Minimum allegation threshold

Where the Cosby discussion was just two months ago, in mid-September: the New Yorker did a long profile of him, and gave the allegations of rape this amount of attention at the end of the piece:

In the past decade, the tales of infidelity have been joined by much more serious allegations. At least four women, using their own names and telling similar stories, have accused Cosby of sexual assault. The accounts, made public in outlets that include the “Today” show and People, depict Cosby luring each woman to a private place, drugging her, and assaulting her. Cosby settled a lawsuit filed by one of the women, but he has never spoken of the allegations in public. (Earlier this year, his publicist dismissed one of the stories as “discredited.”) Whitaker doesn’t mention them, either—a remarkable omission. Unlike Cosby’s extramarital affairs, these alleged assaults can’t easily be integrated into a consideration of his work: no doubt many of his fans will find it easier to put the claims out of mind or, especially if more information emerges, to put Cosby out of mind instead.

Not very much attention, then.

It’s odd how “meh” this kind of thing seems to be. I wonder what the minimum number of women accusing Mr X of sexual assault is before anyone pays more than perfunctory attention. (I’m included in this question. I didn’t pay attention until the numbers started growing.)


  1. BeyondUnderstanding says

    People will jump through mental hoops to keep the people they admire untarnished (see Dawkins). Also, everyone always seems to think celebrities are taken to court over phony allegations for cash settlements.

    Shit, there are plenty of dudes who think most rape accusation in general are false. Involves a high profile celeb? Oh then it’s definitely false.

  2. says

    It’s funny to me you blogged this because I had been thinking about precisely the same thing yesterday. Prior to looking at the evidence, I could buy that one, two, or maybe even three of the accusers are frauds trying to milk him for money. But this many INDEPENDENT accusers? As the saying goes, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The claim that they are ALL lying is an extraordinary claim.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    People will jump through mental hoops to keep the people they admire untarnished (see Dawkins).

    Yep. I think this is because people tend to imagine certain celebrities as their friends, or at least as potential friends.
    Also, in Cosby’s case there is much more reason to favor him. Not only did The Cosby Show cast him as “America’s dad” in the eighties, but many people admire him as one of the first to claw open the door to mainstream entertainment for minority performers, because of his role on I Spy in the sixties. Plus, of course, his whole public persona has been of the nice guy that just wants everyone to get along.
    So Cosby had a lot of built-in goodwill and benefit of the doubt in his favor.

  4. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    It’s odd how “meh” this kind of thing seems to be.

    I don’t think it’s odd. I think that is the objective of micro-aggressions, gaslighting, and other means of minimizing sexual abuse on a group level. That is the goal, even if the participants don’t really know what they are doing (social behaviors are shitty that way). Enough people with behavioral tendencies on these issues to produce this result. S
    So when the media becomes more sensitive to stories of sexual abuse (in every category for every group, its a problem with lots of elements and common features) as things that are newsworthy we will know that there is some decent change. Why do you think so many people show up in the comments of media about these issues with the goal of removing attention to the problem?

  5. says

    At my job we’re currently recording an audio book version of his latest biography. 500+ pages and nary a mention of any of this. The only negative aspect of his life that it seems to delve into is his affair with Shawn Upshaw, who he paid to keep quiet about the whole thing. The book is pretty hard to take right now. I couldn’t help myself smirking today when we came to a passage about him going to a party where his friend Roman Polanski was also in attendance. Wonder what they discussed.

  6. says

    I didn’t pay attention because I don’t follow normal news outlets. However, it is the sort of thing that would make me think, “WTF, a-hole?”, and move on. One cannot protest the actions of every single d-bag, especially when said d-bag isn’t making awful comments and defenses publicly. In which case, one has something a bit more to work with.

    As far as potential law enforcement reactions (right), employer or consumer reactions, the should be a bit more at relevant times. For a threshold, one should be more than sufficient. Until the situation requires more attention, many who otherwise care may have a reaction that isn’t so much “meh”, but one that is colored by burnout or being somewhat jaded. Especially, again, when the perpetrator isn’t providing further commentary to which to respond.

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