I’ve known the name of Ronan Farrow but not much about his credentials except the Pulitzer Prize he won for the Weinstein story. I got to know a bit more about him when I read the recent book She Said by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kanter, who were his fellow recipients of the prize for their part in the exposé of the sexual harassment allegations. So, when I got to know about this book and some related controversy surrounding it, and also watched Chris Hayes’s remarks at the time of the book release, I knew I had to pick it up. And wow have I been blown away.
“Enjoy” is such an unsuitable word to associate with this book because it talks about some very deeply disturbing topics, but the way Farrow writes it makes it feel like a thriller novel with multiple POVs, with some dry and sarcastic humor thrown in, which makes it a riveting experience – I was so drawn by the story in these pages that I stayed up very late in the night to finish it; I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to sleep without knowing how it ended.
I assumed initially that this book might feel repetitive because the contents of She Said are still very much ingrained in my mind, and while some women who came forward with their stories were the same in both the books, Farrow managed to talk to so many other women and discover a pattern of abuse, intimidation and coverup that was revolting. Every experience that these women share and how it has adversely affected their life over the years is very very difficult to read, and Farrow’s anguish at being the one who was listening to them first hand and having the responsibility of bringing their abusers to light, is very palpable in his writing.
But what makes this book even more interesting but also scary to read is the kind of pushback he got in his efforts to bring his reporting to light. This is a journalist who believes in the values of the news organization he works for, loves his job, and just wants to do extensive reporting and be able to provide a voice to the number of women who had been so brutally silenced. But the way he is directly and indirectly blocked by his own bosses at NBC from proceeding disturbs him deeply and it shows in his many conversations with them, trying to justify how important his reporting was but being told it wasn’t enough – not that it’s surprising because women’s voices are never believable enough. And if silencing by his bosses is just one part of the story, the underhanded illegal surveillance tactics used by Weinstein to scare him into not pursuing his story reads like a spy thriller, and if I didn’t know that he is currently alive and well, I would have been much more scared for Farrow’s life while reading the book. As he becomes increasingly consumed by his investigation while also being paranoid about being surveilled, it affects his own long distance relationship with his partner. Their arguments but also Jonathan’s quiet support bring a little humor and personal touch to this book and I really appreciated that. And it was actually very sweet and incredibly nerdy the way Farrow proposed to Jon (I really don’t wanna spoil it) and it was nice to see that they survived the intensity of those years.
The threads of cover up go from news organizations to DA’s offices to state and national politicians to a veritable who’s who of lawyers to international private intelligence companies – and while this may have been surprising to me a few years ago, it just seems par for the course of powerful people protecting more powerful people. While many of us have been disillusioned by the powerful among the politicians or Hollywood getting away with their harassment using their hordes of lawyers, it’s definitely more shocking to read about legitimate famous news organizations like NBC which pride themselves on being the voice of truth for the people, doing the same when it comes to protecting the higher ups in their executive, creating a hostile atmosphere for the women who work there and ultimately silencing them with money and NDAs. While there are many journalists with integrity working at these places like Farrow and McHugh etc, news reporting is also ultimately a business and the higher ups seem to be more concerned about their bottom line and protecting their powerful friends rather than worrying about journalistic ethics. Especially the reporting about the rape and sexual harassment allegations against Matt Lauer are very hard to read, and I can’t even fathom what these women go through just to be able to work at a place they admire. Thank god for the people at The New Yorker who had enough principles to let Farrow complete his investigation and report it thoroughly.
In conclusion, I just want to say that you should read this book. If you are someone who is disappointed everyday by unreliable news reporting and the spin machine employed by powerful individuals, this book will feel like a ray of light and give you some sense of hope that there are many journalists of integrity who are trying very hard to bring the truth out into the open while fighting many battles in the background to make it happen, and Farrow rightly calls this a love letter to journalists. This can also feel hopeless and scary at times because of the massive cover up machine across numerous organizations that make sure powerful men are never held accountable, but it’s still an important book. And ultimately, it’s a testament to the strength of many many women who decide to come forward with their stories, reliving their trauma in the process and hounded by their abuser’s PR machine and letting their lives be upended again, but finally coming to the conclusion that enough is enough and raise their voice so that future generations of women might have it a little easier.