Letterman and poisoning the well
As anyone with an internet connection will know, the last week has been a series of failures when it comes to male celebrities breaking the law and treating women and girls like shit. Everything I could say about Polanski, however, has already been said.
With Polanski, however, it seems like few people outside of Hollywood are engaging in overt rape-apologetics. The people I happen to run into on a daily basis are mostly in agreement that Polanski is a filthy fucking rapist and that the portion of Hollywood signing that “Free Polanski” petition have all lost their fucking minds.
So, I at least have some faith in humanity.
Although it is very shaken when it comes to Letterman. I was always of the opinion that he was a swarmy asshole. Most men in power tend to be, and there were no indications that he was an exception to the rule.
Thus, the news story about how he slept with many female staffers in his long tenure as a talk-show host didn’t surprise me at all. Hey, another famous male abusing his power to harass, rape, or exploit women. In other obvious news, the sky is blue. I bet you would have never guessed that! What really bugged me about the story, however, wasn’t really that Letterman was an unadulterated douchebag of the highest order. It’s the public reaction to his revelation that got my panties in a twist, so to speak.
Unlike Polanski, most people seem to have filed Letterman’s shenanigans either under the “ha ha, that’s funny” category, or moved right into “bitches blackmail men because they didn’t get what they wanted out of seducing them, the whores”.
And the second assumption bugs the ever-living shit out of me. It’s like the entire world has no idea of what power imbalances are created when your boss is a very famous man hell-bent on seducing you, or the fact that sexual harassment in the work place is illegal.
Because that’s what Letterman did: he sexually harassed, coerced, and exploited the women and men under him. He turned the staff of his entire show from the meritocracy it was supposed to be into a harem of peons he assumed were only there to assuage his massive self of self-entitlement and/or his prick. He deprived women of the positions they’ve earned because they wouldn’t sleep with him or he wouldn’t want to sleep with them. He deprived men of the same, because sleeping with him was not an option, and that seemed to be the most sure-fire way of climbing the ranks quickly.
In short, Letterman poisoned the well. He forever twisted the fair and equal power structure that he was legally and duty-bound to uphold into whatever suited his overwhelming sense of narcissism.
And when he revealed what he did to the public, they laughed.
They laughed like it was not a big deal. Like he wasn’t responsible or that an offense against morality hadn’t been committed. They laughed like every powerful man is entitled to behave as such because such men have “earned” the right to viciously undermine fairness and exploit everyone around them, especially if the exploited are women.
Honestly, that scares the crap out of me. What Letterman did isn’t rare or uncommon. It’s very prevalent. People in power use that power, and the threat inherent when they have that power and other people don’t, to do all sorts of unconscionable shit. It’s an endless cycle of cronyism and exploitation/corruption that irrevocably taints most power structures.
Yes, most. Corruption underlies most hierarchical structures in most societies. Letterman’s actions are just more evidence of the same. They’re not a laughing matter.
For shit’s sake, when are people going to stop laughing at corruption and demand some goddamn accountability? Whether it’s Polanski or Letterman or George W. Bush, it should be really fucking obvious by now that most people in power behave as if that power gave them carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want.
Furthermore, this shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When Letterman uses how well women please his cock to determine his advancement policies, people who deserve it don’t advance. When Polanski uses the promises of fame to rape girls, girls don’t have a safe way to get fame or trust those that could help them achieve it. When George W. Bush uses how much contractors are chummy with his interests to determine who does what in Iraq, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars just disappear and resurface in generous Halliburton compensation packages or are spent on mercenaries that slaughter civilians.
When corruption earns laughter rather than moral culpability, corruption flourishes. It undermines every concept of fairness and justice we think we have. It poisons the well and engages in behavior like rape, sexual exploitation, or outright murder.
So when you think of Letterman, don’t laugh. What corruption does isn’t funny. And it’s about time that we stopped laughing at men who abused power, and started demanding some fucking accountability.