TheWrap is a web Hollywood news and gossip site. Picture TMZ crossed with Gawker. It published an immediate candidate for the most unethical blog post of the year, always a closely contested category, a piece of cyber-offal by an industry writer named Rich Stellar that issued a combined attack on the women coming forward to prove Bill Cosby is a serial rapist, and the media’s coverage of it. I was happily unaware of Stellar, barely aware of The Wrap and definitely unaware of this utter crap until it was flagged in a Salon piece, which was in turn flagged by one of my indispensable scouts, Fred. What unfolded before me was a horrible spectacle of a despicably and dumber than a box of rocks opinion piece that no competent editor should allow to avoid the trash, a subsequent apology of sorts from the writer that shows such an ethics deficit that he should probably have a 24-hour keeper, and, finally, his editor’s defense of her wretched editorial judgment based on the theory of the First Amendment, which she appears to think means “You have to publish any garbage any fool writes no matter how poorly conceived or reasoned, or you are unAmerican.” But I am getting ahead of myself.
The Blog Post.
Read it all if you dare. Here’s Stellar’s money quote, which distills most of the cretinism without forcing you into Hell:
“The concept of justice is disregarded. (1) The statute of limitations is ignored. (2) The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses (3) who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. (4) If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). (5) Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. (6) There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, (7) and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. (7) A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry. (8) I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen. (9) I get it — Cos was the campfire that parents would sit at with their children, and chuckle at his homespun humor and life lessons. When we all retreated back to our tents with our tummys full of S’mores and toasted marshmallows, Cos was back in his tent, banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes. (10) Yes, that could well have happened, and once those women realized the violation that they endured at the hands of Cosby, then they should have reported it then — not a generation later.” (11).
So many ridiculous and offensive statements, so little time. Here, I’ll be as brief as possible, using the numbers I placed above to save time:
1. No, disregarding justice would be Bill Cosby continuing to pose as a benign font of wisdom for parents and African Americans while he keeps the truth about his rotten character and contempt for women at bay using his power, celebrity and money.
2. WRONG. The statute of limitations has no relevance to what citizens can report about another citizen’s bad conduct, or when they have to report it. Nobody is threatening to put Cosby in jail.
3. Misogyny. What difference does it make whether a rape victim was an actress or how old she is?
4. A slur. By Stellar’s logic, anyone who accuses any celebrity of anything should be ignored and condemned bcause they must be seeking fame and a book deal. That’s the sewer you swim in, Rich: most of us have healthier aspirations. Occam’s Razor suggests that their real motive is to stop Bill Cosby from raping more women.
5. And if the Empire State Building was made of bologna, you could make one hell of a sandwich!
6. The statute of limitations has nothing to do with what the blog is about.
7. Moron. a) This is not a court trial, and b) the eyewitness testimony of a victim is “real evidence.” When it is bolstered by almost identical stories by (last I checked) 15 women, it is strong evidence. Absent the statute of limitations, I think Cosby could be convicted. Stellar, who is no lawyer—hell, he’s not even a blogger— doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
8. Ick. Also, so what?
9. Then shut up. The assaults either happened or didn’t happen, and based on what we have heard and already know, it is overwhelming likely that they did happen. If they happened, the public has a right to know that they have been conned, and that they may choose not to spend any more money on concerts, recordings, books, TV shows, videos and sponsor’s products that may find its way into the pockets of a sexual predator who absent his celebrity armor would probably be in San Quentin.
10. Awww, what a cute way to describe serial rape and intimidation! What an asshole.
11. Yeah? And when was the last time you were assaulted by a renowned celebrity universally believed to be a saint, while under the influence of a hypnotic date-rape drug, in a culture where power and celebrity rules and sex, even forced sex, is shrugged off as no big deal by the likes of Whoopie Goldberg, before being rape had been destigmatized and after being threatened by someone who you knew had the power to follow through on the threats?
As you might expect, most people being, you know, sane, The wrap was inundated with criticism over Stellars verbal vomit. A fair summary of the objections are included in Salon’s critique, here. So The Wrap forced Stellar to apologize in print, and the best he could do was this…
Unethical statement #1: “The furor over my recent blog that was misconstrued as defending Bill Cosby was unexpected, but not unwarranted.”
It wasn’t misconstrued. The post repeatedly stated that Cosby was being unjustly attacked by greedy attackers. That’s called “defending Bill Cosby”…the big hint being that fact that the post was called, “Defending Bill Cosby.” A Jumbo!
Unethical statement #2: “I apologize to anyone who has faced the horrific physical and mental pain that comes with forcible abuse and unwelcome sexual advances.” But not to the women you accused of being golddiggers, or anyone who was permanently made more ignorant by his misrepresentation of the legal system.
Unethical statement #3: Clearly, the women who have come forward now, do so more out of frustration with the legal system than, as I described, their desire to fix one eye on a CNN camera, and the other on a reality show contract. Clearly! Clearly???? it obviously isn’t clear to the writer, because he wrote the opposite until someone told him he better back off.
Unethical statement #4: “I was reminded by people very close to me, that if any of those women were my daughter, friend, or close associate – I would take a different tact with Cosby that would not end up in a blog. I had to think about that, and admit that they were right.” Yes, that’s because he would have a conflict of interest, and he is now admitting that “justice” wouldn’t consume him so much if he had a stake in the results. It is also nice to know that people “very close” to him had to remind him about the Golden Rule.
Unethical statement #5: “The purpose of the blog was to bring damnation down on the media.” That’s a lie, or Stellar is pleading insanity. The post attacks the women coming forward, and says virtually nothing about the media’s reporting of it, which has been largely competent, proportional, thorough and fair. If only it had been as professional when the accused was Bill Clinton…
Unethical statement #6: “I’ve prided myself in defending those who have no voices – the elderly, victims of child abuse, and survivors of the Holocaust. If a Holocaust survivor was discounted because they did not speak out many decades ago, I would be enraged. Therefore, I understand your rage.” He prides himself on defending these victims, but takes the side of the victimizer when the victims are ordinary, vulnerable young women who trusted an icon and ended up being drugged, raped, and faced with the choice of being demonized in the media and public opinion, or getting on with their lives. What a guy this Stellar is! Hey, he understands your rage. See how sensitive he is?
I rate this a bottom of the barrel #10 on the Apology Scale, “An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.”
Finally, we have his editor’s post defending her decision to inflict this junk on the world:
I’ll comment as we go, in brackets and in bold, on editor Sharon Waxman’s “letter”:
In the face of all kinds of clamoring accusations let me start by clarifying: Our Hollyblogs are written by independent bloggers and represent their own views. Their blogs are edited, but not with the same scrutiny as staff writers who do represent TheWrap. [ Then such posts should include the disclaimer, “We didn’t read this very carefull, so watch out.” What a ridiculous dodge.] Richard Stellar has been blogging for TheWrap almost since the site has existed. His views are often contrarian, but that should never disqualify someone from a community forum. [No, but ignorance, poor reasoning and misogyny should.]
On the other hand, an opinion piece with a contrarian view can provoke, but it should not offend. [What? There is nothing wrong with offending. Any legitimate opinion can offend someone. This shows an editor who has no business editing.] Clearly it has done so, and for that I apologize. [ The post was unprofessional and offended standards of fairness and common sense. She should apologize for publishing it, not for “offending.”] That was not intentional. [ Do you believe that she didn’t think this thing would offend people, especially women, especially middle-aged women? If so, she is too clueless to edit a Brownie newsletter. If not, then she’s lying. I think she’s lying.]
I read the blog in advance of publication and felt – and still feel – that it represents a valid point of view. [ What’s valid about it? There isn’t a valid point in it.] Stellar critiques the media – meaning, TheWrap, since we’ve covered this story extensively – for suddenly jumping all over this scandal, and he questions the motives of women coming forward now, since there is no real possibility of trying these cases in court. Many readers clearly disagree, but that is the very point of a community forum. What would be the point of only publishing points of view with which we agree? Allowing for dissenting views is essential to the exercise of free speech. [ That’s irrelevant. The issue is publishing careless, poorly reasoned, poorly articulated link-bait that adds nothing to an important discussion except confusion and misinformation.]
The Cosby case strikes a nerve, partly because it is so at odds with the comedian’s longtime public image, and because the alleged behavior so … well, sick.The fierceness with which Stellar’s views are attacked truly gives me pause (i.e. any questioning of an accusation makes him pro-rape?), and makes me wonder what we are losing in our society as polarized opinions retreat to their own echo chambers. [Spare us this piety. Every ill-informed opinion, no matter how misconceived, does not warrant publication.] Stellar makes clear: “I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen.” [He is saying that the only reason these women came forward to support each other is greed and fame-seeking. This is attacking the victim of the worst variety.]
My own view on Bill Cosby is what I wrote under my own byline a few days ago: the media (with one or two notable exceptions) is late to this story. “Trial by Twitter is becoming the rule, but the truth is, we should have paid attention long ago to what more than a dozen women were saying about Cosby: that he had drugged and raped them. We didn’t want to believe. ” [ Pure hindsight bias.]
My strong belief is that the antidote to speech you do not agree with is more speech. And more speech. That’s the underpinning of our democracy. [And the antidote to really, really lazy, hurtful, illogical and ignorant speech like that post is for a competent editor to say, “We aren’t putting our name over this! Publish it on your own blog.”] In the age of social media, that belief is complicated by the fact that speech can quickly turn to bullying, a mob mentality that gets in the way of considering other views, or weighing nuanced argument. This case should be full of nuance, since it is so full of unknowns. [So why publish a post that is devoid of nuance, and depends on an irrelevancy, the statute of limitations, for it premise?]
In taking responsibility for having offended readers, I am changing the headline to something more in line with the substance of the blog. If Stellar wants to soften some of his language, he can do so. [ Oh, you don’t think “The Rape of Bill Cosby”—the original title!—is quite so “nuanced” any more?]
And I pledge to our readers to take more care in approving Hollyblogs so that they inspire debate, rather than insult. Still, let us all take a breath and give one another the benefit of the doubt: we are aiming for vigorous, healthy exchange of views because we believe that doing so gets us closer to a common weal, and hopefully a common truth. [ Note to the Editor: an ignorant and misleading post will never assist in finding the truth.]