Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cosby the latest lynch mob casualty

   Bill Cosby probably didn't expect his legendary show business career to end in disgrace any more than Jian Ghomeshi anticipated being brought down in his prime.  Such are the trappings of celebrity that the power of fame and privilege are considered a mighty bulwark against any potential stain on one's reputation.
   Cosby, like Ghomeshi and in part because of Ghomeshi, is being undone by a steady parade of accusers who claim he sexually assaulted them.  The allegations against Cosby go back decades and aren't new to the public eye - he settled out of court in 2006 with a woman who claimed he drugged and raped her - but the activist campaign urging women who've lived in silence and shame to come forward in the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal is now catching up with Cosby.  
   That's a good thing if it exposes genuine predators and abusers, but who's the judge of that?  The court of public opinion served as judge, jury and executioner for Ghomeshi, and the Cosby case seems to be headed in the same direction.  Both men still have recourse to civil action for damage to their reputation, but realistically, the damage can never be undone - even by a favorable judicial ruling.
   Which brings us to this: what happens if someone is falsely accused and gets destroyed in the court of public opinion?  Do we revert to the time-honored legal code that better 100 men go free than one innocent suffer, or do we chalk up the suffering innocent to collateral damage in a wider and more important war on male sexual privilege?  Regardless of the optics of the Ghomeshi and Cosby cases, a climate is being created where unsubstantiated criminal allegations can bring someone down, and no amount of legal recourse will restore their reputation.  To think that someone with a grudge or something to gain won't manipulate that mob mentality to their advantage is dangerously naive.
   We're at a cultural crossroads, and we need to decide whether public vilification is a legitimate substitute for due process.  We can't have it both ways in a fair and just society.


  1. Why isn't public vilification justified, when the guy who is being vilified uses his public persona to get women into compromising positions and then is a complete asshole to them? Sometimes assholes are just assholes, and it's not like we need to wait for the court of law to decide when to call them out on it. That Ghomeshi and Cosby are being bucked off by the same horse they rode in on seems entirely appropriate.

    Yes, some men are no doubt falsely accused by the odd scheming nutjob, but 8, 10, 13 however many women all conspiring together to take the these two down? C'mon. Strange that you keep half-defending these douchebags, being a complete non-douchey straight-shooter yourself.

  2. @Jeff I'm not defending them. I think I've made pretty clear that my concern is that these cases will be used as an excuse for vigilante justice to become the norm. Mob mentality is a dangerous thing when it takes root.

  3. Jeff, what I'm wondering is if any of these so-called victims have ever, in any other circumstance, gotten something in exchange for cozying up to powerful men. I know of full scholarships that have gone to women who were sleeping with someone powerful enough to control the outcome. So, even though I'm a woman, and everyone seems to think we should be rallying around these women because they're victims, I see it differently. There are a lot of hardworking women who won't sleep with someone (or "have drinks" with them) in order to get ahead in life. You might want to look at it from that angle. It is ok for women to use sex for career advantage?

  4. I wonder if Cosby's fall from grace is so complete that radio comedy shows won't even play his stand-up routines anymore. As has happened with his TV show re-runs. Bill Cosby erased from comdey history like Canada in French high school history classes.