The recent fall of Harvey Weinstein was breathtaking in its scope and rapidity. This was one of the most powerful and influential individuals in popular culture, possessed of a vast network of alliances extending into seemingly every corner of the globe.
Yet when he fell, he fell completely. His carefully constructed public reputation dissolved in an instant, like tissue paper in the rain.
I am wondering whether this moment was connected to advancing technology. In some ways it reminds me of the Mitt Romney “47% incident”. While running against Obama in 2012, Romney was at a private fund raising event, giving a speech which was intended to be heard only by his fervent political supporters.
Yet when a bartender at the event secretly recorded the moment on his SmartPhone, the video went viral. The entire world saw Romney accusing nearly half the U.S. population of being freeloaders who wanted only to live on government handouts. It did not bode well for his chances at the election booth.
Perhaps something similar was going on with Mr. Weinstein. He came to power at a time when it was still possible to keep secrets — a time when a sexual predator could make unwanted advances to a powerless young person in a hotel suite, and nobody could prove a damned thing. What went on in the hotel suite, stayed in the hotel suite.
But now every young person carries a recording device, and knows how to use it. If somebody acts inappropriately toward you, you can not only record the moment, but also upload it instantly to the Cloud.
Many influential people over a certain age don’t quite understand this. This sort of thing simply wasn’t possible when they came to power, and it still doesn’t occur to them that they now live in a world in which information can be captured and disseminated instantly, on a global scale.
In today’s world, if you want to remain in power while being a predatory creep, there is only one way to inoculate yourself against modern information technology: Don’t hide your monstrosity, flaunt it. Constantly attack people for no reason, and never hesitate to just make stuff up. Even better, shamelessly change your story whenever anybody calls you on a lie, preferably while starting another random attack upon yet another startled victim.
You must always act disgusting and hateful with your public face, not merely in your private behavior. Be openly racist, homophobic and mysogynist, brag proudly about groping women and girls, remember to say nice things about Nazis, and make sure to create a public record of shamelessly and blatantly causing many others to suffer just to line your own pockets.
It seems that in a world of full disclosure, this is the only effective way you can still get away with being a monster.