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Bill Cosby and the End of Innocence

By now, there are very few people standing up for comedian Bill Cosby.  After the revelations of a decade-old deposition where he admitted to sexually assaulting women, what was unclear was now made very clear: Cosby, long considered an American treasure, was a serial rapist.

While some white comedians were quick to denounce and go after Cosby, there was a lot of reticence from African Americans.  Granted, there were black comedians that were also quick to take on Cosby, others like Whoopi Goldberg or Eddie Murphy held back.  The same goes for the cast of Cosby’s 80s sitcom, the Cosby Show.  Other African Americans like singer Jill Scott rushed to the comedian’s side.

I’m guessing a lot of them are having to come to terms with the cold truth and I wonder if they feel like I do: a mixture of disgust and sadness. The sense that a leader in the black community was found not just to have clay feet, but a dark heart as well.

I can’t speak for every African American, but I do wonder if others feel like I do- the sense that someone is not who they were.

When the news first hit last fall, it was hard to believe.  But as more and more women came forward, it was become to hard to ignore.  It was Michael Jackson all over again; if it was one accusation it could be untrue, but more than one tells you something is going on.

If Cosby was just a second rate comedian, he could easily be dismissed.  The problem, the reason why I feel sadness as much as disgust, the reason it was hard to believe he was capable of something so rank, is because of all that he has done, not just in American comedy, but in race relations as well.

The thing is, that I basically grew up on Bill Cosby. If you are of a certain age, you remember seeing Cosby on the Fat Albert show.  Or maybe you saw him on Captain Kangaroo.  For a kid like myself growing up in the 70s, it was fascinating to see someone that looked like me on television.  I remember seeing one of his films on racism in high school.  It was a great teaching tool for its time.   In high school, the Cosby Show debuted and it was a smash.  It became the number one comedy in its day.  If the 50s had the Nelsons as icons of that era, the 80s had an African American family, the Huxtables.  The show was a celebration of African American culture and all of America was able to learn more about black culture.  Not only that, but the Cliff and Clair Huxtable were professionals; and obstetrician and an attorney.  Cosby in some way became a barometer of racial progress in America; nearly 20 years after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we had come far enough it seems to have a black family as America’s family.

I remember reading his book Fatherhood during a trip to visit my father’s relatives in Louisiana.  My parent’s wondered why I was laughing so hard at times.

Long story short, Cosby was a big part of my growing up.  So, when you start to hear accusations it is not easy to believe them.  Because to believe them means that this person who made you laugh and made you feel proud to be an African American was not so innocent to say the least.

But I also have to believe that Cosby knew how he was viewed by society and used that as cover- until you he couldn’t cover it up anymore.

Which brings me back to why I feel sadness as well as anger.  The thing is, Cosby did do a lot of good, not just in the world of comedy, but for society as well.

And yet.

We can’t sweep under the rug what he did to the lives of countless women anymore.  We can’t wave it off as him being a womanizer.  Yes, he did some good things, but his actions against women taints all of that good.

Cosby reminds me that what we see is not always all that there is.  We all saw Lance Armstrong winning all of those Tour de France titles and thought he was courageous for beating cancer and getting back on the bike.  Of course we know how that ended. We all saw Joe Paterno as the great winning coach of a college, until we were shown that all was not as it seemed.

Sometimes the people doing good are not always good.  Sometimes there is more going on behind the scenes. Sometimes people are two-faced, and we don’t always see the darker face.

Bill Cosby took a bit of our innocence.  While we should be glad the truth is out there, the world is a little less brighter these days.

But then, maybe the world wasn’t so bright after all.

 

Note: Joseph C. Phillips, who starred on the Cosby Show in the latter seasons, wrote a moving essay about realizing the guilt of his mentor.

 

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129 thoughts on “Bill Cosby and the End of Innocence

  1. Disney pulled his bust/statue from Hollywood Studios, and Jerry Seinfeld requested of the publisher of Cosby’s biography that the glowing, worshipful blurb he provided for it a few years back be rescinded/removed from any future printings (Letterman did too). Syndicated re-runs of the Cosby Show have been shelved; no idea if Fat Albert was still being shown anywhere, but if it was, it won’t be anymore.

    We are going to see one of the giants of twentieth-century American entertainment and pop culture get vanished.

    I say that in stunned sadness, not anger; what Cosby did* is mind-boggling; that it went on for so long with the tacit knowledge and even support of others in the entertainment industry is baffling.

    And goddam, if charges or more lawsuits are brought, I hope that some of the people that were playing pimp and supplying him with young women get their names named, if nothing else is able to be done. At some point the word had to be out inside Hollywood that the guy was more than just a garden-variety creep, and once it was, people were knowingly aiding and abetting his crimes.

    I won’t delve into the social/race aspects of what Cosby meant to America; the OP does a fantastic job of that.

    But Cosby’s LPs (and Himself) were a huge part of my childhood, and shaped to a huge degree what I find funny. There were quotes from his routines that were part of the language that my family used to talk to each other. All that – tainted beyond repair.

    There’s a hyperbolic nerd Hollywood joke, usually made in regard to remakes/reboots/sequels/George Lucas : “X raped my childhood!”

    But I feel like Cosby actually DID.

    *Perhaps I should still say “is alleged to have done”, since even the recent unsealed-deposition revelations don’t quite “prove” the charges – they skirt right up to the line, and even if they stop just short of Cosby actually admitting to the rapes themselves, they provide ever-more support for the consistent accusations of his creepy M.O. that nearly forty people have now made – but frankly, there’s a point at which you don’t feel like “alleged” is really even necessary anymore.

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    • Yeah. A few years back, I was disappointed to find that Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids wasn’t out on DVD. Not that I would have watched the whole thing the second the DVD set arrived, of course, but it would have gone on my “for after I retire” shelf and I could have looked at it and thought about when I watched them the first time (and laughed) and daydreamed about spending a lazy week just binge-watching them at some point in the future.

      Now? I can’t buy them.

      Even if I were slightly inclined to buy them, I wouldn’t want someone else seeing that I had bought them.

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      • I feel the same way, I grew up with his earlier stuff (his album on sports was a mainstay in my childhood). I don’t know that I can listen to it now.

        But I am somewhat inconsistent on this score. For example, my understanding is that Miles Davis abused his wives/girlfriends quite a bit. But I haven’t stopped listening to his stuff. I’m not clear in my own mind where the dividing line is/should be.

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    • Sort of OT but there is a conservative facebook meme going around with Cosby and the Dukes of Hazard. The Cosby half of the pic says he is a rapist and his show is still being shown, while the right half says the DoH are just “good ol boys who just want to have fun” and are off the air.

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          • “what it took” – you mean “a high-profile mass shooting incident in which the shooter posed for a bunch of pictures with a flag associated with a slaveowning would-be nation”?

            Yeah, that’s pretty minor. Why would people even notice?

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            • I hate the confederate flag. Just hate it utterly.

              Even I was surprised when they took down the Dukes of hazard. My interpretation is that the show just wasn’t watched much and the network just didn’t want to bother at all with it.

              I honestly think that if they had just quietly took it off air without an announcement no one would have even noticed.

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              • I hate the confederate flag too, but I honestly don’t see what sort of harm the Dukes of Hazzard is supposed to be doing.

                I can stand here and say that there’s not a good reason to fly it *currently* that isn’t racist, or dumbass excuses that racist behavior isn’t racist…while *also* thinking that, in all honestly, the flag painted on the car is pretty innocent and the show itself wasn’t racist. (Mostly because black people mysteriously don’t exist…Huh? In Central Georgia?…but the few times they do show up, the show isn’t racist.)

                We don’t need to ‘un-history’ the flag. We just need to *stop using it* in any context outside of ‘historical monument’ and ‘re-enactment’, and stop pretending we believe the bullshit about ‘heritage’ of people currently flying it.

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          • Like it or not, Cosby was a cultural icon. The Dukes of Hazard was a crappy sitcom that lasted as long as it did because of women with great asses in very short pants. Why shouldn’t it take more to get Cosby off the air than the Dukes of Hazard?

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            • The only thing not wrong on this comment is that Cosby was a cultural icon.

              Dukes of Hazard was one of the highest rated shows of its time, was highly rated internationally (if I remember correctly, it was popular in the UK and parts of continental Europe as well), and sold a bazillion dollars worth of merchandise both during its run and well after it was cancelled. Hell, they named a type of shorts after one of its characters, who was no doubt responsible for much, though certainly not all, of its adult male popularity, but wouldn’t explain its popularity among a host of other demographics as well.

              It didn’t take much to pull it because its syndicated ratings 30 years after its initial run came to an end weren’t that great, so it didn’t really hurt anyone’s bottom line, but how many shows from the late 70s/early 80s are still on television at all?

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                  • I played that game with my cousins in a defunct Toyota. We were not allowed to climb through the windows, though, and I was never allowed to drive because it was the General Lee, not Daisy’s Jeep. I also had the complete Matchbox set.

                    Then I watched it as an adult when they brought it back, and couldn’t believe how terrible it was. I made it through about 2 episodes before giving up on it.

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                    • It was basically the action adventure version of Hee Haw.

                      Also, if you look at pretty much any hour-long show from back then, they were all awful.

                      For a little while after the switch to digital TV signals, when there were added channels (you know, no longer just 42, but 42.1, 42.2, 42.3, and so on), we got Retro TV, which allowed me to watch a lot of my favorite shows from childhood, particularlyThe A-Team and The Incredible Hulk, along with a lot of stuff I watched in syndication as a kid, like Adam-12, Bewitched, and Emergency! They ranged from awful to spectacularly awful (*cough* Adam-12).

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              • Taste is subjective, but I’ll say this. I loved DOH as a kid, but couldn’t make it through more than five minutes of it upon rewatching as an adult. The Cosby Show is one of the few multi-camera sitcoms that will still get an audible laugh from me. Although, Good Times is one of the others, so maybe I just hate whitey more than Obama (as if that were possible).

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      • Yeah dude, try again. Read the released documents; Cosby admits to buying Quaaludes; he admits to giving them to women he wanted to have sex with – BUT, he claims that the drug useage and sex was consensual (he does not admit to dosing or sexing people without their knowledge/consent).

        Personally, I believe this claim is BS and he did just what he is being accused of. But the fact remains that it is at least *possibly* true (lots of people do consensually use drugs and then sex each other, all the time).

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        • At this point plenty of the women are complaining.
          In my book, that’s enough to push him well outside the “asshole” category (Where the Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback is, fwiw), into the “piece of shit” category.

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        • If a person is impaired by drugs, even ones they supposedly took consensually, say alcohol, that person cant consent to sex. The news coverage I’ve seen says he gave the women drugs for the express purpose of having sex with them. If thats wrong then where is it?

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          • People drink, then have consensual sex, all the time. People even drink with the express purposes of relaxing and lowering their inhibitions, so as to have sex. I know I’ve bought a drink and given it to a woman I liked (and likewise, she me). As long as neither is doing it with the intent of *incapacitating and then taking advantage of* the other, that’s often called “a date”.

            Ditto for pot, and even for (I assume) Quaaludes.

            As I said, it looks to me like Cosby doesn’t *quite* admit to a crime – if he had, then I doubt the documents would have been sealed in the first place.

            But what he *does* admit to, sure as s**t lends some further additional credence in my mind to the accusations against him. Whoopi, I ain’t, and them’s fightin’ words.

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            • I am of the where there is smoke, there is fire mind when it comes to Cosby. He had an MO. For some women, those who wanted to take drugs and have a sexual encounter, that was fine (although perhaps of too libertine a nature for some). The problem is that it appears that Cosby used that MO across the board and with lots of women who were not there for drugs and sex.

              So, I agree that what he did say likely doesn’t reach the bar to prove rape, but it does move the scale in the direction in which most of us have assumed for some time.

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              • I fully agree, and this is what I am trying to say. I’m just tired of people saying ‘Cosby admitted he did it!’ after the depositions came out.

                No, he didn’t quite admit to the crime (if his lawyer was worth anything, he put a hand up well before Cosby could); but he sure as hell doesn’t contradict the nearly forty people who say he did do the crime, and I personally believe that he did do the crime.

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              • Seems to me that in practice it works on a sliding scale. More drunk = less able to give consent.

                Other factual indicia of consent or lack thereof may still apply, depending on case-by-case scenarios. Some of those indicia may well be decidedly unfair and sexist because juries exist within our imperfect culture.

                So we should labor to put evidence like “she was wearing a short skirt” into appropriate context (that is, likely doesn’t mean anything of significance in terms of whether she consented or not) but other evidence like “already in a romantic relationship with this person” or “had consented to sex with this person in the recent past” may well be insightful.

                N.b.: This does not mean “Yes, my girlfriend is blindingly drunk but she’s my girlfriend so I can have sex with her even though she can’t stand up straight,” because in that case inebriation is so excessive it probably outweighs all other facts. Rather, I’m saying that in practice, a jury establishing “X” level of inebriation will probably more likely to find consent coming from Established Girlfriend at “X” level of inebriation as opposed to First Date at that same “X” level of inebriation.

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                  • Oooh! can a person who’s sleeping give consent? Otherwise unconscious?

                    I think by the time we’re using the word drunk, we’re implying a level of impairment that should be treated with caution.

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                    • Agreed that “caution” is warranted in such a situation.

                      The difference between the pleasant buzz of “tipsy” and the lack of mental understanding of “three sheets to the wind” is a grayer area in which one is probably not legally able to operate a motor vehicle is but in which commercial agreements might still be formed. Both of those transactions are qualitatively different than sex, but the point is to illustrate a curve of diminishing mental capacity shaped like a slope rather than a cliff.

                      Several other people have already described a scenario of a couple out, consensually each has a few drinks, they go home tipsy, and then they have ostensibly consensual sex. Is that rape; is the ostensible consent not actually consent? Based only on that limited information, I’d hesitate before I inferred lack of consent: that sounds like a pretty ordinary sort of date. Add additional facts or make explicit additional assumptions, perhaps I change my verdict.

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                        • I’m not so sure. A .08 BAC does not suggest to me a profundity of mental impairment such that the person does not understand what consent to sex means.

                          I shrink from the notion of a hard-and-fast numerical rule. Moreover, I’m not sure that I’d want to say that any person with a .07 BAC should be operating a car. Some people maybe shouldn’t operate a car with any alcohol in their system at all.

                          If you must have a bright-line rule, then I will never be able to satisfy you. Cheers!

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                          • My .08 BAC last night means that I could not possibly have been considered of sound mind to negotiate a contract.

                            So I would like to return all these quesaritos, please. It should have been obvious to the cashier that no person in their right mind needed five of them. It’s Taco Bell’s fault for selling them to me!

                            I have the receipt.

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                          • Offhand, while highly contextual, I’m generally of the mind that if you’re trying to find the line to toe…..you’re probably morally in the wrong, even if you’re legally covered.

                            Best steer clear of the line in general, and not get into such grey areas that you need to parse consent and ability to consent so finely.

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                            • I’ve no reason to quibble with this insofar as the comment deals with moral rather than legal issues. That was not my understanding of the scope of the question (initially posed to “any other lawyer”).

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                              • Very true. The law is an entirely different beast.

                                I think we’d do pretty well by teaching kids (especially college kids, whose judgement is untainted by experience and subject to screaming hormones) to steer clear of the edge in the first place.

                                Better safe than sorry. If she’s into you, she’ll be into you tomorrow when she’s sober.

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                            • That was “Its always sunny in philadelphia” point with their rather elaborate and ongoing rape joke (about a boat, you know the one).

                              … yes, it was a good jest.

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                        • wow, notme taking the liberal side of something.
                          Has hell gone to antarctica for a day?
                          Yeah, if we’re willing to set “probably too drunk to consent” at something decent like “can’t drive, can’t consent”, I suddenly become a lot more willing to listen to the folks who say “but one drink shouldn’t mean lack of consent”.
                          **In no small part because I’m a lightweight, and one drink might really put me over the limit.

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              • I’m going down to the local pub tonight, and tell every couple there with beers in front of them that when they go home, they will rape each other, because they can’t consent.

                As with alcohol, identical doses of Quaaludes presumably affect different people differently; some people are probably more-or-less coherent on them, while others are under the table. Additionally, couples that do not know one another well are probably going to utilize different boundaries, expectations and tells/communication modes than do long-term couples.

                Some people take drugs with the express intention of using those drugs’ effects to enhance sex.

                From everything I’ve seen, Cosby appears to have crossed the line, repeatedly and egregiously and deplorably.

                This does not, however, imply that the line is *always* bright, nor that it is always drawn in *exactly* the same place in every situation.

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                • I’m going down to the local pub tonight, and tell every couple there with beers in front of them that when they go home, they will rape each other, because they can’t consent.

                  Afterwards, show us photos of both black eyes and the broken nose, please.

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                • This is why I still struggle a bit with condemning Cosby without reservation. I’m not going to argue his innocence (or his guilt) but what he said in that deposition is not nearly as definitive as many people seem to believe. Voluntary intoxication in itself does not make a person incapable of consent.

                  From what I gather from college campuses, we are in the process, at least socially, of defining down ‘rape’ to include conduct that I don’t think rises to rape under the law. I can understand why this revelation might change peoples image of Cosby as a squeaky clean paragon of morality but that’s not the same thing as being a rapist.

                  This view will probably not be popular but i think that if there’s anything we should have learned about rape accusations over the last year or so it’s that until they’ve been subject to appropriate scrutiny the presumption of innocence should prevail. It doesn’t mean that rape never happens or that all credible accusations shouldn’t be investigated with the utmost seriousness but until then they remain just accusations.

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                  • From what I gather from college campuses, we are in the process, at least socially, of defining down ‘rape’ to include conduct that I don’t think rises to rape under the law

                    I’d be careful with that logic. It can cut you badly.

                    After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we “defined rape down” to include “spousal rape”. Which, you know, wasn’t rape under the law.

                    We changed that, because we recognized that possession of a marital license didn’t negate the fact that a woman was raped.

                    A more honest assessment is that colleges are in the muddy process of dealing with the fact that a surprising amount of women are pretty certain they just got raped, where their rapists are equally as certain they just got lucky.

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                    • I don’t think your comparison is sound. Changing the law so that a wife may deny her husband consent to sexual activity is premised on the argument that a woman retains autonomy over her body when she is married. It’s an important change signifying that a wife is not her husband’s property, as she, to varying degrees, would have been understood to be in the past.

                      The arguments coming from college campuses, as far as I can tell, seem to be that if a woman regrets her consent after the fact, the conduct of her sexual partner may, subject to the discretion of a federal compliance bureaucrat, be rape, and/or that women cannot consent due to being overwhelmed by social forces of inequality. These arguments are premised on the idea that women are not capable of or sufficiently competent to consent to sexual activity (quite Victorian if you ask me). In practice this approach is in utter conflict with the idea that women are equal to men, that the accused are entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process, and even with the concept of mens rea. I think Laura Kipnis said it best, when she called them “intellectually embarrassing.”

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                      • he arguments coming from college campuses, as far as I can tell, seem to be that if a woman regrets her consent after the fact, the conduct of her sexual partner may, subject to the discretion of a federal compliance bureaucrat, be rape, and/or that women cannot consent due to being overwhelmed by social forces of inequality

                        Yeah, that bears no resemblance to reality, but that’s for playing.

                        The actual reality is pretty simple: Getting a girl drunk (if not outright slipping her something) is a sadly common tactic in college. And, bluntly, the end result of that is often a rape.

                        Just one where the rapist doesn’t consider it a rape, and the victim is loathe to report it because of responses like yours.

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                          • A friend of mine got a nice shiny recipe from the fratbrothers on how to make date rape drugs. This was the frat that was using Nitrous Oxide, so…

                            (no citation on anyone actually doing the damn chemistry, but when you’re passing around date rape drug recipes, you’re pretty much in a territory that says that shit like that is okay. Kinda like the OK frat that was chanting something with the n-word in it).

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                        • As jr stated, I’m not sure there’s any good evidence to support that assertion though I’m certainly open to considering it if there is. That said, on a more fundamental level, I don’t understand how, absent force or a threat of force, one person is capable of “get[ting]” another person drunk (drugging someone without their knowledge is, of course something different). These are adults we’re talking about, not children. Are we really at a point where we think a person can sign a contract or join the military, but can’t decline a beer or a shot?

                          I doubt college now is much different from when I was there, which was less than 10 years ago. There was a lot of binge drinking and ill-advised decision making, including regarding sex, that resulted. However, intoxication is not the same thing as being incapacitated. Intoxicated people are still capable of consent even if they aren’t so happy about what it is they consented to, be it shooting bottle rockets from their bare hands or having sex with someone they wished they hadn’t.

                          As for the idea that a person’s opinion on a political blog is somehow causing people not to report horrible crimes committed against them, well… count me as unconvinced.

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                          • , I don’t understand how, absent force or a threat of force, one person is capable of “get[ting]” another person drunk (drugging someone without their knowledge is, of course something different)

                            You have no idea why screwdrivers are often a popular drink to serve to women, do you? (Hint: Especially for inexperienced drinkers, it’s impossible to tell how strong they are).

                            But getting someone drunk is child’s play. It’s a very simple trick: You make their drinks for them and then… make them stronger than they expect or thought they’d be, and boom — any would be social drinker is drunk. (Hence screwdrivers).

                            And of course, if you’re deliberately encouraging or abetting intoxication entirely so that you’ll change a “no” to a “yes” you’re a rapist.

                            As for the idea that a person’s opinion on a political blog is somehow causing people not to report horrible crimes committed against them, well… count me as unconvinced.

                            Wow. Way to miss the point.

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                            • I don’t see your point. In your scenario the individual consuming alcohol is still making the choice to consume alcohol. There’s no coercion. The person is chosing to consume alcohol by accepting drinks and can cease drinking at any time. What that individual consents to do with lowered inhibitions is that persons own responsibility. Whether or not a person was encouraged by others or by the context of a social situation to become intoxicated isn’t relevant to whether or not consent was given in a particular sexual encounter. To suggest otherwise is to deny an individual’s agency in their own conduct.

                              If a person is incapacitated then it’s a different story because that person is incapable of consent but I don’t think thats what you’re arguing. Provided a person is capable of consent, that person can make their own choices about what they do or don’t consent to, including when intoxicated. When there is consent to sexual activity, even if such consent is provided while intoxicated, that is not rape under the law, nor should it be.

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                                • Depends on who’s the arbiter, and how many arbitration agreements you’ve got. Also, it depends on whether you’re willing to ask a court to break the contract.

                                  (Any contract that removes your right to vote in certain elections is probably not one that either side is willing to allow to stand court scrutiny…)

                                  IANAL, but I’m pretty sure everyone here’s courtside.

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                                • I’ve asked that question before too. I think before we even get to the question, we’d have to define “intoxicated” vs. “incapacitated”.

                                  If I had one glass of wine with my lunch, I may technically be “intoxicated” (if we consider alcohol a “toxin”, which is “in” me).

                                  But I am probably not in any way incapacitated, and am capable of legally doing pretty much anything anybody else can (excepting maybe things like “perform microsurgery”).

                                  Once we get to the question, my take is that “clearly incapacitated” should obviously void a contract (think of how wills have that whole “of sound mind” disclaimer at the beginning); but this still doesn’t help us a whole lot, due to the *unclarity* (and subjectivity) of the whole “intoxicated vs. incapacitated” continuum.

                                  I shouldn’t be able to have a beer or two (or three, if I am a big guy) and go buy a car or other big-ticket unreturnable item, and then go back the next day and demand my money back from the seller, because I was intoxicated when I signed the papers.

                                  However, if I was stumbling and slurring and smelled like booze, the seller would be wise to not have contracted with me.

                                  Every monetary transaction we make, is a “contract” – especially non-cash transactions, where we promise to pay the seller money at a later time via check or credit card.

                                  To some degree we kind of have to assume the selling and buying parties are “of sound mind” unless they show clear evidence of not being so.

                                  And of course, after the fact, some parties might see an advantage in claiming themselves (or their counterparties) to have been incapacitated at the time, in an attempt to void a contract they wish to get out of. Maybe even take some drugs before you sign, with the express notion of trying to render the contract later unenforceable.

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                                • The (probably unsatisfying) answer is that it would depend on the case law and any relevant statutes in the jurisdiction as well as the given facts of a particular case. Generally speaking voluntary intoxication in itself will not render a contract voidable but there might be a point at which a person is so intoxicated that they lack capacity to contract. Again, I’d imagine different jurisdictions take different approaches to where they draw that line and whether or not there are other caveats.

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                      • What if a woman can’t meaningfully withhold consent while being fucked? Is that rape? Is it rape if she’s asleep?

                        Life ain’t liberal, and I hate to be the one to tell you that, but she ain’t. Facts on the ground ain’t the same as what all the idealists want to tell you they are.

                        And guys who are raping girls who aren’t yelling “no” generally know exactly what they’re fucking doing. They manipulated the girls to be in a state where they aren’t withholding consent.

                        Guys routinely use torture (sleep deprivation, in the main) to gain sexual consent — that’s gotta be rape, right?

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              • “…simple…” ? Kinda of a silly word in that particular context. Back in the early 80’s my wife had occasional access (through a friend) to pharmaceutical Quaaludes (didn’t have to worry about weird street stuff). She loved, loved taking a half a ‘lude because of the release of inhibitions and subsequent rather enjoyable Friday nights. Me too. Absolutely, totally consensual on both parts throughout the entire experience. Would love to repeat it (source dried up long ago).

                So I can literally say about myself: “I gave Quaaludes to a woman specifically to have sex.” Absolutely true statement. And every minute was consensual, between loving, trusting adults.

                Be careful with absolute statements while trying to define human behavior.

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        • But the fact remains that it is at least *possibly* true

          Like, logically possible? (Sure. It’s logically possible aliens were involved, too.)

          Or possible given the available evidence? (That would require each of the 35 women who’ve individually accused him of being either liars or misrememberers, which strikes me as practically impossible.)

          Or legally possible? (Well, sure, since there hasn’t been any conviction/exoneration yet.)

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          • See my reply to . Cosby does not admit to the crime of rape, because he offers an alternate explanation of “consensual drug use and sex”.

            Personally, I think his explanation is BS, given all the other context and sheer number of accusers with similar stories.

            But the fact remains that he did not actually admit to the crime of rape (more’s the pity), because he claims a scenario that at least in some situations for some people, could be true.

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            • because he claims a scenario that at least in some situations for some people, could be true.

              But presumably a scenario which none of the 35 accusers think is true. So who cares if some *other* people think it’s true? Hell, some *other* people think the Obama admin is gonna invade Texas.

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              • My point is about what Cosby *says he did* in the depositions, not about the reality of what Cosby actually *did*.

                That these are two different concepts seems obvious to me, but apparently some people are having difficulty separating them.

                Do I believe that Bill Cosby raped those women? Yes, I do.

                Did Bill Cosby admit to raping those women? No, he did not.

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                • Ahhh. OK. I was focusing more on your judgment of “possibly true” regarding Cosby’s account and not at all on the status of his supposed admission.

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  2. Bill Cosby makes for a very teachable moment about rape.

    In his own words, by his own admission, he’s a serial rapist. He’s been raping women for decades. And the teachable moment, the solid core that should illuminate the biggest issue about rape? Bill Cosby does not think he raped anyone.

    When we talk about rape in America, we think of strangers in bushes with knives. But most rape? It’s someone the victim knows, often armed with little more than pressure tactics and some sedatives (booze being the most common choice).

    Pity it won’t be USED that way. We’ll file Bill Cosby away as an aberration, another failed idol. It’d be nice if we used him instead as an example: “This man is a rapist who never thought he raped. He raped women over and over, and convinced himself it was consensual. Think about that when you’re dating, and maybe be a little more aware of what you’re doing — and whether it’s really right.”

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    • In all fairness, we don’t know what Cosby thinks. We only know what he says.

      It could be that he thinks that his behavior was fine and now he’s being targeted by unscrupulous women looking for a payday. The other possibility is that he knows full well that he was regularly victimizing women and now is simply lying about it or has convinced himself of his innocence in hindsight.

      As I’ve said before, the empirical evidence does not support this idea of large numbers of men mistakenly crossing the line into rape and assault. The people who do this tend to know exactly what they are doing and tend to follow a certain MO.

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  3. Some random thoughts:

    Assuming we’re roughly the same age, Dennis, we both grew up with Cosby in our lives. But I’m a white guy and you’re a black guy, so I’m pretty sure that what Cosby meant to each of us is different. For me, he was the first black guy I’d seen who was more or less fully integrated into the dominant (white guy) culture. Which is to say: he’d reached a level of acceptance high above, or to the side of, the cultural background noise of race relations and judgment (etc) such that I no longer thought of him as a black man, but just a super funny, creative and intelligent person. I don’t know exactly how to say it, but it’s like he transcended race. Not that he’d become (culturally) white, mind (even tho he took lots of criticism from black folks along the way for trying to do just that), but that he’d arrived at cultural place where skin color didn’t matter. Which was a big deal.

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    • I’d agree and yet disagree. When the show aired, my father wouldn’t let me watch it (at least as long as he was in the room….it’s not like he forbade me or anything). He’d call it “that n-word show” or something comparably offensive. And other white people I knew claimed that the white characters were portrayed as stupid.

      I disagree with both those assessments, but there was a chunk of white culture that didn’t think the Cosby Show transcended race.

      There’s also the more respectable argument about the Cosby characters being more middle class than working class, and that class status being as much responsible for their acceptance on tv than other things. I would really like to know if a show like Good Times or What’s Happening would’ve had the same chance in the 1980s must see prime time. I’ve seen only a couple of episodes of Good Times, but it too presents a family that cares about each other and defies the facile stereotypes that many whites indulge in. But if I recall correctly, that family was working class. (I remember much less about What’s Happening. My sense is that the family was aspiring middle class, and the main kid goes on to college and becomes a professional author, at least in later episodes. But I could be misremembering.)

      All that is speculation on my part. As usual, there’s a good and a bad that goes with all such progress, and I don’t mean to deny the good role the Cosby Show had (or how Cosby’s actions have besmirched that good role). But to me it all comes down to what I call the “tragedy of the isms.” In an effort to combat an ism by advocating for acceptance, the advocate is going to almost inevitably end up appealing to some stereotype or other. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t advocate for inclusion or against ism’s or that things don’t improve, just that that’s a foreseeable (hopefully as temporary as possible) outcome.

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      • GC,

        I was speaking about my own perceptions of Cosby as a kid (and an adult!), not the perceptions of other folks. Alsotoo, I was thinking more about Fat Albert than The Cosby Show (which I didn’t watch all that much of ) and comparing those perceptions to other black entertainers/vehicles around that time: Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, The Jeffersons, Good Times.

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        • Maybe I am showing how much older I am, but you could start with I, Spy where Cosby was the first African-American star of a drama and won several Emmy’s for his work. He, Robert Culp, and the producers of that show consciously wrote the two leads to be partners and equals in their work. Also, too, Electric Company.

          For many of us, The Cosby Show came on at a time when Cosby was already an accomplished veteran of “transcending race.” Though Gabriel’s point that this transcendence was not itself transcendent is on the mark. (I had several friends in college who thought it was profound to point out that all the major characters in Cosby were played by people of color and not white actors. I guess they were worried white actors would want for work??)

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      • This is weird for me because in my white Jewish family and in my white Jewish suburban world, the Cosby Show was mandatory family sitcom. For a liberal, democratic family it was seen as having an important message. When I was in college, I got into a discussion with a young African-American woman whose family did not like the Cosby Show because it wasn’t accurate about the economic issues most African-Americans face and still face. They thought it was basically writing a standard white sitcom and replacing the white family with a black one. Class was probably just or even more important than race for the praise and criticism that the Cosby show received.

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        • , you’re actually getting at part of the point I was trying to make. Class and race get mixed up pretty messily, and to portray Cosby as transcending race doesn’t really get at that. The tragedy of the ism’s applies here. In many ways show did deserve the laudatory attention that white liberals (and in my experience, some white conservatives, even some of the social conservatives) gave it. But to my mind that doesn’t/didn’t prevent some people seeing the show as an example of “how those people should be [but we know 90% of them really aren’t]” and it doesn’t/didn’t prevent other people from crying foul (legitimately so in my opinion, as in the case of your friend) that the show elided or swept under the rug some important socioeconomic realities.

          (Stillwater made clear that that wasn’t what he was doing. I’m talking generally now and not about what he said.)

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          • I wouldn’t say Cosby transitioned race at all, nor did he intend to. Cosby was always proudly African-American. Cosby’s success was that he could be a proud Black oerson while being openly accepted by many White people.

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            • I think we agree about that. What’s your view of my, and apparently your friend’s, gripe about the show and its (alleged, by us) eliding of socioeconomic concerns?

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              • My view is that TV shows tend to focus on people on the upper levels of income. Most white families on TV are richer than most white families in real life. Even if the Cosby show was a lot richer than the average African-American family, upper middle class African-Americsns do exist and it is keeping with TV socio-economics.

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    • Cosby did the neat trick of being acceptable to White Americans without coming across as subservient or stereotypical in anyway, meaning that African-Americans could really like him.

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  4. Was Bill Clinton a bad President because he lied about having had sexplay with Monica Lewisnky? How about JFK and his extramarital affairs? Most people are fairly quick to say that the merits of either man’s Presidency are really not all that affected by failings in their personal lives. We can somehow segregate our disappointment with these political leaders’ private moral failures and their public political achievements. Why can’t we do that with artists?

    Are Roman Polanski’s movies any less interesting cinematically, or simply enjoyable to watch, because of Polanski’s crimes? Do we stop enjoying a Mel Gibson movie because the man in his personal life holds really retrograde opinions and uses his money to act on them — or if you aren’t impressed with Gibson, how about Charlie Sheen’s sybaritic weirdness? Woody Allen’s personal life is really creepy, and there are quite a number of people who insist that it’s not just creepy, but actualy rapey. But at the same time, a lot of people think his movies are brilliant. It’s pretty well recognized D.W. Griffith broke huge new artistic ground — in a movie that featured members of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes. Cinema students find a way to separate their moral revulsion at the content of that movie and their admiration of its technical innovations. Nick Nolte even managed to squeeze out a single clap for Elia Kazan.

    Artists are not their art. At least, not always.

    How is Bill Cosby any different from these other ambiguous fellows? Because he’s black? That adds to the social importance of his work, I realize, but I don’t see that it has any particular reflection on our letdown at discovering his moral failures.

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      • I have thought about it; that’s for the same reason that it’s morally wrong to consume a product or a service that funds oppression or any other sort of morally objectionable activity: by funding the activity you’re enabling it to continue rather than incentivizing it to end.

        We can get into the issue of what constitutes “oppression” in today’s globalized economy (how much wage paid to a third-world worker is “oppressive”, for instance); we can get into the issue of how directly a producer of something offered for sale is using oppressive means to create that thing (do we impute human rights responsibility on Apple because of conditions in a Chinese factory run by a subcontractor?).

        But mainly, it seems to me that the principal moral issue here is whether a past bad act may be reasonably imputed to be repeated the future. For instance, seems to me I can see a Polanski movie and worry that $X% of my ticket is helping fund child rape; I’ve no reason to suspect that Polanski is raping children today nor is my purchase of that ticket an endorsement of Polanski’s past actions. That’s different than buying clothing from an apparel manufacturer reasonably suspected of willful ignorance that its third party contractor uses slave labor. YMMV.

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        • Burt,
          I in general agree, wrt Polanski. With respect to the Scientologists, on the other hand, I believe their oppression and brainwashing is ongoing.

          (Although if it’s murder that makes you squeamish, they’re unlikely to do that again.)

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        • Refraining from purchasing Fat Albert discs seems punitive to me. Not preventative.

          On the other hand, a decision to not (continue to) purchase snuff porn strikes me as preventative rather than punitive.

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    • Hi Burt:

      “Was Bill Clinton a bad President because he lied about having had sexplay with Monica Lewisnky?”

      I have a couple questions about/problems with this line of thinking.

      First, in my case at least I am not saying Cosby is a bad comedian. All the rapes don’t change the fact I think he was a good comedian. Just like I could still think Clinton was a good president; I don’t see a contradiction there.

      Second, one could probably make a principled distinction between lying about an affair and a bunch of rapes; I don’t know where the line is exactly, but it’s plausibly somewhere between those two.

      Third, you have kind of taken the position to the extreme; if we were to go to the extreme in the other direction, it might look something like this: “the local owner of a donut shop is a terrible person, he’s been convicted of XYX, and DEF, and there is strong evidence that he did ABC as well. But his donuts are just so good that I will continue to eat there.” This seems like something I wouldn’t do, even though the donuts were still awesome. I don’t want to support the guy in any way.

      So in my case: “Are [Cosby’s routines] any less interesting [comedically], or simply enjoyable to watch, because of [his] crimes?” I guess the answer is yes, especially regarding the “enjoyable” part, because I may be thinking about the crimes as I am listening. If the question is should they be–or do I condemn other people for watching–well I guess I am only speaking for myself.

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      • I recall a conversation about the rumors of Tom Cruise’s purported closeted homosexuality I had with a female acquaintance. Went something like this:

        Q: Why does it bug you to hear rumors that Tom Cruise is gay?
        A: Because I think he’s a very attractive man and I enjoy looking at him on the screen. Probably for about the same reason you enjoy looking at someone like Angelina Jolie.*
        Q: But if someone told me that Angelina Jolie were a lesbian, I’d still find her attractive. If it turned out the rumors were true, that Tom Cruise really is gay, then would you still think he was less attractive?
        A: Yes. Even though I will likely never meet him in real life, much less get to date him, if I know that he likes men rather than women, I’m not nearly as attracted to him.
        Q: But if he likes women —
        A: Then yeah, he’s pretty much the hottest piece of man on the planet.

        This didn’t seem reasonable to me then, doesn’t seem reasonable to me now: he looks exactly the same if he’s gay or straight, and we’re just talking about looking at him on screen and maybe having an idle daydream, not actually interacting with him.

        But perhaps this isn’t the sort of thing that is subject to reason in the first place.

        * Angelina Jolie was the female “superhot sexy star of the moment” at that point in time. This is an office which shifts from celebrity to celebrity, irregularly but inevitably.

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    • It’s an interesting question, this. Of the examples you used, the only one that I’d say really fits is the Polanski example (though it seems to me that the plausible deniability that was protecting Woody Allen from the worst allegations – and for which I myself fell for awhile – has largely fallen to the wayside in recent years, so maybe he qualifies as well).

      I’m honestly struggling to find a good counterexample, though – in other words, I’m struggling to think of a white celebrity of prominence whose art has essentially been memory holed for their horrible actions. I’d be curious to see how the UK handles anything associated with Jimmy Savile, but really the comparison needs to be American in some manner.

      And yet…..what distinguishes Cosby in my mind is that so much of his humor and, when he was pontificating, message, was tied up in a particular understanding of Bill Cosby the person. The destruction of his pontifications and messaging is easy enough to understand, certainly – that was explicitly dependent on his being viewed as a moral authority, and there is nothing more antithetical to moral authority than being a serial rapist.

      But even his particular brand of comedy, at least from The Cosby Show years onward (I get the sense this may not have been as much the case for his pre-Cosby Show years), was often explicitly dependent on him being personally viewed as a type of father figure or as a kind-hearted goofball. Had it been called “The Huxtables,” I suspect the desire to toss the show down the memory hole would be significantly less. But it was “The Cosby Show,” and so much of its humor required you to buy in that Bill Cosby was himself the very character he played on the show, or at least a reasonable approximation thereof.

      The Cosby Show was important for other reasons, of course, not least of which was its extraordinary popularity while representing a black upper-middle class family and while trying to put black culture front and center (whether it was successful in those attempts is perhaps a different question, but IIRC Phylicia Rashad was pretty emphatic about these attempts being made in the retrospective they did a few years ago). But that popularity was still dependent on people buying into Bill Cosby’s persona, and that’s just not possible anymore.

      Had he been busted for something comparatively minor, like drug possession, no problem – even if you’re a Drug War zealot, you recognize that even kindhearted people can get caught up in illegal drugs. Hell, if he had gotten caught for one or two appalling incidents where he had drugged and raped someone, my guess is that, while he’d have lost his moral authority and current popularity, his Cosby Show-era stuff wouldn’t be so quickly memory-holed – we can typically accept that kind people can occasionally do horrible things.

      But this….he didn’t just do something horrible. He was a constant predator, and that predation was so persistent that it is no longer remotely possible to accept him as a kind-hearted goofball. It taints every single one of his jokes – what was once affable and relatable suddenly comes across as manipulative and suspect.

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      • He wasn’t Bob Sagett, who would literally call up random hollywood types to curse at them (because he wasn’t allowed to do it on air), but Cosby’s standup really did have a lot of cursing to it.

        Not that I’ve watched it, of course.

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      • The closest example I can think of his how Jerry Lee Lewis became a persona non-grata after he married his thirteen-year old cousin. Roman Polanski has managed to make several well-received movies after his crime. So was Woody Allen after the accusations against him. Jimmy Seville seems to be suffering the same extent that Cosby is but wasn’t an artist on the same level that Cosby, Polanski, and Allen were despite his intelligence and creativity. Seville was more like a national master of ceremonies than anything else.

        If you go to the realm of fine arts, there was the Seattle potter that became a persona non-grata after people realized that he was serious about his far right and racist views. On the dead author front, Lewis Carol is still popular but people are basically acknowledging that he was a pedophile and finding his work disturbing because of that. Many well-respected authors in the past are not popular today because their opinions are out of whack with current morality like Kipling. Still, nothing like Cosby.

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      • Reading Burt’s example above, the closest white example to Bill Cosby in the United States does seem to be Mel Gibson. After it turned out that Mel Gibson was a reactionary Catholic Jew-hater, his career suffered greatly and despite some attempts at revival, basically disappeared. Mel Gibson movies appear on television at times but not with much heavy promotion.

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    • Was Bill Clinton a bad President because he lied about having had sexplay with Monica Lewisnky? How about JFK and his extramarital affairs? Most people are fairly quick to say that the merits of either man’s Presidency are really not all that affected by failings in their personal lives. We can somehow segregate our disappointment with these political leaders’ private moral failures and their public political achievements. Why can’t we do that with artists?

      That’s not what happened with Cosby. It’s not about the sex. It’s about the ability to choose. I mean, did Clinton feed Quaaludes to Monica? No.

      Sex between consenting adults is defensible. Even if it’s seedy or otherwise ill-advised. When one is rendered incapable of choice, it’s rape.

      It’s totally conceivable that Cosby, based upon his own starshine, could have had consensual sex with any of these women. What he did was take away their choice. That is rape.

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        • I’m going to spoiler this, because you seem to have had a bit of a sheltered life, and the way you think about women will be forever changed when you read this:

          At the time, Clinton was, inexplicably, kind of a sex symbol. Lots of women wanted to have sex with him.

          The power differential cuts both ways. Yes, maybe he used his position of power to pressure her, but being arguably the most powerful man in the world made him more attractive to some women. Especially, I would think, the kind who would want to work as a political intern.

          While not really understandable, it’s entirely plausible that a White House intern would want to have sex with the President of the United States.

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    • Burt, I really, really wish you wouldn’t treat consensual affairs as comparable to rape, because they’re completely different things. (That’s mainly in reference to Clinton and Lewinsky. Some of the stuff I’ve read about the Kennedy administration is deeply disturbing – him not just having affairs with very young staffers, but essentially pimping them out to members of Congress and other people he wanted to do favours for. I think that should absolutely play into how we look at the Kennedy presidency.)

      I don’t think I could watch a Polanski film now, not knowing what I do about him.

      Adultery is a “moral failure”. Rape is one of the worst crimes a person can committ. They shouldn’t be equated.

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  5. Dennis

    I think part of the problem is that we as individuals and groups shouldn’t tie our self worth/image to the actions or status of another person.

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  6. The crimes Cosby has been accused of are horrible, there is no denying that, as much as I wanted to in the beginning. The fact that he was a great standup artist and later TV personality who presented African American family life in both a positive and important way is also undeniable.

    But…

    The former seems to vastly outweigh the later, possibly in ways that are unfair when weighed against other public persona’s that are considered artistic and flawed, such as Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. And while the particulars of each are different, to me the crimes are all so abhorent that they really should in some strong way be reflected against the memory of the performer. The more so as they are still alive, as are the victims.

    But…

    I am of the opinion that Chinatown is the greatest American movie of all time. Bar none. And all of the flaws of Polanski do not carry as much weight as Nicholson’s or Dunaway’s acting, Towns scriptwriting or, indeed, Polanski’s directing. Should Cosby actions outside of performing take away from what The Cosby Show achieved for the African American community? What it did for the careers and current fortunes of the other actors involved? Cosby’s standup records and TV specials brought me great joy as a child, and as an adult, fond memories. I feel that I need to separate the two, so I can both praise the gains that where made performing and deplore the actions off stage.

    Am I wrong? If I am, where does that leave Picasso? Hemingway?

    I don’t know.

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    • Picasso and Hemingway (and even Polanski, as the man behind the camera rather than on it) benefit from a…distance that allows for an easier separation of art and artist.

      I heard Cosby’s voice, repeatedly, on headphones. I watched his face, his hands move, as he told those stories of growing up poor but basically loved. He felt like “family”, like your funny uncle.

      Now, he’s the OTHER kind of uncle.

      I can’t separate his art from what he did, I don’t think. Maybe one day, long from now, but I have my doubts.

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  7. Just to point out that Cosby’s modus operandi is the same as serial predators ever; do stuff that wins you the goodwill of people so that they’ll disbelieve your victims.

    He’s no different then my pedophile was.

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    • Pretty much. And of course make sure you throw enough dust in the air to make sure everyone’s bogged down in discuss the victims motives and thought processes.

      It’s all cover, because in the end — nobody wants to believe Cosby’s a rapist. They want they didn’t want to believe good ole’ Tom was a pedophile. Or that Tommy, that nice boy who went to college, is a rapist.

      Tommy got her drunk (she was drinking!) and harassed her until she gave in (she said yes!) and now she’s just regretting it in the morning. Even IF she didn’t mean to have sex wtih Tommy, well — why was she drinking? Why’d she ultimately give in or stop fighting? She must have wanted it.

      Meanwhile, Tommy’s handing out screwdrivers (very difficult to tell how strong they are. A favored choice) to the next girl, waiting until her BAC rises enough to change “No” to….well, maybe not a “yes” but something that’s murky enough to skate.

      And Tommy doesn’t think he’s a rapist. He’s just wooing them. Charming them. Getting into their pants. Sure, he got them drunk but that’s just to get them to do what they REALLY want. Screw what they said.

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  8. Sometimes the people doing good are not always good. Sometimes there is more going on behind the scenes. Sometimes people are two-faced, and we don’t always see the darker face.

    Very much what I’m experiencing now with neighborhood politics.
    What opened the floodgate was that I caught the one neighbor taking tools from my garage.
    Really, the part that really bothered me was the not bringing them back part.
    Then all sorts of things started coming out.
    Learning new things about people all the time.

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