As Lawyers, Guns and Money puts it, all it takes is having people in power who are harassers and misogynists, and being friends, or at least allies, to others of their ilk. Not only are they attracted to people who see the world the same way, they’re less likely to do anything when their underlings harass and prey. If they do take action, it’s to bury the truth. Much like the accumulating details that create rape culture, this sends a message about what’s considered acceptable behavior. Not everyone will change their behavior in response, but lots of people will.
As a textbook example, we have Ronan Farrow’s new book, Catch and Kill, which claims (I don’t doubt the truth, but I think “claims” is legally safer) that NBC’s top dogs killed his blockbuster expose on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history of rape and harassment. The network heads said, quite untruthfully, that none of the victims were willing to go on the record, and that it just wasn’t complete enough; as noted at the link, the normal response to that is to keep working on the story, not to give up. At the link, Farrow’s colleague on the expose (which later appeared in The New Yorker) suggests Weinstein threatened to make public the rape allegations against Today host Matt Lauer, which the bosses had turned a blind eye to.
Writing at The Cut, Rebecca Traister says the book presents MSNBC president Phil Griffin as “a crude boss who waves around a photo of a woman’s exposed vagina in a meeting, commenting, ‘Would you look at that? Not bad, not bad’; Farrow also reports that Griffin, while a senior producer at Nightly News in the 1990s, once pressured female producers to accompany him to a peep show in Times Square.” He hired Noah Oppenheim, the executive Farrow reported too, after reading some sexist diatribes Oppenheim wrote in college (“apparently women enjoy being confined, pumped full of alcohol and preyed upon … They feel desired, not demeaned,”). Oppenheim became president of NBC News in 2017. Traister says the real take-away isn’t the individual predators but the system that created them, allows them to flourish and then covers up the evidence: “No matter how many individual bogeymen have lost their jobs, we live in a world in which our ability to evolve is still measured by our willingness to forgive them and return them to positions of power and not by a determination to elevate other kinds of people to positions of authority.”
Or as Dahlia Lithwick puts it, “powerful men have about a three-month rehabilitation period through which they must live, after which they can be swept up once again in the slipstream of their own fame and success. The women of #MeToo, though, are never quite welcome in the slipstream again.”
Sometimes it doesn’t take that long. Trump shrugged off the videotape in which he admitted to sexual assault. I doubt having 43 more women come forward about being his vctims will change his supporters minds.