Originally published October 2019
Well, that’s just great. Now I don’t know who or what to believe anymore.
No, really – thank you.
I’ve long thought I employed a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to all things media. But thanks to Ronan Farrow’s bestseller “Catch and Kill,” it’s clear I need to ratchet up my BS radar to a whole other level.
Catch and Kill is the backstory to Farrow’s reporting of the Harvey Weinstein scandal – and then it is more. It’s a floodlight on high blast, exposing the lengths to which those with power and money will go to keep their darkest secrets just that. Dark. Secrets.
The story is also one about courage – specifically, that displayed by the dozens upon dozens of women sharing their experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and assault, and by the reporters working to those stories to light. Even those that didn’t make it as far as Farrow did.
Unless you live under a rock, hate cinema or both, then you are likely aware of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall in 2018. It was Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker that broke the dam holding back decades of rumors about Weinstein’s alleged repugnant and even criminal behavior, and that story led to more women coming forward and sharing additional, damning information. And that led to even more men in powerful positions – like NBC’s Matt Lauer – finding themselves out of a job and facing the court of public opinion.
“Catch and Kill” gets into the nitty gritty of how this story came to be, and how news organizations deliberated about whether to proceed with sharing it, given the powerful overtures and legal threats from Team Weinstein. Not-such-a-spoiler-alert: NBC News executives’ behavior is truly shameful. The book breaks down the mechanics of a negative PR campaign and how it’s used to silence victims. That and a bunch of spies. Seriously. Big time spies. Weinstein did not fuck around when it came to messing with someone’s livelihood.
I engaged with Farrow’s narrative on multiple fronts: as a woman, as a person with a journalism degree, as a mother of sons and as a mother of a daughter. As a woman, I’ve witnessed the boys’ club culture firsthand. It’s not a myth. As a person with a journalism background, the story read like a thriller because it is one – spies, double agents, secret recordings. Sleeper1973 is the #MeToo movement’s Deep Throat. And as a mother …. Well, let me just say this – if you are raising boys and haven’t explained that no means NO, then shame on you. And I can only hope I’ve raised my daughter to be courageous in the face of power used for nefarious reasons. I am absolutely not judging those that were scared to talk, or those who went back to their abuser – I get it. I am just hopeful my daughter’s ability to scream is louder than any person’s ability to silence.
Farrow’s story has both heroes and villains, and a whole lot of people in between – the people that sat on the sidelines, knowing wrongs were being committed and not doing much to try to stop them. If we’re honest, most of us likely sit in that in-between and it’s books like this one that force us to see, think and feel things differently if we are ever going to get to a better place.
Really, just an epic nonfiction read, ranking right up there with “Bad Blood.” Don’t pass this one up.