The Harvey Weinstein debacle has created a worldwide whirlwind across the entertainment industry as actors of both sexes come forward to accuse industry top people, producers, film stars, TV and film execs of sexual harassment.
Suddenly people in power are finding themselves powerless and their media empires crumbling under the strain. The multi-million dollar Weinstein film company is in big trouble despite ditching their founder/chairman, Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards may not even finish its sixth series, and The Old Vic Theatre which Spacey successfully ran for 10 years - bringing it back from near bankruptcy - is asking people to come forward if they have had any bad experiences.
In Europe, Polanski was hounded out of a festival dedicated to his works by women livid that he should still be given honours despite his history of molesting underage girls.
And it is not just the entertainment sector that is getting the brunt of this. In the UK and in the EU parliament, the #metoo campaign has revealed cases of sexual harassment by MPs.
Efforts are now being made to tighten rules about sexual harassment as ministers resign and MEPs come under the spotlight over past unwarranted incidents.
It seems the world has had enough of people in power taking advantage of others in their service.
And yet there is one place in the world where the reaction was quite different, a place which considers itself democratic and civilised. That place is Russia.
“These gals [victims of Weinstein] got what they wanted,” Agnia Kuznetsova, a Russian film and theatre actress, told the Meduza website. Kuznetsova doesn’t see anything unusual about a man in power using his position to harass women.
Another Russian actress, Lyubov Tolkalina, expressed an even more radical point of view. “If you land a role, does it matter how you got it? How can you blame a man for sexual harassment, isn’t it his meaning of life?”
I was reminded of this when I read Raphael Vassallo’s opinion piece entitled “Occupy Castille.. Win an election”.
Now I make it a point not to comment on other people’s opinions. It feels like piggybacking someone else’s ride. But Raphael’s piece is so off-colour that I really did feel the need to comment.
His piece has the same craven status quo attitude displayed by the Russian women.
He implies that democracy should happen only once every five years at the ballot box. He purposely misconstrues the rationale behind the protest and implies that it is about regime toppling. He seems unaware of just how big an event the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is. And worst of all he comes across not as a journalist, but as a fully-fledged government apparatchik.
The spin continues with the Prime Minister saying that he was never invited to speak to the #occupycastille protesters (he was), a puzzling announcement considering the fact that as PM it was he who should have done the inviting.
In this respect he has taken a leaf from the same playbook that is currently being published all over Facebook as the government PR section goes into overdrive.
If you haven’t come across it it starts with stuff like: ‘look how many journalists have been killed, but no one demanded any resignations’, or: this is a ‘partisan’ protest not a national one (because the murder of a Maltese journalist on Maltese soil is not of government, national or Labour Party concern)
Then we have the man responsible for the police, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia, telling us that Daphne was ‘unlucky’ as other victims of bomb attacks have survived the blast.
Or naive Minister Helen Dalli saying that the Attorney General does not have the power to investigate (never mind that he is also the chairman of the FIAU where investigators sent a report to the then police commissioner which has since been shelved).
Or our very own ‘thousand-pouting-selfies-MP’ Rosianne Cutajar thinks she has a great argument to defend her government with, and with not a shred of irony, accuses Daphne Caruana Galizia of ‘destroying families,’ just as Malta witnesses one of the most horrendous devastations of a family.
And finally the spin continues with the Prime Minister saying that he was never invited to speak to the #occupycastille protesters (he was), a puzzling announcement considering the fact that as PM it was he who should have done the inviting. (Perhaps Muscat should take some advice from the President on this point).
But while this fog of war is being created on the PR front, something more insidious is happening.
Using methods Putin would have been proud of, there are indications of bully-boy tactics against government employees who have been warned against attending or being seen at protests. During the #occupycastille protest itself a troupe of men in shiny suits were seen ‘surreptitiously’ taking photos of the protestors. People are being blacklisted. And, despite what government is saying, there are also strong indications that anonymous threats are also being issued to quell protest.
Which is why I am even more troubled when the Raphael Vassallos of this world say that, well, these women should wait for the next election.
It is the same apathetic attitude as those Russian women or that ‘suspended’ policeman who told us: 'She had it coming’.
But wouldn’t it be ironic that, after all the Labour Party’s talk of wanting more women in politics, they would be the party that tries to stamp out women who really do want to get involved in politics but this time with a capital P. (And that P definately does not also include Putin)
(Full disclosure: the author is married to one of the participants of the #occupycastille protest)