Without hyperbole, we have found one of the worst major-newspaper columns since Mark Whicker left the yard.
A jury in Norristown, Pa., is currently deliberating for the second day in the trial of comedian Bill Cosby. Many outside the court, though, have made up their minds on Cosby’s guilt or innocence. One of them is Philadelphia immigration lawyer Christine Flowers, a longtime columnist for the city’s Daily News.
Cosby is charged with the 2005 aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, who was then director of operations for the Temple women’s basketball team. (Cosby was once a fixture at Temple events.) But he has also been accused by more than 60 women of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault and other crimes. What does Flowers have to say about it?
If I had my way, we’d never come to verdict on this case. The greatest damage has already been done, and that is the shattering of beloved myths and comforting relationships by the proxy of television and nostalgia.
Whether or not Andrea Constand or the 50-something other accusers were drugged and raped, the greatest damage is to the people who watch Nick At Nite. We are off to one hell of a start, here.
Bill Cosby is Cliff Huxtable, regardless of what the critics say. We are all made up of perception and reality, fact and fiction, aspiration and confirmation. It is ridiculous to argue that a man who was capable of creating the character that fathered a generation did not, at some deep level, possess those nurturing characteristics.
Flowers appears to not realize that the loud sounds and pictures inside the TV stay in there. No one show her Downfall, or she’ll ask why Bruno Ganz wasn’t punished for his countless atrocities. Cosby was also on a sitcom with an episode where all the men got pregnant, so let’s calm down a bit about him “fathering a generation.” If Bill Cosby had portrayed a rapist in an episode of Law & Order, would he be guilty then?
What can you concede, Christine?
And yes, he is an adulterer who admitted to giving women drugs for sex. He has confessed in a secular confessional to betraying the trust of his wife, and perhaps of the women who considered him a mentor before he moved them to another spot on the sliding scale of human interaction. I’m not able to say, now, that he is completely good and that his legacy is one of pudding pops, gentle mugging and pitch-perfect tributes to a disappeared city on the edge of a cultural revolution. It now includes quaaludes, sex with women not his wife, and betrayal.
Think of the real victims here: People who no longer have their happy memories of Bill Cosby shilling for pudding pops.
But I am allowed to refuse to believe that it includes rape. I am entitled, at least while this jury is out and well beyond, to craft a different narrative from the bits and pieces of complaints and testimony of women who waited years — decades — to come out of their own self-imposed shadows and say “me too, listen to me, too.” I will be called a slut shamer, a cruel skeptic, the reason that rape victims hide their shame in silence.
One of the worst tactics of shitty opinion columnists is making a “bold” point, then anticipating your critics’ responses without even considering them. That way you can dismiss criticism as just what you expected. Flowers never seems to consider that she is being a slut-shamer or a cruel skeptic, and she never offers any defense as to why she’s not.
I’m prepared for that, even after the verdict is announced, because I think this case is sui generis. There is too much of everything here, too many women reciting the same story (and instead of showing consistency, I think it could signal the mob effect.) Too many people willing to pull down a man who, because he happened to say the taboo things that shamed young black men for living down to expectations, is considered a traitor to the race. Too many women who see in this an opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of all the meanness in the world, the assault on their presumed dignity, the Trump effect. This, I think, is the real reason so many people want to see a conviction: It will confirm that the world is a dangerous place for my gender, and get a condemnation, by proxy, of the patriarchy.
At no point does Flowers demonstrate that she has even been following the trial, to say nothing of doing research or reporting to back up some pretty hefty claims about race and gender relations. It seems like it’d be a pretty big story if the dozens and dozens of women who have accused Bill Cosby are all lying as part of a massive conspiracy dragging Cosby down because he told black people to pull their pants up. What a scoop! Christine Flowers is our Woodward and our Bernstein.
It’s not that I think Bill Cosby is a victim, here. He’s lived a good life, and he’s reaped the bounty of serendipity, hard work and just reward. Right place, right time, right stuff.
But I do hate these trials that pit an evolving societal ethic against a flawed human being, one person, albeit a person greatly privileged, to make a point that “we’re better, because now we get it.”
The “societal ethic” here being “it’s wrong to drug and rape women.” Look at all these smug assholes, thinking they’re better than that.