More than three dozen women have now alleged that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. It’s been little more than a week since the New York Times and The New Yorker broke the story, and Weinstein’s world has collapsed, with new allegations continuing to pile up. He’s lost his company and his wife. He’s been stripped of his credits on TV shows and movies and expelled from the Oscar-granting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- only the second person ever to suffer that punishment -- and from the Producers Guild of America. Seemingly overnight, the feared and admired king of Hollywood has become a powerless pariah.
If Weinstein’s behavior was really an open secret -- it did, after all, make it into a joke on “30 Rock” -- how did he keep it up so long? How and why did so many people hide the truth? And how could such a quick reversal happen?
To answer these questions and put the Weinstein saga into a broader context, I went to Timur Kuran, a professor of economics, political science and Islamic studies at Duke. In his path-breaking 1995 book “Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification,” Kuran examined how individuals’ decisions to disguise their true feelings can sustain political regimes and social norms that most people don’t like -- and how those seemingly permanent institutions can collapse unexpectedly.