Take a famous and popular artist, one who is creative and imaginative and breaks through all kinds of walls.
Take a rather sleazy person who enjoys degrading himself and others, who abuses women and takes gross sexual advantage in a way that is so extreme that people refuse to believe it.
Can those two descriptions fit the same singular individual? Of course they can. I’d even argue that the more talented you are, the more likely you are to avoid censure for misbehavior; being talented doesn’t cause abusive personalities, but they are given far more leeway than Joe Schmoe wearing an overcoat and nothing else, with no reputation to reward looking the other way.
Read this story from just a few days ago, about Louis CK. The author praises Louis CK’s comedic ability, and acknowledges that they bias him. But he still doubts the accusations.
I cannot say with any certainty that C.K is guilty of what he’s being accused of.
Yet the current cultural climate has made it difficult to continue to give C.K. the benefit of the doubt. You can’t say “believe women” and then make exceptions for comedians and auteurs you personally admire and respect. I don’t know if C.K is guilty of the transgressions he’s accused of, but I also can’t really imagine how you would develop a reputation for masturbating in front of female comedians without, you know, masturbating in front of female comedians.
Read the comments. Here’s an example.
It’s a chewed over, tired, need-them-monday-clicks kind of discussion, but for my 2 cents until there is any kind of substance to the allegations, let alone ‘proof’, I don’t see what the point in speculating is. ‘Someone who may or may not be Louis CK may or may not have jerked off in front of Garfunkel and Oates – he says no, they say nothing’ is all we have had for years
“Benefit of the doubt” and “innocent until proven” are weirdly complicated terms that are simplified by assumptions. We will give the benefit of the doubt to Louis CK, but we will not give any benefit of the doubt to the women accusing him at all. Louis CK is innocent until every wisp of an argument against him is conclusively proven; the women are assumed to be liars until every jot and tittle is nailed down with absolute certainty in a court of law. The purpose of the “innocent until proven guilty” standard is to prevent harm to someone until their guilt is established, but somehow we don’t care so much about the harm done to the victims of abuse by a privileged, sheltered artist. We’ve been hearing these stories about Louis CK for years, but — and this is the problem — nothing has been done. No investigation, no credibility has been bestowed on the many women who bring nearly identical stories to the table, everything recedes away from the Great Man and his unimpeachable denials.
Money, power, and influence give them a shield against having to address these accusations that the poor, the weak, and the unknown don’t have. In a just world, Louis CK would not be able to stonewall and deflect these stories, and the credible, distressed women would have instantly rallied a call for closer examination rather than the excuses of “Oh, but I really like Louis CK’s work”. Or Woody Allen’s. Or Roman Polanski’s. Or Geoff Marcy’s. Or Colin McGinn’s. Or Kevin Spacey’s. Do you realize how long a list I could make just off the top of my head?
In a just world, no one would be able to dismiss a whole series of accusers with the magic words, “witch hunt”. It’s an interesting twist, that the more women come forward with testimony of a problem, the more likely the claim of a “witch hunt” will be invoked. The volume of the complaints is suddenly used as a reason to dismiss them altogether, rather than to provide evidence that there’s a potential problem that ought to be addressed.
So we wait and do nothing, we practice our denials, until something more substantial than the words and pain of mere women and victims of the powerful rises up. Like, for example, an investigation by the New York Times that reveals that maybe the ‘bitchez’ weren’t lyin’ all this time.
Ms. Corry, a comedian, writer and actress, has long felt haunted by her run-in with Louis C.K. In 2005, she was working as a performer and producer on a television pilot — a big step in her career — when Louis C.K., a guest star, approached her as she was walking to the set. “He leaned close to my face and said, ‘Can I ask you something?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” Ms. Corry said in a written statement to The New York Times. “He asked if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Stunned and angry, Ms. Corry said she declined, and pointed out that he had a daughter and a pregnant wife. “His face got red,” she recalled, “and he told me he had issues.”
Yeah, he’s got issues. I’ve got issues. Everyone has issues. Most of us don’t resolve them by beckoning to the nearest woman and trying to disgust and degrade her.
And yet right now there are going to be people who rise up indignantly and self-righteously declare their rational skepticism — they will doubt the accusers. They will doubt the many accusers who have everything to lose by pointing a finger at the powerful patron who could do so much for their careers. They will not doubt the wealthy and successful man who had the opportunity to abuse his power.