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Monday, October 9, 2017

Sociopath alert: Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein has been all over the news recently, mostly for the sexual harassment scandal, but also for the way he was nasty and unpleasant in other ways. In a way it's reminiscent of the Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby scandals: once the first couple accusers come forward, the floodgates open and a lot of others follow.

In that sense this post is just more piling on. But Weinstein is such a perfect illustration of how a sociopath operates, and succeeds, that it's worth pointing out how sociopathy informs his actions.

There are a lot of guys who, if they had the power to put beautiful women in their movies, and those actresses desperately wanted those roles, and were willing to do anything to get them, would probably take advantage.

It should also be pointed out that Weinstein hasn't been accused of raping anybody, which puts him a rung above Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby.

And, Weinstein hasn't been accused of explicitly telling an actress that a certain role would be contingent upon sex -- though one would think that was understood on a more tacit level.

Weinstein has long had a reputation for being hard to work with, meaning, he's temperamental. But he produced a string of Oscar-winning movies, and it was always possible -- from a distance, at least -- to see him as merely a demanding perfectionist.

It's not until you read the details of his behavior that you realize this is not a normal guy who succumbed to temptation. There's a certain forcefulness, and sense of entitlement, and utter contempt for others, that goes well beyond a normal guy's behavior.

In a recent article in the Huffpost, former newscaster Lauren Sivan said that Weinstein offered her a tour of a restaurant he partially owned, then dismissed the other employees and made a pass at her. She declined.

Imagine yourself (as the guy) in that situation. You've just been rejected; you'd probably feel a little humiliated, or, maybe just a little embarrassed. What would you do? Apologize and hope you hadn't offended her by making such an abrupt pass? Chat her up some more in hopes that she'll change her mind? Walk away with your tail between your legs?

Weinstein said, "Well you can stand there and shut up," then pulled his penis out and masturbated in front of her. He quickly ejaculated into a nearby potted plant, then escorted her out of the building.

Weinstein wasn't just a regular guy who enjoyed the perks of his position. That behavior shows a level of inhibition which is basically nonexistent.

Weinstein has reportedly come to eight separate financial settlements with various women for sexual harassment incidents. These couldn't have been just passes that were turned down, otherwise money would not have exchanged hands.

One woman, Jade Bukowski, worked as a waitress at the Tribeca Grill, and witnessed firsthand how Weinstein treated the help:

The staff could usually tell that the woman was there to meet him before she had even said a word. If a woman waited for him at the bar, he’d bellow furiously at more than one of us for not having seated her prior to his arrival, despite the fact that she’d insisted on it. “Why the f- -k isn’t she at the table?” he’d say....

As he attempted to charm his guests, he terrorized the wait staff. In his signature black T-shirt and jeans, he’d sidle over to one of his two favorite tables in the back. He would almost never look you in the eye, too busy reading the paper or biting off an assistant’s head.

Inappropriate touching was a habit of his. If you weren’t paying attention and the restaurant was loud, he might lurch at whatever part of you he could reach. Once, while I put in an order at the computer, he barreled up and body-checked me. Then, as if nothing had happened, he barked: “Back. Coffee. Tea. Now.”

Even though I’ve not seen him for six months, this week’s revelations brought back terrible recollections. The feelings of anxiety and degradation he inflicted on all of us — especially the women — continue to plague me to this day.

There's an old saying: if you want to know what someone you're having dinner with is really like, don't look at how he treats you; observe how he treats the waiter.

One thing that non sociopaths never quite fully fathom about sociopaths is the extent to which they view others as objects -- like a bicycle, or a remote control, or an article of apparel. If it somehow gets broken -- or if they break it -- it's no big deal. They just get a new one.

One thing that's become clear recently is that everybody in the business feared Weinstein for his temper. This is a classic sociopathic method of manipulation: to bend people to your will simply by making them fear your uninhibited outbursts.

In 2007, he married Georgina Chapman, a clothing designer. Since then, he has pressured a lot of famous actresses who have starred in his movies into wearing his wife's Marchesa gowns on the red carpet: Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Emma Watson, Renee Zellweger, Blake Lively, Uma Thurman, and Kate Hudson.

Much of Hollywood has remained strangely silent this past week -- which implies they're still afraid of him.

The statement Weinstein released after the NY Times expose came out last week was a masterpiece of evasion and misdirection and manipulation, all sociopathic specialties. [My words in brackets]:

"I came of age in the 60's and 70's, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. 

[During the 60's, "free love" did not refer to cornering women in deserted hallways and then masturbating in front of them while ordering them to stand still. That was never "the culture" in this country.]

I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office - or out of it. To anyone. I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed. 

[Well, maybe in the past week.]

I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. 

[He's not just apologizing, he's sincerely apologizing; sociopaths are forever overusing adjectives and adverbs emphasizing their own honesty.]

Though I'm trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons....

[He is now on a "journey," just like the protagonists of so many of his movies. And his use of the word "demons" implies that he himself is a victim of those "demons," which are somehow separate from himself.]

I so respect all women and regret what happened....I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.

[He so respects all women? Actions speak louder than words. No one, sociopath or not, actually "respects" every single member of either gender. And he "cannot be more remorseful?" Again, that telltale sociopathic emotional falseness.]

I am going to need a place to channel that anger so I've decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. 

[What anger? He was just talking about his remorse. And ah, how timely, after Las Vegas. If you don't come down too hard on Harvey, he'll help fight the good fight against our real enemy, the NRA!]

I'm going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I'm making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. 

[What possible reason can there be to mention his Bar Mitzvah other than to remind the powers that be in Hollywood that he is their tribesman? And in another message to Hollywood, well, if you support Harvey, he'll also help oust our horrible President!]

One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her."

[See? He's just a mama's boy at heart, one who wouldn't do anything to disappoint dear old mama. And actually, that $5 million foundation doesn't seem coincidental at all -- it seems like a calculated attempt at image rehabilitation.]

All in all, it was a carefully worded statement: he confessed to less than perfect behavior in general without admitting to any specific wrongdoing.

A couple days ago, Weinstein issued a statement saying that the NY Times account was filled with factual errors, without saying exactly what those errors are. Denials like this are common; if some minor detail is wrong -- even if the gist of the accusation is right -- lawyers in prominent cases will always issue a statement saying that the statement is "factually inaccurate."

The most interesting question, as always, is why did Weinstein turn out that way? The "Early Life" section of his bio in Wikipedia really doesn't give any clues.

One small clue is that a number of people seem to be speculating that his own brother played a role in his recent downfall. You'd think his brother, of all people, would be loyal to him. But, he's shown the same amount loyalty to Harvey that Harvey showed to everyone else. And that makes one wonder about how they were brought up.

But, maybe it was just the case that his brother Bob was a decent guy who knew that Harvey was toxic, and was tired of covering up for him after decades of misbehavior. And, Bob was probably tired of being overshadowed. They were theoretically equal partners, yet Harvey was the larger than life figure who was the public face of the company and got to be photographed on the red carpet with various actresses.

But whatever Bob is, there's no question about Harvey's diagnosis.

The lesson Harvey Weinstein teaches us is not that he's just another sociopath who mistreats people and has no self-control or loyalty. It's that he got to where he got precisely because he was a sociopath, so instinctively knew how to manipulate people.

Weinstein was a lot like Steve Jobs and so many other successful people who achieved success essentially by bending others to their will: he had no special talent of his own, other than manipulation. He didn't write, or direct, or film. He merely produced, meaning, he orchestrated and schemed and dominated.

Harvey knew how to pay lip service to the right values. It's highly doubtful that he personally cares about fighting the NRA all that much, given that he glorifies guns so much in his movies (like Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained). But he cares about being seen as the type of person who is against gun violence.

It's highly doubtful that he cares so much for women's rights, given how he treats them personally. But he wants to be seen as the type of noble person who will endow a scholarship for women directors.

Weinstein desired a reputation for nobility and good character the same way he lusted for power and money and women and food and Oscar glory -- uninhibitedly. And he went after those things uninhibitedly, the way sociopaths do: using every trick he could think of. And that's undoubtedly why he was so successful.

Until you realize that, you don't realize how the world works. Sociopaths almost always triumph over the little people -- like you and me -- until the little people point out their dishonesty and hypocrisy.

(By the way, bravo to the New York Times for having written that expose; it was surprising to see them go after one of their own.)

Update, next day: Looks like I spoke a little too soon about Weinstein not being a rapist.


Anonymous said...

How can Wikipedia know what happened when Harvey was a little guy. Most probably, Mom did not bond with him, left him crying for attention and love. By having a scholarship named after Mom shows the little unloved guy is still crying for love.

He also tried to win the love of Mom replicas - Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton.


John Craig said...

Sherie --
Good thinking, I hadn't even thought of Streep and Clinton as being mother-substitutes, but that makes sense. Could well be.

Fairly often when you find someone who's a sociopath, especially if they're violent sociopaths, there's something about their background that makes you think, aha! For the middle- to upper-class variety, it's often harder to see.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, after Harvey Weinstein was officially fired from his company, then the bigger name stars started coming forth to either condemn Weinstein or admitted that they too were victims (e.g., Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, etc.). This guy is a sleaze bag. What amazes me is that so many in Hollywood were aware of what Weinstein was doing, but they all chose to collectively stay silent. I am questioning why the liberals are now allowing one of their own to be exposed.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
It is surprising that the NY Times would have published that article, exposing one of their own. As far as the people now starting to come forth, well, there's strength in numbers. And Weinstein is obviously through as a force in Hollywood at this point, his career will now go the way of Bill Cosby's comedy career and OJ Simpson's acting career. So people no longer have to worry that they're jeopardizing any future film roles by speaking out.

Alicia W. said...

I'm no expert on socipathic behavior, but even an emotionally awkward weirdo like me can see just emotionally hollow that "apology" is, especially when the hollowness of it is pointed out. I always find "apologies" like this to be utterly fake. They're never sorry. They'd gladly keep doing it if they were never caught or called out on. It's so transparent it hurts.

John Craig said...

Sunburst223 --
Amen. They're sorry they got caught.

Mark Caplan said...

Strange that nobody I'm aware of who has weighed in on the Harvey Weinstein scandal has mentioned just how this side of the Elephant Man ugly Weinstein is. Photos of a grinning Weinstein beside or touching one or more adoring Hollywood lovelies I always found hard to stomach.

Shaun F said...

John - I always wonder about the drug consumption of these types. If there is any be is prescription or recreational. I would just presume it would amplify their bad behaviour. Any thoughts?


John Craig said...

Mark --
It occurred to me a couple of times to make some reference to that, but then I thought that it was a post about his psychology, not his looks, I'd refrain. I've also wondered if this whole thing would have happened if he'd been good-looking. Meaning, he was after all probably THE most powerful producer in Hollywood, at least in terms of the number of movies he had a hand in, and all sorts of women were probably already throwing themselves at him anyway, despite his ugliness, just to land coveted roles. If he had looked like, say, Michael Fassbender, he would probably never have had to be so forceful.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
I'm sure you're right. Judging from Weinstein's appearance, I'm guessing alcohol was his drug of choice. One of the articles I linked in this post spoke of how he would always have champagne on hand to woo his date for the evening. And none of them ever mentioned cocaine. I've never taken cocaine myself, but I've heard mixed reviews in terms of what it does for you sexually. Some say it improves sex, I also heard just recently that because it raises your blood pressure it can affect your (male) performance negatively. (Even as it makes you feel more dynamic and more capable of seducing a woman.)

As far as prescription, I'm sure none of guys are shy about taking Viagra or Cialis.

Shaun F said...

John- I actually wasn't thinking of Viagra or Cialis - but that is a good point.

I was thinking of uppers, anti-depressant type pills.


John Craig said...

Shaun --
Sure, they could have an effect, too. I think cocaine is probably the upper of choice in Hollywood, I doubt any of them use meth they would see that as a white trash drug. I suppose there are all sorts of other, legal stimulants, starting with Ritalin, that might work too. And actually, plain old caffeine has more effect than most realize, especially if you take in large enough doses.

Anonymous said...

Harvey Weinstein's world is further coming apart. His wife has left him.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I saw that. I think at this point, even if he doesn't go to jail, he's just going to more or less disappear quietly, just like Mike Ovitz did.

LBD said...

When this first broke I told my husband, I'm counting down.....three, two, one...until his wife leaves him. She is twenty years his junior, very attractive, and he is now nothing but a liability to her. He has made her fashion company name toxic and is unlikely to earn much money in the future. If he were a nice fuy with a giving heart I might believe she would like sleeping with him, but seeing as how he is a physically unattractive sociopath with a nasty personality and an odd kick in his gallop sexually, he is, as they say, neither use nor ornament.

Sure enough, today it was announced that she's bailing.

John Craig said...

LBD --
You called it. You've described Harvey perfectly, and everything you say is completely logical, and makes sense from Georgina's perspective. But it also implies something about her that's less than appealing: that she married him for very cold, logical reasons that had noting to do with romantic feelings. Whenever I would see a picture of the two of them together, I'd always think, wow, that's one tough gold-digger. She was able to abide his appearance and his piggishness, all for the money. That implies a very calculating nature on her part as well.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people think that Harvey Weinstein is fleeing the U.S. to avoid future criminal prosecution. This sex addiction rehab that he supposedly will undergo is b.s.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
The same thought occurred to me, that he was going to a European sex rehab clinic, Roman Polanski-style. Are there not any good clinics in the US?

LBD said...

John, it's not as simple as gold digging. I believe it was more like social climbing. She was capable of earning a more than adequate living by herself, but marriage to Fat Bastard brought both her and her company to what passed, until last week, for the upper echelons of society. The combination of film celebrities and political celebrities as "friends" must have felt like the ultimate in social clout.

Now that I think of the scenes in Austin Powers with Heather Graham and Fat Bastard, I can't help but think she and Mike Myers must have had ol' Harvey in mind when creating that character.

I also told my husband that now I understand Weinstein's near hysterical antipathy to the NRA. Guns equalize power between the physically weak and the physically strong (otherwise known as men and women). Fat Bastard would have hated for an actress to come to a "script meeting" with a legal carry gun in her purse.

Dave Moriarty said...

well it certainly looks as if i will have to stop answering the door in my bathrobe :)

John Craig said...

LBD --
Ha, Fat Bastard, good analogy. And yes, they may well have based the character on Weinstein. And, not so coincidentally, Heather Graham was another actress who came out recently and said she had the impression Weintein wanted sex in return for a role. (One ting you have to say for Weinstein, he had good taste.)

You're right, social climbing had a lot to do with it too. I think the gold digging aspect shouldn't be underemphasized (he was pushing Marchesa on all of the actresses who waled the red carpet of this films, and the brand would never have gotten that kind of exposure otherwise). But yeah, the opportunity to mingle with the rich and celebrated must have been a big part of the equation too.

John Craig said...

Dave --
Don't let a little incident like this cramp your style.

Anonymous said...

How would a sociopath be able to succeed in an emotive art and industry? Doesn't one need a certain amount of emotional experience and knowledge to be able to select projects that will resonate with audiences? Especially in the development stage where there is no audience reaction to tell them how others would respond. I'm not saying he's not a sociopath, but am just wondering what mechanisms they would rely on to do that type of work successfully.

I know that sociopaths are good at mimicking emotions, so I see how sociopaths could be successful actors. But mimicking an emotion can be explained by one's ability to recognize visual patterns and their relative effects.

I can also see how a sociopath could succeed in making horror films. They'd be particularly good at developing scenes that truly turn other peoples' stomachs, and they'd be able to delight in their fantasies while causing fear in audiences.

I know he produced all of Tarantino's movies, which tend to be violent. Maybe he was attracted to that. But prior to his Tarantino success, he produced "My Left Foot," which seems to be a particularly delicate movie dealing with disability, struggle, love, suicide, rejection, friendship, and death. Almost the antithesis of a Tarantino movie.

I don't know what any of that means. I'm curious to read what you think.



John Craig said...

B --
Good question. You're right, a lot of the Miramax and Weinstein Co. movies were known for their exquisite sensitivity, and you wouldn't necessarily think a sociopath would be the best at selecting such projects. But I see Weinstein as, in some ways, the equivalent of Steve Jobs, another sociopath I've written about. Jobs himself never designed anything, he just whipped his troops and ad agencies until they came up with a product and marketing campaign he liked. (Yet a lot of people were left with the vague impression that he was the "genius" behind the MacBook, iPhone, etc, which he wasn't.) And I'm not even sure it was Harvey, and not his brother Bob, who selected the projects. Plus they had a lot of people working for them whose jobs were to help select the right projects. Remember, Harvey himself was not an actor, director, or writer. His job was executive producer, meaning, he negotiated deals, and kept a sharp eye on the bottom line. And I'm sure he was a fantastic salesman as well (as sociopaths tend to be). In that, he was like another Steve Jobs: throwing fits until he got his way.

Anonymous said...

Off topic:The great John Craig. This is hand's down the best blog ever. This is my first post I've been lurking for a long time. Where can I ask you questions? I've got so many.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you very much. You can ask questions right here, unless they're particularly personal, in which case you can send your email address (which I won't post) and I'll answer them more privately.

Anonymous said...

I just read an article online where former and current staff at the Tribeca Grill (which Harvey frequented, having "business" meetings there with actresses) were thrilled to see his wretched personality exposed to the public. How anyone could stand to spend time with him is beyond me.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I can imagine; I linked an article (in the 13th paragraph of the post above) by a waitress there who described those meetings.

I can imagine that basically just about everyone who knew him is secretly celebrating.

GT said...

Notice the picture in the link -

Seems that some of the worst people always end up with the best sympathy props when they are on trail. Walkers - wheel chairs - oxygen bottles - canes - arms in a sling -

John Craig said...

GT --
There was an article in the NY Post about a month ago about how he had appeared at court using a walker, but then was spotted in a store shortly thereafter without one, just walking around normally. It's obviously for show. But I also read that one of his lawyers had said that it was at their suggestion that he use one, so at least this wasn't Weinstein's idea.

But to your larger point, yes, it does seem that a lot of particularly egregious defendants show up in court doing their best to look feeble. Last year the Golden State (serial) Killer showed up in a wheelchair. And last year Samuel Little, that ex-boxer who drew pictures of all his victims, also showed u in a wheelchair.

I guess the subliminal message they intend to convey is, "How could I possibly rape/kill anyone? I'm too old and weak."