02 October 2009

scumbags united

I've delayed a posting on the whole mess surrounding Roman Polanski, mostly because I wasn't sure that I should be that concerned. It's not like he hasn't been tried already. The basis for his extradition is for sentencing, not trial. He plead guilty to charges of statutory rape 30+ years ago. So let's not delude ourselves into thinking he deserves some special treatment. Which he has in effect already received by avoiding swift and sure justice of a sentence, at the time given to be basically a thorough mental evaluation and no "real" penalties like say, jail time. Nor should we pretend that some great justice will be served by penalizing him now and throwing the book at him. It won't. This was 30 years ago. The way you detail a penalty within the context of the criminal justice system is to catch people quickly when they violate the laws and penalize them quickly and with some level of certainty in their guilt. We have the certainty part. I presume this was caught quickly relative to the event and brought to the attention of the courts. But coming back around to it 3 decades later doesn't seem all that useful as an example of justice. It's not like he escaped judgment, because we already decreed his guilt through the courts, he instead escaped punishment.

What should have been done is a blacklisting of his abilities in the absence of that legal penalty until he dealt with the problem himself and accounted for the responsibilities involved in cleaning up his own mess. We're seeing this rape described in all manner of defensive characters, from "wasn't rape-rape" to "a moral problem", presumably the moral problem being the age of consent for sexuality rather than the factual assertions that demonstrated guilt of a non-consensual rape in the case, now so far removed as to be described as a "moral problem" rather than a legal one. Instead of that accountability for legal failures that we should demand of people of people who we place some higher levels of trust and attention, what has happened is the cult of celebrity has circled the wagons around someone who was often a vehicle or colleague in that fame. This is not surprising. It's still stupid. But it's not like we have a culture that succeeds in penalizing the powerful when they violate and abuse their authority.

Remember, we're still waiting on the torture memos to get their day in court. Many of the same people attempting to defend that sort of discourse and activity regarding torture are the ones calling for Polanski's head now (WaPo's editorial page for example). Living as I do in some requirements of moral and legal consistency, I'm calling for both of their heads rather than winking at the people who happen to be of a political or professional persuasion affiliated with me and defaming those who happen to be of one which isn't.
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