Ronan Farrow, a 30-year-old scion of Hollywood, has taken down two giant figures in American culture and politics: Harvey Weinstein ("God," according to Meryl Streep) and New York A.G. Eric Schneiderman (who threatened to criminalize Trump associates and possibly even Trump himself with state convictions that are beyond the presidential pardon powers). Along the way, Farrow has embarrassed feminists and the Democratic Party establishment, along with the media that knew and remained silent about both miscreants. He has also had a disproportionate impact on Democrat office-holders, while making the alleged boorishness of President Trump toward comely women seem trivial in comparison.
All this, and a Pulitzer Prize, too, for a young man who, so far as anyone knows, is not a conservative.
Ronan Farrow (cropped from a U.S. State Department photo).
How on Earth could this happen, and what does it mean? Yaron Steinbuch of the New York Post offers some hints:
NBC notoriously refused to go with the story about Weinstein when Farrow – the network's employee – brought it. But thanks to the New Yorker, it saw publication and ignited a firestorm that continues to burn. In return, NBC and MSNBC are now snubbing Farrow as he makes the rounds to publicize the Schneiderman story.
Both NBC and MSNBC appear to have made a concerted effort to block Ronan Farrow from appearing on either network to talk about his bombshell report on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's alleged abuse – instead opting to interview his co-author, Jane Mayer.
So personal animus toward the Comcast-owned broadcast outlets is part of what is motivating Farrow. But there was also a measure of desperation behind his Weinstein scoop:
Farrow, who admitted that his career had been "on the rocks," said that even those close to him tried to discourage him from writing the piece.
"My bosses saying, 'You have got to stop – let it go.' My agent saying, 'It's causing too many speed bumps for your career, you have got to let it go,'" he said.
"Even loved ones, saying, 'Is this really worth it?' Pointing out that I would risk my whole career for a story that might not even make a dent."
Keep in mind that the abominable treatment of women by Weinstein and Schneiderman was common knowledge in elite media and political circles. But there were norms that prevented publicity about them. Both men were regarded as useful to the goals of progressives, and so if a few women get abused, well, that's the price progs are willing to pay. It is the oldest excuse for progs: they are seeking the perfection of humankind (because human nature is infinitely malleable), so any price is worth paying for that goal, especially when it is paid by other people.
They created norms – the unspoken rules of conduct – that were supposed to prevent disruption of the bargain. When even loved ones counsel obedience to the norms, they are hard to resist. But some people are willing to endure the social sanctions that are applied to norm-busters. NBC is enforcing them against Farrow right now.
Call me crazy, but I see a certain resemblance between Ronan Farrow and Donald Trump. Both were born to wealth and position, and both have blatantly violated the norms that attend to their respective power spheres. And both have for now triumphed.