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Editorial: hypocrisy on harassment

Administrators, actors, and particularly the media, are not taking their share of responsibility for the indulgence of predatory sexual monsters and bullies of all sorts

Harvey Weinstein, ogre, has spawned the sort of peaceful revolution that only the age of social media can comprehend. He has, by his fall, led to the outing of a number of other ogres. We document two of them in the current edition of Village: Kevin Spacey and Michael Colgan. Change is coming fast as an overdue closing down of one egregious type of bullying – sexual harassment – registers like wildfire across the Western world. The women who outed Michael Colgan are heroes. Some of their allegations are printed in the ‘Village Idiot’ section of this edition of Village, which focuses on Michael Colgan.

But there are others in that theatre who remain untouched. Actors knew: indeed one plummy former household name is said to have been a rival to Colgan in his depredations. There are rumours about other theatre companies.

Administrators at every level in the Gate knew what was going on: Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, a production assistant at the Gate has written: “When I was hired, the Theatre Manager, David Quinlan, told me that I would be ‘able for Michael’. In my stupidity, I almost took it as a compliment. On my first day, I met with David and he gave me a tour of the building and then sat me down for a chat. He asked me was I aware of Michael’s reputation”.

The Arts Council, the Department of Arts, even Aosdána have long ignored bullying in the arts. But what of the media?

As usual in the case of difficult controversies and the Sunday Times ran, early, with the allegations that first emanated from theatre-maker Grace Dyas. But other newspapers were unacceptably slow to run the story.

The Marian Finucane programme disgracefully dismissed the story as evidence of the excesses of social media: “Now none of us want to be involved in censorship but sometimes you think, in the name of god, it’s getting out of control”. Finucane refused for several programmes to even report that Colgan was being named in the newspapers the show was reviewing.

The Sean O’ Rourke Show featured a panel discussion – after a statement from the Gate calling for anyone who’d been abused or sexually harassed to come forward – without naming Michael Colgan! O’Rourke commented later that Colgan wasn’t making himself available for his usual performance on the programme’s cosy usual-suspects-only ‘Friday Gathering’ session – as if the show would have entertained him if only he wasn’t so busy.

O’Rourke and Finucane of course have not been slow to run stories on Weinstein, Spacey, Westminster sex scandal and the rest. But they were hypocritically slow to deal with it in their own back yard. Only when it became beyond ridiculous not to did they whisper his name. There are many others.

Did those behind the awards of the inflated baubles of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres and the Order of the British Empire medal (OBE) know that the overpaid and swashbuckling Colgan was a cur?

There should be consequences for cover-up and silence: Grace Dyas has rightly declared that all members of the Gate board who had served with him while he was on the board, “or who had close personal ties with Michael”, need to step down before any process of investigating what happened at the Gate can be truly impartial.

Village is an exponent of equality and sees the careful outing of bullies and sexual pests as part of the process of redressing power imbalances. As with any change it is important not to be hypocritical: now is the time to ask what other bullyings and which bullies continue to go unquestioned.

Village hopes that time is up for those who misuse power to the detriment of those weaker than them. That goes for sexual harassers and other bullies. It goes for those who are abusers at work or in the home, physically or mentally. It goes for men, who currently hold most of the power in workplaces, and for women who abuse power. And ultimately society must take on the media and political classes who indulge, sometimes even relish, the perpetuation of inequality through power imbalances of any sort.

The new print edition of  Village is available from Saturday, 10 November.