AUDIO: Robert Scheer on ‘The Hunting Ground’—a Documentary About Sexual Assault on Campus
Editor’s note: CNN is airing “The Hunting Ground” again on Sunday, Dec. 27 at 11 p.m. EST/8 p.m. PST. Click here for details.
In the fifth episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer’s new KCRW podcast, Scheer discusses the documentary film “The Hunting Ground” with its director, Kirby Dick, and producer, Amy Ziering.
Read the transcript below.
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, the podcast that I do with KCRW and that is distributed through its affiliate stations and NPR. My two guests today, Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick. Amy is the producer of the new film “The Hunting Ground”; Kirby Dick is the director. They were both involved together in another movie that was very powerful, as this one is—”The Invisible War,” about rape in the military—that in 2013 was nominated for an Academy Award [for Best Documentary Feature]. They’ve won Emmys between them; they’ve been celebrated and so forth, but they’ve also been the center of controversy. They have guts. They’ve taken up subjects that people didn’t want to deal with; in this case, “The Hunting Ground,” the whole question of rape and harassment on college campuses and the indifference of college leadership to deal with it. We’re doing this broadcast from USC, the University of Southern California, where I teach. They kindly support the podcast, the Annenberg School, and I appreciate that. But the fact is, USC is also mentioned in the movie, along with Harvard and Yale and Columbia and all sorts of other schools, as being culpable in this respect. And to my mind, what is so exciting about this film, it’s about people not taking it; it’s about pushing back. You all remember, I suppose most people listening to this, the woman who walked around Columbia University campus dragging her mattress to call attention to what she said was an assault on her. We’ve had other examples. And basically what the film to me was so powerful, is how lonely these people were when they first raised their complaint. How much opposition there was, how much shooting the messenger. And so let’s begin with that. First of all, what prompted you to make this film and what have you learned from it?
Amy Ziering: I guess what prompted us to make the film was when we finished “[The] Invisible War,” we had actually moved on to a different film entirely, but in the course of doing outreach for that film we were showing it on campuses. And that film, I think, as you mentioned, was, sort of broke the story of the epidemic of rape in our U.S. military. And in the course of showing it on campuses, every time we screened it somewhere someone would come up to us and go, “Actually, you know, this happened to me here. And there’s a lot of similarities between, you pointed out the way the military responded when someone reported it, to the way my administration responded right here on this campus.” And we kept hearing this over and over again. And then we started getting letters from around the country from students, saying you know, “Dear Ms. Ziering, Dear Mr. Dick, please, will you make a film on what’s going on on our campuses.” Because they’d seen “[The] Invisible War.” So we had no, we really were not planning on doing this, and we had no, we were working on an entirely different project, but then we started doing our own investigating and found out not only were all those stories we were hearing as horrific but even far worse. And so we just dove in and started making the film.
RS: So before I—and that’s Amy Ziering, who’s the producer of the film—but before I get to your director, Kirby Dick, let me just ask: You know, on these campuses we all, and particularly in California, have to take sexual harassment classes. Certainly most of the faculty talks a good game, and the administrations do. They’re aware you can not only have lawsuits, but you can violate people’s human rights, that you are on the wrong side of history; we don’t live in a more primitive time. Why is there so much pushback? And I would go right to the heart of the matter; you know, I watched this film, and I thought wow, a smashing job—you know, and can quibble about this or that, but I thought it was a very powerful movie, again, about resistance; about people speaking up for themselves, having the courage to speak up for themselves. And why has there been such a fierce sense of controversy and reaction, it seems to me, from college administrations? Or at least from some departments. Maybe we should start with Harvard, which has been sort of the center of that controversy, hasn’t it, the Harvard Law School?
Kirby Dick: Well, it’s been one of the places that some criticism has been coming from. First of all, I’d like to say most schools have actually embraced the film to some degree. I mean, we’ve had nearly a thousand screenings on college campuses; we’ve been invited by students, we’ve been invited by faculty, we’ve even been invited by many administrators who know that it’s a problem on their campus and realize that a film that focuses on it is a tool toward helping to address the problem. There have been, unfortunately, a few colleges that have actually chosen, rather than to sort of look at the problem on their own campus, to attack the messenger, as you say. Certainly Florida State University, President Thrasher came out very strong against the film and actually made the claim that Florida State University was a model for other schools in terms of how they handle sexual assault. And then only three or four days later The New York Times broke this big story on the fact that how they’d covered up rape, in terms of athletes, and how they’d had—I think 800—the number was astonishing, reports of rape and harassment, something like that. And so we haven’t heard much from President Thrasher in the last few days. And then you know, you mentioned Harvard; Harvard has some real problems. I mean, we knew that when we started making the film, I think. They did a good thing; they did a survey of their students, and they found out that nearly 30 percent of women had been sexually assaulted in some way. So it’s a very significant problem. What you did see is you saw, unfortunately, some professors at Harvard Law decide to come out and attack the film. I mean, we know in fact one of them had not even seen the film and they were attacking it. And it was just a completely erroneous attack; they made an accusation that the film had implied that the attack was, that the assault that we portray in the film was committed with force; it was not, we never said that. And it was just astonishing that they, they—
RS: Well, just to interrupt, the situation you were talking about was a Harvard Law student and her friend, or roommate, who got drunk at a party, and with another student who offered to give them a ride home, and that student was accused by them of having violated their body—
KD: Exactly, exactly, while they were completely incapacitated—
RS: —digital penetration, to be precise. While they were incapacitated.
KD: Right, right. And what happened was, is Harvard actually handled the investigation really well. They hired an independent fact-finder who found, you know, the, found the accused not credible and found him responsible. They found, you know, the woman who we profiled who was assaulted, they found her credible. It went to an administrative board who found the accused responsible, and applied the sanction of dismission. And that was all fine; it went through the process really well, until it got to this body of Harvard Law professors who went ahead and overturned that. And really, it was really unfortunate the way they did; in fact, the Department of Education office of civil rights actually has had a complaint against Harvard Law. And they pointed, we believe, to that one case as being a problem; and also to their entire appeal process, that the Harvard Law professors were involved in, as being a problem, and compelled them to actually change that process.
RS: Yeah, and there were some members of the Harvard Law faculty who took the opposite position.
AZ: Absolutely, and this was a minority of Harvard Law School professors, I want to say, that wrote this statement. You know, and there’s a, we have a point-by-point rebuttal on our website to every allegation they made.
AZ: And some of it was so outrageous and so erroneous, we were very puzzled by it. But what was interesting or striking to me was the film itself, as you know ’cause you saw it, is a critique of the way in which institutions will go to extreme lengths just to protect their reputation, even if it means protecting criminals. And what we see played out in this sort of, you know, attack on us is the very same thing. I mean, the extent they will go, you know, even to make incredulous arguments, just to sort of again maintain that unblemished facade of you know, the sanctity and righteousness and integrity of Harvard Law. It’s pretty crazy, you know, and seems so sort of overdetermined—the same Thrasher reaction is exactly what we prefigure in the film. [Laughs] So they play it out now against the film itself instead of against the people who report assault.
RS: Yeah, the irony here is that their reaction seems to have been even more untempered and, you know, one-sided than the military’s reaction to the film you made about rape. I mean, here is the American institution, the military, that has been pretty good about guarding its reputation. And yet I think that movie, which made very strong charges and so forth, actually led to reform. Hopefully that will be the case here. I should point out, by the way, you are here at USC today because we are showing the film tonight, and so far everyone I’ve talked to is very happy that we’re showing the film. And I think there is an awareness on this campus; I may be naive, but I’ve taught here about 20 years, and I get the feeling it’s better to solve these problems … then have lawsuits and disgrace your reputation, than to put them aside or pretend they don’t exist.
RS: So I must say I had a number of very influential faculty people thank me for scheduling the screening. And one of whom—I don’t want to use her name because her privacy’s at stake—said “Listen, I’m not naive on this subject. I was attacked as a college student 40 years ago, so I’m painfully aware how the victim is often made to be the, you know, the person responsible for the problem.” I do want to ask you about the Florida State issue. Again, it goes to the question of innocent until proven guilty, and there it involves a quarterback who is actually a No. 1 in the draft, and who has not had charges brought against him. So how do you respond to that concern?
KD: Well, that’s a fair question. What we, you know, show in our film and what The New York Times certainly showed in some very extensive and excellent reporting, was that when the Tallahassee Police Department conducted that investigation, it was so flawed that, you know, there were things that they could have found out within 24 hours. They could have actually gotten to Jameis Winston, the accused, right away. It took two months until the—the survivor had actually recognized him somewhere and identified him, you know, appropriately. And so, and so finally when the case went to the prosecutor, the state prosecutor—the state prosecutor said, basically to us said that, you know, “This investigation done by the Tallahassee Police Department was so flawed that there’s, I really don’t have enough of a case here to move forward with prosecution.” And I mean, you just need to read The New York Times or see our film, and it’s very evident, the Tallahassee Police Department—the investigator himself worked part time for Florida State University; that says a lot right there.
RS: Yeah. I don’t mean to center too much on the controversy or the criticism of the film, but let’s dispose of one, the other remaining one, I think. And that is the question of whether you relied too heavily on the data of one researcher that stressed the role of serial rapists on campus. And my own, watching the film, my own concern about that is while I’m perfectly willing to accept the statistics, if they’re accurate, that serial [rapists]—it seems to me the real problem in a lot of sporting events, our campuses and everywhere—from my point of view, but I’m eyeballing it—is alcohol. And you know, alcoholism and what it does, and the objectification of people and the excuse it gives to everyone, not just college students, maybe top political officials and presidents and so forth. And I just, I know you objected to my, in one of our emails, so let’s meet it head-on. Is this a problem of serial rapists?
AZ: If someone’s driving a car drunk, is it the problem of the alcohol, or should they not have gotten behind the wheel?
RS: Oh, oh, let me put that one aside. I’m not excusing the—I’m not using alcohol as an excuse; no, no. I’m being very precise. I’m not saying that is a buy, and therefore ignore it. No, no, no, no, at all. What I am asking, the criticism that has been made is you stressed very much the serial rapists.
KD: Repeat offenders, right.
RS: And suggest a sort of steep psychological and biological motivation for a minority of people—I think the figure was 8 percent or something—
KD: Right, less than 8 percent, completed more than 90 percent of the sexual assaults.
RS: And all I suggest there is it seems to take the onus off the rape that occurs and the sexual—for instance, one of your earlier movies was about a Catholic priest and abuse by Catholic priests. As you indicate in your movie, it’s quite widespread in the clergy, abuse of young boys, right?
KD: Right. No, no, well it’s interesting you bring that up, because the repeat offenders was a very serious problem there in the Catholic church. Definitely true in the military; statistics show that. And the statistics show the same on college campuses. You know, there’s no question that a large percentage of these assaults are caused by repeat offenders. And we actually saw that anecdotally; I mean, we interviewed on camera 70 survivors, spoke to nearly 200; and over and over again, you could get a sense, just anecdotally, that—and then you would even later—
AZ: It wasn’t just getting a sense. It was literally, people would say “The only reason I’m talking to you, I never was going to report, but when I found out he did it to other people, I felt compelled to report to help protect anyone else from it happening to them.”
RS: OK, so then help me here. You have—let’s, so we have—well, let me—let me just say, so you have repeat offenders. You had ’em in the Catholic church, you had ’em in the military, and now you find them on the campuses. Why do these institutions feel a need to defend repeat offenders? Why?
AZ: Well, they don’t—they feel a need to defend—they feel a need not to sort of move forward on these crimes because I think there’s a profound misunderstanding of them. And I really think that what the film does is, one thing the film does is help really reframe and re-explain this issue in a way; people don’t understand it. There’s so many common mythologies around it; it’s he-said she-said, it’s about hookup, it’s sloppy sex, we can’t really know. I mean, and so, I think that that’s part of what impedes anyone from even moving forward in a way and taking this issue seriously, is because people really don’t understand it as a crime like any other crime in our society. And that really needs to be changed and transformed.
KD: And then I just want to add to that, that you know, it’s obviously, nobody wants repeat sexual assault offenders on their campus, of course. But they, you know, institutions and colleges and universities are very concerned about their reputation, and that’s what we saw again and again, is that they would—rather than addressing the problem, they would do things—they would try to cover it up. And they’re also concerned about their funding sources, donations, and they’re afraid that if, you know, if there’s a story of an assault on their campus and that story gets out, that perhaps it will lower the amount of donations they receive. So what you’ve seen is these colleges and universities putting their own reputation and their financial well-being ahead of the safety of their students.
AZ: And to circle back to what we were just talking about with repeat offenders, I mean, it’s why we also called the film “The Hunting Ground,” was to sort of also combat these rape myths which think, like, oh, it’s just sort of obscure and it’s what are you going to do, and it just happens. It’s like, no, actually, it’s a highly calculated, premeditated crime. And we want to sort of change the terminology from date rape to target rape. I mean, we saw it over and over again. And the reason why you ask—you know, rape happens in society at large; why are we focusing on campuses? Why are we focusing on the military? Because there are certain institutions that provide perfect-storm conditions for this to occur. They’re target-rich environments; you know, it’s a transient population; there’s really poor adjudication and investigation processes in place, so that perpetrators can target victims and commit these crimes over and over again with impunity, which is why you see these epidemic numbers.
RS: This is Robert Scheer. I’m talking to Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the producer and director, respectively, of the incredibly significant movie “The Hunting Ground,” which deals with the problem of rape on college campuses that has been largely ignored. Let me ask you a follow-up on what you just said, though. These institutions—the army, university, as with most major institutions—are male-dominated. And even though we have a great opening and we want to improve the number of women in positions of power, you take an institution like Harvard, and it’s still the Harvard male that is held out as the example, in fact, with the male institution. And then you have someone like Lawrence Summers, being the head of Harvard, rewarded for his failure in the economic crisis as treasury secretary, and actually making disparaging remarks about the ability of women to learn science and so forth. There is an old-boy network. And it seems to me, because I must say, I’ll indicate my prejudice here—I really like this movie; I think it raises incredibly important questions, and it does it in a very thoughtful way. But then I got these criticisms I’m reading, so I’m thinking well, I have to do due diligence; what is it all about? And it’s very much the way these discussions proceed generally in a male-dominated society; the woman has to prove—although you did have examples in your film of, I guess, homosexual rape—it wasn’t quite clear—
KD: It’s not necessarily homosexual, but definitely male-on-male; sometimes it’s straight males who are assaulting men.
RS: Male-on-male, OK, male-on-male rape. But nonetheless the main thing here is women who have, in your film, the courage to speak up. That’s really what it is, in an environment in which people are saying hey, get over it, or did you do it or did you cause it, or was it just booze or was it just kids having fun. And your movie, as you did previously in your movie about rape in the military is that hey—no. This is a major crime, major violation of people’s rights, and—
AZ: And people just don’t make it up.
RS: Yeah. OK. So let’s talk about that, because—the first issue, though, is the difficulty—despite laws about harassment, despite protection, supposedly—why was it so difficult for the women you interviewed to bring it up?
AZ: Again, because of these common rape myths! I mean, as we show in the film, 92 to 98 percent of the time when someone reports a rape, they’re telling the truth. That is statistically consistent with every other crime in our society, and yet you never hear someone say, “Were you drinking when you say he took the TV? Are you sure you didn’t mean to give him the TV?” I mean, you have, you know, any other crime, and yet—it’d be as likely for someone to be lying about any other crime they were reporting as they were lying about rape, but we treat it completely different in our society.
KD: Yeah, women, women aren’t believed in this situation. I mean, it’s, the reality is that most people who come forward and report a sexual assault, the vast majority are telling the truth. That’s the reality.
RS: Yeah. Could I just back off a little to defend that other, not the other point, but to take a shot at alcohol.
RS: OK? Let’s just assume that yes, I mean—and I accept, because I’ve read your response; the stats do support your case, there’s no question—but we do have an atmosphere of machismo; we have an atmosphere of bravado around sporting events. We have a coarsening of culture, and I’m not saying that’s an excuse; but the fact is, colleges create an environment of abandon in certain respects.
AZ: Yeah, well, that doesn’t give you license to violate someone else’s body.
RS: No, absolutely not. But is it possible that your, this movie is provocative or threatening in the sense that it dominates a view of an ideal college life?
AZ: No, I think it’s provocative and threatening because it puts limits on men’s entitlement to a woman’s body. Honestly, profoundly and deep down, it’s when you said—you know, it’s interesting; we didn’t get the same backlash with the military that we’ve gotten with this film. And when you look at why is that, or if you, you know, sort of dig deep and question, the military—the critique is of a male population in the military, whereas the critique of our film is of a white, middle-class or upper-class, privileged male population. And so now you’re seeing, suddenly it’s a controversy; suddenly there’s a problem with the statistics. No problem with statistics when it’s about serial predators in the military. Suddenly now there’s, you know, a fake—you know, and this whole even—I’m so irritated, like really, we’re spending 40 minutes talking about a controversy? There’s no controversy. It’s like talking about climate change and controversy right now. It’s exactly analogous. But what you’re hearing is this backlash because there’s a threat to the dominant white male power. That’s the deep-down thing, and that’s why all these sort of crazy, hysterical articles; that’s why a crazy reaction from Harvard Law professors; this is nothing—all we have is a film in which people are going forward to report a crime, and most of the time they’re only going forward to report a crime because someone committed it to someone else! So this is not about any kind of glory—I wish—I’ve got better things to do with my time than run around talking about fake [accusations]! This is happening, it’s a horrible thing; there’s no controversy; let’s just get busy worrying about the problem!
RS: Sure, but what the reaction underscores is the depth of the problem. And with all due respect, people went out, as far as I could see, to destroy this film, and found it threatening—well, come on—
DK: No, I think, I think some people—yes, I think people associated with certain institutions did not want this message to get out. There’s no question about that. But for the most part, I just want to say, most institutions have not reacted that way. And we’ve been pleased. I mean, they—
AZ: The [interim chancellor] of [the University of Alaska-Fairbanks] gave a speech and apologized to the students and thanked us for the film after seeing the film—we don’t even know him—and wrote a beautiful speech. The president of Amherst [College] called me when I was at Sundance, I mean, wrote me a beautiful email, and invited the film, and me to come and talk about it at Amherst, and afterward she invited everybody to come back to the Lord Jeff and talk about it. So we’ve had this mixed response. But I’m just frustrated that so much is about, you know, an alleged controversy.
RS: Well, it’s not just a controversy about the film. Let’s take the individuals that your film describes. They were attacked viciously—that woman with the mattress, I’m sorry, I don’t remember her name—
AZ and DK: Emma Sulkowicz.
RS: Yeah, she was ridiculed. She was considered an embarrassment to the campus. The administration at first was not supportive. And the stories that the women in your film tell, and the few men that you have who were victims, is a story of bureaucratic indifference; of universities not—they weren’t telling tales of, “Oh, we got a lot of support on campus”—I mean, the recurring theme in your film is “Oh, the dean I talked to” or “The adviser I talked to basically said get over it or are you sure.” So this is not just a question of criticism made of the film after the fact; what your film describes in very powerful terms is institutional bias against the victims. Right? That’s the—
AZ: Right, yes—
DK: —you’re absolutely correct, is that I mean, they don’t believe the survivors; if they do, they oftentimes delay the investigation or do things to cover it up; sometimes if they even want to move forward, the person who’s accused is so powerful, perhaps the son of a donor, and they feel the pressure and so they don’t do something. Yeah, I mean, this is what we saw over and over and over again. And this is why—I mean, this has been a problem for 40, 50 years at least, right? And yet, you know, this has been kept buried for so long. Fortunately, it’s really because of the students, the women, the young women and men who kept coming forward and told their story, and then really got together with other students around the country and brought this to the national agenda. I mean, that’s what this film does; it covers the rise of a new student movement, and I think we owe such a debt of gratitude to these survivors who are speaking out and who are kind of rallying students around the country to confront their institutions and say, “Let’s do this right; let’s protect students here.”
RS: Yeah, and the narrative in this film—I’m talking to Kirby Dick, the director, and Amy Ziering, the producer of “The Hunting Ground”—the powerful narrative in the film is how people find their voice. And I think the two or three women who end up in the car driving around the country to take the story—I mean, they become the reporters of the story that the media is not reporting sufficiently. And they are basically then organizing on the basis of this data. And you know, I think that’s really the powerful point of the film, is the point about resistance on the people who start out in the beginning of the film so happy that they got into these colleges—I mean, it’s a very, I thought, very powerful theatrical device; you know, these are people who are not complainers. They have worked hard to go to these schools—
KD: They love their schools.
RS: —they are thrilled, their families are thrilled. Sometimes they have family connection with these schools going back. And boom, disaster hits and nobody believes them, or very few people do. And the story is, let’s just be clear about this, a very positive message about people saying, “I’m not going to take it; I’m going to change.” And hopefully this film will be registered as one of those things that change the way business is done and change history. I mean, that’s the challenge. So let me wrap this up a little bit by getting back to sort of my original theme of American originals. You know, we’re here at an institution where people are out in the hallway here, the Wallis Annenberg Hall learning how to go into media, go into communications and so forth. And looking at the work that you two have done, it’s a work informed by integrity. That you didn’t take the easy shots; you didn’t go for the, you know, amusing stuff; you didn’t go for the win-win of, you know, let’s all wear pink and fight breast cancer. You took on hard subjects, and frankly, and I don’t want to pile on here, but you’re going through a little bit of it now. You know, come on, let’s not kid ourselves—
KD: No, it’s, we’re hitting a nerve. We’re hitting a nerve.
RS: Yeah, you’re hitting a nerve. So I want to ask, as an American original [laughs], what motivates you? Where did you get this, what was your background in terms of your education, why are you the way you are and why have you taken on these difficult, controversial projects?
KD: Wow. Um, well, I think you know, we look for challenging projects to begin with, and we’re looking for situations—you know what, I’ll tell you what it is. I think we take outsider positions. That’s what we’ve seen, I think, in all our films, is these, you know, you look at these young women and men in our films—I mean, there’s no one who’s more an outsider than somebody who’s 19 or 20 years old trying to challenge a 200-year-old institution. And we think that those are the stories that are really important to tell to the American public, is that this is how change happens. It’s when people, you know, who have the courage to stand up and confront an institution—and why are they confronting that institution? Because they love it. They care enough about that institution that they want it to do the right thing. And so I think part of where this comes from us is just the desire to profile those kinds of stories.
RS: And where did you get your background, your education, your film—
KD: Um, I went to art school and never graduated, so—[laughs] I don’t have any allegiance to any college or university. But you know, I’ve been making documentaries for 30 years now. A lot of them have been very focused on people who’ve experienced profound trauma, and how they’ve reacted to that and what they’ve done with that. You know, I think trauma is very debilitating in one way, but it can also really strengthen you and cause you to see the world in different ways. And cause you even, or motivate you, to actually accomplish great things.
RS: And Amy, what is your—
AZ: Ah, I—I don’t know, I don’t know. [Laughs]
KD: You have an impassioned philosophy—
RS: How did you come to film?
AZ: Ah, I was doing a Ph.D. in comparative literature and working with Jacques Derrida, and I just wanted to make a movie on him, so I sort of fell into it that way. It was not a—it was not a film-quo-film desire, and sort of Derrida’s work—he’s the philosopher that coined the term deconstruction, and it’s all about sort of overthrowing conventional conceptions of any kind of hierarchical relationships, and sort of—it’s, you know, power structure and ideology, and what the political implications are of any kind of ideological position. So I’ve always been sort of just innately drawn to sort of politics, social justice, you know, those kinds of issues.
RS: So for people listening to this who now want to watch it, what’s the best way? Are there theatrical screenings? Should they book it for their campus? Do they download it? What’s the future of this film now? And hopefully we’ve provoked people to want to see it and discuss it. I certainly would, that’s why I’m having you here to speak in my class today; I think it’s probably as important a movie as you can show, certainly on a college campus, or to people who—well, anybody, actually.
AZ: Anybody. Students, parents.
RS: So how, what is the—a lot of great documentaries are made, and one of my disappointments is I show them, I meet the directors, and then most people don’t even know they exist, even when they win the Academy Award, you know? “Inside Job”—I happened to write a book on the same subject; I met the guy, talked to him; I thought, wow! He’s won the Academy Award; he’ll expose the whole banking thing. No; none of those deans he exposed, none of the business lawyers, they didn’t change their ways. You know, so the documentary as a forum is not as powerful as one would hope.
KD: Well, you know, some—taking on the banking industry, that’s a big one. [Laughter] I mean we, “The Invisible War,” the film that we made, you know, did change the way the military—they changed policy; you know, Congress passed dozens of reforms directly in the wake of seeing the movie. So they still have a long way to go, the military, but changes can be made.
AZ: So training, too, on bases, and—
KD: Right. And we’re seeing that, too, here. I mean, every time the film plays on a college campus, it starts a discussion; it starts a debate. And it starts change. That’s one of the reasons we made this film, was to show it in your class; that’s what we want to do. The discussions among the professors preceding the showing—we wanted that.
AZ: And it changes hearts and minds. The reason people need to see it is it provides information you simply are not getting anywhere else and is really necessary and actually can save lives. So it’s super important.
KD: And just to say where you can see it, it’s come out on DVD today, so—
RS: Oh. And today is December 1st, so it’s available.
AZ: It’s on DVD.
KD: Yeah, it’s available on DVD now; it’s available on iTunes; it’s available on video on demand. So it’s definitely out there, and it will be out on Netflix shortly.
AZ: And we have a website. You can sign up to host a screening; you can also sign up to bring it to a campus or high school.
RS: And what’s the website?
RS: And we’ll put that on the podcast post. Let me end this by criticizing or asking for your criticism of my interviewing style. Because I get the sense, Amy in particular, that you feel I harped on criticism of the film.
AZ: No, no, it’s not that! It’s just instructive for us all to look at that. Like, really? It’s interesting that because there’s been a few fringe articles which have created white noise around this issue, that that really sucks all the oxygen and pulls the conversation, right? Because if I had talked to you after Sundance, you wouldn’t have had a questions about statistics; you wouldn’t have had Harvard Law professors—you wouldn’t have had any of those—
AZ: —we would have really talked about the issue. But what we’ve seen here is, in real time played out, how pernicious and how, you know, and the impact and effect of how spreading these seeds of, you know, doubt, which are completely spurious and ill-founded—but then what does it do? You know, we could have had a really fabulous—that was my frustration. It wasn’t with you, but it’s just, it’s been interesting, you know? And it’s not, and it’s not just you, it’s what we see over and over again. So now, really?—we’re spending 30 minutes talking about statistics, when the same statistics were in the military, but there was no—you understand what I’m saying?—no chatter about the problems which are manufactured. Does that make sense?
RS: Well, it makes sense, but let’s not deny the value of controversy, as Michael Moore has shown. [Laughter] And I personally welcome the controversy, because too much good stuff goes unnoticed. That doesn’t mean you should distort the product to make it controversial at all. But the fact is, you know, when a bunch of Harvard Law professors want to attack you—
AZ: You got something right.
RS: —and people like Laurence Tribe and others who have big reputations, and they go gunning for you—well, for someone like myself, it makes me want to see the movie. [Laughter] That was my response right away. I’m going to tune in—
RS: Yeah, absolutely! That’s why I watched it on CNN. I’m going to watch this thing. And that’s why I’ve gotten it since, and that’s why I scheduled this class. And I think a lot of people feel that way. And when you watch the movie and you read the attacks, which I’ve had my students do, and I’ve read the attacks, you realize that they are really weak and besides the point, and shoot the messenger and blame the victim, and so forth. And so, but I think this movie deserves a wide audience. That’s why I’ve asked you to come, that’s why I’ve done the podcast. I don’t think people should be put off—I mean, this is not the first time a bunch of Harvard professors, and as you point out they’re a minority of Harvard professors—but it’s not the first time a bunch of them have gotten things terribly wrong. And you have to really ask, you know, maybe it hit too close to home. Where were they when a student was being harassed? What are they teaching—and this is true on any campus and on any issue. What do we really teach? You know, mentioned banking—what do we really teach in our business school or law school about the ethics of the banking system, you know? What do we do about race, what do we do about gender? And so forth. We’ve had reports come out about the failure of colleges to deal with minorities or even a four-year college degree. Maybe that could be your next documentary—fails black and brown people terribly, even the ones who’ve gone right through. So there are these issues that make big institutions and the people who run them uncomfortable. I’m not apologizing for bringing them up. But if you feel there’s something we’ve missed about this film in this discussion, now is the time to let me in on it. I mean, what do you think is the importance of this film that you want everyone listening to this to get and go watch the movie?
KD: Well, I think it’s important that, you know, there’s—no one has asked for a retraction of any fact in the film. I mean, it’s been a lot of noise—as you pointed out—and it’s been an attempt to distract. I think what it comes right down to is, you know, we hit too close to home. That’s why they came out. I mean, you know, some of these institutions were happy just letting business as usual; they were too powerful, you know, their own fiefdoms; and they could kind of run their affairs as they wanted to. And when somebody comes in from the outside and critiques them, and says hey, you know, 20 percent, 30 percent of women on your college campus are getting assaulted and this has been going on for a long time—that hit too close to home. I do want to say, though, that there is movement. There is movement. The schools have a long, long way to go, but there is movement. And that’s a good sign. It’s just, this is not something, as you know, one year, two years, one film is going to change; this is a societal problem, and this society really has to look at it. Not only sexual assault on college campuses; it’s throughout society. So hopefully this is just one step toward addressing that.
RS: Amy, you have a last word?
AZ: No, that was good.
RS: Well, I want to thank you for coming in, speaking to our students—
AZ: Thank you very much.
RS: —at USC, and for making this terrifically important film. This is Robert Scheer. I’ve been talking to Amy Ziering, the producer of this film, and Kirby Dick. They’ve done a lot of great work. They are American originals, and I want to thank our producers, Joshua Scheer and Rebecca Mooney, for producing this program of “Scheer Intelligence.” And I want to give a special shout-out to Sebastian Grubaugh for taking time in a late evening at USC—I don’t know if he’s being paid, but to turn over the studios and help us out. So thank you, Sebastian.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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