Catch And Kill: Lies, Spies, And The Conspiracy To Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow
It seems like those who write about the Harvey Weinstein case and all of its horrors are unable to limit their attention to that case but feel it necessary to put that story in a larger political context that views the current president as being a predator who engages in various influence peddling in order to catch and kill stories through his connections with the National Enquirer. Now, it so happens in 2016 that I remember that magazine being a rare example of the media that was pro-Trump, which was a reminder that even a magazine with as low journalistic as standards as that rag was at least superior to some of the hack papers like the NYT and WaPo that pride themselves on journalistic integrity but prove themselves to be partisan hacks. One thing about this book that is worthwhile is that it is clear that Farrow himself, in stark contrast to so many in his field, is not a partisan hack. This story is a deeply personal one and a dark one, but it does demonstrate that if the author and I have very different political views, he fought long and hard for an important story that caused his life some serious difficulties.
This book is more than 400 pages long and nearly 60 chapters long divided into five parts. Most of the chapters have snappy if somewhat odd titles but the general gist of the story is pretty clear. After an author’s note that makes some strong claims about the author’s efforts to be fair-minded and to have full consent for sharing the stories he does, the first part of the book looks at the author’s somewhat naive attempts to gain a reputation through researching the sexual harassment and assault of numerous women over the course of decades by Harvey Weinstein and how these efforts were simultaneously supported and undercut by NBC News and its corporate parents. The author becomes increasingly aware of the danger he is in as well as the seriousness of the story and how he was being surrounded by an army of spies seeking to silence him and others. The author eventually realizes the extent of the campaign that had been made against him and others and finally finds himself on the outs at NBC even as he is successful in writing about a story that had been simultaneously personal as well as universal in its revealing of the dark heart of so much of contemporary culture in the way that people seek power in part for the way that it can be used to gratify their own lusts and to take advantage of others.
This book is a deeply personal one, and it provides the reader the chance to see the sort of damage that the contemporary media world does to principled people like the author. Stories are shelved and people are encouraged to use and abuse their power to gratify their lusts, and this creates a strong tendency to want to make accusers go away who remind one of abuse that one has committed. The bad behavior that is encouraged in contemporary culture leads to a situation where people are subject to all kinds of blackmail, and this makes people vulnerable to the pressure placed on them by people who do not want certain stories told. The author is pretty unsparing about the failures of NBC and later CBS and provides a detailed look at the world of the contemporary media that demonstrates its fakery and the way that the honest reporting of stories threatens a lot of people, many of whom happen to be in the press themselves. If the author himself has a certain focus on certain sorts of stories and certain sorts of predators, the book reveals a widespread predatory culture that defies easy and neat categorization and that presents a picture of a journalistic culture in dire need of repentance and reformation.