Harvey Weinstein is the focus of a huge international investigation for multiple counts of sexual harassment and even rape. To be fair, I’m just a bystander like most of you and while only the people involved know what really happened, I do know at least one thing. It’s pretty telling that, as literally dozens of A-list actresses have come forward with accusations, all the people who know Weinstein best are jumping ship on him. His wife of many years is leaving him, his board of directors fired him, and none of his veteran actors are coming to his defense. I can’t help but think, ‘Why didn’t anyone speak out about this? Why didn’t anybody confront him?’
Now the media is zeroing in on him, and rightfully so. Rapists should be ostracized and socially cast out for their major violation of an individual’s right to self-ownership of their body. Also, abusing one’s workplace to sexually prey on the vulnerable is at the very least a gross violation of contract; it requires something extra and far more personal that’s outside of an employment contract, and degrading the workplace degrades everyone else’s contract. Without voluntary respect both for self-ownership and the sanctity of contracts, free societies can’t exist!
The Weinstein scandal has temporarily distracted mass media from the wave of police shootings in this country, but there’s a similarity. Just like people in Hollywood stayed quiet about Weinstein’s unacceptable and possibly criminal behavior, people inside governments stay quiet about abuse of powers. One of the best examples is the epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military. Among the reasons military sexual trauma is so severely underreported are 1) threats of reprisal by the offenders, who often outrank their victims and are higher up on the victim’s chain of command; 2) reports are often swept under the rug inside the unit; and 3) officers and NCOs tend to want to avoid things that could affect their own career advancement, like criminal investigations of people they promoted or wrote good reports about. Most of these unreported offenders will eventually leave the military and pursue other careers, including law enforcement, where they can abuse their power to prey on new victims.
As with Hollywood and the military, there’s a similar issue with silence across America’s police departments. When a police officer is clearly in the wrong, and not directly being filmed doing wrong, all too often he gets away with it. This is because other police officers are complicit in their silence. Two months ago I spoke at Philadelphia’s End the Fed Block Party. After the main event, which had a large police presence the organizers never asked for in the first place, we saw that a group of 5 officers had followed us and posted outside the bar where the after party was being held.
Some of my tour crew broke the ice with a question the police were happy to answer: What’s the number one thing that makes it harder for you guys to do your job? Their answer: the media. All the media ever seems to show is stories about white cops shooting black men, even though they could all name black police officers who had a kill on their record. Fair enough. We talked about the level of distrust of the police in the community. The second question was: Where are the good cops? The ones who are aware of what the bad cops are doing and have a problem with it. Where are they?
‘We are they,’ the officers said. ‘We hate what they do. Every time somebody with a badge fucks up, they make our jobs that much harder and that much more dangerous. But realize, they’re criminals. They hide it from guys like us, they protect each other, and they promote each other.’ After talking, the officers left—those pesky libertarians weren’t going to make a scene after all.
Whether it’s Hollywood, the military, or the police, there’s a huge moral dilemma in this country: silence. Silence about abuse of authority and other crimes against sovereign individuals is inexcusable. Whether it’s rape in Hollywood, rape in the military, or police corruption, America has a problem with people staying silent to protect themselves. Silence is consent. Silence is complicity. While the crimes of individuals abusing power are real and should be spoken about, I hope that we will pay proportionate attention to the large scale systematic abuses of power that make all the rest possible.