When a scandal like this happens, we often hear that “everybody knew” what the offender had been up to, but the real story is more that everybody knew some fragments of what he’d been up to, and not necessarily the worst ones.
But we should consider whether Weinstein’s public misbehavior — the stuff everybody really did know about — should have been unacceptable enough for him to face consequences years ago.
As The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta wrote in 2002: “Those who have been witness to his outbursts, public and private, describe not a loveable rogue but, rather, a man with little self-control, whose tone of voice and whose body language can seem dangerous; at times, he appears about to burst with fury, his fists closed, his teeth clenched, his large head shaking as he loses the struggle to contain himself.”
There are endless stories about Weinstein’s volcanic temper and abuse towards all sorts of people — assistants, waitstaff, actors, other producers. Last week, Vulture collected 17 of them, spanning decades. He once threw Nathan Lane against the wall at Hillary Clinton’s birthday party, according to Lane, because he didn’t like a joke Lane had told about Rudy Giuliani.
“In Hollywood, everyone seems to have a favourite Harvey tirade,” Vanity Fair wrote in March 2011. “The time he told The New York Observer he was ‘the f—— sheriff of this f—— lawless piece of s— town.’ The time he screamed at Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic Party, over some now forgotten bit of political trivia: ‘You motherf—–! I’ll rip your balls off!’ (Weinstein denies this happened.)”
If a man behaved the way Weinstein behaved in public, shouldn’t have been possible to deduce that he was up to something even worse in private?
In the coming weeks, there will be a lot of necessary discussion of why powerful predators like Weinstein get tolerated in entertainment and other industries. One possible step to contain private abuse is to better police publicly abusive behaviour — to recognise that the stereotypical ‘phone-throwing boss’ is likely to misbehave in all sorts of unseen ways if his public abuse is tolerated.
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