It’s been a rough first few months for new New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Hired to be a conservative anchor for the Times’ editorial page, he’s riled up the web with columns arguing against the science of climate change, against nuclear disarmament, and a defense of Betsy DeVos’s stance on campus sexual assault.
Suffice it to say, some on the left do not like him.
But late last night, the columnist, who once wrote about the dying art of disagreement, decided to disagree with the current collective wisdom right now that Harvey Weinstein is to blame for sexually assaulting and harassing the women he sexually assaulted and harassed for decades.
The teaser for the article, if you can’t see it there, says “Hyenas can’t help their nature. But the work of society is to prevent them from taking over the savanna.”
Well… sort of. But… and here is a very crucial distinction, Harvey Weinstein is a human and not a hyena. And any defense, even “of sorts,” is not a good look. Which Twitter was swift to inform him of.
(Also, by the way, hyenas kill so they can eat and survive, which has nothing to do with committing sexual assault because you enjoy it, but I guess whatever who cares?)
Can I fart on you
— Xena Worrier Princess (@marianbull) October 12, 2017
A closing, of sorts, of my browser window. https://t.co/YMjxaC4kOy
— Dana Stevens (@thehighsign) October 12, 2017
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 12, 2017
A month ago Stephens wrote this about how everyone's too tough on rapists:
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) October 12, 2017
NYT ed board blamed Hillary for not condemning Weinstein quickly enough. Now it publishes this take from a white guyhttps://t.co/L5kJsWXS8A
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) October 12, 2017
Admittedly, things can get lost in translation on the microblogging site Twitter. Is the column any better?
“Of all of the dismaying and disgusting details of the Harvey Weinstein saga, none is more depressing than this: It has so few heroes.”
The most depressing detail of the “saga” is not that it lacked the kind of satisfying narrative arc that Stephens wanted. It’s that over 30 women were harassed and abused by someone. Stephens’ point is that the problem lies with enablers, who allowed Harvey Weinstein’s “open secret” to go on this long. That because of that, Weinstein felt empowered to continue his behavior. Which is very true.
However, nothing trumps the actual act of committing assault again and again and again.
From there, Stephens says, “It’s in this context that one can mount a defense of sorts for Mr. Weinstein,” (NOPE) “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.”
One does not have to mount any defense of him. One does not have to do that at all. Stephen wraps it all up with his hyena metaphor, saying that if no one policed him, how was Harvey Weinstein to know that his behavior was bad and that he should stop.
Stephens then basically concludes that taking Harvey down was… not good.
“It may be that Weinstein’s epic downfall will scare straight other sexual miscreants, or at least those who tolerate their behavior and are liable for its consequences. Don’t count on it. Our belated indictment of him now does too much to acquit his many accomplices, and too little to transform a culture that never gave him a reason to change.”
OK. You can, ironically, read the whole column here, because no one told Stephens not to write it.