It is kind of funny, isn’t it, to hear and read the shocked reactions of pundits to the fact that probable serial rapist Bill Cosby got a standing ovation from his concert crowd of 2100 in Melbourne, Florida last night? “What could this mean?” they ask. Does this mean that Cosby’s popularity will survive the onslaught of women reporting that he drugged and raped them years ago? Well, no, it means that 2100 people who paid premium prices to see Bill Cosby and attended his concert even after hearing more than sufficient evidence that he is a sick hypocrite like Bill Cosby.
What a surprise.
Nor should it be any surprise that that many people will adopt rationalizations and tortured logic to avoid confronting the cognitive dissonance resulting from a self-styled moral exemplar having a spectacularly immoral, indeed criminal, past. After all, the Democratic National Convention, with a lot more that 2,100 in attendance, cheered serial sexual harasser and sexual predator William Jefferson Clinton as he spoke to a throng protesting Republican attitudes toward women, as progressive journalists and pundits from MSNBC to the New York Times nodded in approval.
Unrelated, you say? Wrong. The phenomenon is exactly the same, and therein lies a serious problem for Hillary Clinton. The rationalizations used to rescue her husband from accountability for his decades long abuse of women are exactly the same as those being used now by Cosby’s desperate fans to try to keep laughing at the wise humor of the icon who includes in his storehouse of wisdom such nuggets as…
- A hypnotic drug makes it really, really easy to rape young women, and
- The combination of victims’ foggy memories and a celebrity’s popularity, power and wealth are almost unbeatable.
Clinton’s name has come up more than once as the media grapples with the Cosby story, and Hillary, who enabled and covered for Bill, must be paying close attention. Eventually, she is going to have to explain why such a vile, misogynist history should disqualify a performer from having re-runs of his show on TV Land, but is irrelevant to whether a former President should be granted another stay in the White House.
I don’t think she can do it.
It was déjà vu reading the comments of the Cosby faithful in Melbourne. Gee, where have we heard these before?
- David Love, a 54-year-old mechanical engineer: “Someone who is willing to use women like that, a person like that I can’t imagine being funny and having TV shows that project morality. Watching his shows, he’s always seemed to be a man of character. I’m going to assume he’s a good guy.” This is utter denial, the first defense against cognitive dissonance. I can’t handle the inconvenient truth, admits David, so I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist. Does David realize how jaw-droppingly stupid it is to say that because someone is convincing playing a good guy on TV, he must be a good guy? That’s why it’s called “acting,” David. Charlie Chaplin liked little girls. Danny Kaye was a sociopath. Boy, O.J. was funny in those “Naked Gun” movies…how can someone reason like this? Yet people do. Bill Clinton’s continuing popularity proves it.
- Lenore Raicovich, 79: “These women, if it happened, why didn’t they report it when it happened?” The women have all answered that question; so have experts in rape and victimology. So, for that matter, has David Love, though he doesn’t realize it. With so many addled people like David in the media and law enforcement, who is going to believe a victimized woman who makes an accusation like this against a man everyone regards as being the epitome of an ethical, compassionate, beneficent man? And if they needed confirmation of their likely fate, all they needed to do is check on what happened to Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Monica Lewinsky.
- Susan Raimondi, 69: “You think Bill Cosby is the only one who has ever done this thing?” DINDINGDINGDINGDING!!! The prize goes to Susan for the Clinton Special, “Everybody Does it!” I bet she still has her Clinton/Gore button.
- Shelley Nerbonne: “I don’t buy it. First of all, why are women coming out 30 and 40 years later? That’s not fair. If that’s true, they should have brought it out when it happened.” Ah. So if a victim, for whatever reason, is late accusing her victim, that excuses her attacker from blame and accountability for what he did, even rape? That false logic awards a benefit to a criminal for moral luck: he has no control over the lateness of the accusation (except if he takes measures to intimidate the accuser), and deserves no special dispensation if he is guilty. The “fairness” argument only applies when the accused is innocent and the time passed makes it impossible for him to disprove the allegations. It is therefore only a plausible argument if the accuser is unique, if there is an unethical motive apparent (such as money, notoriety,or in the case of a family member, former lover, or spouse, vengeance), and there is no reason to believe the allegations. None of these factors are present here. Thirteen women alleging the same horrific crime is significant and carries inherent credibility. When one accuser did press her claim, Cosby paid her off, and included a confidentiality clause.
- Shelley’s husband, Richard Nerbonne: “Even if he’s guilty, his personal matters do not come to this arena. They’re with him and the Lord and elsewhere. I wanted to bring a sign tonight and say, ‘We Love You, Bill.’ ” This is what I would call “the Full Clinton.” If you love (this) Bill, then you love a rapist. Of course his personal matters (crimes are societal matters, but never mind) “come into the arena.” His jokes don’t change based on his conduct off-stage, it is true. However, it is society’s duty to maintain social norms, values and ethical standards of conduct by condemning and shunning those who prominently violate them. If one cheers Cosby as he avoids accountability for harming women and breaching the standards he has spent his career promoting, then you undermine and weaken them.
The good news for Hillary is that there are at least 2100 people in Florida who should be receptive to her candidacy. The bad news is that anyone who abandons Bill Cosby, deciding that his conduct toward women cannot be condoned in a comedian and social critic, will have to twist their ethics into a pretzel to explain why Hillary’s husband’s conduct is acceptable for a national role model, a President, or a First Spouse.
Some final points:
- Ethics Hero status is due the one lone protester at the Melbourne concert, Julie Lemaitre, who stood outside arena in Melbourne with a sign that read “Rape Is No Joke,” and told reporters, “I strongly feel Mr. Cosby should stay at home. He needs to take a timeout and think about what these women have said and publicly address it.”
- Bill Cosby said, in an interview before the event, “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.” Cosby makes a big deal about his graduate degrees. We should accept that he is an educated man, and thus knows that “he raped me” is not an “innuendo.”
Facts and Graphic: Washington Post