I watched all 3 episodes of House of Hammer (Not to be confused with Hammer House of Horror, which is also great) this weekend. It’s a riveting, disturbing documentary.
Of course it’s about sexual abuse, so it features survivors telling their stories in graphic detail, so if that kind of thing is going to send you spiraling for a few days, please do not watch it.
I found it gross and awful and couldn’t stop watching. I very rarely watch TV by myself, and yet after starting this and getting about 15 minutes in, I found nearly 3 hours to continue it.
So: an excellent documentary with a huge content warning for sexual assault. That’s the review. Now the reflections.
I hope that as stories like this continue to emerge, we’ll start to change our perception of the ultra rich. The Hammer dynasty (Armand, Julian, Michael, Armie. Not MC, who is, as far as I know, a decent guy) is comprised of shockingly horrible people. And I don’t think they’re alone. For one thing, becoming ultra rich seems to require a lack of empathy for other humans that is almost certainly pathological. For another, with apologies to Master P, growing up with no limits seems to break something in the human brain. In short, the people who amass huge fortunes probably have serious personality disorders, and even if those aren’t passed down genetically, growing up ultra wealthy seems to lead to people becoming awful. So maybe we can stop lionizing these folks. They are the absolute scum of the earth, which is not the kind of term I throw around lightly.
It’s impossible to adequately praise the courage of the women who came forward to detail what Armie Hammer did to them without slipping into cliche. But to survive that kind of horrible trauma only to be targeted by horrible fans? To know that the person you’re exposing has enough money to both smear you and evade consequences for pretty much anything forever? That really is a profound bravery, and ultimately, self-sacrifice. Because they face the public vilification in hopes of saving other women from enduring what they endured.
This is in no way to diminish the aforementioned incredible courage, but something I noticed was that one of the Armie Hammer survivors was the CEO of an app company (so just regular rich, not ultra rich), and was able to just take off for multi-week vacations on a whim. I firmly believe in most organizations, the more money you make, the less important you are to the day to day functioning of the place. The boss never has to find anyone to cover their shift because it doesn’t matter if they show up or not.
Circling back to the toxic fans. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to be able to admit when we’ve been conned. Armie Hammer successfully conned people into believing he was a certain kind of person (not a monster), and people who invested so much into admiring him would rather publicly attack a rape survivor than admit they were wrong. But here’s the thing. Cons, scams, cults, whatever—they don’t just work on stupid people. They work on all of us because they use the good parts of our personalities against us. So giving people the benefit of the doubt, showing forgiveness, believing in the necessity of working for a better world—these are all good things we don’t want to lose, and as long as we have them, people will con us. Armand Hammer didn’t amass a huge fortune by conning only dumb people. He conned everyone. I pride myself on my cynicism and was succesfully conned by two different employers, each one peddling idealism they didn’t believe. I’m susceptible to being conned again for the same reason.
Also, if you’re not a sociopath, they’re hard to spot. That’s why they can do so many crimes and become super wealthy! I, like most people, consider myself a good judge of character but was completely stunned to find that someone I used to work with was credibly accused of two violent crimes. Up until I read the details of their alleged crimes, I would have told you they were a warm, friendly, and very good-hearted person. But I appear to have been wrong about that. Or, anyway, those qualities somehow coexisted with violent rage. I would like to encourage us all to have some humility about our ability to judge people and not see our inability to immediately spot horrible people as our flaw. It’s not. It's the very qualities that make us not horrible that make us fall for these people. The problem isn’t us. It’s them.