The phrase “cause célèbre” was tailor-made for the Hollywood response to the arrest of acclaimed film director Roman Polanski. In the Polanski arrest, you have both “cause” and “célèbre” in the hundred best known names in Hollywood who signed a petition protesting the treatment of Mr. Polanski. Polanski pleaded guilty to rape of 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. I have read about 10 articles by Associated Content writers who covered the events in detail, but I was surprised that only one or two writers seemed to reflect any measure of condemnation on the director. Being true to my school, so to speak, I will say that none of the AC writers whom I read engaged in lavish praise of Polanski, as Hollywood and broad sections of the media did.
The AC articles were well-written, told the story, and were “objective.” I like “objective.” But “objective” doesn’t necessarily mean sanitized. A person can write about certain points of view being expressed by different factions of American society. That would be “objective” too, wouldn’t it? We write about attitudes. We write about prejudice. No one questions objectivity when we write about racism. So it was a little stunning to me that I found few articles, one of them written by Associated Content writer Valerie Ferrari and titled “Roman Polanski Arrest and American Justice” which even touched on significant matters of relevance to the arrest of the film director.
This sort of “objectivity” was not confined to AC writers. The first news reports I heard of the Polanski arrest were on television and the first phrases uttered by media talking heads was “Why now?” The implication was immediately strong that the criminal offense to which Polanski pleaded guilty was some sort of giant U.S. government conspiracy against “Great Art.”
Meanwhile, it is ridiculously easy to answer the “Why now” question. Unless, a statute of limitations applies, crime tends to stick around forever, unlike director Roman Polanski, who skipped out to France. We don’t ask “Why now” when we capture concentration camp commandants from Auschwitz who escaped the law more than 50 years ago. We don’t forgive murderers of the previous decade because we haven’t caught them. The notion that we should just forget about Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old is degenerate.
Roman Polanski is not a concentration camp commandant; he’s quite the opposite, with parents who were murdered in the Holocaust. Will 100 Hollywood celebrities also sign a petition that genocide should be excused because top Nazis were smart art collectors? The analogy is extreme, but the point is that crime and courts of law are not a matter of cheap sentiment.
An AC writer named Robert Dougherty points to another trope used by television celebrity pundits to excuse Polanski’s crime in an article titled “Samantha Geimer Urges for End to Roman Polanski Case.”
Interestingly, that article was written in January 2009, and mentions an HBO documentary on the Polanski affair that details, among other things, the efforts of Samantha Geimer to get the court to drop charges against Polanski. It is well to know that Geimer has healed to the extent of forgiving her debaucher and perhaps the undisclosed settlement she reached with Polanski’s legal team had nothing to do with that. But forgiveness is a personal matter for Geimer, and again, law is not a matter of sentiment. Sentiments are cross-currents running off in every direction. What if Geimer’s sentiments now were that we should decapitate Polanski? Should rational justice be swayed also by that sentiment?
With Roman Polanski being the “cause célèbre” of the day, America is fortunate in that we will be graphically provided with another fine example of television media hypocrisy. MSNBC has a show called “The Morning Joe” with four full-time pundits and various regular guests, like Jonathan Capeheart, the Washington Post writer. In a segment two days ago, the Roman Polanski topic came up, and several viewpoints were expressed. MSNBC then showed a clip of “The View” in which Whoopie Goldberg commented on Roman Polanski’s rape of the 13-year-old. Goldberg said on “The View” that the rape wasn’t a “rape-rape,” because the child was brought to the party by her mother, implying once more, and incredibly, that the 13-year-old child survivor was, by her presence and proximity, demanding to be drugged and sodomized by a 45-year-old man.
Mr. Capeheart, who is a black man, yesterday made an attempt at explaining away Goldberg’s gaffe (?) by saying that Whoopi’s judgment may have been blunted because she’d been molested as a child herself. After the show, Capeheart got a call from Whoopi Goldberg, who told Capeheart that he had confused her with Oprah Winfrey who was molested as a child. Another page from the “They All Look Alike” liberal conceit. Those pundits, Capeheart among them, who are quickest to accuse others of racial, sexual orientation, and gender bias are apparently not accustomed to working without a prepared script. Is there a teleprompter shortage?
Capeheart is basically a decent, intelligent, gay liberal elitist, and means well, if such tortured descriptions may be used for damage done. On today’s MSNBC “Morning Joe,” Capeheart admitted his mistake and apologized for his error. It was all too much for regular host Mika Brezinski who altered her original “Why now” apologia for the crime and roundly condemned Polanski and his Hollywood myrmidons, too.
Sources: MSNBC Live Broadcasts of “Morning Joe” on 09/30/09 and 10/01/09.
Other sources are linked in the article and consist of two stories by Associated Content writers Robert Dougherty and Valerie Ferrari: