Watching movies made by rapists

Published by marco on

What is it worth to wade into a discussion where you are asked to choose a side based on no clear rules of evidence?

I mostly enjoy Woody Allen movies. That he has been with Soon Yi, the adopted daughter of his ex-wife for years doesn’t really weigh on my opinions of his films. I must admit that knowing that Polanski raped a teen-aged girl and fled the country enters into it very little when I’m considering whether to watch one of his movies. Polanski clearly got away with it and wasn’t punished by the world as others, of lower station, would have been. And I still watch some of his movies.

It’s hard to argue that Woody Allen is even in the same league, though, isn’t it? There were no charges for his alleged molestation. Instead, there is a recent open letter—this seems to be the new way to publish these sorts of things—published by Dylan Farrow, under Nick Kristof’s name. I’ll admit I didn’t read it because Nick Kristof is a proven idiot, a douchebag, as it were. This is not in doubt. Simply examine his checkered history of opinions about anything else and you’ll see that we are not dealing with a journalist in any way, but more of a man who’s only too happy to let this evidence-less allegation of child-molestation—re-raised over 20 years later—catapult his name and column into the limelight, if only for a while. He takes his marching orders to garner eyeballs for the NYT quite seriously, apparently.

That was my first thought and then I forgot about it. Because famous and rich people pissing on each other doesn’t serve to hold my attention. I’ve since seen some more reactions, most hyperbolic and divorced from reality, but the post The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast by Robert B. Weide (The Daily Beast) was more reasonable, I felt. He wrote,

“I know I’m treading a delicate path here, and opening myself up to accusations of “blaming the victim.” However, I’m merely floating scenarios to consider, and you can think what you will. But if Mia’s account is true, it means that in the middle of custody and support negotiations, during which Woody needed to be on his best behavior, in a house belonging to his furious ex-girlfriend, and filled with people seething mad at him, Woody, who is a well-known claustrophobic, decided this would be the ideal time and place to take his daughter into an attic and molest her, quickly, before a house full of children and nannies noticed they were both missing.”

That the accusation bases on such an improbable chain of events, events that lacked enough evidence for the police to have even charged Allen at the time, suggests that the whole allegation should be looked at very skeptically. Of course, that doesn’t stop other bloviations like the article Debating Woody Allen On Super Bowl Sunday by Andrew Sullivan (The Dish). Sullivan isn’t really an evidence-based reality guy—he’s really only a level or two higher on the food chain that Kristof, which isn’t saying much—so he feels free to tell us that “[t]he only thing I can infer with absolute certainty from the anguished letter Dylan Farrow has written to the New York Times is that she is expressing incandescent rage”. Yeah, no kidding.

As I said, I didn’t read her open letter, but there is rarely a doubt that the person making the accusation of child abuse believes it wholeheartedly. If nothing else, it helps make the case to others. But we live in a world of “repressed memories” that turn out to have been manufactured ex post facto through endless repetition and reinforcement. We have hundreds of studies showing how easy it to get people to remember things that never were.

I am not making a judgment of this case. I am simply pointing out the shaky basis of evidence for the prosecution. Even without 20 years of confabulation layered over it, there wasn’t enough for police go on when it actually happened. Sullivan concludes his evidence-free musings by intoning “[t]hose with the greatest gifts can get away with the greatest crimes.”

Well, not really. Those with the most money can do that. Those with the most power. One of Sullivan’s favorite people ever, whom he cheerleaded (cheerled?) in his endeavors to lie his way into way with Iraq, is George Bush. Though Sullivan has since admitted that he “seriously misjudged Bush’s sense of morality”, he hasn’t seen fit to condemn Bush in anything approaching the severity that he just condemned Woody Allen.

This, despite the evidence for their respective crimes to be inversely proportional to Sullivan’s judgment. So, let’s just toss Sullivan on the same pile as Kristof, shall we? As yet another inconsistent, judgmental dumbass who feels its OK to prefer the writings of a woman who feels she’s been wronged just because that accusations she’s making are so horrific.

Doesn’t that mean that our requirements for evidence should be even higher? Instead, we hear the word pedophile and give the accuser every benefit of the doubt—just in case. Why would someone make the accusation if it weren’t true? (we ask) I don’t know. But it happens—and not as rarely as we think. And it’s not necessarily lying—often the accuser believes the story wholeheartedly, but that doesn’t make it true.

Given the power that such an accusation has to ruin a person’s life, shouldn’t we muster our best effort to making sure that a person is innocent until proven guilty?