Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sexual Assault and Power

Women have come forward alleging that political journalist Mark Halperin sexually harassed and assaulted them.

It has been said many times that sexual harassment has more to do with power than with sexuality. Our Pussy Grabber-in-Chief has claimed, "When you're a star, they let you do it." Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein all used the control they wielded over women's careers to help them get away with all sorts of disgusting behavior. And that it has been considered disgusting rather than criminal, that they may have lost their jobs over over but not yet gone to jail -- that may have a lot to do with these men's power too.

And now Mark Halperin faces a dozen or more accusers. Halperin was not only a boss with power over female employees, power which he abused, he also seems particularly obsessed with the topic of power, and with having his own power acknowledged. Back in 2002, he started publishing The Note, a daily column which, although it has always been publicly posted on the ABC News website, seemed to be written by Halprin in a way which was intentionally difficult for non-"insiders" to understand. (Halperin has sinced moved on from ABC, but The Note remains there, written much less cryptically by others.) Halperin addressed The Note to the people he called the Gang of 500: the 500 most powerful people in Washington (according to Halprin). Mary Matalin has called Halperin "the insider's insider's insider." And his case makes me ask myself: what is power?

It seems to me that the power of individual people is a subjective thing. The more power people think you have -- the more power you have. To some extent, that is. You may be considered a powerful person by some, and not by others. I'm not a particularly big fan of John Prine, but one line in his song "That's The Way That The World Goes 'Round" has really stuck with me and given me food for thought, for decades. It's about a fellow whom Prine clearly dislikes quite a deal. Prine sings:

"He thinks he owns half of this town"

Back in the early 80's, that one line in a song I haven't felt the need to hear again told me that things like power are not as clear-cut as they seem to some people.

For one thing: is being a powerful player in Washington politics anything to be proud of, at the moment? Are the Gang of 500, including people designated by Halperin as SPIP (the smartest person in politics) and SSPIP (the 2nd-smartest person in politics) really worth all that much if all 500 of them together couldn't prevent the Trump Presidency? Is this the sort of thing which people who claim to be geniuses with vast influence want to take credit for?

For another thing: what is more powerful, being able to force yourself sexually on someone who doesn't want to be with you and get away with it, or having the ability to make someone want to be with you?

Does power make a man more attractive, as we so often hear from powerful men, or does it allow unattractive men to stay in denial about how unattractive they are, and in denial about certain powers which they have never had, powers which some other people have, who have been poor all their lives?

Do "insiders" really have the ability to accomplish amazing things? Or do they just have a mechanism to distract themselves from some deep inner insecurity, such as, for example, a fear that other people think they are anything but remarkable or amazing?

Think about Trump, Ailes, O'Reilley, Weinstein and Halperin. What have they done with their power? Do they and did they deserve it, is it and was it power well-spent? Of course not. Are we just going to let very similar monsters and mediocrities into the positions they vacate?

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