“How did you go bankrupt?”
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
“Profiteers on James Street sold your shoes and clothes
Ain’t nobody talkin’ because everybody knows…”
— Bruce Springsteen, Gypsy Biker
Back in the Dark Ages of the 1960s a short lived British television series achieved well deserved cult status as a seminal depiction of the sinister threat we faced from the triumph of the Orwellian police state, and it’s Kafka coughing up a lung anxiety inducing dance hall routines.
The show is, The Prisoner.
In it Patrick McGoogan plays a would be fed up former spook who is kidnapped and sent off to The Village. There he is psychologically tortured and expected to capitulate and collaborate, not only with the all pervasive system but do so happily.
Turns out the place was based on a real upscale prison where the British government stashed post war brains with too much information, for fear that they might tell people the truth.
The famous tag line in the show – or one of them – was “Be seeing you” – said with a sinister cheerfulness suggesting both the banal detritus of suburban or country life, while also having the menacing tone of a Maoist cadre officer letting you know that if you so much as fart, he’ll be there to make sure you’re passing gas in time to the beat of the failed wheat harvest. Or the next canned speech from Parliament.
Which brings us to our current moment.
Last year amid the fever of #MeToo and its assorted remoras, we caught a few seconds of a famous actress on a chat show. Just before cutting away to a commercial she said to the host, apropos of Harvey Weinstein and how it had all come to light and out of the shadows, that it was really just about the money.
Needless to say after the commercials the chat moved on to other things.
As the saying goes, follow the money.
Harvey and Miramax rose to the top of their particular perch on the mountain of skulls ride by both outspending their competition and by being more blunt about the money they were spending. Buying votes with cash, sex and other party favors is nothing new and Harvey did not need to reinvent the wheel or the lube that makes the wheels spin. He just did more of it and carved out a corner where he could be the man with the cash, the needle and the knowledge of who needed a financial hit.
Miramax was for several years one of the largest advertising buys for The New York Times. Whole page advertisements aren’t inexpensive but what mattered as much if not more than the lucre was that the number of platforms where a sketchy outfit eager to maintain the illusion of its cultural importance, were vanishing like water in a desert. For a few years there was a perfect symbiosis between The Times and Harvey and the other platforms where Miramax could buy real estate.
Which brings us to the beginning of the end of that system.
In the year between 1994 and 1995 the world witnessed (among other important events) the consolidation of the World Wide Web under the optimistic notions of Tim Berners-Lee, the birth of Yahoo, the rise of Windows as the de facto home user interface, and what at the time was seen as a quirky innovation called, Craigslist.
Craig Newmark’s list quickly caught on and began the inexorable process of carving out a massive ditch where print advertising used to live. Within a few years one newspaper after another vanished and took with them entire swaths of the landscape. The advertising sales reps, their meetings, the places where they took clients for lunch, the cars they leased, the dealerships that sold the cars, and so on – feel free to make your own list of the dominos.
For our purposes here what matters is that in the space of a few years Craigslist destroyed media as we used to know it and in conjunction with the rise of the internet we ran into the landscape of social media where all opinions are welcome and the circular firing squads hold forth. Which is not to dismiss the extent to which the old media soaked itself in gasoline and played with matches. But it is to say it might be helpful to connect at least a few of the dots.
In order to stay afloat The Paper of Record needed cash. Harvey had cash. Harvey spent cash. As the landscape contracted and became more of a company town (with corollary expansions of bribes, threats, blackmail, and the usual suspects) Harvey grew in importance. As Meryl Streep said at the Oscars or some other Potemkin Village event, (we paraphrase) Harvey is god and even god wants to make a deal with Miramax.
As the media platforms died Harvey became one of the only players and was able to build a vast network of tools – not just actors and their agents but publicists and PR hacks, who had nowhere else to go because Craigslist and the internet had destroyed all of the other venues.
With the hacks sucking his cock Harvey could and did then make use of the rest of the stable of thugs and whores that populate the entertainment empires. The lawyers, of course, and the semi retired spooks, and everyone else who fell out of La Dolce Vita – the would be celebrity chefs, faux journalists, and the small time drug dealers, the people who wrote paid propaganda disguised as authentic reviews of books, plays, bars, and of course, movies.
In other words, the truth about deregulation and consolidation.
They all were essentially on the same payroll.
And being on the same payroll means the “truth” and the “zeitgeist” become, fabrications.
Amid the rending of garments last year there was briefly a flurry of stories about how The Times had previously buried a nasty story about Harvey and some famous actors. Not true said the actors and not true said the Paper of Record and not true #MeToo #MeToo #MeToo #MeToo!!!
How did this happen?
Weinstein’s fall coincides with the tail end of the conflagration set off in 1994, ’95.
Harvey started by buying the cooperation of the media and ended up paying what amounted to protection money. Cash for bogus reviews and faux think pieces in exchange for silence about his activities.
But then things got tight and the same people who had been accumulating dirt and stories and had their editors kill damaging stories to protect the revenue stream, suddenly found themselves in need of more dong than Harvey could supply and insert, and so, nothing personal it’s just business.
The media needed click bait revenue and #MeToo was the perfect financial crack cocaine. Minimum staff, maximum flash for your cents on the dollar with millions if not billions of unpaid social media fascists and hysterics, and useful idiots clicking and snapping pix, and repeating unfounded gossip, and more well established gossip and Harvey being a fat rat fucker was perfect for the job; the perfect fall guy.
As Sam Spade said to The Fat Man: Give’m the Gunsel.
In other words, he had the added benefit of being a sketchy mother fucker.
But what mattered more was that all of a sudden the previously unfounded rumors were now gospel. After all, it’s not as if the whispers about Louis CK were new and it’s not as if the stories about Cosby weren’t already well known. But it’s not true until The New York Times and its friends tell you it’s true. Or, the struggling media pimps cashed in Harvey like an insurance policy and then pretended they had discovered the news when the truth is they had known about it all along and had ignored it and now are profiting from their complicity in the socio economic Gulag as the empire cracks up and is scattered in the wind.
Consider The Guardian’s breathless faux coverage of Woody Allen. Never mind that he was found not guilty by courts, lawyers, assorted experts and was run over by the media which found nothing criminal. And never mind that Mia Farrow’s brother is just now finishing up a stretch in prison for abusing children. What matters is showing some cyber thigh and getting eyeballs on clicks.
And if it’s not exactly all of the truth so the fuck what – what matters is the cash and in a corporate dictatorship the truth is always a question of who speaks last.
As we discussed previously the tap is turned on and off as the powers that be decide. Thus, Gaza! Gaza! Gaza! Except when they want to sell Gal Gadot as an avatar of some new wave of post feminist feminism. Or how dare Larry David make fun of sex, Jews, and Arabs and no one complains – because there’s too much money involved. But, #MeToo, #MeToo, #MeToo.
Which is not to say we think people should be trying to put Gal Gadot in a cyber ghetto or that David isn’t from time to time a comedic social satire genius. Nor is it to say systemic misogyny doesn’t exist.
It is to say, welcome to The Village.
Be seeing you.
For an astute excavation of Harvey’s rise and fall, see the following:
For a look at our previous musings on Gadot and David: