Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 9, 2014

Maureen Orth’s reporting on the Allen-Farrow controversy

Filed under: celebrity,crime,sexual abuse — louisproyect @ 9:26 pm

The main purpose of this article is to take a close look at Maureen Orth’s reporting on the Allen-Farrow controversy but I want to preface that with some comments on three of the principals, all of whom I find utterly reprehensible without even taking the sex abuse matter under consideration.

To start with, I found Woody Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi disgusting. His infamous defense of his behavior—”The heart wants what it wants”—comes from an Emily Dickinson letter that was meant to explain why she writes poetry and had nothing to do with an unchecked libido. At the time I scratched my head and wondered why a powerful and charismatic actor and director would cheat on his long-time companion and get involved not only with someone who was young enough to be his daughter but also the daughter of that very woman he was about to dump. It reminded me that the “talking cure” was not only unscientific but a waste of money.

This is not to speak of his crappy films that ur-sectarian but often very sharp film critic David Walsh once described in these terms, prompted by the apparently awful Whatever Works:

We have made the point before: it is impossible to detach Woody Allen’s decline, notwithstanding its individual twists and turns, from the general fate of considerable numbers of quasi-cultured, semi-bohemian, once-liberal, upper middle class New Yorkers in particular.

Intellectually unprepared for complex social problems, culturally shallow, ego-driven and a bit (or more than a bit) lazy, exclusively oriented toward the Democratic Party and other institutions of order, distant from or hostile toward broad layers of the population, inheriting family wealth or enriching themselves in the stock market and real estate boom…for a good many, the accumulated consequences of the past several decades have not been attractive.

Turning now to Mia Farrow and the wretched Ronan Farrow (who like me is a Bard College graduate), the two have staked out a position for “humanitarian interventions” in places like Darfur and Rwanda. I wrote about the two lovely people back in April 2008 and called attention to Ronan’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that complained about the U.N. Human Rights Council’s votes to condemn Israel. He blamed the presence of “dictatorships” like Cuba for the votes that resulted in nothing more than verbal protests. Meanwhile, the U.S. uses its veto in the far more powerful Security Council to block any serious measures against the Zionist state.

I also found Mia Farrow’s habit for adopting third world kids as if they were pets disgusting. Apparently she got the idea for “saving” Asian kids during an antiwar protest in the 60s. It was her way of compensating for what the USA was doing in Vietnam. I acted on an entirely different impulse and dedicated myself to destroying the system that made such wars possible.

In an essay for Humanity titled On ‘Humanitarian; Adoption (Madonna in Malawi), Kerry Bystrom puts the obsessive adopting habits of Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow into context:

Transnational adoption—at least from a certain point of view—literalizes a traditional vision of humanitarianism associated with child care, in which white Americans “save” and symbolically mother nonwhite or non-Western people portrayed as unable to attend to their own basic needs. In the United States, this hierarchical, patriarchal, and racially coded vision of humanitarianism was historically tied to appeals from political figures and media celebrities on behalf of “worthy” causes….The crumbling of boundaries between public and private matches the collapse of perceived distance between celebrity and ordinary life, as the popularity of reality TV and YouTube attest. In such a situation, representations of Madonna’s very public adoptions of two African children provide a useful window onto the impact of celebrity activism on the wider “ethos of humanitarianism.”

Turning now to Maureen Orth’s journalism, it is necessary to begin by stating that she is basically creating grocery store checkout tabloids for the carriage trade. Vanity Fair is a magazine that caters to a celebrity-obsessed but educated middle-class. Most of the articles are fawning tributes to loathsome individuals like Nancy Reagan but they are not so nearly as titillating as the junk Maureen Orth turns out. She always makes the news with exposes of Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson and Woody Allen—those megastars whose bedroom sins and peccadillos make waiting for your doctor or dentist almost worth it.

Like The National Enquirer, Orth does not quite make things up. She just understands the fine art of innuendo. Of course, there are times when she gets her facts wrong. Given that Michael Jackson was quite weird to begin with, one wonders why Orth felt the need to gild the lily. For example, in one article she stated that Jackson got a Japanese youth named Richard Matsuura drunk—something he denied to reporter Mike Taibbi (the father of Matt). Vanity Fair was forced to issue a retraction. She also reported that Jackson had participated in a ritual blood bath to put a voodoo spell on Steven Spielberg. According to Ms. Orth, Jackson ordered hundreds of cows to be sacrificed for the ritual. Wow, that’s interesting.

I understand that most people are ready to believe the worst about Michael Jackson simply on the basis of his overall weirdness, but there is at least one person who was troubled by the ganging-up on him in the bourgeois press. Identifying Maureen Orth as one of his prime assailants, Ishmael Reed wrote an article for Counterpunch in 2009 titled The Persecution of Michael Jackson that is worth considering. Reed writes:

G. Q. s Mary  Fisher accused her colleagues of lazy journalism of the sort that defamed Jackson in life and in death. Maureen Orth from Vanity Fair didn’t read Mary Fisher’s findings.  She was on the Chris Matthews Show accusing Jackson of “serious felonies” involving pedophilia.  Another reporter who seemed to nullify the 2005 Jackson jury’s decision was “Morning Joe’s” adjunct bimbo, Courtney Hazlett.  She said that there would be no pilgrimage to Neverland as there was to Graceland, because “bad things happened at Neverland.” We are led to believe that Presley and his entourage spent their days at Graceland drinking milk and reading each other passages from the scriptures.

The November 1992 article titled Mia’s Story is aptly titled, I suppose. She starts off by referring to a psychotherapist named Susan Coates who had been treating Woody Allen for “inappropriate” conduct with Dylan. In the next sentence, Orth adds that “He could not seem to keep his hands off her.”

If you take the trouble to do a little research on Coates, you will discover that she testified under oath that she “never observed him acting in a sexual way toward her.” She also stated that she warned Woody Allen that she feared for his safety because of threats made by Mia Farrow. What’s more, in an evaluation of Dylan she conducted in 1990 she found the girl easily “taken over by fantasy” when asked to describe something as simple as an apple tree. That’s according to the March 30, 1993 New York Times. Somehow all this failed to be reflected in Orth’s article.

Citing Coates once again:

“I felt it was a really dangerous situation,” she said, explaining she told Mr. Allen that he should not visit Ms. Farrow and her children at their country home because Ms. Farrow remained so distraught. “In my clinical evaluation, this was a place where protection was needed.”

Right. Just the sort of situation that would lead to Woody Allen sexually molesting Dylan as the entire household was looking dagger eyes at him.

The article, like the one about Michael Jackson, refers constantly to “several sources” that, for example, confided to her that Woody Allen, clad only in his underwear, would take Dylan to bed with him and “entwine his body around hers”. So who are these sources? Mia Farrow and one of her adopted children? That’s the problem with this kind of unnamed sources reporting. There is no way to verify it. Usually when I run into this sort of thing, it is in the context of debunking some bullshit about Syria, like Seymour Hersh’s article that cast doubt on Baathist use of sarin gas. Who told him that Bashar was not to blame? Some CIA veteran? Great. It might have been Ray McGovern for all I know.

The article is filled with this sort of gasp-inducing incidents, like Woody Allen rubbing his finger in the cracks of Dylan’s buttocks as he applied suntan lotion. Of course, with such a tawdry record you’d have to ask why Mia Farrow ever gave her approval to Dylan being adopted by Woody Allen.

After several pages of building up to the grand climax, Orth gets around to the infamous trip to the attic that took place on August 5th 1992. My problem is that this incident occurred six months after Mia Farrow discovered Soon-Yi’s nude photos in Woody Allen’s apartment. Prior to that discovery, not a single report of sexual abuse had been reported. Of course, Orth tries to create the impression that it had been ongoing for years, at least as long as you believer her “several sources”. All I can say is that if Mia Farrow saw Woody Allen sticking his fingers in Dylan’s buttocks, she exercised supremely poor judgment in writing an affidavit in favor of him becoming her adoptive father.

While Maureen Orth is best known for writing scandal-mongering pieces such as this, we would be remiss if we failed to mention her other specialty, which is third word trouble spots.

In a March 2002 Counterpunch article, Alexander Cockburn and Jeff St. Clair called attention to Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair article on Afghanistan’s Deadly Habit that blames the Taliban for the growth of the opium industry. They wonder why she failed to mention the CIA’s possible role in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Orth has a thing about America’s enemies plotting to weaken our glorious nation through illegal drug exports. In November 2008, she wrote a piece for Vanity Fair titled Inside Colombia’s Hostage War that reads like a Colombian government press release. The article is a spittle-flecked tirade against the FARC. Ms. Orth has had a long-standing interest in Colombia after having served there as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1964 to 1966.

She quotes President Uribe: “If not for illicit drugs we would have defeated these groups long ago.” Just as was the case with her article on Afghanistan, she puts the blame exclusively on America’s enemies. Anybody who has studied Colombia understands that Uribe’s government, as those before his, were far more responsible for the drug trade than the FARC that only taxed small coca farmers.

A cursory search on the Internet would reveal Uribe’s hand caught in the cookie jar:

WASHINGTON — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, one of the Bush administration’s most steadfast allies in South America, was allegedly a “close personal friend” of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar and worked for his Medellin cartel, according to a newly released U.S. military intelligence report.

The 1991 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency describes Uribe, then a rising star in Colombian politics, as “dedicated to collaboration” with the Medellin cartel, at the time the world’s richest criminal organization and the source of most of the cocaine imported into the U.S.

Los Angeles Times, August 02, 2004

The article also reveals Orth as a Hugo Chavez-basher on a par with any op-ed writer for the Wall Street Journal:

Chávez, the fiery leftist autocrat who hates the United States and has designs on ruling the whole northern region of Latin America, has always been tight with the FARC, which is officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. But just how closely Chávez and the FARC were aligned was not clear until last March, when an amazing trove of intelligence came into the hands of the Colombian government. After the Colombian Army went one mile into Ecuador to raid the camp of senior FARC commander Raúl Reyes, killing him and 33 other people and wounding 190 more, it seized three laptops, two hard drives, and two memory sticks, which together contained 8,736 Microsoft Word documents, 211 PowerPoint presentations, and 2,468 other documents.

For those who need to be convinced that the “revelations” contained in these computers had to be taken with a wheelbarrow full of salt, I would recommend Greg Palast’s article dated May 16, 2008 that appeared on Tomdispatch.com.

Do you believe this?

In early March Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop – and what did the Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC guerrillas $300 million – which they’re using to obtain uranium to make a dirty bomb!

That’s what George Bush tells us. And he got that from his buddy, the strange right-wing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.

So: After the fact, Colombia justifies its attempt to provoke a border war as a way to stop the threat of WMDs! Uh, where have we heard that before?

The US press snorted up this line about Chavez’ $300 million to “terrorists” quicker than the young Bush inhaling Colombia’s powdered export.

What the US press did not do is look at the evidence, the email in the magic laptop. (Presumably, the FARC leader’s last words were, “Listen, my password is ….”)

I read them. (You can read them here) While you can read it all in español, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:

“… With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for ‘cripple’], which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto.”

Got that? Where is Hugo? Where’s 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request of the Colombian government.

Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Here’s the next line:

“To receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a ‘humanitarian caravan’; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc.”

As to the 300, I must note that the FARC’s previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the ‘300’ refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won’t guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to the jungle.

I’ve lost track of how many Facebook friends who have taken Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow and Dylan Farrow’s word as the gospel truth. They see Woody Allen as no different than the Catholic priests who prey on young boys and girls or Roman Polanski who actually confessed to sexual assault. (Of course, Mia Farrow was happy to defend Polanski in another lesser-known incident.)

I try to see things on a case-by-case basis. The charges made against Woody Allen do not make sense to me, even if Maureen Orth had never written a single word. But that so many of my friends and comrades have automatically assumed that this grocery store checkout counter tabloid reporter for the carriage trade and imperialist mouthpiece is credible really bothers me. Maureen Orth is a symbol of everything that is bad about the bourgeois press. She was married to Tim Russert, the long-time host of Meet the Press who pretended to be a tough interviewer, all the time understanding his class affinities with those he was grilling. In an obvious case of nepotism, their lunkhead son Luke landed a job with NBC.

She has found the ideal roost for her crappy reporting. “Vanity Fair” is a perfect symbol of a degenerated American political culture. It flatters the rich and the powerful at the same time it occasionally sacrifices one or another of its members in good standing to sell copies of the magazine. All in all, there is an element of commercial exploitation in all this that reeks to high heaven. The Times relishes the visits to its website as people look for the latest dirt, while Ronan Farrow’s name is bandied about in a way that can only create interest in his MSNBC show that is likely to be as much of a drag as all the rest of this fetid altar to the Obama White House.

16 Comments »

  1. You’re misusing “loath.” The word you want is “remiss.”

    Comment by Gene — February 9, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

  2. You may have noticed that Richard Seymour (“Lenin’s Tomb”) has posted a link to the reprehensible Orth artcle on his Facebook page. Bravo, Louis! For this post I’ll foget that you called me a “shmuck.”

    Comment by John B. — February 9, 2014 @ 9:53 pm

  3. By the way, I think you’re being a little judgemental about the whole Woody-Soon-Yi situation. I suppose taking up with his girlfriend’s daughter was pretty tacky, but now they’re apparently happily married after 22 years. And let’s face it: 99 percent of the time when you see an old fossil like Rupert Murdoch take up with a woman 35 years his junior therre’s a lot of money involved.

    Comment by John B. — February 9, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

  4. “This is not to speak of his crappy films that ur-sectarian but often very sharp film critic David Walsh once described in these terms, prompted by the apparently awful Whatever Works:

    We have made the point before: it is impossible to detach Woody Allen’s decline, notwithstanding its individual twists and turns, from the general fate of considerable numbers of quasi-cultured, semi-bohemian, once-liberal, upper middle class New Yorkers in particular.

    Intellectually unprepared for complex social problems, culturally shallow, ego-driven and a bit (or more than a bit) lazy, exclusively oriented toward the Democratic Party and other institutions of order, distant from or hostile toward broad layers of the population, inheriting family wealth or enriching themselves in the stock market and real estate boom…for a good many, the accumulated consequences of the past several decades have not been attractive.”

    This is precisely why the last Woody Allen film that I remember seeing was “Hannah and Her Sisters”. It was obvious that he was making movies about a small, select self-absorbed group of people that had no interest in what was happening in the world around them. Now, a different filmmaker, a Sayles, an Assayas or a Farhadi, might have extracted insights from such people, but Allen has instead reduced them to situation comedy characters.

    Oddly enough, I think that Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” pushed Allen into a pit of irrelevancy from which he has never escaped.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 9, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

  5. Looks like a good solid black hole of gossip there! Why debate, say, what to do about verifiable child abuse in America when we can talk about Woody Allen?

    Comment by Cassiodorus — February 10, 2014 @ 4:58 am

  6. Since I don’t often read Vanity Fair, I don’t really know what brought this on. The only Orth articles about Allen and Farrow that you cite are over 20 years old.

    Anyway, I wish I didn’t have a weakness for reading about this sort of stuff.

    Comment by godoggo — February 10, 2014 @ 5:28 am

  7. {to Ronan’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that complained about the U.N. Human Rights Council’s votes to condemn Israel.}

    It is obvious that Ronan, like her mother, is a CIA AGENT.

    Comment by expose agents against humanity — February 10, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

  8. I hear you. It appears that so many leftish writers, from the third-wave fems to the wishy-washy pwogs, have had a field day proclaiming their belief in the words of Dylan Farrow. No skepticism can be found anywhere. I thought lefties were supposed to take what prosecutors and judges say with a grain of salt. When the CT state attorneys say they did not take Allen to court because they thought Dylan Farrow was too fragile, I shake my head in disbelief. When did prosecutors turn into social workers? If they were up against some poor shlub with limited resources, they would have pressed charges in a minute. They knew they had no case and would lose against the well-heeled Allen. Finally, there seems to be a current among these leftish writers that is dismissive of the credentials of the social workers, the therapists, and the doctors. What gives with this? Judge Wilk himself accepts Susan Coates’s testimony when it supports his custody decision, but rejects it when she says Allen did not molest Dylan Farrow.

    Comment by Jordan Sanders — February 11, 2014 @ 2:49 am

  9. This is the latest pile of sludge from a hack at Salon who has written other garbage on allen .

    http://www.salon.com/2014/02/11/woody_allen_is_just_the_beginning_why_we_cant_hide_from_the_truth_anymore/

    Comment by Jordan Sanders — February 11, 2014 @ 3:09 am

  10. Excellent commentary Proyect! another issue that is lost is that if Allen, or anyone else in his situation, had done this there would have been forensic evidence. There’s an expert witness I know who testifies in these type of cases who has been an emergency room physician for over thirty years. There’s no way any adult male sticks his dick in a little girl’s vagina without there being massive evidence of physical trauma anymore; as he puts it, it’s someone rammed a telephone pole up your ass without there being any evidence. The whole thing is an hysterical frame-up. That being said, Allen’s conduct was reckless and that of a reprobate that understandably inspired the most vindictive passions among his ex-wife and children. Your take on the likes of Orth and Vanity Fair, however, is spot on.

    Comment by Tom Cod — February 11, 2014 @ 5:47 am

  11. Apparently the new front in the anti-Woody jihad is the demand that Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, indeed anone who’s ever had anything to do with Woody Allen step forward and denounce him. Otherwise they’re just rape apologists if not pedophiles themselves.

    Comment by John B. — February 11, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

  12. “Finally, there seems to be a current among these leftish writers that is dismissive of the credentials of the social workers, the therapists, and the doctors. What gives with this?”

    Actually, it goes back quite a ways, and constituted a healthy response to the postwar modernist state that sought to characterize non-conformist behaviour as deviant. For background, read Sol Yurick’s “Fertig” from the 1960s or watch “They Might Be Giants” or “World on a Wire”. Of course, like anything, it can be taken to absurd extremes, as it was when it was used by people like Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown to empty out the mental institutions without much of an alternative. But, to cite a recent example, the tendency to diagnose young boys as suffering from ADHD so that they can be administered Ritalin and other psychotropic medications is indicative of how reliance upon such expertise can lead to perverse results (seems like half the boys at my son’s school have been diagnosed as ADHD). Another example are the social workers and psychologists who cooked up the McMartin case.

    But does this mean that they should be summarily dismissed in regard to Allen and Dylan Farrow? No.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 11, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

  13. With you on that, Richard Estes, but as L. Proyect does here, I take it all on a case-by-case basis. There is no cause here to believe that the professionals involved here were the kind easily swayed by the awful trend at the time, and may have even been conscious of the milieu at the time.

    No, other guy, anti-pedophilia is not the anti-communism of our time. Not the same. Also, concluding that Allen is being maligned is in no way an endorsement of pedophilia, for the sake of goodness.

    Comment by Jordan Sanders — February 11, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

  14. “I also found Mia’s habit for adopting … disgusting.”

    This is the one overdrawn line that I see here. It’s possible, as Moses Farrow has alleged, that Mia Farrow was really a controlling manipulator and if so then that is very bad. But regardless, nobody since the 1960s has yet found a way of “destroying the system” and until we do one has to just take for granted that most people will be naturally more sympathetic to someone who actively adopts. There’s no point in Leftists scoffing at someone who goes that route instead of trying to make a revolution, until we actually have something that we can point to. Although I find the politics of the Farrow gang to be disgusting, that can’t be used to justify attacks against adoption. This reminds me of some of the fuss that was stirred up when someone made a comment about the Romney family adopting a little black child. There’s no point in polemicizing over that no matter how many other valid polemics one may have.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — February 13, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

  15. We would be remiss in not discussing here the role of Nicholas Kristof, the self-righteous panty-sniffer twit who “broke” the Dylan Farrow letter. When Nick’s not rescuing damsels in distress from pimps and sex traffickers, he’s publishing smears against innocent people like scientific researcher Steven Hatfill, as recounted here:

    http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/blog/?p=280

    Comment by John B. — February 13, 2014 @ 10:48 pm

  16. More about Kristof-Hatfill here:

    “. . . Rosenberg’s most energetic and irresponsible media accomplice in the Fry Hatfill crusade, Nicholas Kristof, should need no introduction. And, alas, the institution with which he is most obviously affiliated definitely does not yet deserve protection or respite from the criticism his Hatfill work may have engendered. On August 26, New York Times editorial page editor Gail Collins briefly descended from Olympus to tell the rest of us mortals what the paper of record thinks about the many fascinating ethical questions raised by Kristof’s months-long series of Hatfill slanders. Collins said this: “We have confidence in our columnists.” Which is an unfathomable journalistic judgment, really. As was the Times’s willingness to run Kristof’s columns in the first place.

    “Kristof has passed many of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg’s rumors about Hatfill directly onto the pages of the nation’s most important newspaper, with hardly a paraphrase, and without ever once giving the man an opportunity to explain himself in advance. Some of Rosenberg’s fairy tales Kristof has actually “improved,” as when, in the July 2 Times, he proposed that Hatfill’s “isolated residence” may have been a “safe house operated by American intelligence.” And other bits of especially lurid business Kristof appears to have come up with all by himself: Hatfill was “once caught with a girlfriend in a biohazard ‘hot suite’ at Fort Detrick, surrounded only by blushing germs.” Nice turn of phrase. But how, pray tell, can we be sure it’s true — since so much else that the phrasemaker has written is already beginning to stink?. . .”

    http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/huntinghatfill.html

    Comment by John B. — February 13, 2014 @ 11:12 pm


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