Three weeks ago, I published an article about my experience trying to report on the Louis C.K. allegations at the largest comedy festival in the world. In the piece, I explained how the COO of the Just for Laughs festival yelled at me for asking comedians whether they'd heard about the rumors of sexual misconduct that had been swirling around C.K.
In the weeks since that article ran I have been called many things. I have been called a "cunt," an epithet so hack it slides off my back. I have been called fucking awful, which is a relative value judgement. I have been called a "cuck snowflake," a phrase so idiotic I thought it couldn’t be lobbed against someone in earnest.
But there’s one thing that bothers me more than anything else, a question I’ve received from multiple men with zero to ten Twitter followers: Why, if I knew about the validity of the Louis C.K. story for years, didn’t I say something? Doesn’t that make me just as bad—nay, somehow even worse—as anyone else who knew?
Because that’s not how it works, Dave from Ohio. It’s not as if I, and I alone, held the keys to breaking the story yet chose not to do anything. I tried. I talked about it onstage, I talked about it online, I talked about it in conversation. I tried.
I knew about the Louis C.K. stories for years because everyone I know knew about the Louis C.K. stories for years. That’s just how these things are—or, I suppose, were. Before now, predators in the entertainment industry got away with decades of abhorrent behavior because no one was willing to publicly call them out on it for myriad reasons, most notably fear and self preservation. It’s easy to be the 2,000th person to retweet a headline after it’s been plastered all over the nightly news; it’s harder to be the only person yelling into the void.
The fact that I was so beaten down by this goddamned story and the permanent damage the pursuit of it did to my career means I take little pleasure in finally being vindicated. Getting booted from the red carpet at the the largest comedy festival in the world when you're a comedian yourself may garner you punk points with peers, but it doesn’t make you feel particularly good. Feeling as though you will never have a relationship with 3 Arts, the extremely fucking powerful management company that represents Louis C.K. and countless other A-list comedians, all because you asked Kevin Hart (a client of 3 Arts, natch) a fucking question, doesn’t either. Having your friends shy away from you so as to not be tainted by your toxicity can kind of wear on a broad. I mean, one left me in the rain to wait for Louis C.K., for Christ's sake.
C.K.’s manager, Dave Becky (who, let the record show, I have never spoken to), claims he didn’t threaten anyone into silence; he may very well be telling the truth. The fact is, however, he didn’t have to outwardly threaten anyone to achieve that effect. Anyone in a position of power telling someone who is comparatively powerless to not talk about their personal experience or their knowledge of someone else’s experience—as he is alleged to have done—comes off as a threat. The more a person thinks they’ll be punished for speaking, the less inclined they are to speak.
Watch: Judah Friedlander on Sexual Assault in Comedy
And besides, Dave from Ohio, if you have no one willing to go on the record, you have no story, you only have rumor, and you find yourself and the media outlet you’re reporting for on the hook if the subject of the piece wants to get litigious. Media organizations are disinclined to report unsubstantiated rumors because, you know, they don’t want to be sued into oblivion. Knowing about Louis C.K., knowing about Harvey Weinstein, knowing about Kevin Spacey, knowing [insert name here] did [insert repugnant act here] but being powerless to broadcast these facts to the public doesn’t make me complicit in the actions of these men. That blame falls on the people who intimidate people into silence. Unfortunately in cases like this, the onus is always on the victims to come forward—the more, the better. Only after it’s impossible to ignore, only after there is strength in numbers, is it possible for the tide to turn. And only after victims feel comfortable enough to speak and be heard do others become emboldened to speak for themselves. Because that’s how this works, Dave from Ohio.
Christ knows I've heard about other men more famous than Louis C.K. who have done even worse things than what he's admitted to doing. And Christ knows I know other people who have heard and said nothing for fear of jeopardizing their professional relationships.
I don’t know how it’s possible to be friends with a woman who has been assaulted by someone and do nothing to assist her because you don’t want to fuck up your development deal. Narcissistic people, which the entertainment industry has in spades, are only woke when it’s politically convenient. Related: The next time I see a pseudo ally who remained silent about C.K. make some sort of grand declaration of wokeness online, I will throw them into a volcano.
The New York Times has now reported on the story, and Louis C.K. has confirmed the story. I derive little pleasure from this vindication, which is odd as I am, generally speaking, nothing if not petty.
Now that it's out in the open, rather than vindication I feel disdain for the fact that people only started giving a shit about decades of allegations once women's victimhood started trending. While I appreciate the fact that things are changing, I fear for the longevity of it. What will happen when #MeToo falls into the digital chasm that absorbed #YesAllWomen? Why was I one of only a handful of people who cared before a hashtag made it OK?
To be clear, I do not consider myself some kind of folk hero, nor do I enjoy being inserted into the narrative. Because it’s not my story. No one ever jerked off in front of me. But that never stopped me from caring about the abuse of others, and from wanting justice for them regardless of the repercussions. I am tired of friends telling me I'm brave for having a functioning moral compass. I merely hope morality becomes the new normal.
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