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The Evil Behind Cosby And Polanski: Can We Overcome Our Long, Painful History Of Rape And Power?

August 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

Can the cycle be broken?

This week’s extraordinary cover story by reporter Noreen Malone and photographer Amanda Demme in New York magazine, in which 35 women come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of rape or sexual assault – in considerable and often wrenching detail — ought to dispel the last shreds of doubt or ambiguity around the legendary comedian. To protect our proprietors and shareholders, journalists are still required to describe the charges against Cosby as unproven allegations, especially since he will almost certainly never face prosecution for any of them. I’m going to abide by those rules for those reasons, although they’re clearly ridiculous. None of the excuses or rationalizations floated over the years by Cosby’s defenders seem remotely sustainable in the face of all that overwhelming first-person testimony.

Given that the known number of Cosby accusers now approaches four dozen (11 more women were interviewed by New York’s reporters but declined to be identified), it requires either prodigious imagination or a prodigiously low opinion of women to suggest that they were all cases of misinterpretation or drunken consensual sex or conspiracy to blackmail or shameless promiscuity or sociopathic distortion of reality. If anyone in this terrible story has a distorted perception of reality, it isn’t the women who have spent years or decades struggling with the fact that they had been shamefully abused by an iconic and beloved celebrity.

But Bill Cosby is just one person, depraved as he may be, and the thorny moral questions posed by the slow and dreadful unraveling of his public persona as America’s dad go well beyond him. This might sound like an antiquated conception, but the whole Cosby story offers an opportunity for tremendous moral education and clarification to everyone in our society, I think, because the whitewashing of Cosby’s alleged crimes was a collective cultural phenomenon. That moment ought to have particular resonance for men and for members of the media, who have long observed a half-conscious code of silence when it came to male public figures, have often viewed the testimony of women as inherently unreliable, and have often …read more


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