Somehow, someway, The New York Times opinion page, which was already odious, has outdone itself. The same newspaper that took down Harvey Weinstein inexplicably decided it would be a good idea to let Bret Stephens, whose objectionable reputation precedes him, publish a “defense of sorts” for the former Hollywood producer.
On Wednesday night Stephens shared his new “column” on Twitter and his argument, if you can even call it that, amounts to: “if only Hollywood hadn’t enabled this sexual deviant, perhaps he wouldn’t have been able to assault so many women.” (Perhaps Stephens might also agree that Weinstein should have “obeyed” Mike Pence’s rules for meeting with the opposite sex.)
After laying blame on the corporate board members, assistants, reporters, actors, and executives who supposedly permitted or facilitated Weinstein’s behavior, Stephens tees up his feeble defense of the “lame horse” who got shot:
It’s in this context that one can mount a defense of sorts for Mr. Weinstein, who inhabited a moral universe that did nothing but cheer his golden touch and wink at (or look away from) his transgressions — right until the moment that it became politically inconvenient to do so.
Even Weinstein’s handlers, Stephens also argued, are not nearly as culpable as the “libertine culture” that created him. Weinstein’s troublesome “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different” excuse should be taken into consideration, according to Stephens:
That line was roundly mocked, but it contains its truth. Like those other libidinous cads — Bill Clinton and Donald Trump — Weinstein benefited from a culture that often celebrated, constantly depicted, sometimes enabled, seldom confronted, and all-too frequently forgave the behavior they so often indulged in.
Finally, Stephens pointed the finger at us: the people who didn’t prevent a “hyena” from “taking over the savannah.” Of course it is our society, devoid of “moral sentience,” that rewarded Weinstein, Clinton, and Trump (despite the fact that us laypeople who have previously watched and enjoyed Weinstein’s movies couldn’t have possibly known the depths of his depravity):
Our society, by contrast, festooned Weinstein with honors, endowed him with riches, and enabled him to feast on his victims without serious consequence for the better part of 30 years. The old saw that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing was never truer than it was in Weinstein’s case.
Defending an alleged rapist and sexual predator is lightyears from, say, denying climate change, which was the subject of one of Stephens more “edgy” op-eds. So while it’s entirely unsurprising that Stephens, once again, undertook the oh-so-brave road less taken to defend Weinstein, his assertion that a “libidinous” society is capable of forcing sexual assault reaches a new low.
Women are still coming forward to recount Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment, wounds haven’t even begun to heal — not that there would have be an appropriate time to defend someone whose misdeeds are as grotesque as Weinstein’s. The New York Times Editorial Board should be ashamed.