Fun With Witch Hunts! If The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Has To Run Over Someone, Roy Moore Is A Great Choice, But Still…[UPDATED!]

From the New York Times:

“Republicans in Washington seemed near panic Thursday in the light of a news report in which four women said Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat in Alabama and an evangelical Christian, had made sexual or romantic overtures to them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said Mr. Moore should step aside ahead of the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations were true.”

“Sexual or romantic overtures,” eh? We are now officially entering the Witch Hunt Zone. Bill Cosby has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexually harassing many women in the workplace, as well as committing sexual assault and rape. Kevin Spacey was first accused of throwing a 14-year old boy onto a bed,and laying on top of him until the boy managed to get away—30 years ago. Now a controversial politician—he’s controversial because so many Republicans somehow think he is qualified to be an elected official when he clearly isn’t, and the only controversy is over whether they have no scruples, or are merely too dumb to be let outside without a leash—is being accused of “pursuing” three girls ranging in age between 16 and 18 and one girl who was 14 almost 40 years ago, when he was in his early thirties.

Unlike in the cases of Weinstein, James Toback, and most (I haven’t waded through all of them) of the Hollywood types now riding the Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, only one crime is being claimed against Moore. It is also worth considering that the age of legal consent in Alabama is 16. A thirty year-old hitting on teens that young is certainly creepy, but it’s not illegal, and if Alabama says its legal, it is also saying it isn’t so creepy that the State wants to discourage it.

Thus we are left with just one accuser, Leigh Corfman, whose accusation involves alleged wrongdoing by Moore.. She  says she was 14 years old in 1979 when  Roy Moore introduced himself to her and her mother as they were sitting outside an Alabama courthouse. Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time. He  offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.  Alone with her, Moore asked Corfman for her phone number, and later asked her out on a date. (We do not know if he asked her age.) On the first date, Corfman says, Moore drove her to his home  about 30 minutes away, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On the second and final date, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. Corfman says she then asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

Ew. Continue reading

Abashed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/28/17 [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Following a day in which various exigencies and responsibilities, plus fatigue and distraction, caused me to whiff on getting up at least three posts I thought were worthy of consideration, yesterday I failed to get any up at all. This makes me very unhappy, and I apologize. A fly-in, fly-out assignment in New York City had me up early and back late, whereupon I had my son’s birthday to acknowledge, the World Series to scrutinize and some aching feet to attend to. Priorities can’t be ignored, and being able to recognize when something you want to do and are devoted to doing just cannot be done well in the time allowed is a matter of life competence. Yet I hate failing loyal readers who care about ethics issues and rely on Ethics Alarms to explore them, and feel negligent when this occurs…fortunately, not very often.

Still too often, however.

2. The emergence of Hollywood director James Toback as a serial sexual harasser (at least) had me preparing a post about why theatrical directors are especially prone to this conduct. The gist of it was that in college, where participation in theater is often more social than aesthetic, directors forming romantic relationships with their cast members is neither taboo nor typically exploitative. Similarly, in community theater such relationships are not unusual or unethical, unless they interfere with a director’s artistic duties: casting an inferior performer because she’s your girl friend or because you want her to be is per se unethical. These are the cultures that produce many directors, and they enter professional theater, and later films, with bad habits that cannot be tolerated or continued in a professional context. Similarly, performers also come out of that culture. It may be difficult for some of them to comprehend that what is arguably acceptable in amateur settings is becomes unconscionable in a professional one.

However, this cannot explain Toback’s conduct. An astounding 200 plus women now say they were harassed or assaulted by him, and the list filled up in less than week. Compared to Toback, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby seem restrained.

Actress Selma Blair, for example, says her agent arranged for her to meet Toback for a possible role in one of his films after her career had begun with promise. Blair says the meeting was scheduled at a hotel restaurant, but  when she arrived the hostess told her that Toback wanted to meet in his hotel room. There, Toback asked her to perform a monologue nude, directed her to have sex with him, and said he would not let her leave until he “had release.” Then the actress says, he simulated sexual intercourse on her leg. 

I begin my sexual harassment seminars by stating that the problem is one of ethics. If you have respect for human beings regardless of gender, if you are fair to people you interact with, if you are caring toward them and obey the Golden Rule, if you apply the three basic ethics alarms checks (“Does this seem right? Could I tell my mother about this? Would I want this on the front page of my local newspaper?”), then you won’t be a harasser. But I can’t begin to explain how someone reaches the point of depravity and utter contempt for women that he would behave the way Blair describes Toback behaving. This is, to understate it, uncivilized. Was he raised by wolves? I suspect even wolves would be horrified by his behavior. My father never had to sit me down at 13 and say, “Jack, it’s time for a talk. It’s never right to simulate sexual intercourse on a woman’s leg when she has come to interview for a job.” I didn’t need to be told this. Who needs to be told this who isn’t already a dangerous sociopath?

Somehow, the culture of Hollywood devolved to such a state that abuse of power and women became a social norm, and even conventionally acculturated adults had their values erased and replaced. That is the only way the Tobacks and Weinsteins could come to exist. That culture is now too sick and entrenched to be wiped clean by a few scandals. It is going to take a long time to change it, if indeed it can be changed. Continue reading