Roman Polanski is a child-rapist with numerous vile attributes. But one of the most vile things about him is not, strictly speaking, his fault.
It is not Roman Polanski's fault that his apologists and fawning fans, here and abroad, are moral cretins. It is not, strictly speaking, his fault that he draws rape apologists and minimizers like a pile of shit draws flies.
Roman Polanski is in the news again because the Swiss arrested him on an American extradition warrant after he arrived for a film event. There are cries of horror, despair, and outrage from the usual suspects.
Who are those usual suspects? Here's a representative sample. We have the French, who have made him a a symbol of "sexual liberation." [This is only one reason to think very carefully before taking your children to France.] We have Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times, who feels that California lacks the money to prosecute 30-year-old rape cases and that Polanski is a Jean Valjean figure hounded by anti-rape Javerts (and that's his metaphor, not mine). We have Joan Z. Shore at the Huffington Post, who in the course of a grotesquely lighthearted jab at the Swiss for arresting Polanski, grunts out this moral excresence:
But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model "seduced" by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It's probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.
I met Polanski shortly after he fled America and was filming Tess in Normandy. I was working in the CBS News bureau in Paris, and I accompanied Mike Wallace for a Sixty Minutes interview with Polanski on the set. Mike thought he would be meeting the devil incarnate, but was utterly charmed by Roman's sobriety and intelligence.
The Huffington Post is your go-to internet source for columnists who swoon over child rapists.
And make no mistake: Polanski is a rapist. Even if you only accept the version of events he pled guilty to, he plied a 13-year-old girl with alcohol and quaaludes and then had oral, vaginal, and anal sex with her. But that's only part of it. Polanski's fans studiously ignore her grand jury testimony, which is horrifying and heartbreaking:
Q: What happened after that?
A: He started to have intercourse with me.
Q: What do you mean by intercourse?
A: He put his penis in my vagina.
Q: What did you say, if anything, before he did that?
A: I was mostly just on and off saying "no, stop." But I wasn't fighting really because I, you know, there was no one else there and I had no place to go.
Now, not every witness before the grand jury is telling us the truth. As the Hofstra incident recently told us, rape accusers sometimes lie. But curiously, Polanski's fans very much want us to listen to the victim and take her at her word — now that she is saying that she doesn't want him prosecuted any more. Curiously, they never seem to cite the recent interviews in which she confirms that it was not just statutory rape — that she said no and Polanski did it anyway. Just as Polanski's supporters think you should draw the curtain on the part of his life when he was raping 13-year-olds, they think that you should draw the curtain on the part of the victim's story in which she describes what really happened. That part, they would have you believe, is irrelevant to evaluating the Great Man.
Let me be blunt. Polanski is a child rapist. But these apologists, too, are sick freaks. Given their moral sensibilities, I would no more let Patrick Goldstein or Joan Z. Shore be alone with my kids than I would Polanski. Among the sick or stupid ideas such people are willing to promote to defend Polanski are the following:
1. That it is morally acceptable to gloat over the fact that a rape victim does not want the perpetrator tried, even when she specifically says it is because she can't bear for her family to be dragged through the mud.
2. That the victim's mother fed her to Polanski to promote her career — as if this is a morally significant mitigating factor, as if it in any way excuses the conduct.
3. That the victim — who, in her grand jury testimony, referred to the act performing cunnilingus as "performing cuddliness" — was a sophisticated seductress.
4. That it is irrational or vengeful to pursue a child-rapist for 32 years, because moral responsibility for rape has a shelf-life.
5. That it is irrational or vengeful to fail to forgive a child-rapist, and excuse him from legal consequences, when he previously experienced great hardship.
6. That living a life of luxury in France is a great hardship. (For people with normal moral sensibilities, to whom rape is not properly classified as "sexual liberation," I grant you it might be.)
7. That Great Men of letters exist on a different plane, and that right-thinking people overlook their peccadilloes.
8. That opposition to drugging and having sex with 13-year-olds — let alone raping them — is a sign of Puritanism.
9. That the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine, which generally prevents fugitives from litigating their cases in the forum they fled, is somehow unfair.
10. That a trial judge is bound by the deal a defendant cuts with the prosecution.
Now, it's entirely possible that Polanski's now-dead trial judge was a media-whore weasel and that a new judge should grant some sort of relief as a result of judicial or prosecutorial misconduct. Nothing — other than his unwillingness to expose himself to the possibility of further punishment — prevents Polanski from pursuing that argument here in Los Angeles. Nor does that argument have anything to do with the moral dimensions of apologizing for and minimizing rape. (I should also note that in every guilty plea I have ever seen taken, the judge has correctly warned the defendant of the law: "You've got an agreement with the government. It's not an agreement with me. If I reject it, there's not jack shit you can do about it.")
Fortunately, not everyone is marching in Polanski's parade. As I wrote before, Bill Wyman has already demolished director Marina Zenovich’s Polanski propaganda piece "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired." Today, Kate Harding at Salon steps up to the plate and kicks the shit out of some Polanski fans. More of this, please. Let's not let the drumbeat of poor-Polanski prevaricators go unrebutted.
Edited to add: Patterico has a good takedown of the noisome LA Times piece.
Edit No. 2: Patterico is on fire on this issue. Here he links to a new Smoking Gun post containing a transcript of Polanski's plea, and correctly notes that Polanski admitted under oath that he knew the victim was 13 at the time of the incident. I note that the transcript also reflects that Polanski was specifically warned several times, and acknowledged, that the sentence was up to the judge and that the judge might reject the deal between Polanski and the DA.
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