Don’t Forgive or Forget the Renfields


I call them “Renfields” after the vampire’s slave in Dracula. They’re the weak, beglamoured, cowardly, venal, crippled, soul-dead followers of a master vampire: their sense of right or wrong is completely overruled and all that’s left is fear of the master’s displeasure.

Dracula is especially appropriate, because it’s also a story about rape, and the effect it has on everyone surrounding the assault – it’s a morality tale about a socially privileged, rich, untouchable nobleman who inflicts his will on whomever he wishes – he’s a being of absolute selfishness. Bram Stoker gives Dracula the excuse of not being human anymore, and I think the story would be unbearable if it turned out that Dracula was just a normal, living, member of the power elite when the story comes to an end. In that view, we get echoes of Alan Moore’s extremely disturbing From Hell which posits that another great sexual murderer, Jack the Ripper, was a member of the establishment, whose embarrassed and terrified peers covered for him.

Dracula: All the things… you’ve ever dreamed of — all of them yours. I can make you rich, Renfield. Would you like that? Rich beyond belief. You will see life through the eyes of centuries. Wealth and power.

That stunning illustration, by the way, is from J. J. Muth’s exquisite Dracula: a Symphony of Moonlight and Nightmares, [amzn] It’s beautiful and creepy and captivating. I was going to illustrate this with Tom Waits’ performance as Renfield in Coppola’s Dracula but Waits’ Renfield manages to be almost a sympathetic character. His will is so broken beneath the boot of the vampire that he has no beliefs left to compromise.

Christopher Hitchens, a man whose beliefs eventually became problematic for me, once described Francois Mitterand as “A man so corrupt he would gladly pay for the pleasure of selling himself.” These are the kind of men that the master vampires want. “Cruel Leonidas asks you to stand; I only ask that you kneel,” says Frank Miller’s Xerxes in what is probably a calumny to Xerxes. But he captures the sentiment right.

Muth’s expression of Dracula’s offer to Renfield is beautifully put: “you will see life through the eyes of centuries.” That’s the appeal that is made to people that follow the powerful and aid and abet their crimes. In this time, when we’re talking about rape culture, and systemic abuse, it’s important not to give the renfields a pass. For every Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, or Bill Cosby, there are Renfields. They are the people who know exactly what is happening and usually help. They’re the ones who write the payoff checks, get the pills, cover for the boss. Why do they do this?

It’s not just money: it’s what Dracula says – the Renfield gets to see life through the eyes of the master. When the lights start to shine on the master, the Renfields scuttle back under the cabinets and wait until the situation blows over. Sometimes, they even stab their master in the back, once they think it’s safe. Usually they don’t because they know they’re complicit. Why do we give them the time of day or air to breathe?

Here’s just one: [nyd]

Back when Bill Cosby was the king of network television, veteran NBC employee Frank Scotti served as the royal fixer.

When Cosby invited young models into his Brooklyn dressing room, the megastar’s pal stood watch outside the door. When the married Cosby sought a Queens apartment for another pretty face, Scotti arranged the deal.

And when the man behind Fat Albert needed cash disbursed to his flock of single female friends — hey, hey, hey — Scotti became the conduit for payments of up to $2,000 a month.

Isn’t it odd that the investigation into Cosby never subpoena’d Scotti? Is there some kind of of Renfield/Vampire Privilege like a lawyer’s Client/Attorney Privilege that says one never sweats the Renfield?

Master’s little shitweasel

Step back and think about that. For all the crap that’s being thrown around about whether Cosby’s victims consented or were lying or whatever, here’s Cosby’s abject servant, willing to knife his master now that he’s down, and … the story goes into the memory hole.

Scotti came forward last week with his insider’s look at Cosby’s womanizing ways during the magical 1984-92 run of “The Cosby Show.”

The 90-year-old Scotti said he decided to speak as the drumbeat of sexual abuse allegations against Cosby, 77, grew steadily louder. “I felt sorry for the women,” he told The News.

He felt sorry for them in 1984-1992, but only sorry enough to not come forward and not testify. He waited until he was 90 years old and his vampire master was finally too embattled to be able to swat him. Think about that: this guy knew exactly what Cosby was doing; he probably helped escort the tearful and confused victims out the back door so they couldn’t make a fuss. He wrote the checks and that means he knows who got the checks, and why. Maybe Cosby let him watch.

He recalled Cosby presenting him with “a satchel of money, all $100 bills,” and pressing Scotti to distribute the payments using money orders in his own name.

“I did a lot of crazy things for him,” recalled Scotti. “He was covering himself by having my name on it. It was a coverup. I realized it later.”

“I realized it later” – you may be kidding yourself but you’re not kidding me.
A.
Satchel.
Of.
Money.

Dracula: I have seen men live and flourish, and I have seen men beg to die. I will show you that your soul, too, is a hunter.

The media coverage of Weinstein focuses on him and his actions, mostly. We hear that he hired ex-Mossad agents to spy on people who might be tracking the story. We hear he was “lawyered up.” So we can infer that he’s got someone, and a lawyer, who was coordinating all that stuff for him – some Renfield who knew exactly why and what was going on, and knew for a decade (at least). Perhaps Weinstein’s Renfield will come forward, for their 15 minutes of fame, but I doubt it – their master’s fangs and claws are still terrifying. But more than the terrifying threat of master’s displeasure is the opportunity to be close to some kind of power, to feel that their soul, too, is a hunter.

The wolf surrounded by yummy deer and his Renfield. How many of them do you think he tried his routine on?

Those of you who’ve read this blog often, will probably have noticed I have a great sensitivity to power and abuse of power or authority. That’s because of things that happened in my childhood, which I don’t think I’ll ever need to go into, but suffice to say, I believe I understand the Weinsteins, Cosbys, Clintons, and Polanskis of the world. Understanding doesn’t mean I sympathize: my feeling is probably more that of a badger watching a wolf that is devouring a deer. I can imagine what the wolf feels, and the joy of the hunt, but – eh – my strengths are in defense, not offense. Having the soul of a hunter doesn’t mean you have to hunt; sometimes it means that you are hyper-sensitive to hunters and want to avoid them. I wrote in the notes of a previous entry [stderr] that I have some experience in the BDSM world; well, that is also part and parcel of my hyper-sensitivity to authority and abuse of power dynamics. I know that’s viewing it through the lenses of my distorted perspective but to me BDSM is all about playing with power dynamics safely, which means in a consensual context of a temporary imaginary reality. The reason that I mention all that is because I infer that the head-space of someone like Bill Cosby, for 30 years, was that of a wolf surrounded by sheep, choosing, manipulating, hunting, and reveling in his ability to safely exploit that differential power dynamic. It is the glamour of the vampire: power, nihilistic selfishness, and a release from any sense of consequence or responsibility. That is where my observation that Power has no value unless you plan to abuse it [stderr] comes from. The wise deer does not believe that the wolf merely wants to enjoy running through the woods, no matter how earnestly the wolf protests it.

What surprises me not at all about these stories is that they’re so predictable. That’s why I tried to formulate them into my observation on power. We ought to be immediately concerned, when we see someone who is flexing their personal power and surrounded with minions. And, when the dam breaks and evil bubbles start to break on the surface, the first people we should ask are the minions. Don’t ask Ben Affleck what he thinks about Harvey Weinstein – ask Weinstein’s chief of staff.

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The Renfields are everywhere. When Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal started brewing, all I could think was that there were people in the US Secret Service who had log-books of exactly how long it took for the intern to get the master vampire off. This sort of secondary information is always there, somewhere. As I mentioned elsewhere regarding the CIA’s torture facilities: someone provided the camera. Someone cleaned the room. Someone arranged the travel. Someone flew planes full of hooded and shackled people. None of this stuff happens in a vacuum; the Renfields always know. They enjoy knowing; it’s how they see life through the eyes of centuries.

New Yorker Magazine has an article about the Weinstein set-up, which dangles some tidbits about the size of the master vampire’s operation. [nym] From Weinstein’s personal assistant to multiple lawyers and fixers, and Weinstein’s brother (who provided satchels of cash) – decades of payouts and non-disclosures don’t happen in an organizational vacuum.

Your average billionaire [source]

I first started to figure this stuff out when I was thinking about Bill Clinton’s alleged trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” (Kevin Spacey being another alleged flier) [beast] There are people in ground crews, catering services, refuelling companies, cleaning services, airport security, consumer aviation facilities – all of them have more than an inkling what is going on. One does not operate large jets full of underage models without someone noticing. Somehow, nobody remembers to ask them.

By the time Epstein was arrested in 2008, police in Palm Beach County, Florida, had already spent months monitoring his movements, rifling through his trash, and interviewing potential victims and witnesses.

… and in that process, they didn’t record or keep track of who was flying with Epstein? Of course they did – but that sort of explosive information could damage other members of the oligarchy. So, shhh!

Comments

  1. Desert Son, OM says

    So, we’ve got the Draculas, the Renfields, and on top of that, Victorian Britain (the socio-cultural environment): posturing grandeur, imperial and colonial ambitions, growing (and obscene) wealth disparity, predatory capitalism, marginalization of many (including women) even as those marginalized organize for visibility and agency, technology outpacing the human reckoning of it, social systems insisting on class as inviolate and immobile, white supremacy, environmental degradation, and insufficiently examined research and understanding about adult human sexuality.

    By the way, thank you for the recommendation about Onamission5’s comment in the Sunday Sermon thread. I did read it, and it—coupled with your original post—were so critical in grappling with even just one aspect of all this. I’m grateful to you both.

    And yes, we’re all still learning. Today marks the one-year anniversary of my successful doctoral defense in educational psychology. The day you stop learning is the day you die.

    Thank you again.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  2. says

    I read the articles linked in this post. I wasn’t aware of this shit going on in USA. Among all the outrageous things there was one aspect that puzzled me. When Gutierrez started complaining about being assaulted, she was accused of having been a sex worker in Italy. Why? Why does it even matters who she had slept with before? Since when it’s OK to sexually assault sex workers? Don’t they have human rights? Aren’t they also protected by law? I know that in some countries sex work is illegal (in my opinion it shouldn’t be) and sex workers are technically criminals. But criminals aren’t outlaws. It shouldn’t be OK to sexually assault somebody who is legally considered a criminal. I saw this pattern in every case. Defense lawyers always argued that victims were promiscuous. In some cases lawyers didn’t argue that these women have been sex workers, they just argued that they had had sex before they experienced sexual assault. Since when rape is OK as long as the victim is no longer a virgin?

  3. John Morales says

    leva, it is essentially an ad hominem intended to raise doubt about the credibility of the victim. If the tactic didn’t work, it would not be employed.

    (As I think I mentioned to you in the past, appeals to emotion may not be allowed in a formal debate setting, but they work outside it. Note that even if the Court were to strike down the innuendo as irrelevant, it may still affect the jurors.)

  4. says

    In that vein, I think it’s also a matter of designating someone as out-group: “She’s not one of your people, so you shouldn’t care.”

    People are a lot more likely to care what happened to someone if they identify with that person. Highlighting ways that the victim is different undermines people’s ability to feel empathy.

  5. says

    LykeX@#4:
    In that vein, I think it’s also a matter of designating someone as out-group: “She’s not one of your people, so you shouldn’t care.”

    Sort of – I think it’s the same mechanism, but the master is saying “I am your ruler and you are my tribe. The rest of the world are our prey.”

  6. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#2:
    I wasn’t aware of this shit going on in USA. Among all the outrageous things there was one aspect that puzzled me. When Gutierrez started complaining about being assaulted, she was accused of having been a sex worker in Italy. Why? Why does it even matters who she had slept with before? Since when it’s OK to sexually assault sex workers? Don’t they have human rights? Aren’t they also protected by law?

    In the US, with its talibanesque christian morals, a sex-worker is considered to be someone who’d do anything for money including bear false witness or whatever else. In other words, they’re like a lawyer without “professional courtesy”

    There is a real issue which is that since many forms of sex work are illegal, a sex worker is a criminal and is therefore admitting to a crime if they testify. That makes it very difficult for a sex worker to accuse someone of rape – the rapists’ lawyer would turn the accusation into an argument about payment. It’s utterly horrible and (in case you’re going to misunderstand me) I utterly disapprove of it.

    Defense lawyers always argued that victims were promiscuous. In some cases lawyers didn’t argue that these women have been sex workers, they just argued that they had had sex before they experienced sexual assault. Since when rape is OK as long as the victim is no longer a virgin?

    Remember when Shakespeare said “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”? I think Dick had a good idea there.

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