Ethics Dunce: Roman Polanski

I know, this is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Still, Roman Polanski’s self-righteous protest of what he sees as victimization and injustice, recently published in the French magazine La Règle du Jeu, is worth noting if only as a useful case study of how privilege and rationalizations can lead to ethical delusion.

Polanski, proclaiming, “I can now remain silent no longer!”—which I doubt will take its place next to Dreyfus’s “I am innocent!” in the annals of memorable prisoner quotes—makes it clear in his statement that he has no remorse and admits no serious wrongdoing for drugging, raping and sodomizing a 13-year old girl, the 33-year-old crime that began his legal problems. Oh, he accuses authorities of being unfeeling to the now-grown victim, who has repeatedly said she would like to see the entire issue disposed of and forgotten so she can get on with her life, conveniently forgetting that his brutality and subsequent refusal to be accountable to U.S. justice are the sole reasons she is suffering. Polanski blames his looming extradition to the U.S. on a sympathetic film documentary that “roused from its slumbers of over three decades” his fugitive status, and “drew the ire of the Los Angeles authorities,” resulting in their collaboration with Swiss authorities to arrest him last year when he arrived in Zurich to receive a film award. No, his arrest is properly blamed on the fact that Polanski raped a child, and then fled the country rather than go to prison.

The director argues that he was “betrayed” and “lied to” because the judge in his case reversed himself and refused to accept a classic Hollywood celebrity plea bargain that would have allowed Polanski escape the harsh punishment anyone else would have received for such a crime.  But judges are empowered to do just that. The judge didn’t betray Polanski, for he has no duty to Polanski, other than to follow the law. His duty was to the justice system, and that duty was fulfilled by deciding that child-rape matters, even in Hollywood.

To Polanski, however, the increase in his jail time justified becoming a fugitive and using his superior resources and contacts to go on the lam in Europe. He seems completely ignorant of the fact that this is not a legal option, however, for him or anyone else. Every other criminal who thinks he or she was wronged has to sit in jail and go through the appeals process. Polanski thinks he is above all that. No, he’s not.

“I can remain silent no longer because I have been placed under house arrest in Gstaad and bailed in very large sum of money which I have managed to raise only by mortgaging the apartment that has been my home for over 30 years, and because I am far from my family and unable to work.” Polanski writes. Yes, Roman, this is because you are an escaped criminal. Criminals have these problems. They have them, because they deserve them. And you deserve them.

Roman Polanski. Director extraordinaire, Hollywood martyr to conventional morals, rapist, fugitive, and an Ethics Dunce for the ages.

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