So, uh, this Cosby thing, right? I can't recall offhand which one in the flurry of commenters said, as this story was breaking hard a week or so ago, something to the effect that it was having trouble sticking because most Americans, growing up in an era of Cosby as this benevolent icon, mugging for his teevee family and endorsements for pudding and Coke, just didn't want to live in a world where this man was a serial rapist.
It's why, obviously, such celebrity transgressors typically get the benefit of the doubt for so long. Cosby has epitomized the image of the jovial, avuncular figure for longer than many of us have been alive, and has in recent years become more well-known as the voice of what some have called "organic black conservatism," essentially a call for more conventional goals of responsibility for blacks, especially men.
Cosby's calls to the next generations for more and better bootstrapping both have a ring of truth that transcends race, gender, and even age, yet still do not exactly harmonize with the reality of the post-job nirvana American society has achieved in its globalized rutting frenzy. The urban and poor communities have been hardest hit by many of these episodes of outsourcing. Telling the kids to knuckle down, pull their shit together, scramble to get to college to rack up a lifetime of debt, yada yada, works for some, right up to the point the kid gets out and realizes the game was rigged all along, in a way that Grandpa Huxtable cannot possibly fathom, because it didn't exist back in the '80s -- it was conceived then.
These exhortations are relevant to the current discussion, because where normally time has a way of smoothing the rough edges of prickly characters, for Cosby it seems to have had the opposite effect -- where in the heyday of The Cosby Show (a show which I might have caught once or twice, if that, for the record, and even then probably just to check out Lisa Bonet) his public image seemed pretty bulletproof, Cosby over the last decade or so has become perceived as more of a curmudgeonly "you damned kids" sort. Of course that has no bearing on whether he is or isn't a serial rapist, but it does seem to have made him just a bit less unassailable.
Certainly there is no shortage of women who make bullshit accusations against men, famous or not, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the men do hard time based on those lies. I think that women who fabricate rape allegations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I think that women who accuse anonymously and try to fuck up a famous man's life or career should not be surprised or indignant when the man contemplates using his resources to retaliate forcefully against her. I agree that their fabrications harm actual rape victims, raise the specter of doubt across the board.
Did Conor Oberst have a "power disparity"? Of course, and it's reasonable to speculate that many other women do not come forward against celebrity rapists precisely because of that fear. But in Oberst's case, he also had a lot to lose from the anonymous -- yet public! -- fabrications of "Joanie Faircloth". She probably should consider herself fortunate that she didn't choose to defame a more litigious person. Fuck libel, let's try obstruction of justice.
Few crimes have as peculiar a dynamic as rape. Until the relatively recent advent of reliable DNA analysis and forensics, it was one of the more difficult crimes to prove conclusively, by nature frequently devolving to "he said-she said" interpretations of whether the crime took place, and to what degree. It is probably the only crime where, even when the victim is an adult, their name remains anonymous (justifiably so), yet the alleged perpetrator's name is instantly emblazoned on every media outlet far and wide.
(Then there's the inconvenient probability that the US is the only country where more men are raped than women. Probably the only country where it's considered high-larious too, just so long as it's perpetrated by some giant buck on a trembling new fish. Git 'im, Bubba, hee hee! That shit happens every day, right now, not thirty or forty years ago, all across the country, with the complicity of the people employed by the taxpayers to prevent it. And no one says jack shit about it.)
If there's a single factor that leads me to lean slightly toward the "Cosby probably did it, or at least some of it" camp, it's the sheer number of accusations so far. One, perhaps two accusations, without any hard proof and the distance of time, make it much easier to dismiss as a cynical, baseless attempt to ruin a good man. But Cosby's accusers number in the mid-teens so far. As Ta-Nehisi Coates says, it's hard to believe so many individuals would agree to participate in a conspiracy of spite with no clear motive.
But let's play devil's advocate for a second: thirteen of those accusers are (unnamed) women who were deposed and set to testify in Andrea Constand's 2006 civil suit against Cosby, which was settled, and so their stories were not heard. Apparently in all of their cases the statute of limitations had run out, so they couldn't go to the authorities to investigate and prosecute. But unless they were getting part of Constand's settlement, there should have been nothing stopping them from going public with their stories there and then.
Just as it's difficult to believe that over a dozen people would suddenly decide to take a swing at Bill Cosby, it's also difficult to believe that if all of those same individuals had been raped by Cosby, that they would just drop the whole thing. And Janice Dickinson coming forward doesn't exactly add any credibility. From everything I've had the misfortune of seeing or reading about Dickinson, she's just awful, probably playing up to the reality-teevee cameras, but a little too much and too willingly. She plays "crazier than a shithouse rat" just a little too well. I wouldn't give Charles Manson a parking ticket based on Janice Dickinson's word.
The media just piles on wherever they can, especially when there's even a whiff of fame; a prime example of this sort of thing is characterized by the execrable Don Lemon, who essentially asked one of Cosby's alleged victims why, when Cosby supposedly drugged her and stuck his cock in her mouth, she didn't just use her teeth to dissuade him from wanting a blowjob. In a just world, Don Lemon would be asking you if you would like fries with your burger, but I don't know anyone who lives in such a world.
I have very little doubt that Cosby, an admitted poon-hound, used his fame and status to entice and seduce aspiring starlets, and bang them every chance he could. It is probably at least as seedy and sordid as the most lurid Jackie Collins potboiler. And while there is an unsettling consistency to the known alleged incidents that have come forward, there is still no proof.
And you used to need proof to ruin someone's career. We used to at least pretend to look at all sides, all possibilities, all likelihoods, all the evidence, before rendering a verdict. Now it has to be filtered through an agenda, whether it's "Conor Oberst hurts all rape victims by protecting himself against a false accusation that could send him to prison or ruin his career" or some "men's rights" douchebag that instinctively wants to defend every date-rapey broseph.
Even before charges are filed there are frequently consequences for those accused of rape. Keep in mind that Cosby has not been charged with anything, and in fact, will probably never be charged with anything. Yet he has already lost two occupational opportunities.
This is a man whose last significant career choices took place over two decades ago; Cosby has been living off residuals, both financial and cultural. They seem to have run out on him. He's already been tried and found guilty in the court of media and public opinion.