Celebrity Rape and Justice

October 8, 2009

We are supposedly an egalitarian society. Oh, I know, there are huge income and wealth differentials in the United States, but in terms of our standing before the law, all of us are equal - in theory.

We are also a celebrity worshiping society. Books live or die based on a nod from Oprah. The funeral rites for Michael Jackson rivaled those of kings. More people are interested in the travails of David Letterman than the travails of the hungry throughout the world.

But why am I remarking on the cult of celebrity? First, the cult of celebrity reminds us that the quasi-religious desire to connect with, and perhaps defer to, beings who seem to transcend our ordinary, humdrum lives remains with many of us, even some who consider themselves rational and secular. We may rid ourselves of gods only to replace them with Brad Pitt. Second, all too frequently the celebs are extended special privileges that mock our commitment to the equal worth and dignity of all individuals.

Which brings me to Roman Polanski. It is nothing short of staggering that over 100 signatures from the world of film have attached their well-known names to a petition protesting the recent arrest of Polanski in Switzerland. The petition calls for his "immediate release." Signatories include Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Steven Soderbergh and, perhaps not unexpectedly, Woody Allen.

Let's review the undisputed facts. In 1977, Polanski was charged with six felony counts, including rape and child molestation - the victim was 13 at the time. The prosecutor at the time already showed him extraordinary leniency by allowing him to plead guilty to one count of unlawful intercourse. However, recognizing that this would still mean some jail time, Polanski decided to flee the country, making himself a fugitive from justice. For the last thirty plus years he has traveled just about anywhere in the world except the United States and the United Kingdom, which made it clear it would honor the outstanding warrant. Self-assured and carefree, Polanski recently went to Switzerland, unaware that the Swiss government had recently changed its policy regarding the honoring of arrest requests from the United States.

There is no doubt that if some ordinary jerk were charged with raping a child, there would be little sympathy extended to this miscreant. Nor if the jerk managed to jump bail and escape overseas, would anyone claim that he had "suffered enough" through his self-imposed exile.

The sheer arrogance of the film celebrity class is breathtaking. Effectively, they are claiming Polanski should be exempt from standard legal rules because he is one of them - a famous director. How dare we prosecute someone who has won an Oscar?

I am aware, by the way, that the victim in this case has stated that she has forgiven Polanski and that she has made it clear she does not want to go through a trial. This is hardly surprising. Even after 32 years, most rape victims would not want to relive that horrible experience. In fact, some studies indicate that perhaps as many as 40% of rapes go unreported because the victim is too traumatized or embarrassed to press charges. I have a great deal of sympathy for the victim, but we have to remember that silence on the part of victims is what predators such as Polanski count on. Moreover, a crime is an action against all the people, not just the victim. That is why criminal cases are not styled as " Smith vs. Jones " but rather as " State vs. Jones ." Finally, Polanski's determined efforts to evade justice for more than three decades constitute a separate serious crime. We should not reward Polanski for thumbing his nose at the justice system.

Polanski is a great director, no doubt. Rosemary's Baby , for example, although superficially just a horror film, is an insightful study of how people will sometimes accept evil because of a personal connection to the wrongdoer. In Polanski's case, I hope this film does not turn out to be prophetic.


#1 Strubie on Friday October 09, 2009 at 4:31am

“The sheer arrogance of the film celebrity class is breathtaking.”  Agreed!  A fine example of cognitive dissonance (assuming that there is any cognition going on at all in their brains).  Most editorials that I’ve read regarding this issue only point out how crazy these Hollywood apologists are without exposing just how irrational their support of Polanski is. Nice job Mr. Lindsay!

#2 Platocres (Guest) on Friday October 09, 2009 at 6:22am

“However, recognizing that this would still mean some jail time, Polanski decided to flee the country, making himself a fugitive from justice.”

You’ve taken this out of context my friend.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like pedophiles, but if we’re really being honest here you would tell them how Polanski was promised no jail time and how the tides began to turn for Polanski and it seemed that said promise would not be kept. 

If someone were to tell you that you weren’t going to serve a prison sentence, and then decide all of the sudden, “wait, on second thought…”, wouldn’t you flee the country if you could?  No one can honestly sit there and say they wouldn’t take their life into their own hands and save themselves if they could.

I think we need to get over it.  This whole thing is old news by this point anyway.

#3 rokeefe on Friday October 09, 2009 at 12:02pm

Our CFI Tampa Bay had a discouraging lecture by a public defender stating that many criminal cases are solved by police and DA’s by easily browbeating and convicting ignorant, undereducated, poor people, especially minorities, especially when they had no better representation than a public defender. “The system (lawyers on both sides, and judges) knows that’s so, and regrets it, but that is the system, and there is no strong effort to change it.” It’s disgusting. Yes, those able to afford competent representation usually get of if they are innocent. Not so the poor.

#4 Damien on Friday October 09, 2009 at 2:01pm

The courts believe in free will, most of my follow atheists seem to believe in it too, at least based on the the comments I read. It’s not rational to believe a god gave it to us so where did ya’all get yours, I want to get some too so I can join in the blame game and trash folks too.
My step daddy was born back in 1885 and when he married my mom I was about five. He was a life long atheist. A couple of years later I remember him telling me (I must have been about seven then), boy, don’t let those people in your school fool ya, there’s no such thing as god and there’s no such thing as free will. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to think clearly need to help those who aren’t so luck to see more clearly. Reason was my step fathers guideing light and he did his best during his 90 of years of living to follow it. May we all do the same.

The above is of course a personal ancedote. Please don’t take it a criticism. It’s just my opinion.

#5 Ron linville (Guest) on Friday October 09, 2009 at 6:21pm

Kneed to see that petition…assholes,all…no surprise about woody though…professional courtesy,I suppose.
I’m astounded at the responder who pooh-poohed this as “old news”
How many years is enough to excuse a child rapist?  If the child were yours,would that make a difference?
There is no artistic license outside of art itself…talent cannot confer privilege

#6 asanta on Saturday October 10, 2009 at 11:10am

Ronald, thank you for addressing this issue. You have expressed my outrage perfectly!Polanski is a child rapist and should have been jailed long ago. It is appalling that he has spent the last 32 years in various villas living a life of luxury around the world. I am somehow not surprised at the outpouring of Hollywood support, dismayed, but hardly surprised.

#7 Eric Hamell on Sunday October 11, 2009 at 1:27pm

@Strubie, you’re misusing the term “cognitive dissonance.” It refers to a disparity between someone’s behavior and their self-image, which puts them at risk for feeling stupid or immoral and thereby drives them to alter either what they do or how they define themselves. I see no evidence of such disparity in signers of the “release him immediately” petition, who appear entirely self-satisfied. Cognitive dissonance is a useful and important concept in psychology, and it dismays me to see it reduced to an epithet for people who merely appear inconsistent to someone else, not to themselves.

@Damien, the issue isn’t free will but honesty. Denial does no one, including Polanski, any good. He’s spent much of his life as a fugitive because of his unwillingness to confront what he did in its entirety, which was not just “unlawful” because of the victim’s age, but forcible, and involved several different acts. Facing this is the only way for him to truly get past it, as well as help society to overcome its denial of sexual violence and tendency to blame victims.

#8 Mike S. (Guest) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 at 1:28pm

The Polanski case is really a mystery to me.  Obviously, celebs get away with stuff normal people can’t.  We know that.  It is what it is.  But even with celebs, you would think raping a 13 year old girl would get past any celebrity shield that may be in place…it didn’t.  So that kind of brings up a question—what would Polanski have had to do in order to be forced to pay? Kill someone? I would have thought raping a 13 year old is where society draws the line, but apparently not.

Mike S.
Divorce lawyer

#9 Belka (Guest) on Saturday November 07, 2009 at 8:53am

Maybe I am a dull spinster, but I sympathize rather with Polansky than with the so-called innocent child supposedly raped. First of all, this girl had been a photo model by 1977 and in no manner innocent - she had had sexual experience before. Then, I am a former schoolteacher and I have seen some 13-year-old brats who are so big, buxom and heavily made-up that an average man would be certainly unable to tell if she is 13 or 18! And if such a creature is always talking aloud of ‘cocks’ and ‘fucking’ (exactly the way of behaviour they like), is it surprising if a grown-up man invites her to his villa for having sex? And is it surprising if she comes (because, at her age, she has more hormones than brain)?
Do I justify pedophiles? Not at all. But Polansky’s case is hardly that of a monster catching innocent little angels in the streets and dragging them away to dark cellars. The way the modern children are btought up matters no less than the way Polansky behaved with a certain girl.

#10 asanta on Saturday November 07, 2009 at 5:43pm

Belka, I have to hope you are NEVER allowed to teach my grandchildren. Did you read the part about the fact that she was RAPED. Put her age aside for a moment. SHE WAS RAPED. Not just ‘statutory rape’of an underaged girl, SHE WAS RAPED. Just because you have girls in your classes talking about sex, as teens are wont to do, it in NO WAY JUSTIFIES RAPE. So what if she posed as a model since 1977, it is an ad hominum on your part to say that she “was not innocent” since you do not personally know the girl.And even if she’d had sex before IT WAS STILL RAPE. If a girl is buxom by 13, it is genetics, which means NOT HER CHOICE. Buxom 13 year olds have enough to deal with without your unilateral labeling them as whores. Your statements not only appall me, they make me sick.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.