On the issue of Roman Polanksi:
First off, let me just say that this post is inspired primarily by the gaggle of idiot starfuckers defending Roman Polanski on the usually much more sane Huffington Post. I wouldn't feel so compelled to say something about this if it wasn't becoming quite clear that there is a sizable and perhaps growing constituency of starfuckers in the wider world who are willing to accept all manner of innuendo and half truth in the defense of Polanski. As best I can tell there are three basic arguments that are being advanced to excuse Polanski:
1.) He had a hard life/He's Paid his Debt/The Victim Has Forgiven Him/Time to Move on
2.) He's made some great movies and doesn't that count for something.
and most pernicious of all
3.) The girl lied about her age, her mom put her up to it, didn't you see what she was wearing, she totally was asking for it
I intend to take each argument in turn and demonstrate why it's ridiculous. In so doing, I hope to show that all of this ultimately just boils down to the cancerous crypto-starfuckery that plagues American culture.
In 1977, Roman Polanski plied a thirteen year old girl with drugs and alcohol, photographed her in the nude, committed an oral sex act on her without her consent, then repeatedly raped her vaginally and anally. These are the facts entered into evidence by the prosecution against him as can be read in the victim's deposition taken at the time. Smokinggun.com has done the public service of posting the relevant portion of the grand jury testimony as a PDF here.
Polanski then negotiated a plea deal with the prosecution. Apparently, the judge whose court the deal was entered was not inclined to accept the plea bargain and, whether because he was grandstanding or simply because he didn't think 90 days was an adequate sentence for raping a child, made some noises about sentencing Polanski to 50 years in prison.
Rather than deal with what he claims is abuse on the part of the Judge through the legal system, Polanski skipped bail and fled to France, where, as a citizen, he was protected from extradition to the United States. Polanski has in the intervening 30 years carefully avoided travel to countries where he thought he was in danger of being extradited. He screwed up at last in his most recent travel to Switzerland where he has now been detained under the Swiss extradition treaty with the US. Whether the Swiss courts will in fact extradite him remains to be seen, although my guess is that it is likely.
In the intervening years, Polanski and the girl's mother reached an out of court settlement for the civil case against him. Polanski has publicly apologized and admitted what he did was wrong.
He is now, at 76, a man who has been a fugitive from American justice for 30+ years. He has not served any time for his crime beyond 42 days of "psychiatric evaluation" prior to his flight. And for some reason there are a bunch of morons in the US who think that because of this he should just be left alone. Or at least, that's the argument that they are making openly. In fact, they are really just a pathetic group of starfuckers who believe that celebrity and wealth form a sort of entitlement to misbehave and as such are worthless human beings whose opinion on the matter should be entirely disregarded.
Their arguments, such as they are, are as follows.
He had a hard life/He's Paid for His Crime/The Victim has forgiven him/It's Time to Move On
This is actually a group of arguments which has been advanced by a few people. The most significant is starfucker film critic John Farr in his post "Leniency for Polanski" at the Huffington Post. In his comments Farr lists the many pains of Roman Polanski's life, beginning with his flight from the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, his mother's murder in Auschwitz, and the general horror of the holocaust being visited on him as a child. Farr then reminds readers that Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered in her home with several of his friends by crazed members of the Manson Family, and that Polanski came home to discover the butchery of his wife and unborn child in the midst of an orgy of carnage including various slogans written on the walls in blood. All of this is true and all of this is horrible.
Farr then asserts that these are things that should mitigate Polanski's punishment for his own crimes. It is here that he goes off the deep end into true starfuckery. I defy anyone, anywhere in the world to show me an imprisoned rapist who can't point to some tail of woe. Granted, most of them are probably not the public tragedies that Polanski suffered, but does that make them less impacting on their lives? Is, for example, it any less traumatic to be the victim of sexual abuse by a father for a period of many years during childhood than it is to grow up under the threat of Nazi tyrany? I think a fair argument might be made that that level of betrayal and hopelessness is even greater, although ultimately the comparison of wounds among victims is a futile activity. Trauma is trauma, and we all have our own that affect us in profound ways. And it is true that sometimes traumas are mitigating factors in sentencing for criminal trials. They do not, however, factor into measures of guilt or innocence. Perhaps Roman Polanski is due some mercy given the hardships he's suffered. However, the people who can properly make that determination would be a jury at a sentencing hearing. Polanski has steadfastly avoided such a hearing for three decades now, so bringing it up in light of his recent arrest is more than a little disingenuous. Particularly if it is a protest to his being arrested at all. Farr doesn't go so far as to say that Polanski should get off completely, but a number of his comments to people responding to his post are illustrative of his true feelings. He points out that Polanski is "talented," that the girl lied about her age, and that he's "clearly rehabilitated." Called on this blatant bullshit by other Huffpost bloggers like Tallulah Morehead and Jane Devin, Farr retracted some of the more tasteless comments he made which more or less amounted to the classic sexist rape defense of "she was asking for it." He never the less maintains that Polanski is due some mercy for his suffering. This of course is an incoherent position since the way that Polanski can get that mercy rightly and legally is by submitting to the legal system he has been fleeing for over thirty years. At this point a more sensible non starfucking position would be that while he could have made those arguments at the time, the fact of the matter is that he's chosen to be a fugitive from justice for 30 years and that that has to weigh against whatever sympathy he might have otherwise been due. After all, the man did drug and rape a thirteen year old girl...
Another argument that Farr advances, which is a fairly common one elsewhere in the blogosphere, is the argument made by the recent HBO documentary about Polanski, Wanted and Desired.This is the view that since Polanski's victim has forgiven him and moved on, that he should somehow be forgiven by the legal system. Frankly, this argument is ridiculous. That's just not how the criminal justice system works. There is a reason that criminal charges are not brought by victims but by the state, and that reason is very straightforward: the punishment of crimes is not about getting revenge for victims, but it is about society punishing people for acts we consider criminal. Punishment is not an act of vengeance but is intended both to deter people from committing crimes in the first place and then to rehabilitate offenders to prevent recurrence. This rehabilitation is not, as some might think, similar to medical rehabilitation. In fact the rehabilitation component of criminal punishment is an extension of the deterrence function and can be seen in parolees whose primary motivation for good behavior once returned to society is a desire to not get sent back to jail. Criminal punishment then is a social interest of a culture and a legal system. The victim's forgiveness of their predator is not a factor in that social interest and therefore the fact that Polanski's victim has moved on and doesn't think he deserves anymore punishment is irrelevant to whether or not he should be held accountable for his crime. Again, I think there is possibly a weight to be given in sentencing here, but that of course is a matter for the jury that Polanski has been running from since the late seventies to decide. It's not an argument that the legal system should just stop pursuing him.
He's Made Some Great Movies and Doesn't That Count For Something?
This is the implied argument in Kim Morgan's review of Repulsion in response to the arrest she's been "ranting and raving about all day." Frankly, this argument is the most blatant example of starfucking to be found and that Repulsion is in fact a piece of shit has no more bearing on the argument than does the fact that Chinatown is a masterpiece. The ONLY reason a "film and culture" writer like Kim Morgan would be "ranting and raving" at all about anything related to this case is because Roman Polanski is a famous person and Kim Morgan is a starfucker. I don't see that there really needs to be much said on this point other than to once again point out for those people who haven't thought through much about what they read in Phil 101 that the aesthetic value of an artist's work is unconnected to the ethical status of the artist's actions or beliefs. This is very basic. It's the reason that films like Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation can be accepted as monumental artistic achievements and at the same time recognized as morally repugnant propaganda. That Roman Polanski the auteur director has made some good movies has precisely zero bearing on whether or not he deserves punishment for drugging and raping a 13 year old girl.
Apparently Ms. Morgan doesn't understand. I don't know if this falls on the more "well reasoned' or "hysterical" end of the spectrum, I can't really tell from the fact that she quoted me, mildly out of context, and then claimed she has "no response." The insinuation is that I'm off my rocker, since the quote before mine was dismissed as "Andrea Dworkin-style foaming at the mouth."
If Morgan doesn't get it, that's fine. Amanda Hess does. Here's her take on Morgan's defense:
One should not,” [Morgan] writes, “take Polanski’s films literally, for they are often heightened versions of what occurs naturally in our world: desire, perversion, repulsion.” Okay, but how about his rape of a 13-year-old girl? Are we allowed to take that “natural occurrence” literally? Morgan doesn’t directly address that question, but she does argue that Polanski’s very brilliance is a product of his relationship with human “darkness”:
Polanski’s removed morality is exactly why he is often brilliant: He is so empathetic to his characters that, like a trauma victim floating above the pain, he is personally impersonal. He insightfully scrutinizes what is so frightening about being human, yet he doesn’t feel the need to be resolute or sentimental about his cognizance. He is also, consciously or subconsciously, aware of the darkness he explores, especially in his female characters, who could be seen as extensions of himself.
You know what I find revolting? When a film critic prefaces her work with a disclaimer about how much it sucks that a rapist is getting arrested for raping someone, and then uses the rapiest imagery possible to applaud his film work.
read the whole, excellent, article here.
Strangely, Morgan insinuates in her latest article that she is a survivor of rape—she notes her responses have included "bizarre wishes that I should be or had been raped for my current defense of Polanski." And goes on to say "Since I was 13 many years ago, and a woman myself, it's interesting to me that defenders of rape don't stop to think that perhaps, I might actually know a thing or two about such matters."[sic]— and if so I'm truly sorry for that. But even if my understanding of what she is saying there is correct and she's come to terms with her own assault, it doesn't privilege her to absolve Roman Polanski's crimes just because she's a fan. No one has the ability to absolve him other than Arnold Swartzenegger or Barack Obama. He plead guilty. He fled from justice. He has to pay the penalty for that now that he's been caught.
Do you have a response now, Ms Morgan?
The other argument
"She asked for it," says Joan Z. Shore, albeit not in so many words. Shore is a woman who, as one commenter points out, really ought to know better since in her bio she claims to be a founder of an organization called "Women Overseas for Equality." Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time taking Shore to task as she has already been adequately called out on the Daily Kos. What I will say is that the various facts cited by Polanski's defenders like Shore such as characterizing the rape as a "seduction," claiming that the 13 year old was forced on Polanski by her crazed stage mother, that she was just a few weeks shy of her 14th birthday, etc. amount to little more than blaming the victim and is frankly disgusting. Shore doesn't go so far as to point out that she had had sex before or that she allegedly lied about her age (that latter point was raised then retracted by John Farr in comments to his piece of starfuckery after several more clear thinking of his colleagues pointed out to him how repugnant it was), but she stops fairly close to that point. What she does do is point out that Mike Wallace found Polanski very intelligent and charming after interviewing him shortly after Polanski had fled justice, as if intelligent and charming people are somehow less deserving of punishment for their crimes...
Which is of course precisely the argument being made. Polanski is a special case. Yes he's a confessed child rapist who's been a fugitive from justice for 30 years but he's so intelligent and charming and not to mention famous and rich and talented, that really shouldn't we just let him go with the token slap on the wrist he's already received? You people saying this really ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Of course, you aren't. And that's because you're a bunch of starfuckers, and that requires a great deal of shamelessness from the outset. Were Polanski a private citizen and not a public figure this outcry against his arrest would be much more muted if it existed at all. His defense in the US media is pandering to a culture that has for too long been over enamored with celebrity. Celebrities are a separate class and a privileged one at that. But that is in fact a tragedy of our culture not something to be lauded and defended in service of the worship of these people. They do not deserve the pedestal that they have been placed on, and just because the John Farrs, Joan Shores, and Kim Morgans of the world wish desperately for Roman Polanski to swoop out of the night and have his way with them does not mean that a 13 year old child did not have a right to refuse those same advances or that he should not be punished for ignoring that refusal and forcing himself on her.
Update 7:36 AM
With regards to Agnes Poirier's opinion piece in The Guardian this morning, a more blatant example of arguments 1 & 2 could not be found. Poirier makes no bones about acknowledging that Polanski is guilty and a fugitive from justice. However she goes on from there to claim that "prosecutorial misconduct" evidenced in the Wanted and Desired doc is in fact new evidence that should be considered by the swiss authorities who never should have arrested him. Come again Agnes? If Polanski wants to make that claim, he can appear in court and make it. Of course, that means he'd also have to submit to judgment for fleeing the country after being convicted of a crime, which is a separate crime that the misconduct of the trial judge has no bearing on. Poirier then reveals her true colors with an extensive citation of protests from people whose interest is blatantly due to Polanski's stature in the film industry, even going so far as to voice a "feeling in France" that "the US justice department is acting out some kind of prudish revenge against a great talent who never abided by American rules even when he was the most celebrated director in Hollywood." A feeling that is quite clearly her own. Because she's a starfucker and all that matters to her is that he was a "celebrated director" and a "great talent." The article, like all the defenses I've read so far, is little more than a thinly veiled ad hoc justification of this "feeling."
Update 11:32 AM
Melissa McEwan of the Guardian puts this more eloquently than I have. THe most important point:
Very few, if any, of the people who have publicly defended Polanski, or who have worked with him, make it their business to champion or associate themselves with admitted child rapists. They make an exception for Polanski for the same reason exceptions have been for other famous, artistic men – directors, writers, actors, comedians, singers, musicians, dancers, choreographers, painters, sculptors, photographers – who have been known to sexually assault women and/or children: Because geniuses get special dispensation.
Because there's only one Roman Polanski.
So goes the breathless defense of the artiste, while the flipside of that particular coin, because thirteen-year-old girls are a dime a dozen, goes unspoken.
Read the whole article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/sep/28/roman-polanski-rape-arrest-switzerland
I'm talking to you, Asher.
Update 5:38 PM
The always insightful Eugene Robinson has a good article in the Washington Post right now decrying people who are inclined to think poor Roman Polanski has already suffered enough. It's worth a read:
Update 5:57 PM
A piece in Salon argues, rather convincingly, that the Wanted and Desired film Polanski's defense counsel are using as the model for their motion for dismissal is a whitewash.