“I am the law”: Highlights from the ‘New Yorker’ piece on New York’s Attorney General

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Once again The New Yorker has proved just how important a powerful and independent press is, with writers willing to investigate and take risks; and with the resources and time to do so. In exposing multiple allegations of abuse it shows that the only way to confront the powerful is when others with similar power are in the room to give voice to those who want to speak out.

In this case, as with Weinstein, what Ronan Farrow has revealed is a powerful world of interconnected people from elite education systems, politics and other fields. Farrow tweeted: “Four women accuse NY attorney general and advocate Eric Schneiderman of violent physical abuse. Several gave harrowing accounts of violence, fear, and intimidation to and me in our New Yorker investigation.”

Here are a few highlights from the disturbing must-read piece. All bold italics sections are quotes from the article.

Schneiderman’s activism on behalf of feminist causes has increasingly won him praise from women’s groups.

As with Weinstein and others, there is no surprise in the contradiction of powerful men who claim to be “feminists” but who are then accused of doing the opposite of what they ostensibly believe. Why is this? Is it because one is a cover for the other? Or is it more complex than that? Is it because the West has tended to reward men who claim to be progressive and feminist and a major path to power for men in the West is to adopt these titles. Men in other cultures may adopt a macho or religious cloak to get to power. In the West they hide that and claim to be “progressive.” But the reality is that this may just be about how they get to where they are. If you want to be elite in the West generally you have to at least pose as being “progressive.” In the West the stereotype is that “right wing” men are abusive and chauvinist. But what these scandals have shown is that the prevalence of chauvinism and abuse likely is just as common among men who wear the robes of the “left.”

She had become a blogger and political activist….amicably divorced from Chris Barish, a hospitality-industry executive, she was a single mother with a young daughter and socially prominent friends…At a fund-raiser the television producer Norman Lear had introducer her…The novelist Salman Rusdhie, who dated manning Barish before Schneiderman did…“An accomplished Ivy League-educated lawyer with government experience”…She is also an actor and a film producer, as well as a support of feminist and progressive social causes…In 2016 she attended the Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia, where Schneiderman introduced himself….they had both gone to Harvard…”

Abuse can harm people from all walks of life and what this story and others have shown is that it doesn’t matter how prominent someone is, or their social circle, they can be victims. In fact they may be more likely to be victims because these sub-cultures may hide abuse more easily because of the sanctimonious “moral” hues that go along with this status.

He told her to remove a small tattoo…He told her to get plastic surgery

There is a pattern of control revealed in this article that is very common in similar accounts

“All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force, across the face.”…He told her “you know, hitting an officer of the law is a felony.”

The intersection of power and alleged abuse is a theme in this account and others. In the Weinstein case it was revealed he had hired a firm to go after the women. In addition journalists and others felt intimidated.

“Don’t ever write about me, you don’t want to do that.”…“I am the law.”…“He threatened to have her killed if she ever tried to leave him.”

The threats grow with time

“At heart you are a dirty little slut, you want to be my whore.”…“He was obsessed with having a threesome”…“We could rarely have sex without him beating me.”…“He used to spit on her and slap her during sex.”…“He also choked her and spat at her.”

Chauvinism and degrading comments as well

They got into his car and it quickly became apparent how intoxicated he war. As he drove, weaving along back roads…”…“He also told me he could have me followed and tap my phone.”

The cover of the law to give a stamp of approval for the violating of the very laws one is supposed to enforce.

“Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, has dark skin, and she recalls that “he started calling me his ‘brown slave’”

Racism also tends to go along with the faux-veneer of being socially progressive and ostensibly anti-racist. Too often the very groups that express outrage publicly about such things, privately express them and are shielded from critique by their supposed political liberalism.

“He had counted on forging an ambitious partnership with a White House led by Hilary Clinton.”…Schneiderman then called Cunningham, his ex-wife and political consultant…“[Cunningham described him as being of] the highest character, outstanding values, and a loving father)”

So close to even more power.

[the former girlfriend was friends with…staff writer at this magazine]

Unfortunately for these stories to emerge into the press when the powerful are the alleged abuse requires that the accusers also have connections.

“When she objected to this mistreatment, he told her that she simply wasn’t ‘liberated’”

Using notions of “liberation” to cover up abuse is not new.

“She told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.”

The role of friends and social circles in protecting the power is common in these stories. Just as with Spotlight where people felt the need to “protect” the Church, people feel the need to protect their political friends, rather than out them.

“What do you do if your abuser is the top law-enforcement official in the state?”

You need a powerful media organization and others who will take your side.

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