Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

This exposé (464 pages) was published in October of 2019 by Little, Brown. The book takes you to the seedy side of power. David read Catch and Kill and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

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Catch and Kill

Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

Ronan Farrow

If you’re interested in how power is wielded to shape reality, this intensely researched and reported book is for you. An exposé of serial abusers, particularly the sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, it’s also an eye-opening examination of how easy it is for people in power to control the story. And how a determined journalist can stop them.

As you might expect, this book is a dark ride. It documents a shameful laundry list of violence, intimidation, espionage, and legal wrangling, all performed in service of covering up Weinstein’s decades-long abuse of women in Hollywood.

This story is at least as bad as you think it is. Weinstein was and is a monster. He used his power to lure up-and-coming starlets to his hotel room. Then he’d confront them — frequently in or out of his bathrobe. He’d harass them, cajole and scream at them, possibly rape them, and, far too often, destroy their careers if they didn’t comply.

But this evil stretched beyond Weinstein. There were women who worked as honey traps. There were clean-up men. An army of lawyers wrote binding non-disclosure agreements, and National Enquirer editors were willing to buy a victim’s story to bury it. An Israeli intelligence organization known as Black Cube tracked people down to dissuade them from pursuing any action at all. And other opportunistic individuals were paid to befriend victims to manipulate their stories and keep Weinstein in the know. And there were dozens and dozens of others — famous, rich, empowered people — who knew it was happening and did nothing.

That author Ronan Farrow was able to navigate this morass of intrigue and creepy details is something of a miracle; he’s uniquely suited to the task. As the son of actress Mia Farrow and (now-notorious) director Woody Allen, he knows what scandal looks like from the inside. He’s also wealthy enough to pursue the story when he’s fired by NBC, and he holds a legal degree, so he knows how to argue the fine points with those who try to stop him.

Along the way, we’re given a behind-the-scenes look at NBC studios, The New Yorker, and the National Enquirer. We also see the nitty-gritty of how work gets done in this age of near-instant communication and constant connectedness.

This story begs to be one of revenge, a satisfying arc in which the villain is punished — and he is: Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison. But it’s also a classic noir: The problem is chronic, and while one bad guy has been taken down, the rot has also taken hold at the roots.

Heads up: Farrow’s reporting won him the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, and The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow includes his personal experiences along with interviews from his investigation.

You know, the press is as much part of our democracy as Congress or the executive branch or the judicial branch. It has to keep things in check. And when the powerful control the press, or make the press useless, if the people can’t trust the press, the people lose. And the powerful can do what they want. — Ronan Farrow

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A lot has changed since the days of William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer, and groundbreaking girl reporter Nellie Bly. But their dogged commitment to following the story endures because the truth still matters.
Extra, extra! Our new podcast episode is all about the colorful history, hard work, and high-stakes drama of journalism. Join us for must-read books that highlight the media pros and news stories that shape our world.

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