On my way to visit family for Christmas, I chose to fly on American Airlines. The experience quickly went from bad to worse. For context, I’ve been an American Airlines customer and passenger for over 30 years. I do not consider myself a frequent flyer, yet my loyalty program status recently rose due to increased travel.
After repeatedly delayed flights, poor service and rude agents, I asked for a simple customer service accommodation. In response, American reported me to the police. The escalation is an example of horrendous customer service and a lesson in how not to treat the consumer. Unfortunately, it’s also an essentialization of the American Airlines subculture and philosophy.
In pledging customer service, American Airlines claims on its website that it’s “in business to provide safe, dependable and friendly air transportation to our customers … [and that they] are dedicated to making every flight you take with us something special…in the hopes that you will fly us again and again. We work very hard to make your entire experience with us, from making a reservation to deplaning at your final destination, a positive one.”
In the same pledge, American Airlines promises to render “[a]ssistance when your flight has been delayed”, “[t]icket refunds” and “[h]andling of customer issues”. None were offered, however, to this passenger. All were refused. In other words, none of what American Airlines claims is true. On the contrary, American reported me to the police.
The travel fiasco began with a flight which was hours late. I was not informed of the delay until after I’d arrived at the airport. I waited for several hours. I was disappointed but not irate. I had arrived in advance — by two hours — of my scheduled flight departure. I’d checked in online. I’d reserved a seat. I was all set. Then, American Airlines notified me that its plane was not ready to fly.
Apparently, something was wrong with the aircraft. I was informed that the plane was taken out of operation and that another plane would be used. Eventually, I boarded a plane and arrived at my destination. I lost a day of Christmas time with family.
After the visit, in anticipation of the return flight, once again, I arrived at the airport hours in advance of scheduled flight departure. And, once again, I was notified that the flight was late — hours late — after I’d reserved a seat, checked into the flight, arrived at the airport, checked luggage and made connecting flight arrangements.
Again, I was told that American’s passenger jet was not ready to fly. The plane, I was told, was removed from operation to be fixed. It was too late to make other arrangements. This late departure, like the previous late departure, was caused by American Airlines’ aircraft maintenance.
Let me emphasize this point. The late departures were caused by American Airlines. There were no weather complications. There were no announced travel or security conflicts. There was no reason to expect a problem with aircraft, let alone on two separate airplanes during the round trip. I emphasize this not to blame American Airlines for badly or properly operating or maintaining flawed, faulty or deficient aircraft. Of course, I know that things go wrong and I want the aircraft to be safe. But the fact that American Airlines, not weather or an external factor, caused the delay is relevant to customer service.
Faced with hours before rescheduled departure, this customer proceeded to an airline customer service desk to seek assistance with the connecting flight. The desk was cordoned off. It was vacant. I noticed that an airline club — American Airlines calls them Admirals Clubs — was near the gate where my flight was scheduled to board.
The gate was packed with passengers. I decided to investigate whether American Airlines was willing to consider admitting me as a guest in the club for a few hours. The impetus was the prospect of having a place to sit, wait for hours and relax while waiting for customer service to address any problem with my connecting flight. I entered the club.
Speaking with an agent who did not wear a name tag, I explained that there was no seating at the gate — the terminal was full of travelers — and I asked if the club could consider making an exception, waiving requisites and admitting me for a few hours.
The agent neither addressed nor answered my question. Instead, she stated what she called airline policy. I explained that I understood the policy and repeated that I was inquiring about an exception; that an exceptional circumstance had apparently delayed my flight and I was asking for an exception to the club’s admission policy. The agent told me to visit American Airlines’ customer service desk. I explained that I had been there and done that and that the service desk was vacant. She shrugged, as if to say “tough luck.”
I would come to learn that the agent’s attitude and actions represent American Airlines, which is based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.
The agent spoke to me as if she’d memorized a script. After making the policy statement, she added that, if she agreed to consider my request, she would have to admit every passenger. Of course, this is not true, which I told her. I never raised my voice. Nor was I rude, hostile or disrespectful. I made my request — that American let me wait in the club for a flight which was delayed for hours due to American’s maintenance problem — with discretion. The request I made was reasonable. The agent offered zero accommodation. None.
Shortly after I left the club, someone at American’s Admirals Club notified police. While I was standing at the gate while looking for a place to sit and rest, a trio of police officers arrived. One of them asked if I’d been to the club. I knew that I did not violate the law, so I spoke freely with the peace officer, who expressed shock to me that the airline had notified police. Of course, I was neither detained nor placed under arrest. However, I was shocked that American Airlines treated me as a potential criminal — merely because I had asked to be admitted to American’s club to wait for American’s delayed flight.
Is it possible that American Airlines can improve?
After communicating with at least nine American Airlines representatives, none one of whom offered to honor the airline’s customer service pledge, I have zero reason to think improvement is possible. In fact, I have multiple reasons to think that American Airlines is malicious, dishonest and dishonorable.
The Moneychangers, a four-part 1976-1977 winter miniseries that aired on NBC, is based on the bestselling novel by Arthur Hailey, who also wrote Airport and Hotel. The miniseries has a varied broadcast history as it’s been re-broadcast in a few incarnations, having been split into shorter or longer segments of varying lengths. I watched the approximately eight-hour series on DVD.
The television drama is better than I’d expected. Combining subplots that feed into the history, conflict and survival of an American bank, which is what makes this miniseries appealing, The Moneychangers shows how general consumer banking works. How many TV series, then or now, revolve around the boardroom discourse, daily operations and profitability of a bank? I’ve never read the novel, though I’ve read some of Hailey’s fiction, which I’ve enjoyed as light industrial or business-themed entertainment.
Buy the DVD
The Moneychangers, produced by Ross Hunter, who’d previously adapted Hailey’s Airport into one of Hollywood’s first major blockbusters in 1970, makes me want to read the novel. With a musical score by Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), a cameo by Marla Gibbs (Florence on The Jeffersons), a radical, anti-profit Elizabeth Warren-type character and leading performances from Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) and Kirk Douglas (Paths of Glory) as two bankers competing for the bank’s top executive position, the miniseries has potential.
The Moneychangers bundles its variety, potential and possibility for good drama, or at least melodrama. Especially with pre-Dynasty Joan Collins as an upscale prostitute on a crooked banker’s (post-Bonanza Lorne Greene) payroll. Look for Robert Loggia (The Jagged Edge), Stan Shaw (Scared Straight) and Patrick O’Neal (The Doris Day Show) as a crime boss, young black activist and advertising crony.
Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) plays a handsome young bank employee who embezzles the bank, gets caught, tried and convicted. He then serves time in prison. After he’s gang raped, he succumbs to an interracial same-sex relationship for protection. Later, upon his release from prison, the bank gives him an opportunity for a fresh start but it involves going underground to bust a counterfeit ring, with help from a single Latina mother and bank teller with whom he falls in love.
So, this is not typical mid-Seventies network television programming. Anne Baxter (All About Eve) co-stars as a top notch bank executive. Hayden Rorke (Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie) and Ralph Bellamy (Roots) also star in key roles. Look for Helen Hayes (the Boeing 707 stowaway in Airport) as an empathetic doctor.
The central plot involves the contentious rise of the two bankers seeking the bank’s top position after a grandson of the bank’s founder announces that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Add to this a run on the bank, the “social justice” warrior (Susan Flannery), class and racial strife, a terrorist bombing, a mentally incapacitated spouse, suicide and a crime syndicate and The Moneychangers moves briskly with a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, the theme’s not an endorsement of capitalism. But, for a pre-high technology, pre-mergers and acquisitions showcase of banking, as with Airport and Hotel, I found the dramatization of the industry fairly accurate, relevant and absorbing.
Kirk Douglas is relatively subdued for a change, not hamming up every scene, gritting teeth and overacting, though he does show off his muscles. This is some of Douglas’s best acting. Plummer strongly plays a Puritanical second-hander and pulls off a powerful climax. The late Percy Rodrigues, in the best acting performance and role of his enduring career, plays the bank’s security chief. He catches the Bottoms character in crime and serves one of the The Moneychangers’ best performances and subplots. Anyone who works in banking or wonders what’s involved (or was in the mid-70s) in money-making, saving and changing will probably find something here to appreciate and enjoy, even if half-naked Collins and some of the cast are cheesy in that melodramatic acting style.
The Moneychangers does not depict high finance. But it entertains.
Read my article “Bridging Ayn Rand and Pittsburgh” in the winter edition of Pittsburgh Quarterly, currently on sale at certain newsstands in the city of bridges. I bought a copy at a downtown Pittsburgh shop during a recent visit over Thanksgiving (more on the trip below). It’s an account, and I think perhaps the first in publication, of the philosopher who described herself as a radical for capitalism and what contends as the foremost city of the Industrial Revolution. I pitched a few ideas to my editor and publisher and this is the byproduct of the one he thought best serves the magazine’s readers.
In the piece, which may become available online, I focus on the Forties, when Rand wrote her observations of Pittsburgh in her journal, corresponded with an admiring book critic for a Pittsburgh newspaper and prepared for the movie adaptation of her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. All of these tie into each other and relate to an interesting comment by Objectivist scholar Greg Salmieri, whom I interviewed for the article. Dr. Salmieri, who’s editing the University of Pittsburgh Press series of books studying Rand’s philosophy, gives his opinions on Rand’s ideas and how they’ve been interpreted within the context of today’s false left-right political dichotomy.
I am delighted that publication of the first article about Rand and my hometown coincides with the first reprinting of my article about Andrew Carnegie in Capitalism Magazine (read it here). Carnegie is one of my first heroes. I became fascinated with him as a boy. As with Ayn Rand, the more I learn and know about this man, the more I admire him. I wrote this piece several years ago as a sidebar to an article I’d been asked to write for a magazine.
Having just visited the city of Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and, yes, Carnegie Hall (not the one portrayed in Green Book), I can happily say that I think you’ll find this profile of Andrew Carnegie worth reading. I won’t be surprised if you discover that you’ve learned something new and admirable, even exciting, about this amazing man, whose birthday I celebrated while I was in Pittsburgh.
One of the things I love about Pittsburgh is that its residents have real awareness, knowledge and appreciation, even admiration, for capitalists and captains of industry. Wherever I went on Carnegie’s birthday while visiting Pittsburgh, everyone with whom I discussed the man was instantly interested, engaged and aware of his legacy, his stature, his greatness. I’ve written about Pittsburgh on this blog several times, and will write more soon about this year’s Thanksgiving trip, but I find that I am often surprised by this city’s unique ability to wall off the world’s spreading religion of hatred of moneymaking. There’s real reverence for it here, however unpolished or weary it may be. The city of steel, in this sense, can spark like that.
This is one reason it was wonderful to see the new movie about Pittsburgh’s pioneering child development host, Mr. Rogers, with my family in Pittsburgh. It’s a warm, thought-provoking film that holds your interest as an individual, challenging you to introspect, engaging you with silence, not screaming, blaring, sensory-driven assault. Yet it comes together as a whole, respecting the uniqueness of each individual and his choices, even when those choices deviate from traditional notions of family, holidays and what constitutes a proper gathering. See A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers by yourself, alone and in solitude or with a friend. Or with your chosen family as I did. Read my movie review on the cover of the New Romanticist here.
Look for more posts — on its theater, culture, hospitality, downtown and sports — about this fall’s trip to Pittsburgh soon.
The recent cancellation of Megyn Kelly Today demonstrates the folly of putting popularity abovegood business principles. When NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal (which is owned by cable corporation Comcast), recently signed the Fox News personality to a reported $69 million contract, the broadcasting unit severely overestimated Kelly’s value.
NBC’s executives should’ve read my review of her debut on Fox News. Kelly’s hard, self-centered manner may have been suited to the Fox News cable television brand, but her brand is defective. It’s not surprising that audience reception and ratings have been mediocre at best.
The astronomical price tag for such a vapid hostess, or, if you insist, “celebrity journalist”, underscores the media industry’s fixation on ratings, metrics and short-term gain to the detriment of quality and credibility, proper standards and practices and long-term profit and progress.
Megyn Kelly, an intelligent lawyer who has more in common with the president and other vulgar, showboating sensationalists than she does with able-minded journalists, has never been serious (read my comparison of Kelly and NBC’s other overpaid darling, Trump, here). By hiring Megyn Kelly as it did, NBC showed its desperation and a willingness to do anything for a hit as a presumably non-leftist counterpoint to its leftist brand. Unfortunately, NBC’s supposed goal to gain intellectual balance probably will be abandoned, as against the network’s fixation on getting up fast hits.
While NBC backtracks on Megyn Kelly, with whom it’s apparently still negotiating, for dubious reasons, Comast’s competitor AT&T has made the call to cancel its Turner-branded streaming service for independent films, FilmStruck. This service, affiliated with the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), represented a real commitment to streaming thoughtful, harder-to-find motion pictures. AT&T terminated FilmStruck, which was part of Turner’s parent WarnerMedia company, for FilmStruck’s lack of a wider audience. WarnerMedia may launch its own streaming service to compete with Disney’s proprietary streaming service and outlets such as Netflix.
The termination is another AT&T mistake. As Comcast fails to grasp why metrics and popularity alone are not proper tools for forecasting success, AT&T’s decision to nix FilmStruck shows the media corporation’s failure to understand the same idea. While FilmStruck, which for full disclosure I wrote scripts for last season, was too focused on intellectuals and with an ivory tower slant, as a brand FilmStruck showed potential for appealing to wider audiences.
Experimenting with new ideas is crucial for media success. AT&T, which, in my experience is mostly incompetent at delivering goods and services, doesn’t know how to cultivate its assets any better than NBC knows how to apply better judgment to the business of earning its television, streaming or media customers’ trust (i.e., NBC News, especially MSNBC).
FilmStruck ends its operations in America and the world late next month. I think that, in the current cultural context, it’s unlikely that WarnerMedia will replace it with a classic movie streaming service or brand, though the company, with its vast Warner Bros. archive of great movies, should do exactly that. Cynical Megyn Kelly, on the other hand (or more empty vessels like her), is unfortunately likely to return to media in some other program or format.
Both cancellations, with Kelly’s cancellation coming in the aftermath of her controversial comments — further eroding the media industry’s commitment to defending the freedom of speech — are a sign that the culture’s plunging down. Ditching Megyn Kelly for being controversial — her problem is lack of coherence, consistency and authenticity, not any among her ginned up controversies — and abandoning movie streaming for being intellectual portend more of the anti-intellectualism already spreading fast in American culture.
America is already besieged by increasingly bloodthirsty irrationalists, from assaults on softball diamonds and gay nightclubs to mass shootings at the nation’s churches and synagogues. The United States needs more serious, controversial and thoughtful programming, not fewer choices among the status quo.
Americans in media, producers and consumers alike, should ease up on the asinine pictures, memes and clips and focus instead on producing and consuming more intelligent, radical material and make and watch it faster than ever. Comcast and AT&T, through whomever remains subversive at NBC, Universal, Turner and Warner Bros., and I know you’re out there, should take note: replace Kelly and FilmStruck with more rational programs, discourse and ideas, not more pap. There’s value to gain. There’s little value, such as credibility, left to lose.
Starbucks, Apple, Disney. These three big brands represent a kind of gold standard in modern, streamlined business. Each of these Western American companies is a global enterprise with a history of activating radical ideas. Starbucks brought premium coffee, tea and other products to retailing while re-creating the cafe and restaurant as a creative and meeting place as part of a whole, new mobile lifestyle. Apple brought superior design, functionality and quality in computers to technology. Disney brought wholesomeness, consistency and integration in storytelling to motion pictures. Each company became legendary by being driven by a single individual. Each brand challenged and smashed the status quo, failed and made mistakes, improved and went on to become a worldwide symbol of excellence in lifestyle, technology and entertainment.
Each is also fallible. In fact, I have criticized all three in separate, previous posts. But these are outstanding American businesses deserving recognition for exceptional innovation and achievement. Each big business generally honors their prime movers Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. That said, as with any business, including my own, each also runs the risk of not minding the store.
Or, in the case of Starbucks, not minding the store by way of drifting from a focus on the store toward, instead, minding customers’ privacy. Recently, and this week in earnest, the coffee company started requiring a customer’s first and last name, e-mail address and postal ZIP code in order to access its free wi-fi through Google. Accepting terms and conditions now grants permission to let Google-Starbucks track your computer, which each Starbucks store will remember for the next and subsequent visits. Supposedly, there’s an opt-out but it isn’t clear how. As a Starbucks customer, loyalty rewards member and enthusiast, I find the company’s recent shift away from adding lifestyle value toward mining and collecting data disturbing. It suggests a breach of the Starbucks commitment to earning customer loyalty.
This is especially true given the glut of recent, chronic and persistent problems with daily operations at Starbucks, specifically the retailer’s failure to:
Get transactions right, including honoring the 10-cent personal cup discount. I understand that pricing varies by store location. But baristas ring up the wrong price too often by my experience. Others have noticed overcharges, too. The personal cup discount is typically not honored in my experience. When I use one during visits, I’ve now taken to reminding the barista in advance. It’s part of an overall trend I’ve noticed in which the customer essentially is increasingly put in a position to have to know more than the employee.
Bus and clean store tables.
Take reasonable measures to preserve space for customers and protect them from harm. I’ve encountered several conflicts at various Starbucks stores and witnessed many more. During one incident, when I sat down at a shared table to eat and drink products I’d purchased, a seated person who’d been squatting at the table with his stuff, none of it from Starbucks, threatened me and told me to leave. When I explained that it was the only available seat in the store, he became violent, pounding the table and physically lifting and shoving the table into me. Starbucks employees did nothing, despite audible gasps and everyone expressing alarm at the outburst. A couple came over and invited me to take a seat after they left because they’d decided to leave in light of the meltdown. At a store in Hollywood, a security guard and employees did nothing while the store was robbed with the store packed with families, customers and tourists. In Old Town Pasadena this winter, two homeless men started fighting over a table. Thugs, criminals and squatters, who sometimes don’t buy anything but use space, go unreported or unpunished, which is a real problem. The company’s apparent conflict avoidance policy may lead to loss of revenue and store closures as has happened to other lax retailers such as Borders. I’ve called, written and complained to Starbucks. In my experience, they don’t really listen, respond or address, let alone resolve, this serious problem.
The above might be no big deal if you drink the company’s coffee at home or work but ordering products online is off limits because, recently, Starbucks ceased to operate an online store. With few exceptions, products now must be bought in stores.
This, too, might not pose a problem if you pre-order using the app or have no need to meet, dine in or take a seat at Starbucks’ stores. Assuming you’re able to avoid crime, harassment, hassles, threats and stay out of harm’s way, while employees stand by, good luck finding the product you want. Frequently, Starbucks does not supply what’s in demand. This goes for beverages, food and Via or Verismo products. Often, they’re out of stock for days, even weeks. This applies, in my experience, to stores across the country, from Hawaii to Pennsylvania.
Good luck asking for supply information, help or about the menu. Poorly trained baristas don’t know the menu, pricing and basic facts. Morale among employees strikes me as pretty low across the board. Complaining baristas are everywhere, often at loud volume, griping about the labor, company policies, reduction in shift hours, other employees, even customers’ tipping.
About that tipping point. Whether you pay by app, Apple Pay, cash or credit card, a tip can be added at the customer’s discretion. I’ve noticed that employees — many, if not most, of whom get 100 percent company payment of health plan premiums (which may be why Starbucks prices keep rising) — act as though a tip is an entitlement. Starbucks ought to strive to acknowledge that tipping is an option, not a prerequisite for service.
Sometimes, baristas fail to get the order right. Not very often in my experience and, to be fair, theirs is a large, constantly changing menu. But in as often as over half the orders I place, usually involving food, beverage and a glass of water, part of the order is missing or wrong. Again, as with most of the above problems and, I suspect, stemming from a general problem within Starbucks’ subculture, this is a fixable challenge. The basic value proposition for a premium coffee experience rooted in lifestyle, as Starbucks is rightly proud to offer, is to get the customer’s order exactly and consistently right.
I’ve tried to encourage Starbucks by calling customer service, speaking with managers, store and district, filling out surveys (of which there is no apparent end, making me wonder who reads, processes and evaluates those results). Maybe Starbucks is having growing pains. Maybe Starbucks, which has launched bold initiatives and changed the culture with its lifestyle brand, has started to run its course. In any case, Starbucks can do better. I’m rooting for the company to meet its demands, make money and succeed. I hope this post helps.
The downfall of movie studio executive Harvey Weinstein following articles earlier this month in The New Yorker and the New York Times alleging sexual assault and harassment not only demonstrates Hollywood’s hypocrisy, though it certainly does that. What’s happened in the two weeks since the Weinstein claims first emerged has major, possibly ominous, implications for due process, free exercise of speech and the press, and moviemaking. So, I don’t think the scandal’s sudden consequences are necessarily positive. I doubt that the fundamental cause of sexual assault and harassment will be named and eradicated as a result. Indeed, I think the Weinstein scandal is more likely to embolden the worst plans by regressive, Puritanical, anti-sexual leftists and conservatives alike.
It’s impossible to fully account for Hollywood’s hypocrisy here. It’s exhausting to contemplate. I think of Hollywood’s rationalizations for behavior by Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson and Bill Cosby. Or Hollywood’s calls for prison reform and Judeo-Christian notions of forgiveness and its denunciations of anyone making moral judgments of anyone else about anything, such as Islamic law and its impact on gays, women and rape victims. I think, too, of the left’s constant cries about a “rush to judgment” to find guilty the accused murderer O.J. Simpson, whom a jury found responsible for the deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Unlike Harvey Weinstein, the people for whom rationalizations were made were actually arrested, tried and convicted or legally held accountable.
Not Weinstein. Hollywood’s campaign against him is unprecedented. Whatever one thinks of Weinstein’s guilt, never has so much been said so publicly without substantiation or confirmation or arrest, trial or conviction that’s lead to such huge and devastating impact on one’s life, work and legacy — and industry.
This week, Viacom-owned Nickelodeon fired Loud House creator Chris Savino after women made claims of “sexual harassment, unwanted advances, [and] inappropriate behavior” against the animator, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Savino, who has neither been charged with a crime nor named in a lawsuit, was terminated after someone used the hashtag #MeToo. The future of Amazon’s microstudio is in question after its CEO resigned following post-Weinstein claims of abuse. The Weinstein Company’s existence is also in question.
Speech, too, is suddenly suspect and can lead to castigation. An actress made a claim in public against Hollywood studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, asserting that he made a comment to the press decades ago, a claim which Katzenberg denies. He apologized to the actress for something he says he did not say.
Harvey Weinstein apologized, too, for bad behavior he admits. He did so immediately after the October 5 New York Times article was published. He hired a women’s rights lawyer. He pleaded for help, guidance and forgiveness. He pledged to seek rehabilitation (and, according to People, he’s in treatment). In other words, he did everything Cosby and Polanski did not do. However, Weinstein denies doing anything non-consensual. Is it possible he’s innocent of some of the charges? New York City law enforcement investigated a claim and, after examining the results, declined to press charges. Linda Fairstein, a women’s advocate and early pioneer against sex crimes, came to the conclusion that at least one claim against Weinstein was without merit. The former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor told the New York Times that she had determined a complaint was unfounded.
None of this slowed the mass media assault on Harvey Weinstein. Though I can’t recall that the press has ever been as explicitly biased and unified in a campaign against an accused individual against whom not a single charge has been filed in court — on the contrary, the press generally sought to report the side of the accused, too, in cases and/or claims against Simpson, Cosby, Polanski, Gibson and others — only Harvey Weinstein has been unequivocally pronounced a predator, as Time‘s cover proclaims with neither doubt nor scrutiny.
I tend to believe people who claim to have been assaulted or harassed, though I’ve been wrong. I am dubious, however, of the herd mentality.
Certainly, there is no doubt that the sexual assault and harassment claims published in the New Yorker, written by ex-MSNBC host Ronan Farrow, and the New York Times are extremely disturbing and, if the claims are true, monstrous. And Weinstein, who claims he is innocent of the worst allegations, is, as I’ve said, bearing severe consequences. Yesterday, he was denounced again by his longtime creative partner, director Quentin Tarantino. He was similarly condemned by artists ranging from the melodramatic Meryl Streep (Suffragette, Into the Woods, The Iron Lady), who praised Weinstein as “God” in 2012, to the great Judi Dench (Philomena, Victoria & Abdul). Channing Tatum (Dear John) and Apple went back on previous agreements with Weinstein. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revoked his membership. The Producers Guild voted to condemn him. France seeks to revoke his Legion of Honor. Weinstein has been terminated by the company he’d founded. His wife reportedly took the kids and left. Police in New York, London and Los Angeles are investigating certain allegations.
Only three show business outcasts, Lindsay Lohan, Oliver Stone (JFK, Snowden) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), who married his adopted child, each of whom have worked with Weinstein, expressed varying degrees of sympathy for Weinstein. They were promptly vilified. Mayim Bialik, an actress who describes herself as an Orthodox Jewish feminist, was similarly attacked and forced to apologize when what she wrote about sexual harassment (for, surprise!, the New York Times) failed in the minds of feminists to pre-exonerate women of any wrongdoing under any circumstances.
Many rightly and astutely condemn the accusations against Weinstein, which range from peculiar, vulgar and inappropriate at best to sexual harassment and rape or sexual assault at worst. But, this time, the fact that these are allegations is downplayed by the press. Even recently accused and fallen Fox News principals such as the late boss Roger Ailes, host Bill O’Reilly and recently promoted host Eric Bolling, whose son was found dead within hours of his father’s termination, were bestowed by the dominant media with the qualified ‘alleged’ most of the time.
But the left-wing dominated and conservative-driven press have both banded together against Harvey Weinstein. The left stands against him from the feminist-statist-collectivist perspective, using the scandal to denounce contracts, men in positions of power and to show that they can take down one of their own, not merely right-wing TV hosts and businessmen. The right’s against him from the traditionalist-statist-religionist viewpoint, using the scandal to denounce Hollywood and movies, Democrats in positions of power and to prove that they, too, can pile on a presumed serial sexual harasser, abuser or rapist. As the left did with O’Reilly, conservatives attack Weinstein for settling with accusers, as if merely being accused of sexual harassment, and especially reaching a settlement, is tantamount to proof of one’s guilt. The conservative Weekly Standard refers to “Harvey Weinstein’s long record of sexual harassment” as if it’s an established fact.
It isn’t, at least not yet, and taking assertions as facts is a mistake, even for conservatives and especially for a serious magazine.
Caricature of Weinstein as killer clown from “It”
Leftists, who calls themselves liberals and progressives, a term which dates to anti-capitalist Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, make that distinction when the accused fits a particular altruist-collectivist agenda, such as government-imposed quotas or new laws mandating egalitarianism. A wealthy, white male capitalist such as Weinstein — I mean, really look at this caricature, which appears on the cover of a Hollywood trade publication — does not qualify for that status (particularly if he’s Jewish). So, I suspect the longtime Democratic Party donor and activist is being sacrificed not for his transgressions, though I know that some on the left are sincere, as for his being caught and convenient. According to almost everyone in Hollywood, especially film journalists writing about how they knew how bad he was and why they, too, did and said nothing about it, knew or had heard about Harvey Weinstein’s improprieties. What persuaded the pack mentality press and their enablers in movie publicity departments to come out is that the claims against Weinstein were already reported in the New York Times, the left’s arbiter for whether, what and how to think. What the Times gains from aping the National Enquirer in pseudo-journalism ought to be clear. Previously accused men were either targeted for character assassination or disclosures (depending on who you tend to believe) through coordinated social media campaigns — I think all of the Fox News personalities, including two who survived, were initially targeted by the left — or reports of the claims were widely known.
But those scandals failed to dislodge Fox News, hastening the left’s long, historic march toward merging with religionists, traditionalists and conservatives and bringing the merger to a kind of climax. Not in an explicitly coordinated conspiracy to target a Jewish capitalist “fatcat”. But Harvey Weinstein is the perfect sacrifice for both conservatives and leftists. The left gets to claim credibility in tossing out one of its own and in grand fashion while advancing an anti-capitalist, anti-individualist agenda. The right gets to notch a win on the scoreboard after a series of losses (chiefly, the embarrassment of Trump) and reinforce its assault on Hollywood as the root of all that Judeo-Christianity regards as evil — namely, sex. In this sense, secular Miramax and its successor, The Weinstein Company, with its slate of Hollywood’s best movies, is absolutely ‘guilty’ as charged.
Whatever the merit of the women’s claims, which I tend to believe and hope leads to greater awareness and discourse about these serious and complicated topics, Harvey Weinstein’s fast, epic downfall makes faster the fusion of the New Left’s and conservatives’ political agenda. The result is likely to be accelerated momentum toward a common, sinister goal: total government control of the arts, starting with movies. The left supposedly wants power for the sake of the so-called underprivileged. So does the right. Their battle over which favored group is underprivileged (and, therefore, warrants power over movies), Christians or women, for instance, comes next.
Gone are calls for admission, disclosure and remorse. That ended with NBC News’ defrocked nightly anchorman Brian Williams, another powerful white media male who, like Harvey Weinstein, made mistakes and who, like Harvey Weinstein, immediately admitted wrongdoing which is what detractors used to say they want. But they don’t and remorse is never enough. As with their united opposition to civil discourse courtesy of Starbucks, conservatives and the left seek submission, humiliation and power.
Observe that, in most of the coverage about Weinstein, there’s rarely a mention of even a few of his movies, which might at least provide context for why his alleged power abuse matters and what’s at stake with the end of a pioneering movie studio and the 150-plus people who work there. Note that disclosures of sexual abuse by Terry Crews, James Van Der Beek and Corey Feldman were ignored by conservatives, who, following the Catholic Church same-sex pedophilia conspiracy, don’t acknowledge religious sexual abuse, and by feminist-leftists, who tend to minimize or don’t acknowledge men as victims.
Whether every rotten and disgusting claim against Harvey Weinstein is 100 percent true, the nation is impoverished by the lynch mob mentality and its disproportionate response to claims of injustice. Why should a studio be boycotted within two weeks because its ex-boss is accused of behaving badly? On what grounds? Think of all the female sex predators — the guilty, convicted pedophiles and predators — and consider what’s happened to their lives, careers and institutions. I just read an article written with sympathy and understanding about the woman who as a teacher seduced a male child student and, later, married him. Not a word in that article about institutional sexism and sanctioning of sexual abuse of boys or who knew what, when and why.
Gretchen Carlson, the beauty contestant turned Fox News hostess whose claims against Roger Ailes led to a settlement and started a wave of claims against the men of Fox News, wrote in Time that she seeks to “prohibit the forced-arbitration clauses that are embedded in many employment contracts.”
Conservative Carlson’s proposal if enacted would constitute a violation of private, consensual relationships and contract law. But the rationale for prohibiting arbitration — that state-sponsored controls on how people choose to live, work and trade will magically change people’s bad behavior — is identical to the basis for the left’s longtime solutions.
Besides, the left asserts, might makes right. In a statement, the Academy celebrated its expulsion of Oscar-winning Harvey Weinstein by boasting that he was rejected by a vote “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.” The Academy, which has initiated no action against members accused of serial rape and sued for sexual assault (Cosby), convicted of drunk driving before lashing out against Jews, gays and women and pleaded no contest to a charge of battery against an ex-girlfriend (Gibson) and those who plead guilty to a sex crime involving a 13-year-old girl (Polanski, who fled the country), added that they expelled Weinstein “to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”
Reporting on the Academy’s expulsion, the New York Times, which had initiated the campaign against Weinstein with its Oct. 5 article, which had no clear editorial impetus other than as a random expose, admitted that “no charges have been filed against [Weinstein]” adding that “[p]ressure had been building on the academy to purge Mr. Weinstein.” No admission that it was pressure that the Times had applied.
With the can of worms now opened, the Academy either now must define its own membership ethical standards, conduct membership morality detection and expel those who violate the moral code — or be dismissed and disregarded as having no moral credibility. Either way, it is compromised as an arts and sciences academy.
Cautioning against jumping to conclusions about Harvey Weinstein fell to film director Woody Allen — who, incidentally, has been offered membership in Hollywood’s academy and refused — who warned that Hollywood’s and New York’s purge “could lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.” Woody Allen is right, though, predictably, his comment lead to another woman writing another op-ed in the New York Times titled “Yes, This is a Witch Hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m Hunting You”.
In yet another recent Weinstein-themed Timesarticle, it’s being reported that “a spreadsheet listing men in the media business accused of sexist behaviors ranging from inappropriate flirting to rape surfaced last week and was circulated by email.” This lead one media writer to conclude that: “Things do get complicated when you start lumping all this behavior together in a big anonymous spreadsheet of unsubstantiated allegations against dozens of named men.”
Today’s contender for monster of the moment, however, is Harvey Weinstein, and, while he appears to have earned his monster status, it is important to keep in mind which movies his studios have produced.
Miramax and The Weinstein Company movies, as I’ve written for years, are among the most thought-provoking, serious, controversial, enlightening and joyful movies of the last 40 years.
A critic for the Los Angeles Times chimed in this week to reduce Weinstein’s role even in making movies to a mere “knack for putting golden statuettes in the hands of talented people.” And pop singer Tom Jones, whom at least one actress has told the press had a reputation for making unwanted sexual advances, told the West Coast Times that he “has little sympathy for abusers. “If you’ve done something wrong, you’ve got to pay for it, or prove that you haven’t done anything wrong,” [Jones] said.”
I keep hearing, from Oprah and others, and reading, in New York Times op-ed after op-ed, that this proposed post-Weinstein power shift and unmitigated assault on a man’s character and wiping out of his legacy, including that which he achieved for the good, is not about Harvey Weinstein. It’s about the allegedly assaulted and harassed women, it’s asserted. To this point, an online writer who covers show business for Vox.com observes in an intelligent commentary that
Trying to erase Harvey Weinstein’s legacy will not erase the harm he’s done. Pretending Weinstein was never a part of those TV shows and renaming his company won’t negate what he allegedly did — both to the women he targeted and to the people he enlisted into helping him do it. Weinstein didn’t operate alone when it came to acting out his alleged patterns of intimidation, harassment, and abuse. The fact of the matter is, he couldn’t have. He didn’t just need willing accomplices; he needed a culture that thrived on intimidation and dismissed the vulnerable, and he got it in Hollywood.
This is true. I, too, have seen and experienced it firsthand. I’m glad people are coming out and writing and speaking about what happens in Hollywood, New York and anywhere assault and harassment takes place (how about Washington).
Proposed bans on arbitration and non-disclosure agreements and a commission to monitor, detect and control people’s business conduct will lead to worse, not better, working conditions. Jumping to conclusions and glorifying a witch hunt merely switches harassment from one sex to the other and compounds the real and irrational discrimination against today’s woman. That subculture in which people enable, ignore, compartmentalize, evade and sanction injustice must be rejected and, instead, people must honor and practice principles of justice. It is hard, but it can be done. Progress is possible but not in an atmosphere of spite, revenge and indiscriminate accusation. It means listening, not just talking, about sexual assault and harassment. At its root, progress requires the use of one’s reasoning mind, not belief in dogma from conservatives or leftists — or their new, ominously irrational hybrid of both.