Jun 5 • 55M

The Depp Verdict Shows How Out of the Touch Media Elite Have Become

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The podcast version of Sasha Stone's Substack essays.
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PROFANITY WARNING — cursing all through some of the videos.

When Johnny Depp won his defamation case against Amber Heard it marked the first time a #metoo casualty had fought back and won. Unless you watched the trial, all of the trial, you would not know just how badly Amber Heard fared on the stand, how weak her case was, the many contradictions in her story and that here we have a true defamation case that could be proven with evidence.

What was telling, however, was the reaction by the media elite. From the New York Times to Slate to the New Yorker to Rolling Stone, to The Guardian it was one condemnation after another by people whose primary news source is their own feedback loop. They have proved beyond any doubt just how much the #metoo movement was driven not by activists, not even by victims, but by them.

There was only one social media platform that showed the groundswell of public support for Johnny Depp and that was TikTok. Anyone who uses the app saw the surge of support for Depp as he became a meme then a trend and at some point a full blown movement around a single hashtag - #justiceforjohnnydepp.

80% of Depp’s most ardent supporters were women, united across political, economic, cultural and racial lines in support of Depp’s innocence. Many of them were victims of Domestic Violence themselves who could easily recognize a woman who was grossly exaggerating, lying and portraying herself as someone that contradicts her own recordings of her relationship with Depp.

Meanwhile, the high-minded columnists flopped around like fish, with no clue as to why so many in the general public supported Depp. Now women will never come forward, they collectively squawked. Now, no woman will ever be believed again, they howled. The #metoo movement is over, they bemoaned. It isn’t so much that women will never be believed again as it is about the activist media on the left losing all credibility with the general public, if they had any left to begin with.

The #metoo movement, like almost everything else, was a media narrative created by and driven by the same columnists who are now clinging to that power. It first began in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape that caught Trump talking about everything he could do to women as a famous person. Even before Trump won, the New York Times collected a series of women’s stories. Mine was among them.

Because the Access Hollywood tape was an October surprise, it wasn’t exactly shocking that the New York Times would have put out this piece in October. The two areas that would bloom into full-blown mass hysteria events in this country during the Trump presidency circled around sexual assault/harassment/abuse, and racism. These were the two main fears about Trump. Even if they started out as much-needed reckonings, they evolved over time into witch hunts, fear, and paranoia that continues to this day.

But the pendulum is beginning to swing because it always does. Mass hysteria is inevitably punctured when a case comes along that is so preposterous it brings the whole thing down. In Salem it was the Governor’s wife being accused of witchcraft. During the McCarthy era, it was the “Have you no decency” moment. In Salem, they tried to cover up their embarrassing year where 20 people lost their lives amid a mass hysteria event that might have had the hashtag #believechildren. If not for a Quaker named Thomas Maul no one would even know about it.

Due process isn’t perfect but it’s still the best we have. When Al Franken was pushed out of Congress by the likes of Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren he begged for due process and did not get it. For me and many others, that was a major red-pill moment. I could no longer belong to a political party that would go along with something like that.

Due process doesn’t always work, of course, particularly during times of mass hysteria where there is public pressure on juries to reach specific verdicts. For decades Black men were falsely accused of rape. It took the Civil Rights movement to shake people out of it. It has taken decades to undo the damage, and much of it remains undone.

Due process meant that all white, all-male juries often decided cases based on the pitchfork mobs assembled outside. They were too afraid, or too racist themselves, to return a proper verdict. It was a time that could have had the hashtag #believeallwhitewomen. That is the subject of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

Johnny Depp is no Black man during the Jim Crow era. To even suggest that would be immoral. But there is a similarity in how Mayella and Amber Heard testified. Both were melodramatic in a way that conflicted with who they were and how they behaved in real life. Heard has actual taped conversations of herself that never once talk about any rape with a bottle, any broken glass, any of the wild accusations she has hurled at Depp.

How it Started

Way back in 2016, Depp’s friend Doug Stanhope wrote an op-ed for The Wrap essentially laying out the truth.

For that, Heard sued him for defamation. She later dropped the suit when she and Depp reached a mutual settlement. She would receive $7 million and they would go their separate ways.

The Johnny Depp fandom so viciously attacked Heard that she announced she would donate the money to charity, that she didn’t want any of it. Among the truths uncovered at trial she never paid any of the money. Elon Musk, of all people, besotted with a woman once named the world’s most beautiful, forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars to her named charities, one of them being the ACLU.

She dumped him anyway, and even after filing a restraining order against Depp, Heard wanted him back. She found him in a hotel room and begged him to hug her. He would not touch her.

Depp has said in their many recordings that when it got “too violent” he had to split.

Heard downplays the violence in conversation after conversation. Her main complaint about Depp is that he always leaves, or “splits.”

He tried to leave any time they would argue, even at the very beginning because, he always maintains, they “got physical.” Amber admits to being the one who starts the violence. If Depp abused her at all it was in these moments where she wanted to physically fight with him.

Had she limited her claims to these specific incidences she would have been able to say she was a victim of Domestic Violence. He could have said the same thing. That isn’t what she did. For all of her obvious intelligence, she didn’t realize if she stuck to the truth she would have won.

When the Sun newspaper called Johnny Depp a “wife-beater” he sued for defamation. And lost. That was the first time the outlandish tales of monstrous abuse by Depp poured forth from the fanciful imagination of the brilliant Amber Heard.

Here is how she put it in Australia, presumably leaving off the bottle rape as “anexxed statement,” probably because the defamation case in the UK was only about “wife-beater” and not “sexual violence”:

But this is how she told it on the stand in Virginia, feeling the need for whatever reason, to give an actual dramatic performance. The problem was, as one viewer put it on TikTok, “she was an actress giving the performance of her life playing a character she didn’t understand.”

The transcription of this version as follows:

Don't see him anymore. It was even more. It wasn't him. It was black. My life he was but it was black. I couldn't see him. And he was looking at me and I was trying to get through to him. I was trying to say to him in some way that it was me I was trying to get through to Johnny and I couldn't see it my head was bashing against the back of the bar and I couldn't breathe and I remember trying to get up on it was slipping on the glass, my feet were slipping my arms were slipping on the countertop I remember just trying to get up so I could breathe, so I could tell him that he was really hurting me. I didn't think he knew what he was doing….I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get through to him. I couldn't I couldn't get up, but I couldn't get up, and I don't know how that ended I don't know. I don't know how…I don't know what happened next remember it was bent over backwards on the bar meaning my chest was up I was staring at the blue lights. My chest, my back was on the counter and I thought he was punching me…I felt this pressure…I felt this pressure his arm, I could feel his arm moving, it looked like he was punching me you could just feel this pressure …hitting didn't feel pain, which is a pressure on my pubic bone.”

After her monologue about the bottle, her lawyer asks her, “Did you bleed from the vagina as well?”
She says, “I did.”
Her lawyer says: “Did you experience any pain after that?”
She says: “I wasn’t thinking about that.”

In her new version there are variations in Depp’s behavior. To cover for the inconsistencies she repeatedly says is “I can’t be sure about the sequence.”

But let’s just give her the benefit of the doubt that the two stories aren’t wildly different. Let’s say, okay fine. We accept that this happened, that you were beaten that badly, bled that badly, were violated with a bottle and bled afterwards, that you got no medical attention even when a doctor came to the house to check on Depp’s finger and bring him to the ER, that you took no pictures of your own injuries, which would be substantial if all of that were true - if you were flung across the floor, hit repeatedly, choked, nearly killed — let’s say it was all true.

Now listen to this conversation between the two of them all the way through to the end. You tell me if this would be how you would talk about what happened in Australia if you’d just lived through what she says she lived through:

Listen to what she says happened to them after Australia. Her main complaint is that he won’t allow her to fight with him anymore. She says that things were good, better when they were allowed to fight and he wasn’t always escaping to different rooms. Is that how any person would talk after supposedly going through what she went through?

Heard damned herself, mostly with her own recordings where she berated, mocked, and goaded Depp. He was a “baby” and a “pussy” and not man enough to stand up to her during fights. Here she admits to hitting him finally after he holds her to it.

This isn’t the only tape of Heard gaslighting, berating and essentially telling Depp that if he doesn’t stay in a fight, even when it gets physical, he’s a “baby.”

Here is more of that:

The Amber Heard that appeared on the stand was a character not found in evidence anywhere else. When she told her therapist she was three different people, that is exactly what we saw. We saw the domestic violence victim on the stand, but we heard a much different Amber on the tapes. We saw a much different Amber in the UK defamation case. Here, she can be seen dismissing his complaints of violence. Just imagine if Depp had been the one saying this about her (start at minute 8:14):

The cross-examination by Camille Vasquez was the first time anyone had ever really held Heard accountable for her growing and exaggerated accusations against Depp. That was bad enough. Though the case still seemed like it could go either way.

It was when Heard took the stand a second time and opened herself up to yet another cross that the house of cards came tumbling down. Was that her idea? Did her lawyers advise against it? Vasquez pinned her down and illustrated to the millions watching the trial that Heard’s many lies meant it was not possible to believe anything she said.

Worse for Heard several last-minute witnesses came forward to contradict her testimony. A reporter from TMZ testified that the leak for the Temporary Restraining Order came from Heard’s camp, along with the video of Depp hitting cabinets. She vehemently denied this. A manager from the Hicksville Trailer Park testified that the trailer Depp had stayed in wasn’t trashed, and in fact, it was Heard he’d seen yelling at Depp, not the other way around. Heard never expected him to show up.

Vasquez got Heard to say on the stand that all of them were liars, all of them were trying to be part of the Johnny Depp show. Either they believed her or they believed a multitude of witnesses that contradicted her.

By the end of it, the Depp team was able to close with a powerful argument that either you believed all of it or you couldn’t believe any of it. If any witness is caught lying even once during a trial it calls their entire testimony into question. Heard was caught lying multiple times about things she didn’t really have to lie about, like the pledged donations to charity.

In his closing arguments for Depp, Benjamin Chew can be seen choking up as he asks the jury to give Depp his life and his name back. Just this one clip has 3.5 million views.

22 million watched the closing arguments alone. Another 24 million watched and waited for the verdict. It’s safe to say that it was a cultural phenomenon unlike any other in recent memory, especially since content put out by Hollywood has become so safe lately. Is it any wonder people watched? The trial had everything. A beautiful femme fatale, a once-beloved icon fighting to clear his name. An array of colorful witnesses. Big names casually dropped like Hunter S. Thompson and Keith Richards. Then there was the money. Private islands, penthouses, private jets. There was sex - their first kiss that ignited their love story.

TikTok Revealed What the Media Never Understood

They had chosen Virginia in order to have the trial televised. The trial captivated the country for several weeks. It started small, with a few hundred thousand watching on Youtube. The first weekend after the trial began Depp became a meme on TikTok. The “megapint.” In fact, someone wrote a whole song about it:

The Depp case was on its way to consuming TikTok, with Depp as the obvious hero and Heard as the obvious villain. Heard became a meme too:

TikTok was having too much fun at Amber’s expense. For those who don’t use the app they can’t understand how something like this could happen - how could so many people be so mean to Amber Heard? It must be sexism! It’s rampant misogyny! The way it works on Tiktok, though, is that you “jump on a trend.” If everyone is doing something funny everyone else does it too. It isn’t something that anyone can force. It just happens. The Depp/Heard trial just happened on Tiktok and became an unstoppable force.

Even Depp’s lawyer got her own song:

A whole country, and mostly women, became emotionally connected to this story because they felt protective of Johnny Depp. They listened to his testimony. They believed his story. They heard the abusive screeching and taunting by Heard on recording after recording.

You’d think, given that, the media would vindicate Depp, with headlines ringing out, “Justice for Johnny Depp!” You’d think the media would reflect what so many people who watched the trial felt in the wake of the verdict. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. The media wasn’t going to give it to Depp. They weren’t going to vindicate him. He’d been found guilty by the #metoo tribal leaders and they would decide his fate, not the courts. Not the public. Certainly not TikTok.

This allows all of the devoted activists online to still shame and punish any executives who might think about hiring Depp. They will shame any critics who praise any movies Depp might make. It also means that they will revive Heard’s career, position her as the martyr for the cause. They will praise executives who hire her.

There will be documentaries, there will be more and more agonizing op-eds that shame and scold the public for seeing THE truth rather than their truth. Heard, not Depp, will get the career boost and the standing ovations. She will get the redemption that Johnny Depp deserves.

In this ever-increasing divide between the media elite and the general public, Depp has won the hearts and minds of the invisible majority. If any producers takes a chance on Depp they will be richly rewarded by the ticket buyers.

Some journalists have covered this story honestly, though they are independent or on the Right.

Megyn Kelly does not mince words:

And on Sharyl Attkisson’s podcast. She says:

I think the Depp case is not only a turning point in a narrative that was weaponized and taken too far, it's also a backlash against a steady diet of narratives, one sided news reporting, propaganda being forced down our throats on a minute by minute basis. A majority of the American public should not dictate over the minority. That's what America is all about —not doing that. But neither should a fringe minority dictate over the majority. And we've been under the tyranny of a vocal minority that too often proves guilty of the very behavior they claim to abhor — bullying, disinformation. Well, the Depp jury weighed the evidence and rejected what they what we were all told we had to believe. So the Depp victory is not only a landmark case and the legal realm of defamation. More importantly, it can be seen as a turning point in well funded and controlled efforts to manipulate public opinion and silence those who are often narrative. In that way, we should all be interested in the Johnny Depp verdict.

What Happened to Amber Heard?

How could such a bright, beautiful young woman with so much promise have gone so totally wrong that she found herself lying on the witness stand the way she did? I personally think that she saw herself as the smartest person in the room who could manipulate anyone and talk her way out of anything. That makes her a femme fatale of the noir kind. She got herself in too deep and convinced herself she was the saintly, abused victim of not just Johnny Depp but all men.

Although seeing how the media has covered the verdict, how Hollywood will likely continue to hold Depp accountable for things he never did, maybe Heard really was the smartest one in the room. Maybe she realized all she had to do was stick to her story and those who want to stay in control of the media narrative will side with her regardless.

The #metoo movement is not over because the jury proved Depp’s defamation claims against Heard. If it was always a narrative driven by the media and the media’s credibility is now called into question then it was indeed a house of cards. The New York Times, the New Yorker, Slate, Rolling Stone and The Washington Post need better writers because in the wake of the Depp verdict they have never looked more out of touch.

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