Be Skeptical When You Hear “We Didn’t Know.”

Most of us can remember when we first heard allegations of Harvey Weinstein being a sexual predator.  Immediately, Meryl Streep, a Hollywood insider, issued a statement emphasizing she didn’t know about Mr. Weinstein’s behavior until the scandal broke.

Cover-ups are everywhere.  Many of the people who know about dangerous skeletons in someone’s closet may wish they could speak up, too.  They stay quiet because they fear whistleblower retaliation, and they doubt whether they can get the abuse stopped.  Later, if the horrifying situation becomes common knowledge, some of those people who stayed quiet insist they were blissfully ignorant the whole time.

Gossip is always questionable, so be careful interpreting what you hear secondhand.  I won’t forget to include that wisdom because a married man with entitlement delusions stalked me during the 1980s.  He used to say to other men, “Hey, I fucked her,” when referring to me.  No, I never had sexual relations with him, and the other physical and “social” contact with him was unwilling on my part.  The people who “believed” his stories and acted on his encouragement were his friends.  Other people pretended they didn’t know about any of it.  They were afraid of him.  During that nightmare, my reputation was unfairly trashed.

During the 1990s, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of something unforgivable.  We knew the real situation, so he had a considerable crowd of supporters in Calendar Court.  People who didn’t know him probably believed the allegations, though.  Why wouldn’t they?  They read about the charges in the newspaper.

Although my friend was cleared of the charges after more than two years of circular Calendar Court hearings, his reputation never was restored completely because news coverage of the conclusion didn’t reach as many people as the earlier reports.

That said, the worst people we know often become subjects of the worst gossip, and we know it isn’t all hearsay.  Some of that nasty stuff we’re hearing is true, and if we help conceal it we’re abetting crime (whether or not the law recognizes us as accessories).  Regardless of the legal circumstances, we have no right to make a Meryl Streep-type statement if the lid eventually gets blown off the pressure cooker.  Even if you’re a genuinely powerless bystander, at least have the decency not to tell self-protective lies after someone finally speaks the truth.  More dishonesty hurts the injured parties further.

We’ll always have cover-ups, and sometimes those cover-ups protect serial criminals.  An industry might continue to employ a powerful or productive worker who is obviously a threat to others, either because that employee’s workplace talent is unique or something more abstract prevents his/her superiors from taking action.  It’s the schoolyard bully running the proverbial playground, and I don’t expect to see answers in my lifetime.  It could go on forever.

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