture does not excuse either white supremacists or cynical opportunists like Yiannopoulos. But it creates fed-up people who are ripe for exploitation by both.”
Shorter version: Sure, they’re Nazis, but they were pushed into Nazism by mean feminists on the internet. You know how sensitive guys like Milo are!
Shortly thereafter, Milo’s Nazi pals, including Reich-star Richard Spencer, made a return appearance at Charlottesville, where one of their number had killed Heather Heyer, to briefly chant gibberish (“The South will rise again. Russia is our friend”) before running away. It’s almost as if they’re trying to stay in trim for the day when everyone’s forgotten why we disliked Nazis. Oh, and Bill O’Reilly, dismissed by Fox News in April for reasons no one can quite remember but which rhyme with textual harassment, returned to Fox as a guest on Sean Hannity’s show after a brief hiatus.
The moral of the story is this: When a liberal is accused of having done bad things, liberals can turn against him, even give back his gifts, and they’ll still be called hypocrites; but when a conservative is proven to have done bad things, even Nazi things, no one gives a shit — because no one expects any better from them.
Thus CNN’s clue-starved Chris Cillizza tells the world “Harvey Weinstein is now a big problem for Democrats”; Time magazine says “Democrats Rush to Return Donations From Harvey Weinstein”; and the New York Times editorial board intones, “Harvey Weinstein’s Money Shouldn’t Buy Democrats’ Silence,” while Nazis returning to American streets with the help of rich and powerful friends is shrugged off as a phenomenon no one can possibly understand or do anything about.
Editor’s note: This article initially referred to Gavin McInnes as Vice’s “owner”; it has been corrected to note that he was actually the site’s co-founder.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 9, 2017