A story that has been growing in momentum of recent, is the Bill Cosby rape allegations. So far at least 15 alleged victims have come forward, with apparently similar allegations of sexual abuse at the hand of Cosby. A case made more interesting by the fact that many (if not all) of the cases are decades old. And many were not reported in the past (though there apparently were at least a few settlements in past years for similar behaviour).
I do not know the entirety of the situation, I do not claim to, and one should not take any of the above as anything more then a passive review of the case. Just as you should never take the word of a blogger as truth.
My purpose in writing this is not to join one camp or other, believer or naysayer of the allegations. The purpose of this post, is to illustrate 2 dangerous viewpoints being illustrated by some on both sides of the debate (if you can call it that).
Side A, are those that find the allegations hard to believe based on the overall persona demonstrated by Cosby throughout his career. Americas Dad, as I have heard some say.
The persona that one shows to the public, may be very different to the one that they “live” in every day life. Though there are notable examples of this kind of thing, the first one that came to mind (for me) was Ted Haggard.
The pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs as well as a number of other evangelical christian organizations until November 2006. When he was caught in a multi-years long homosexual relationship with a male prostitute.
Though the tale is an amusing one for many to this day (given the deafening anti-homosexual tone of fundamentalist christianity in the US), the bigger picture here (in relation to this post), is the surprise in many on finding out the news.
Evangelical pastor Ted, guilty of sodomy with a side of drugs with a male prostitute? No!
Therein lies the trap of the persona.
I am not exempt from this problem either. The suicide of Robin Williams came as a bit of a slap in the face for me. Being that my idea of Robin Williams is based on things like Patch Adams and The Crazy Ones (he made the show for me), his suicide came as a bit of a shock.
To be fair, I was unaware of his past history of divorce, addiction and depression. But I was fooled by the hilarious comedian sheltering the ever more broken man.
Then there are the many in the reality TV world. That get famous for portraying this “Real” role or that, only to have the truth “Smash” the image after coming out later. Notably the Duck Dynasty (Robertson) family.
Though some in even MY circle of friends refuse to believe that fact (a depressing revelation, to say the least).
Point being, when it comes to popular public figures, you are seeing exactly what they want you to see. Stop being surprised if one day something deeper (even directly in conflict to the given persons well known persona!) is revealed.
Now, this next part of the entry revolves around those words in the title, innocent until proven guilty.
Increasingly (as this story spreads) it seems that many people are reacting as if there is a solid nature in the accusations being levelled against Cosby. This is not new, or specific to the Cosby case. But its another dangerous precedent being primarily driven by many in the mainstream feminism movement.
We have to remember what the term “allegation” means. So far there are 15 allegations of sexual assault. These women have come forward to say that Bill raped them, BUT so far there is no way to prove it.
This hot potato has caused (so far) Cosby to lose an NBC sitcom and a Netflix standup special. Even though I can see WHY this action was taken by both networks, I still disagree on the basis of market preferences (people will decide if they want to watch!) and the fact that they prematurely are acting as a judge of his innocence. Because heaven forbid we let the fans decide, for the feminist-minded may find incredible offence.
His career, is questionable. Some say that it is destroyed. Some say this is but a stain (albeit a huge one) on it. Either way, its fucked in the short term. Being the old man that he is, does he have time to make it up?
Either way, its important that we not jump to conclusions, not assume what we do not know.
If he was guilty of these crimes and he has been getting away with it up to this point (in large part to his well honed public persona), then good. Let it be smashed to pieces.
That is not to say that, it discredits all of his previous work (The Cosby show, etc). Enjoy them for the works of art that they are.
However, prematurely wrecking his life is fruitless, if the allegations turn out to be false.
This is a big problem with how rape is percieved in general, in todays society. Yes, there are (seemingly) many cases where rape is barely (if at all) punished, even when made public, sometimes even when someone was stupid enough to record evidence of it on video (or even share it online). There seems to be big problems with rape on collage campus’s, and in some sporting team environments in general (all across the academic spectrum). I do not deny, nor do I downplay this.
However, for those hit by a sexual assault allegation, it can be a life altering event. It is considered ASININE to question the validity of any claim of sexual assault, but it is perfectly fine to treat the alleged perpetrator as if the allegations are proven.
People of all walks of life can be completely derailed by such allegations. And even if future events show the charges as being false and fraudulent, the damage is already done.
In many cases, once you earn the title of rapist, your only way to shed that title is to leave that area. The perpetrator of the fraudulent allegations may be charged with that offence, but they will not be held accountable for the emotional suffering (not to mention the financial hardships) of their victim.
When it comes to Bill Cosby, its a bit suspicious on his part. The past “settlements” alleged to have occurred. Then there was the interview with the reporter that went straight to the point and asked him about the allegations outright, leading to refusal to comment on the allegations.
But aside from this, we do not know. Time will tell more, with some luck. By now, maybe a polygraph will be the only way to get any conclusive proof.
Most importantly, never assume you know, when you have nothing solid to base the assumption on.
Whether its assuming innocence due to a public persona, or assuming guilt, because thats a default reaction in many cases.
Neither do anything more then make an already muddy situation, a whole lot more murky.