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Catch and Kill
Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
Ronan Farrow
read on October 27, 2019

This is not a hopeful book. I thought that it was primarily about the Harvey Weinstein allegations that Farrow broke last year in the New Yorker - and it sort of is, tangentially. I would say there are several focuses of the book:

  • Retelling the Weinstein story, and what a criminal shitbag he is.
  • The narrative around Farrow's investigation of that story, which he was originally doing at NBC but which NBC slow-played for months before eventually killing on the basis of not being newsworthy enough. (Farrow subsequently shopped it to The New Yorker, which took it up immediately, and for which Farrow was awarded the Pulitzer prize).
  • Of course, it was revealed the Weinstein had back-channels with NBC management, whom he was encouraging to kill the story.
  • NBC itself had a culture of not giving a shit about women, or allegations of rape or misconduct, particularly when such allegations were made against personalities that were making the network money.
  • Farrow alleges, convincingly, that NBC killed his Weinstein story primarily because they did not want to encourage the skeletons coming out of their own closet - primarily that they had been willfully enabling Matt Lauer to harass and rape pretty much whoever he wanted for years.

Its a great book, told very well. I think that Farrow particularly does a good job empathizing with the victims, describing the effect that these events had on their lives. The guilt and shame of being victimized, the powerlessness to do anything about it, the uncertainty of its effects on their professional future, etc.

It also provides an interesting window into power structures, and understanding what power does to a person (or perhaps, in describing the kind of person who is attracted to such power). I often thought back to The Psychopath Test - I'd put very good money that Weinstein and Lauer are indeed psychopathic to some extent.

Anyway, it's a kick in the ass and should be read by everyone, but its terribly hard not to feel like shit afterwords. To date, none of these people have gone to jail or faced what I would call consequences of any meaningful significance, and it seems increasingly unlikely that any of them will. I'm obviously glad the book was written, and is getting the attention that it is, but it seems like such a tiny, tiny step in the right direction. Ugh.

 

Author Bio:

Ronan Farrow is an investigative reporter and a contributing writer to The New Yorker. He is also currently producing documentaries for HBO. His stories for The New Yorker exposed the first sexual-assault allegations against the movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the first misconduct allegations against CBS executives, including then C.E.O. Leslie Moonves. He was also responsible for the first detailed accounts of payments made by the National Enquirer’s parent company in order to suppress stories about Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign. For his reporting on Weinstein, Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the National Magazine Award, and the George Polk Award, among other honors. He previously worked as an anchor and investigative reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, with his print commentary and reporting appearing in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. Farrow is the author of “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence” and the forthcoming “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.” He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York Bar. He recently completed a Ph.D. in political science at Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to his career in journalism, he served as a State Department official in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He lives in New York.