She Said: Breaking The Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite A Movement, by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
It has been widely and often said that a reporter should never become the story, and unfortunately that is what happens here. It is difficult to see what the authors had in mind besides trying to paint themselves as brave Social Justice Warriors for taking on sexual assault and harassment in high places and starting a movement to change the way that women are viewed. In many ways, this book is incoherent and self-contradictory, an evidence of the problems inherent in the late age of feminism. On the one hand, the authors express the claim that it is important to be just to men as well as women, but the book is clearly slanted and biased towards women, and that it is important to make claims that are supported on evidence so as not to discredit the #MeToo movement that the authors are trying to support, but then the authors add all kinds of false allegations made against Trump and Kavanaugh to demonstrate the political biases they deny having. The end result is a book where the authors seem not to be self-aware that they are partisan hacks seeking to gain personal credit and clout for a social movement that has as many problems as it has solutions.
This book is about 250 pages and is nine chapters long. After a preface, the authors discuss the first phone call as they begin to interview people about sexual harassment scandals (1). After that comes a discussion of Hollywood secrets (2) and the nondisclosure agreements and pressure that have tended to silence victims (3) but that can also be used as evidence of wrongdoing under the theory that where there are payouts there is something that needs to be paid off. The authors discuss their hypocritical and self-serving hostility with positive reputation management (4) efforts on the part of their journalistic targets as well as the complicity that companies have (5) in the wrongdoing of their executives. The authors then move to discuss the issues of releasing who is on record to avoid putting the squeeze on vulnerable sources while also trying to encourage more sources to speak up (6) as well as their belief that they helped inspire a positive and worthwhile movement (7). The book then ends with a discussion of a dilemma (8) as well as the media circus that was the Kavanaugh hearing (9), which the authors do not recognize as being a witch hunt against an innocent and decent man, after which there is an epilogue where a group of radicalized feminists talk with each other about their feminism, acknowledgements, notes, and an index.
This is not a horrible book. In some ways, it is grimly fascinating to watch the authors talk about the mundane and corrupt way in which reporters and editors will bargain with people and attempt to browbeat and bully them into going on record or in bargaining the release of juicy information for a delay on hostile stories. The authors also show that while they are certainly against conservatives and Republicans in general, they are also against Democrats who are clearly corrupt in abusing power, like Hilary Clinton, who the authors frequently note as being close to various corrupt figures like Harvey Weinstein, whose exposure after years of rumors and jokes makes the centerpiece of this book. The book is clearly flawed, and seriously flawed, but the reader who can recognize the lack of honesty and integrity and self-awareness of the authors of the book can still get a lout of out of its materials, not least in understanding the perfect storm of events that is required to make genuine changes regarding those who have gotten away with abusing power for decades, although the authors appear unable or unwilling to prevent things from moving into full discredited witch hunts against political enemies.