Monday, November 24, 2014

Recurring Cosby

Lie To Kick It.

The Media Centrifuge

The late 20th/early 21st century overlap of isms has been thoroughly interesting (as well, of course, as terrible), in some sense answering the question, "What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?" The answer, for Earth 2014 purposes, appears to be, "The immovable object is disproved." Ergo African Americans can get formally acknowledged as a group being discriminated against, by universities and governments and even the corporate media, and the public is highly receptive to messages that black men specifically are targeted for entrapment, extortion, theft, violence, and murder by an uncaring populace...and yet, within this very open American trope, it still remains almost completely acceptable to pop up out of nowhere and remember that a black man is a violent rapist.

Kind of weird, isn't it? Kill a black man yesterday, plenty of people are willing to acknowledge that you may have a problem. Accuse a black man of touching your privates fifteen years ago, and plenty of people are willing to acknowledge that the black man may have a problem.

"The people," such as they are, remain potentially more sensible than "the media," but the media does what it does, raising the question, "Why does the media allow itself to present two such ridiculously divergent narratives at the same time?" The media is on-theme with its vaguely weepy, do-nothing stance on cops killing black people; it shows a few clips, gravely discusses the issues, then waits for the next most-dramatic beating and/or shooting that gets greenlighted for mass coverage and conversations on race. Yet it's simultaneously able to pillory some old guy for the eeriest hearsay, like letting someone come forward in 2030 with repressed memories of having seen Darren Wilson shout, "Niggers die!" while he drove through the streets of Ferguson shooting people in the back (and/or a different person in 2032 with a repressed memory of having seen Michael Brown promise to "kill some honky cops tonight"). How reliable are either of the witnesses? My crystal ball tells me neither story would get very far, so how in the world does it work against Cosby? More importantly, considering the plasticky columnists and teevee-heads we're dealing with, how in the world do they think we can reconcile any of this?

There's always the possibility that this is a lame attempt to divert attention from Ferguson, pitting knee-jerk against knee-jerk, but eventually, even the stupidest, angriest viewers are going to become unable to figure out who the heroes and villains are supposed to be, unless you conclude both that 1) women are heartless, cash-hungry liars, and 2) black men are subhuman monsters. That's the only narrative that can blend these particular headlines into a coherent country--except, of course, that old conspiracy theory that elites are manufacturing media events in order to try to pin various social groups against each other so that people stop talking about "the 1%" anymore.

It's intriguing whether or not you think any given man "did it," ten or thirty years ago, in the same way that it's possible Michael Brown actually did think wrestling with an armed man in a bulletproof vest in front of multiple witnesses was a good idea (riiiiight, but who knows, right?). What in the world could explain these seemingly contradictory media frenzies, and this long pattern of "black male victims who leave bullet-ridden bodies behind" and "victims of black males who produce a lot of stories"? Just like with the American police, this is a battle with so many casualties over so many decades that you have to conclude either, "Black men are a subhuman race perpetually afflicted with violence," or, "There is a major systematic flaw in the American Anti-Sex League's way of processing allegations of who touched whose genitals."

Cosby Side Notes

A few of the media's arguments on both sides merit explanation for those who don't review this stuff often. Firstly, it's actually possible for someone to "repress" memories, but that doesn't mean we all have to pretend they aren't accessible. They're accessible, but it's very difficult to bring them out. In order to reconcile this with our current sense of reality, we all nicely pretend that repressed memories are inaccessible. We should try to strike a healthier balance between "completely forgot, then re-remembered" and "remembered, but really, really didn't want to think about it, and maybe that reason is so important it should be socially validated." So the complainers shouldn't be dismissed just because it was a while ago.

Secondly and thirdly, settlements and power: when you have money to make a lawsuit worthwhile, and someone sues you for a tort claim like sexual assault, it is often literally cheaper to buy them off than to fight them off. It's an immoral choice, because it rewards their behavior, but it's a cost of doing business in America. There are plenty of people who are very rich, but who don't quite have the connections and power to be untouchable. A Senator worth $7 million finds it much easier to rape than an actor worth $40 million, if the actor is a flash in the pan who didn't come from Hollywood's big producer lines. So we need to stop (1) equating popularity or net worth with power, because the two are often different, and (2) assuming that silence means lack of defense.

As to settlements: When you make a settlement, you're essentially telling someone, "It would cost me $100K in legal fees to make you go away, and you know that, and your lawyers know that, so here's $70K to shut up and vanish." In order to get that deal--$70K instead of $100K--you have to sign agreements promising not to talk about the deal later on. Years later, then, after having been the target of many campaigns, you're not legally permitted to explain what happened. So Cosby's "silence" can't be used against him. He had to promise it away under threat. Don't talk back to massa, as they used to say.

As to power: Cosby had the money to buy NBC back in the day, but he was shut out of the deal because he wasn't to be permitted that kind of control. To the media industry, he's like a Michael Jordan--a talent whom they're willing to buy off with a life of luxury, but one whose lineage isn't meant to stretch into several generations. When people like that try to establish future patents of nobility using their generationally-illiquid net worth, they turn up having sadly committed suicide, suffer a horrible and unforeseen drug overdose, die in a tragic car crash, get bombarded by sexual accusations from women with connections to the entertainment industry who need money, or, if they're rappers or in any way connected to something viewers will perceive as "street-like," fall victim to a horrific shooting. Money is not power in and of itself, in that world. The system needs the occasional suddenly-wealthy people to prove that the fight isn't fixed, but it can't allow the nouveau riche to know all the secrets, or they might be divulged. (That's why they hate the nouveau riche while pretending not to; because you can't be completely open around them.)

(What's that? Did you think it wasn't uncanny how many celebrities die, often young, of weird tragedies that were absolutely not planned by anyone malevolent? Must be one of those weird coincidences, like the way all those lone white gunmen never have any help every few years. No, of course it's normal. It's just, like, because they're so stuck-up, and all. And stressed out. Yeah, they're stressed out about being so popular and having so much money, that sometimes they can't afford the best doctors and they have no one to talk to and they worry that they've never reached anyone in their lives. And they just can't stop driving recklessly, those celeb clowns! Living so fast, those dunces! Ha! So sorry, so sorry, carry on. I was just joking. The world is actually a padded nursery. Nothing to worry about.)

Ergo Cosby is fair game. In Schwarzenegger, we saw someone who had no money establish a genuine line, and be blessed with blood-patronage to ensure a legacy. Women came after him, and it got buried. Cosby, though--like Mike Tyson, and Tupac Shakur, and other black men who try to get a little too involved in business without kowtowing fully to the right old lines--did not develop the same power. Many more credible allegations of abuse have been raised against Schwarzenegger, but he has the power, not merely the money, to make it go away. Cosby, being an asset rather than an owner, had to throw cash at problems, and even then it doesn't save him. He remains a performer, never permitted to become a comptroller. Will Smith, by lighter-skinned contrast, does what he's told, and looks to be establishing a settled corporate legacy, with predictably puke results on both the screen and the jukebox.

For a society of people who so avidly watch Game of Thrones, it's staggering how willfully blind Americans are to the idea that powerful women (and men) might use lesser women to bring down male rivals. Linda Tripp played Monica Lewinski right into Bill's pants, right down to the level of detail where she was ordering Monica not to wash the dress, but to save it for months to be exploited at a later point during negotiations. And we all believe in Karl Rove, right? You don't have to believe in Satan if you can believe in Karl Rove.

We can easily imagine Bill Cosby with long mustaches, cackling his way across the world for over thirty years drugging and raping women left and right without any apparent concern for getting caught, but we completely lack the capacity to fathom that some producers might've paid off people who had worked with Cosby in the past to cause a storm in late 2014. No men could possibly be that wicked! Didn't you get your memo on how the patriarchy works? It works by lone wolves groping inappropriately, but never by rich men financially coercing women into accusing other men of bad behavior.

Cosby had some big deals on major networks canceled because of these carefully-timed allegations, but surely the allegations are true, because we all know how hard it is for Americans to bring themselves to pass judgment on black men, particularly when a sex crime is involved. Juries and prosecutors take it so easy on black men that no sensible woman would ever dare to claim that a black man had raped her. And while we're at it, the American entertainment industry is full of decent, caring people, who are open, honest, and forthright, and who never try to back out of deals or backstab people.

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