I don’t usually follow celebrity scandals. But the allegations against Bill Cosby, sometimes referred to as America’s Dad, deserves some sort of commentary.
To date, 16 women have publicly stated that they were raped – and/or drugged and raped – by Cosby. Two or three…okay, you might think they were after a lucrative settlement. But SIXTEEN?? This is the sort of number that demands an investigation of some kind. Unfortunately, many of these allegations happened in the 70s and 80s and fall out of the realm of the statute of limitations.
From the Washington Post:
The accusations, some of which Cosby has denied and others he has declined to discuss, span the arc of the comedy legend’s career, from his pioneering years as the first black star of a network television drama in 1965 to the mid-2000s, when Cosby was firmly entrenched as an elder statesman of the entertainment industry, a scolding public conscience of the African American community and a philanthropist. They also span a monumental generational shift in perceptions — from the sexually unrestrained ’60s to an era when the idea of date rape is well understood.
The saga of the abuse allegations is set in locales that speak to Cosby’s wealth and fame: a Hollywood-studio bungalow, a chauffeured limousine, luxury hotels, a New York City brownstone. But it also stretches into unexpected places, such as an obscure Denver talent agency that referred two of Cosby’s future accusers to the star for mentoring.
The allegations are strung together by perceptible patterns that appear and reappear with remarkable consistency: mostly young, white women without family nearby; drugs offered as palliatives; resistance and pursuit; accusers worrying that no one would believe them; lifelong trauma. There is also a pattern of intense response by Cosby’s team of attorneys and publicists, who have used the media and the courts to attack the credibility of his accusers.
What seems very clear in this whole thing is that Cosby believed himself to be untouchable, beyond impunity, and that some of these women were incredibly naïve, accepting his attention, the pills he offered, the wine. The women were ambitious and OMG, this was the famous Cosby and maybe he could pull some strings…
The other thing that is quite clear in all this is that because Cosby is so famous, such an icon and philanthropist, law enforcement looked away. He has never been charged with anything, except in a civil suit that was settled in 2006. Martin Singer, Cosby’s attorney, issued a statement recently about the whole thing:
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” he said. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”
What Singer doesn’t address is that the attitude of law enforcement in the sixties and seventies, and perhaps even now, is that the woman must somehow be at fault. She must have enticed the rapist, come onto him, seduced him first, showed her boobs, did something that inflamed the man’s insatiable libido – and rape was the logical end result.
This argument is so patently absurd that it defies rational explanation. Rape is the most violent transgression against another human being – except for murder, but at least with murder, you die. You don’t suffer for years afterward, reliving every horrible second, wondering what you might have done differently. Rape is a violation not only of a woman’s body, but of her soul, her spirit, her very humanity. Rape is a Neanderthal’s response to the power structure. It’s the man’s demand in Cave of the Clan Bear to “assume the position.” It’s about physical and psychic power gone awry.
Again, from the Washington Post:
If his accusers are to be believed, the earliest allegations against Cosby remained hidden for decades, private artifacts of an era when women were less likely to publicly accuse men they knew of sexual misdeeds and society was less likely to believe them. But they have flared periodically throughout the past nine years, both because of changing attitudes and, particularly over the past month, because of social media’s ability to transform a story into a viral phenomenon almost impossible to suppress or control.
The allegations represent a stunning reshaping of Cosby’s legacy. Cosby built his fame on a family-friendly comedic persona. He has lectured black youths about proper behavior. He has been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and been lauded for making the largest donation ever by an African American to a historically black college, Spelman College in Atlanta.
Now an ex-NBC employee, Frank Scotti, comes forward with his role: he often stood guard outside Cosby’s dressing room.
So is Bill Cosby several people? The comedian, the avuncular advisor to black youth and a serial rapist?
I haven’t found any synchros yet in this story, but given the media attention I’m sure there are some. The problem is the story disgusts me. When I wade through all the material, looking for the synchros, I feel disdain, sadness, revulsion – not only at Cosby, but at the structure of American life, where celebrities are revered like Olympian gods.
No telling where Cosby will end up. A number of his shows have been cancelled, but he recently received a standing ovation in Melbourne, Florida for his standup routine. We Americans are the kings of denial. We don’t like it when our celebrity gods are revealed to be dark forces, liars, perverts. It’s when our schizophrenia as a nation, a people, a collective reveals great schisms.