I’m a freak about timing. To me, a story without a peg is like a song without a hook. But it’s taken me quite awhile to find a copy of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Since I’m less interested in the book than in its reception, I guess it’s okay to file late.
Every year produces a gay sensation, and you can tell a lot about the preoccupations of the day from the story it tells. The current candidate, on track to be a Best Picture nominee, is Call Me By Your Name, a gushy–or, if you prefer, alluring–tale of lust between a 17-year-old boy and a man in his mid 20s.
And so, the monster that is Harvey Weinstein has been banished, and soon, perhaps, he will be incarcerated. Troops of celebrities have rushed to condemn him, some claiming ignorance about his m.o. and nearly all expressing horror. It’s been a long time since the word disgusting was used by so many men who, if the tropes of pornography are to be believed, harbor fantasies very close to what Weinstein acted upon. I suspect that the conflict between what men and women feel sexually (which isn’t a single thing) and what we feel politically (which is) reflects a climate of anxiety amplified by social media and by newspapers and TV shows that have everything to gain from scandalizing. The result has been a two-edged sword. There’s a real struggle against sexual oppression and a more ambiguous fostering of uneasiness about sex that is potentially as oppressive as the situation it is meant to address.
Last week, The New York Times ran a strange story about Louis C.K., whose comedy walks an artful line between insight and indecency. The piece cited “unsubstantiated internet rumors of his sexual misconduct with female comics.” I call this story strange because of that word–unsubstantiated. Substantiation is the essence of good reporting. You don’t print what you can’t pin down. But at the Times, this standard is changing, at least when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse. Hearsay is permissible, as long as women are doing the saying.
Like a bad Broadway play, the Anthony Scaramucci show closed after only 11 days. But in his brief time as White House communications director, the Mooch gave quite a performance. He announced himself with a string of profanities, duly reproduced in the quality journals, which was a real pleasure.
Here he is in his official state portrait—the serene half-smile; the piercing blue eyes; the buff pecs taut against a spotless white shirt and the perfect cut of his navy blue suit, signs of purity amid authority and service.
As they say in the corridors of officialdom, mistakes were made. Enough of them to go around––and I guess it’s always like that. You see your mistakes when you fail, and overlook them when you succeed. Well, we failed. Not just some sect, race, or gender, but everyone who didn’t vote. Their silence gave us Trump.
I don’t know what to make of the Trump thing. I don’t think anybody does—not even Trump. Its agenda is as yet unformed, but the model of a racist strongman is already there. Economic anguish, racial distress, status anxieties, terrorism—all play a part. Some of the anger is real, and some of it is a fantasy projection. Taking this apart will take some time, at which point it may be too late.
But let’s begin with sexual politics, not just because it’s such a powerful force to begin with, but because it’s clearly a motivating factor in this election.
What follows is an excerpt from Richard Goldstein’s memoir, Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the ’60s. This chapter of the book centers on his experience of the civil rights movement in the Bronx.
Race was at the core of nearly everything in the sixties. Even more than sitars and exotic beats, it shaped the structure of rock. Even more than the war in Vietnam, it dominated politics. Even more than LSD, it defined the consciousness of my generation.