Not to mention, most of the victims chose not to speak out.
Aside from sharing the grimy details with a close girlfriend or confidante.
And if they discussed it with their representatives?
Agents and managers, who themselves feared The Wrath Of The Big Man?
The agents and managers would tell them to keep it to themselves.
Because who knew the repercussions?
That old saw “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again” came crawling back to putrid life like a re-animated cadaver in a late-night zombie flick.
But, yes, everyone knew someone who had been on the receiving end of lewd advances by him.
Or knew someone who knew someone.
And here’s where the slither meets the slime:
Harvey was showing us the best of times.
He was making our movies.
Throwing the biggest parties.
Taking us to The Golden Globes!
Introducing us to the most amazing people (Meetings with Vice President Gore! Clubbing with Quentin and Uma! Drinks with Salman Rushdie and Ralph Fiennes! Dinners with Mick Jagger and Warren-freaking-Beatty!).
In short, nobody spoke out about the mistreatment of their colleagues because they were doing fine. A certain Edmund Burke had something to say about this:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
To borrow a phrase from the feminists, this is not a problem restricted to Hollywood. Only I’m not talking about sexual assaults on women workers, I’m talking about moral cowardice.
I defy anyone who has worked the last ten years in the modern workplace to tell me they haven’t seen a time when a decent, conscientious, competent worker was treated like dirt or hounded out of their position by a self-serving, cowardly management who should never have been put in charge of guarding a pile of wet dog shit, let alone the lives of human beings.
Similarly, I defy anyone who has worked the last ten years in the modern workplace to cite more than three occasions when a colleague of somebody who’s been fucked over has stuck his neck out and openly criticised the management responsible for the mistreatment. I don’t mean expressing sympathy with the guy, nor do I mean making generic remarks about how terrible it all is. I mean marching into the manager’s office and saying:
“Just to let you know, I am seriously unhappy with what you are doing to Fred over there. It is unethical, immoral, and probably illegal, and ought to have no place in a modern business.”
Hands up who has done that? Hands up who has seen anyone do that? Anyone? Nobody? Bueller? Bueller?!
There are reasons for this, of course. People are individuals, and usually have kids to feed and a mortgage to pay. Achieving these two things are usually their top priorities in life, and anything else is secondary – including being happy at work. So colleagues of a mistreated employee may sympathise and want to say something, but will judge it to be in their personal interests just to keep quiet. Why antagonise the management and put yourself on a hit-list when it probably isn’t going to help your colleague anyway? Better to remain silent.
Only as Mr Burke realised, speaking out against injustice matters for two reasons:
1. Many managers, especially weak ones who want their subordinates cowed and compliant, interpret silence as contentment. Believing their actions are being met with approval, they are emboldened to continue in the same manner. Keeping silent allows bad managers to justify shitty behaviour to themselves and keep their consciences clear. It allows them to go home at night and look their wives and kids in the eyes instead of hanging their heads in shame. I would prefer a manager who has mistreated somebody to be the subject of a short, sharp, and unpleasant confrontation with an unrelated third party which has him unable to sleep that night through realisation that he is, in this instance, a complete c*nt. Speak out and you make them uncomfortable, far more than they let on. Subordinates are under no obligation to give their superiors a comfy ride at their expense.
2. There is an appalling habit of managers, when confronted with an unfavorable situation over which they have presided, to claim “we didn’t know” followed by “if we had known, we would have done something” and followed further by “you should have communicated this to us through the proper channels”. Speaking out at the time robs them of the opportunity to pull this excuse in the future, and forces them to attempt to justify the situation or commit to a demonstrable lie. Again, it will make them uncomfortable. Good.
Of course, if you try to intervene the manager in question is likely to say that it is none of your business, at which point you can fire back that your colleague being subject to shitty treatment is everyone’s business, and it is. Sooner or later, it will be you wishing others had spoken out.