They got him! It cost millions of dollars in legal fees, and involved multiple trials, settlements, and dismissal of the worst charges, but they convicted Harvey Weinstein. A bit like a buck who is taken down by a pack of wolves might receive the killing bite from a different wolf to the one who started the chase or who had the strongest bite, so too has the chase of Weinstein ended in a kill by just 2 of the dozens of allegations made along the way. The long chase and the kill has been reminiscent of the effort it took to bring down Bill Cosby.
For the #Metoo movement, this is a win, a vindication. The heart of the accusations leveled against Weinstein was always that he used his position of influence to get sex with unwilling partners. And the accusations always went beyond the notion that he was ‘merely’ soliciting prostitution, which by the way is unlawful in California. Weinstein is now proven to have overstepped the law and forced himself upon others. Whether one can prove 2 counts of that or 50 counts is somewhat immaterial in this regard: if 2 are deemed proven, the other 48 accusations that didnt make it to court are bolstered in that the public will believe there was a pattern of someone trying their luck within the law if possible, but outside of it if necessary. The conviction convinced me he was in the habit of forcefully and illegally demanding sex of those he could. His life is effectively over.
Time to look around and see the broader effects of the #Metoo phenomenon that began with the actresses of Hollywood rebelling against Weinstein.
The novelty of the #Metoo phenomenon was the possibility of crowd-sourced accusations of sexual impropriety, where patterns of misbehaviour could be found from initial accusations finding multiple co-accusers. Crowd-sourcing made it possible to find a pattern one would not see or be convinced off if one had an isolated accusation.
Not all initial accusations unearthed a pattern and thus a clear abuser. Like Weinstein, Kevin Spacey was brought down by an initial accusation that was affirmed by many follow-on accusations. As a counter-example, Michael Douglas was basically vindicated by a lack of any affirmation when an initial accusation came against him, leaving the initial accusation isolated, showing that making an accusation is not without risks to the accuser.
By construction though, finding a pattern via crowd-sourcing accusations only works with famous people because otherwise the initial accusation is not widely reported and hence will not alert potential co-accusers. So by its nature, the possibility of running into a crowd-accusation changes the costs and benefits of being famous, but changes little for anyone else. The abusive beggar on the street is not going to be unmasked by a crowd-sourced accusation.
So, one clear effect has been to raise the risks to men (and to a lesser extent women) of becoming famous or very rich: their sexual behaviour is under the potential microscope following a crowd accusations, and that microscope extends back to when they were not yet famous or rich.
This increased cost of fame will have long-run consequences, one of them being that ambitious young men are going to be much more careful about their sexual activities with people who know their names or who get a good look at them and could hence recognise them later. One might see this as the within-men leveling effect of the #Metoo movement. Famous, rich, and highly ambitious men have all been taken down a peg relative to less rich, less famous, and less ambitious men.
Note this does not mean that average behaviour has changed much, only that the behaviour of the very ambitious and famous will have changed. Continue reading