In any other year, Thursday’s New York Times article on Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual harassment might have felt like yet another story of a powerful man in Hollywood, abusing his power. The studio head who demands head in exchange for a plum role is such an accepted part of the sickness of the industry that it’s a long-running joke. That’s certainly how his lawyer Lisa Bloom seemed to want us to see Weinstein when she referred to him as “an old dinosaur trying to learn new ways.”
But this is the year of our lord 2017, soon to be known as the Year of the Sociopathic Baby-Man, and it feels like we’re cursed by an increasingly grotesque subspecies of this infantile beast at every turn. Does the world even feel real to powerful men, or is it more like playing an exciting video game? How else do two world leaders with nuclear weapons capable of murdering millions of people trade juvenile insults like toddlers battling over a toy? What else makes it seem fun and exciting to break a window in a hotel tower and point one of 43 assault weapons out a window at a crowd below? Are we really going to hold our collective breaths and watch these angry fools determine our fates? How is this reality?
In the Year of the Sociopathic Baby-Man, it’s more than a little challenging to view Weinstein as a friendly dinosaur, or to take the humble words of his open letter to the Times seriously. “Though I’m trying to do better,” he wrote, “I know I have a long way to go.” We’re meant to picture a sad, old, nearly extinct beast, brought low and forced to reflect on his sins closely for the first time ever — and not, say, I don’t know, a guy who’s been paying women to stay quiet for over two decades now. I mean, this guy kept signing settlement papers then turning around and doing the same thing all over again —and again, and again. Jesus, imagine the sheer tedium of that! Imagine insisting that one young employee or actress after another meet you in your hotel room, day after day. Casually opening your robe to reveal your naked body to her. Why? Because “they let you,” as the Sociopathic Baby-in-Chief once put it? Imagine either not registering the look of disgust that washes over each woman’s face, or worse yet, enjoying it. This repulsion reminds you that you’re powerful. This fear means that you’re scary and intimidating and not just an oversize infant with unsightly patches of body hair and a sick robot brain rattling around in your bloated skull.
When you really slow down the tape on Weinstein — or Trump, or Cosby, or Stephen Paddock, or Richard Spencer, and make no mistake, you have to work very hard not to draw lines between these men by now — what you see more than anything else is a profound lack of connection to other human beings. It’s not just that women or strangers or people of color or children of immigrants or Muslims don’t rate in their world. It’s that other human beings in general are utterly irrelevant. You are useful and part of the club or you’re cast out like trash. The second you’re not useful, you are waste. Or you were always waste. Your feelings about the matter couldn’t be less relevant. Whether or not their behavior will ruin you or literally end your life and the lives of countless others is utterly insignificant to these people.
Let’s not call that toxic masculinity. Saying “toxic masculinity” implies that masculinity is the core problem here, and suggests that a tiny bit of masculinity might also be a tiny bit poisonous. Using the word masculinity suggests that all men have a toxic core. I don’t buy that. What we’re seeing in the Sociopathic Baby-Man bestrides the world of ordinary men like a colossus. It’s more important than ever to make this distinction. Equating every man with the very worst, most repugnant, infantile robot-men alive is, pragmatically speaking, a very bad idea. Because these Sociopathic Baby-Men are not fucking around. Those who have power seem to become more and more powerful by the day. Their money grows. They seek out and surround themselves with other Sociopathic Baby-Men who recognize in them the same core values of zero values and zero concern for the future of humanity.
I know I sound like a fucking comic-book writer now, but this is no joke. These motherfuckers will make all of our lives miserable, simply because their fun video game can never end, they want to play it over and over and over. They are tenacious, they are insatiable, they want more ruin, if that’s what it takes, and we need every one of us — man, woman, all — to fight this scourge.
Because it’s not just that the Sociopathic Baby-Man believes that he can take whatever he wants, grab whatever he wants to grab and “they let you do it.” (Why do they let you do it, again?) It’s not just that he’s greedy and sick and corrupt and selfish and unfair and lacks any semblance of empathy. It’s that the world hardly even exists for him at all. He navigates a dreamscape. He doesn’t just feel very little empathy for other humans. He feels nothing at all, for anyone. He is entirely subsumed by his self-created fantasy. He moves through an imaginary realm.
When you read that Times article and others about Weinstein — and then you read Kate Aurthur’s BuzzFeed interview with Rose McGowan, how McGowan seems to hint that she experienced violations by Weinstein as a kind of death the age of 23 (“It alters the course of your life”), and then you imagine all of the women and men whose lives were altered or whose careers Weinstein stalled out or ended (based on what? A moment of hesitation or disgust? Some sign that they were actual human beings with wills of their own?) it becomes clear that Weinstein and everyone who colluded with him and empowered him over the course of the two decades have just offered us a frightening picture of exactly how we lose our grip on this beautiful world forever. For the powerful, it’s simple: You say whatever you want, and they let you. You grab what you want, and they let you. And the people around you stand by and they roll their eyes and silently back away — or they pat you on the back as you do it.
What’s most shocking of all right now might be the chorus of voices saying “We knew all along, and wondered when the truth would come out!” The truth doesn’t come out until someone is very brave. In this, the Year of the Sociopathic Baby-Man, we have no more excuses. We know this villain pretty well now. We have lots of very vivid examples of his kind. We know what he’s capable of. We all have to be brave now, and speak the truth to power. Because he might be a dinosaur, but he’s far from extinct, and he’s more than a little bit dangerous.