Why artists defend Roman Polanski

In 1977, Roman Polanski drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. When he believed a sort-of-plea-bargain was about to come unstuck, he took it on the lam. He lived the high life in this self-imposed exile for thirty years, until busted in Switzerland recently. Now various of the usual suspects on the right wing’s enemies list are campaigning to block his extradition.

There’s a good deal of perplexity being expressed about this, and some predictable chuntering from right-wingers about lefties being moral degenerates. But this flap isn’t really about politics at all — it’s much simpler than that. It’s about people who think of themselves as “artistes” reserving themselves a get-out-of-jail card when they feel like behaving like repellent scum of the earth, too.

I could claim to be an “artiste” myself, even leaving out the computer programming and the writing; I’m a capable musician who’s done session work on two records, and I’ve composed songs that other people have sung. So I understand the temptation artists feel to position themselves as a breed apart to whom ordinary rules should not apply by reason of their specialness. Who wouldn’t want some of that immunity, if they could claim it?

If you want to make that argument, Roman Polanski makes a great stake in the ground — not in spite of the heinousness of his crime, but because of it. If even a child-raper can invoke the all-purpose artiste excuse for scumminess, than the merely ordinary transgressions of artistes become trivia to be airily dismissed. And if the Polanski case becomes a “teachable moment” whereby people can be talked into feeling like boors or philistines for even thinking that artistes should be held to civilized standards of behavior, so much the better!

None of this is more than tenuously connected to leftism, and I have to say the the right-wing efforts to gin up indignation on that score sound quite contrived and stupid to me. This dispute isn’t about politics, it’s about privilege — not just whether Roman Polanski is above the law, but about whether his defenders can claim to be too.

80 thoughts on “Why artists defend Roman Polanski

  1. I don’t get what people find so difficult to understand about this.

    To Polanski: I don’t care if you’re a successful director, or an artiste, or whatever you want to call yourself. I don’t care if your parents were held in Nazi concentration camps. I don’t care if your wife was murdered by the Manson Family.

    YOU DO NOT DRUG AND RAPE INNOCENT CHILDREN. EVER. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

    And all those excuses being made by the lefty columnists, or by Whoopi Goldberg, or by whomever, are just that…excuses. None of which have any validity whatsoever.

    Is it any wonder that those of us that do believe in moral standards are grousing about the excuse-making?

  2. >Is it any wonder that those of us that do believe in moral standards are grousing about the excuse-making?

    Not at all. Your error is in thinking lefties are specially implicated here. They aren’t; the desire to believe in the artiste’s privilege crosses ideological boundaries.

  3. it’s all politics….people blathering on about ‘left’ vs ‘right’ may well be nonsensical, but the Polanski affair is a profoundly political issue. Given that his defenders are undeniably camped among the ‘left’, this is an opportunity to see revealed an aspect of their mentality that utterly betrays their fraudulent claims of ‘equality’ and ‘social justice’ – they wish to be part of an elite with an ever-shifting standard for compliance with the law.

  4. “…the desire to believe in the artiste’s privilege crosses ideological boundaries”

    I’m having a hard time finding an example of ‘non-lefty’ defenders of child rapists….

  5. I had no idea who Roman Polanski was or what he did before this story came up. I’ve checked his filmography and I’m happy to be able to say that I’ve never paid to see anything listed on it. I have no idea why anybody would want to defend him, but if someone uttered such a defense to my face, I don’t know if I could restrain myself from slugging him. It’s infuriating enough whenever people defend graffiti “artists”; this is beyond the pale.

  6. I agree with you, and I’m glad to see that you have the intellectual dignity to not jump on a political left/right bandwagon. You quite often chide lefties pretty hard while taking it really easy on the equally-fucked-up righties, but on this you didn’t. And that’s why, though I disagree with your analysis sometimes, I continue to read. (Besides that I’m a technical person too and am interested in the non-political stuff mostly–especially the Philosophy of Mind stuff when it comes up).

  7. Wow, it gets even more surreal:

    In 2004, Polanski sued Vanity Fair magazine in London for libel. A 2002 article in the magazine written by A. E. Hotchner recounted a claim by Lewis H. Lapham, editor of Harper’s, that Polanski had made sexual advances towards a young model as he was traveling to Sharon Tate’s funeral, claiming that he could make her “the next Sharon Tate”. The court permitted Polanski to testify via a video link, after he expressed fears that he might be extradited were he to enter the United Kingdom.

    The trial started on July 18, 2005, and Polanski made English legal history as the first claimant to give evidence by video link. During the trial, which included the testimony of Mia Farrow and others, it was claimed that the alleged scene at the famous New York City restaurant Elaine’s could not have taken place on the date given, because Polanski only dined at this restaurant three weeks later. Also, the Norwegian model disputed accounts that he had claimed to be able to make her “the next Sharon Tate.” In the course of the trial, Polanski did admit to having been unfaithful to Tate during their marriage.

    Polanski was awarded £50,000 damages by the High Court in London. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, responded, “I find it amazing that a man who lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a British courtroom”.

    So the UK court, for the first time in its history, allowed a plaintiff to testify via video link from a foreign country, in a case in which their jurisdiction was questionable to begin with, in order to permit him to remain a fugitive. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

  8. >Is it any wonder that those of us that do believe in moral standards are grousing about the excuse-making?

    Not at all. Your error is in thinking lefties are specially implicated here. They aren’t; the desire to believe in the artiste’s privilege crosses ideological boundaries.

    Not so sure about this Eric. I have not heard anyone on the right make excuses for Polanski. It is as you say the artistes, the Hollywood left and certain newspaper columnists, that are doing so. Those of us on the right seem to be unanimously condemning him. We just don’t think it is ok to drug and anally rape an 8th grade girl, and we don’t want to hear any “sophisticated” arguments to the contrary. The kid’s right not to have her innocence shattered it more important than his status as an artiste.

    And what if one artiste rapes another artiste? Would their privileged status cancel each other out?
    Where would this privilege stop? If he can rape could he also kill her? This is dangerous stuff, and needs to be exposed.

  9. When I first heard about his crime my reaction was the exact, diametrical opposite of the pro-Polansi campaigners: I thought this crime not only makes him a common criminal deserving a life sentence but even invalidates his work as an artist, basically there are no good reasons anymore why should I spend precious time on getting to know his art. I just have to cross one name off from the long list called “check these out sometime”.

    The reason is the following:

    1) I simply don’t believe art is simply self-expression. That would worth about as much as I yelling loudly on the street that I like Thai food – just why would anyone supposed to be interested in it?

    2) I think proper art means teaching, education, about using non-conventional means to open us up to certain *truths* about ourselves, about the human condition, human life – a kind of an applied philosophy that targets the sub-rational, subconscious brain instead of the rational/conscious one.

    3) These truths are hard to test empirically or to test via logical proofs. If we could do so, it would be called science or rigorous philosophy, in which case we could avoid ad hominem arguments, which is a good thing.

    4) But as we cannot do so, we have to resort to ad hominem. No, ad hominem arguments aren’t “fallacies”. They are simply fallible but better-than-nothing heuristics reserved for cases when you simply cannot determine whether an argument is valid or not by the argument’s own merits, and you think you cannot afford or don’t want to stay neutral in the matter. If Bernie Madoff would want to sell you a used car, you don’t really need to prove the car is wrong in order to consider the rejection of it rational and valid. It’s reasonable to say you are rejecting it because it’s being sold by Madoff. Cost-benefit, incl. opportunity cost.

    5) Because truths expressed in arts are hard to test, ad hominem is often the best way we can test these truths. Is the artist the kind of person whom we can assume he can educate us towards valid and worthy truths? Is it likely the effect of his art on our subconscious make us better people?

    6) If the artist fails the ad hominem test big time, there is no reason to bother about getting to know his art, it’s very likely we wouldn’t learn anything worthy from it because the source itself is corrupted. Those religious folks who talked about a tree and it’s fruit I think more or less got it right when it comes to arts.

  10. So who exactly are the people defending Polanski? Celebrities who know him?

  11. I think there is a little more to it than just the artiste thing. There is also the basic left wing view of crime, namely that crime is not the criminal’s fault, rather it is caused by their circumstances, genetics or some other external cause. (Obviously this is a gross stereotype, but allow me to paint in broad brushstrokes.) Polanski’s wife and child had been murdered horribly, the Nazi’s messed him up, he was messed up, therefore the crime wasn’t really his fault. The metaphysical aspects of this are pretty complex — did Polanski have free will, or were his actions simply the consequences of some tiny aberration in the the energy flux post big bang.

    It is also a question of crime law verses civil law. The girl in question doesn’t care any more. However, does society demand punishment regardless of what the girl wants? Is it truly the State of California against Polanski, or Samantha Gailey verses Polanski. It is also the basic idea of how long should a society hold a grudge?

    It is also the question of whether 40 days is sufficient punishment. And, related to the first point about responsibility in the context of mental distress is Polanksi’s contention that he could not spend time behind bars because of the PTSD associated with his “stay” at Auschwitz (he didn’t phrase it that way, but that was the essence.)

    All of these are really hot buttons of the culture war between the left and the right, and so I would say that left and right are very much in play.

  12. Not so sure about this Eric. I have not heard anyone on the right make excuses for Polanski.

    Anne Applebaum for one. But I expect most of the defenders would be Hollywood types.

    There is also the basic left wing view of crime, namely that crime is not the criminal’s fault, rather it is caused by their circumstances, genetics or some other external cause.

    You’re getting levels confused here. Individual crimes are caused by individual criminals. But Crime is a higher-level feature of society, and is related to social conditions.

  13. You’re getting levels confused here. Individual crimes are caused by individual criminals. But Crime is a higher-level feature of society, and is related to social conditions.

    No, she isn’t. What Jessica has stated is a pretty standard left-wing view of crime, though I somewhat get the impression that it’s becoming less popular. Your own statement is a different view, which I don’t think even most on the right would challenge.

    Personally, I think the whole debate is meaningless. The dividing lines you’re trying to draw between nature, nurture, and free will are not merely fuzzy but completely non-existent. Thou art physics.

  14. >What Jessica has stated is a pretty standard left-wing view of crime.

    No, what Jessica stated is a pretty standard right-wing strawman description of left-wing views on crime.

    >Your own statement is a different view, which I don’t think even most on the right would challenge.

    I’ve seen plenty on the right (probably not your part of the right) (and also a disturbing number of triangulators from the “centre-left”) challenge this view. If the left takes a rational approach to crime, the right will attack them with “soft on crime” rhetoric. If the right took a rational approach to crime, they would have to stop using “soft on crime” rhetoric against the left.

  15. The true split is along the lines that separate shame cultures from guilt cultures.

    In a guilt culture, if someone does something wrong, they need to own up to and make amends for it. Their behavior is objectively judged against a code of conduct.

    In a shame culture, the act itself isn’t wrong, only the shame of getting caught. So the “snitch” is wrong. The cop is wrong. The criminal justice system is wrong. Switzerland is wrong for having brought shame upon the Artiste tribe.

    It just happens that leftists are a shame culture, and the conservative/libertarian/classical liberal dominant culture is based on guilt (although there are exceptions to both).

  16. Jessica> “Is it truly the State of California against Polanski”

    Yes. He fled from California’s justice. He thereby literally has committed a crime against the state, against the social contract that makes civilized society possible:

    We, as civilized people, agree to submit our disputes to the state, acting as neutral referee, rather than exercising our natural right to use force in retaliation. Every time someone flees justice, he’s undermining that contract. Whatever else governments may do (and we will argue about the propriety of those acts), their very raison d’être is to maintain the peace by defending against aggression and adjucating disputes. If the State of California abdicates this responsibility, then it will encourage vigilante justice.

  17. Here is an interesting thought experiment:

    if Roman Polanski were, say, a Catholic priest, would artists and Hollywood be defending him?

    Would anyone?

    Perfect name for a priest btw: Father Roman.

  18. >It just happens that leftists are a shame culture, and the conservative/libertarian/classical liberal dominant culture is based on guilt (although there are exceptions to both).

    This is not true. In lefty-land, white people, males, and anyone else not part of an officially PC-approved victim group are required to feel guilt for the crime of being icky.

  19. Pete says:
    >f the right took a rational approach to crime,

    You know this is an interesting question. The legal system here and in most countries isn’t really founded on a (purely) rational basis at all. Rather it is an accumulation of ideas over a long time. This is especially so in common law based systems, which bristle with ambiguity and insanity. There are rational threads that run through the law, but it is not some edifice built on a set of rational premises.

    However, AFAIK there are five basic purposes to the criminal and civil punitive system: restoration, retribution, protection, rehabilitation and deterrence. In the case of Polanski, the first two seem to have been taken care of by way of a civil suit, the third and fourth don’t seem relevant (no one seems to think he is in danger of recidivism), so only the last seems relevant in his case. There is surely a great deal of value in a huge case of this kind, with a “we will track you down till you die” attitude in discouraging the drugging and raping of a young girl. I also think there is a second thing in play here which is more of a “contempt of court” thing, which is not unjustified: the courts can’t just let criminals flee with impunity. So to put it another way, neither Samantha or Polanski will benefit by his being thrown in jail, but society will, because it will be a big shining light saying don’t mess with our kids.

    BTW, the whole artiste thing Eric raised has another interesting aspect too: in the original trial the judge seemed to be VERY soft on Polanski, allowing him to delay his incarceration untill he finished the movie, and allowing him to travel outside the country, (though apparently even this softie judge seemed to croak on the 40 days for drugging, raping and sodomizing a very young girl.) That sounds pretty weird to me, and I suspect that it is also part of that whole artiste thing too.

    Oh, and BTW, since we are on the subject of art, and since I recently dumped on philosophy, let me say for the record that IMHO nearly all art is self indulgent, narcissistic garbage. Any movie that plays in a “film house” rather than a movie theater almost certainly falls under that category. In nearly all cases, despite the fawning, obsequious adoration of the starry eyed idiots, the emperor usually has no clothes.

  20. pete: If the left takes a rational approach to crime, the right will attack them with “soft on crime” rhetoric. If the right took a rational approach to crime, they would have to stop using “soft on crime” rhetoric against the left.

    So a “rational approach to crime” would, according to that post, be kinder and gentler to criminals than society treats criminals now. Are you suggesting kinder and gentler treatment for all criminals, or just for people who rape children?

  21. >One of the almost precisely parallel right-wing comparisons I’d draw (and currently doing the rounds in the progressive blogosphere) is Ayn Rand’s thinking on child kidnapper and murderer William Hickman.

    Interesting. I’ve heard it persuasively argued that Ayn Rand’s thinking was strongly influenced early on by Max Stirner. I think I see Stirner’s flavor of egoist nihilism coming through pretty strongly in her in her idealization of Hickman.

    Sigh..Rand was always a better critic than a systematizer. This is far from the only embarrassing moment in her career, and in fairness I suspect the later Rand (of the 1940s and 1950s) would have been mortified to be reminded of it.

  22. This is not true. In lefty-land, white people, males, and anyone else not part of an officially PC-approved victim group are required to feel guilt for the crime of being icky.

    I think you’ve got guilt and shame mixed up. We’re required to be shamed, and we’re supposed to at least pretend to be ashamed of our ickiness. But since we’re of the guilt culture, if they can get us to feel guilty too, that’s a win-win for them.

  23. Craig “Fuzzy” Conner: So a “rational approach to crime” would, according to that post, be kinder and gentler to criminals than society treats criminals now. Are you suggesting kinder and gentler treatment for all criminals, or just for people who rape children?

    I think you’ve proved my point here.

  24. RE: Rand:

    Rand was a nut case. A nut case who happened to be right about some things.

    RE: Polanski.

    It should be simple. If you escape, post conviction, to a jurisdiction with whom we do not have an extradition treaty, or if a nation we DO have a treaty with refuses to extradite you, we find some amenable sociopath and pay him sufficient quantities of lucre to put a single .22 round to the back of the head. Preferably using a silencer so it doesn’t disturb the neighbors.

    We have a system of justice. In theory that system applies to everyone from the President to a the lowest plebe, from Bill Gates to paupers.

    It doesn’t /work/ like that, but that is the goal we (used to) aspire to, and if we’re going to keep our civilization, one we need to refocus on.

    Polanski should have done his time. Now he should be publicly humiliated.

  25. Sounds like the modern version of “benefit of clergy” an oddity of English law where for certain crimes (including felonies with death penalty) a clergyman could claim exemption from secular courts and instead plead his case to church officials instead. The same sort of things happened where if someone was considered “good” or where the “crime” was considered just by the church, the offender would face no or little punishment. This is also a phenomenon of what Isabel Paterson calls the “Society of Status” where privileges and punishments depend on your status in society. The left often complains bitterly of privilege when it comes to the “rich” but they really don’t want to tear down class divisions, just change the class in charge.

  26. @Pete:

    What is a “rational” approach to crime?

    We know several things about pedophiles (real pedos, not just those who prefer young looking post-polymorphic partners):

    1) They tend to prefer victims of a specific range, for instance 6-9 year olds, 10-13 year olds etc. (tend).

    2) They tend to not get caught on their first offense. In fact I know of one case where a kindly old man had a shoe box full of Polaroids totaling over 70 different little girls. Often one little girl was holding the camera while he “did” another one.

    3) They have recidivism rates approaching 85-90%.

    4) They tend to suffer massive retribution in prison.

    In my world a “rational” response to this is to make absolutely certain that they’ve committed the abuse, then kill them.

    Lethal injection, hanging, electrocution, Vogon Poetry, I don’t care. Just get rid of them.

    Quite often I find that people who advocate a “rational” approach to crime don’t seem to have a good grasp on it. Poverty doesn’t cause crime–not the crime people really worry about. Neither does economic disparity, as long as the lower end has adequate access to the first layer or two of Maslow’s hierarchy.

    Crime exists up and down the entire economic range. The reason more “poor” people are in jail than “middle class” people is simply that there are more poor. It’s your old friend the power law coming back ’round again. For every Bernie Maddoff there are 10000 Nigerian princes trying to smuggle money out. For every Roman Polanski there are 15000 anonymous pedophiles.

    One can argue that in most cases Pedophiles were sexually abused children themselves, but while this may be explanatory, it only reinforces my position–that the appropriate way to handle child sex criminals is to make sure they can NEVER do it again.

    RE: Anne Applebaum

    Her Husband is the Foreign Minister of Poland. There’s a word for what she’s doing, but people get all upset when you liken journalists to prostitutes. I guess they think it’s unfair to the prostitute.

  27. Quite often I find that people who advocate a “rational” approach to crime don’t seem to have a good grasp on it. Poverty doesn’t cause crime–not the crime people really worry about. Neither does economic disparity, as long as the lower end has adequate access to the first layer or two of Maslow’s hierarchy.

    The first step is actually taking the evidence seriously; not ignoring the links between crime and poverty would be a good start.

    It should be simple. If you escape, post conviction, to a jurisdiction with whom we do not have an extradition treaty, or if a nation we DO have a treaty with refuses to extradite you, we find some amenable sociopath and pay him sufficient quantities of lucre to put a single .22 round to the back of the head. Preferably using a silencer so it doesn’t disturb the neighbors.

    So you’re advocating committing murder in another jurisdiction? Do the officials in that jurisdiction then have the right to hunt down your sociopath, as well as your officials who ordered the murder?

  28. OTOH at least some of anti-extradition arguments are not about whether Polanski is guilty or not, but whether extradition itself is legal, because of statute of limitations (time it passed since [alleged] crime).

  29. Statute of limitations does not apply since he skipped out on sentencing, he was already convicted.

    So a “rational approach to crime” would, according to that post, be kinder and gentler to criminals than society treats criminals now.

    It depends on the “crime”. Rationally, some crimes would disappear (gambling, for example) while others (I think negligent homicide would be a good candidate) should be treated more harshly. The most important things are to make the laws and the rules of evidence and investigation and sentencing more consistent and understandable. As it is going to court is more like a game of Russian roulette, if you have been accused of a crime or being sued, and more like playing the lottery, if you are suing someone, than it is like anything that could reasonably be called justice.

  30. # Jakub Narębski Says:
    > statute of limitations (time it passed since [alleged] crime).

    The statute of limitations doesn’t apply because he has already been convicted of the crime.

    Billy Oblivion Says:
    > 4) [Pedophiles] tend to suffer massive retribution in prison.

    Let me say that this is an outrage. The fact that we are so pathetic that we can’t bring ourselves to punish criminals sufficiently, and so turn to murderers, gang bangers, and thugs to punish them while we pretend it doesn’t happen (wink) just turns my stomach. Prison justice is an absolute outrage. The fact that something like 25% of men are raped in prison on a regular basis is such a disgrace I can’t believe that apparently almost no one cares. The prison system is an outrage anyway, being little more than a criminal university, and society of perversion and torment. We need to fix it by privatizing the prisons, and placing criminals in indentured servitude to pay off their debt, and in doing so offer them some legitimate rights of protection from their fellow prisoners.

  31. One of the almost precisely parallel right-wing comparisons I’d draw (and currently doing the rounds in the progressive blogosphere) is Ayn Rand’s thinking on child kidnapper and murderer William Hickman.

    Sounds a lot like Norman Mailer. Though Mailer seemed a bit more unabashed in his murderer-worship, as a cursory reading of An American Dream would suggest.

    Polanski should have done his time. Now he should be publicly humiliated.

    This is Hollywood. There is no humiliation anymore — only publicity. Lorena Bobbitt can lop off her husband’s wang and sell the book rights. OJ can kill his wife and retire on the proceeds. I don’t know about the rest of the Left, but the entertainment industry harbors not a shame culture, but a cult of the shameless.

    When I first saw the little “Free Roman” pins, I thought to myself that they must be thinking “How dare they! What an injustice! He makes movies, he can’t be locked away!” I say, Book ‘im, Danno.

  32. Oh, and BTW, since we are on the subject of art, and since I recently dumped on philosophy, let me say for the record that IMHO nearly all art is self indulgent, narcissistic garbage. Any movie that plays in a “film house” rather than a movie theater almost certainly falls under that category. In nearly all cases, despite the fawning, obsequious adoration of the starry eyed idiots, the emperor usually has no clothes.

    Watch it Jessica, you risk treading on a lot of toes with emissions like this; particularly people like me who produce art but are not artistes. Art serves a variety of purposes: mainly to communicate, in a high-bandwidth emotional fashion, with the audience. Of course art produced by self-indulgent narcissists is self-indulgent and narcissistic, but that’s a tautology like “Longcat is long”.

    Where we have gone astray is in thinking that only self-indulgent narcissists are capable of thoughts of any depth; and thus of any meaningful criticism. This has produced the modern “Art World” of which even Ayn Rand wrote disparagingly.

    I propose the neologism “pickle the shark”, by analogy with “jump the shark” and in reference to Damien Hirst’s most famous work, to mean when an artists disappears into his own navel. E.g., “John Lennon was an amazing songwriter but after meeting Yoko he really pickled the shark.”

  33. “We need to fix it by privatizing the prisons, and placing criminals in indentured servitude to pay off their debt, and in doing so offer them some legitimate rights of protection from their fellow prisoners.”

    This seems dangerous. If criminals are valuable (because they have to work for free), then you have a big incentive to create more criminals. I don’t see how you could set this up in a way where there wouldn’t be a huge increase in miscarriages of justice. I certainly agree it’s despicable that prison rape would happen so frequently in a first-world country, but I’m not sure this is the right way to fix it.

  34. JessicaBoxer says:
    > The fact that something like 25% of men are raped in prison on a regular basis is such a disgrace I can’t believe that apparently almost no one cares. The prison system is an outrage anyway, being little more than a criminal university, and society of perversion and torment. We need to fix it by privatizing the prisons, and placing criminals in indentured servitude to pay off their debt, and in doing so offer them some legitimate rights of protection from their fellow prisoners.

    How would privatizing the prisons solve the rape of prisoneers ?

  35. We, as civilized people, agree to submit our disputes to the state, acting as neutral referee, rather than exercising our natural right to use force in retaliation. Every time someone flees justice, he’s undermining that contract.

    Not that this excuses Polanski’s behavior in any way, shape or form. The man had a taste for nubile girls, he was not above using his reputation to get what he wanted, and he was and is a prick.

    Just because he’s a prick doesn’t mean we abrogate the principles of a society of laws The ONLY argument for Polanski getting freed is contract law.

    There was a plea bargain. That’s a contract. There was an indicator that the judge would not honor the contract, as doing so would harm his career, and that by nailing Polanski to the wall, he could significant political exposure.

    This does mean the judge stepped out of the boundaries of neutral arbiter in the case.

    It doesn’t justify, excuse, or exonerate Polanski.

    However, the niceties of honoring contracts – even contracts that let scum walk – are one of the fundamental tenets of law.

  36. As a gedankenexperiment:

    Assume that Samantha Gailey and Roman Polanski lived in a Freidmanite anarchy.

    Polanski had a couple of million in pre-inflation dollars in the bank. Gailey’s mother worked as a secretary; the money her daughter got for modeling was about 15% of the family’s income. Figure that in modern US currencies, Polanski had assets worth about 16 million and could expect to make about 10 million per year, and Ms. Gailey’s family has assets of about 5K in the bank and 35K a year in total income. Samantha Gailey, as a young model, makes about $500-1000 per photo shoot. This is significant money to the family, and rounding errors for Polanski.

    Who judges the case? Does it even get to a trial? Without a state to enforce contract laws, what’s to keep Polanski from simply saying ‘no’ to every judge and hearing room suggested by the plaintiff?

    Could Polanski, in the Freidmanite anarchy, have just paid the Gaileys money and made it go away? (Note that he did settle out of court for a significant chunk of change in 2002.) Would that have been an exercise in unwarranted privilege?

    If not, why would it be acceptable in an idealised anarchic society, rather than ours?

  37. I know! We’ll sell futures in civil suits against child molesters!

  38. What do people here (libertarians, mainly, i think) think about the think tank named LEAP/Europe2020 ?

  39. # Day Says:
    > How would privatizing the prisons solve the rape of prisoneers ?

    It wouldn’t. The second half of my comment indicated that when a person has been forced to surrender their rights then the person to whom they were surrendered has a moral and legal obligation to provide certain protections for the rightless person. This is common in society, consider the relationship of parents to children and people with seriously diminished mental capacity to their caregivers. (In fact, in a limited way it also applies to military personnel and their superiors.)

    any private prison system would have obligations to their captives to provide adequate protection, and the captives would have some legal recourse to ensure they could enforce those rights. This doesn’t happen in prisons right now because nobody gives a damn about criminals. However, in a private system there are complex incentives and competitive pressures that empower the captives in this manner. (For example, the judicial system would be independent of the prison system, which it is not, for the most part. today.)

  40. @JessicaBoxer: ok, i got it. It could work, but it would be complex to engineer and check. The funny case being when a executive in a private prison is condemned for running a corrupted or too violent prison…

    Better spend money on prisons than on school, because you never come back to school, but you might come back to prison.

  41. Jeff Read says:
    >Watch it Jessica, you risk treading on a lot of toes with emissions like this

    I wear big shoes, it happens all the time. Let me add that the hierarchy of art is rather inverted. What is traditionally called “high art” is usually the worst type of art, low art being generally much better. So for example, novels are usually much less crappy than paintings. And music is much less crappy than sculpture.

    I find it interesting that you describe art as “high bandwidth”, I’d describe it as exactly the opposite. I remember making the comment to some lefty guy who was horrified. He told me I was a Philistine (which is probably true), and then asked me if I had ever seem Picasso’s Gurnica. How could I not feel the pain of the people and the suffering of war? As it happened, I was not familiar with the painting (further confirming no doubt his prior assessment of me.) So I took the time to look at it. It communicated nothing to me at all. In fact, it is to me the very essence of what I think is wrong with art. It is full of fractured figures, and hidden messages. The point of this artwork is not so much how bad the Nazis were, or how terrible war is, but rather to overwhelm the observer with dozens of special symbols and shibboleths. It is not saying “war is terrible”, instead it is saying, “are you smart and sophisticated enough to understand this?”

    Three well written paragraphs would much better communicate the horror of the bombing in language that plain people could understand. A two stanza poem would be able to convey the emotions much better and much quicker. Consider this (about a gas attack during WW1):

    “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    This is extremely high bandwidth communication. This requires no special training, or understanding of the secret code of artists. It is not for the elite, it is not for the expert. One can say shibboleth or sibboleth, and no one cares. Gurnica is just self indulgent garbage. As I say, the emperor has no clothes. It is a means by which both the artist and his worshipers can feel better, more sophisticated, more “in the know” than the mere plebeians who can understand the plain words of Wilfred Owen, and realize that war has neither “dulce” nor “decorum.”

  42. >Assume that Samantha Gailey and Roman Polanski lived in a Freidmanite anarchy.

    OK, that deserves not just an an answer, but its own post and discussion thread. For now, go find a copy of The Market For Liberty.

  43. If you concede that child-rape is the worst thing ever, you’ve already lost the battle. (With whom? With everyone–the right-wing moralizers, the scaremongering media, and the power-hungry government all have this as their number one talking point.) THERE IS NOTHING HOLY, SACRED, OR INNOCENT ABOUT CHILDREN. The sooner we get that through peoples’ heads, the quicker we can get back to a sane society….

  44. >There was a plea bargain. That’s a contract. There was an indicator that the judge would not honor the contract, as doing so would harm his career, and that by nailing Polanski to the wall, he could significant political exposure.

    >This does mean the judge stepped out of the boundaries of neutral arbiter in the case.

    Neither assertion has, IMHO, merit.

    Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as follows:

    “[t]he process whereby the ACCUSED and the PROSECUTOR in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory DISPOSITION of the case subject to court approval”

    The “court approval” being significant. Given the failure of the first assertion the second fails on its own.

  45. > [Polanski] had a taste for nubile girls, he was not above using his reputation to get what he wanted, and he was and is a prick.

    He didn’t use his “reputation” – he used drugs.

    Let’s look at it from the point of view of a 13 year old girl in 1977. At that time, Polanski was a relatively young and hot Hollywood director. He had the incredibly sympathetic story of his wife (Sharon Tate) being murdered. He survived Nazis, his parents were sent to a concentration camp, where his mother died.

    The only thing that can improve his odds is a pet unicorn. (Remember – 1977. Today, being a vampire would be better.)

    Despite all that, he needed drugs to close the deal. He must have been seriously pathetic in person.

  46. Polanski had a long habit through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s of sleeping with models. He had a preference for ‘skinny and young looking’. He was pretty well known for doing this, and I strongly suspect that there’s a whole string of women who were in their late teens who warmed his bed.

    None of them had parents who’d call the cops. Many of them probably didn’t bother to tell their parents.

    Gailey’s testimony indicates that at the age of 13, Polanski was her third sexual encounter. He asked her if she was on The Pill. The sodomy was an attempt at not getting her pregnant. By all accounts, she did not look 13 at the time.

    In the context of 1977, giving a girl a third of a ‘luud in the circles he ran with was considered ‘polite’. An attempt to get a girl who was nervous about being with THE Polanski to settle her nerves. I don’t agree with this more’, but in the context of its era, that was the norm.

  47. “The only thing that can improve his odds is a pet unicorn. (Remember – 1977. Today, being a vampire would be better.)”

    I’m speechless. This is the purest kind of distilled, refined, concentrated WIN.

  48. Anne Applebaum is “on the right”? I’m sure this is going to come as a shock to many of those on the right.

    Why? Is it because she wrote the Gulag book?

  49. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll just note that most of the stuff I’ve seen on the “Left-Wing” blogs and sites I check out, the running theme is to nail Polanski to the wall, literally and figuratively as well as some pretty serious WTF’ery in regards to the “Artistes” defending him.

    ESR says: That does reinforce my point that the underlying motivation has little to do with left-right.

  50. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll just note that most of the stuff I’ve seen on the “Left-Wing” blogs and sites I check out, the running theme is to nail Polanski to the wall, literally and figuratively as well as some pretty serious WTF’ery in regards to the “Artistes” defending him.

  51. Matt: The Woody Allen article was kinda funny, the first sentence as that Allen was “demanding justice” for Polansky, which I read as, well, obviously not what he’s demanding in actuality. :)

    (sorry about the double post, btw, folks, dunno how that happened. :))

  52. Matt,

    Soon-Yi Previn was a consenting adult. She is the adopted daughter of Andre Previn and Mia Farrow, Allen’s former girlfriend. She is not, and never was Allen’s daughter or step-daughter. It can’t be otherwise, because Soon-Yi and Woody got married in 1997. So you’ve got some obvious ‘category error’ here.

    Jessica,

    Just because you can’t conceptualize “Gurnica” doesn’t mean that you’re superior to the artist.
    Further ‘simple’ does not equate to ‘high bandwidth’. (Consider the coding of a DSL modem .vs that found on a T1 line.)

    Eric,

    “I’ve composed songs that other people have sung.” So has rms, is he an ‘artiste’ too? In fact, so did Charlie Manson (tangental, but still on-subject, given the Polanski connection.) Is Manson an artist(e)?

    anyway, in light of your expressed politics, Polanski’s victim wants the whole thing to go away. Are you pushing for action by the state where the (otherwise private) parties have no quarrel? Have you forgotten that the vicim’s family was *for* the plea bargain, specifically because they wanted to avoid a salacious public trail?

  53. For those still insisting that somehow the “left” is defending this waste of flesh, I suggest you are ignorant of Anne Applebaum’s (the loudest single personality defending him, in the dumbest of ways) politics. Unless you want to head down the path of silliness that wants to call Dubya a leftist, you are either (1) ill-informed or (2) being disingenuous. And I suspect the count of those who now call GWB a leftist and also consistently opposed his actions when in power could comfortably dine in a phone booth, if we still had those around.

  54. “Soon-Yi Previn was a consenting adult.”

    Still creepy. Woody Allen wasn’t guilty of any crimes, of course, but he’s hardly the first guy you’d expect to see putting his name on a high-profile list of people who support a true sick pedophile.

    You can come back and say, “Who decides what is creepy?”, but a relationship between an old celebrity (note the power that this means he has) and a very young woman who was the stepdaughter of his sometimes lover is weird. I mean, how do you think Allen and Soon-Yi were introduced to each other?

    And take note, I still like some Woody Allen films.

  55. I think it’s clear that his status as a talent artist isn’t a valid defence, but I do wonder what the point of jailing him now would be. It was decades ago, he hasn’t reoffended, he is now a completely different person (just like we all will be 30 years from now), and the victim seems to be over the whole thing. So retribution isn’t achieved, rehabilitation is pointless, and quarantine isn’t necessary. So most of the usual justifications for imprisonment do not apply.

    The only possible good outcome of jailing him will be that it sends a message to other rich celebrities who think they are above the law. That might be enough of a justification to put him away for a reduced sentence. But I wonder whether it would even be effective as a deterrent.

    As an aside, I think your ‘artiste’/artist distinction weakens your case here (and not only because using the word ‘artiste’ shows disdain for people in creative industries). Polanski isn’t being defended because he’s in the creative arts, or because he’s designated himself as an ‘artiste’, but because he’s a celebrity with fans of his work. You’d see the same fan defence force if Steve Jobs was arrested for a 30-year-old crime, probably to a greater degree, and it would be just as invalid.

  56. > It was decades ago, he hasn’t reoffended

    He hasn’t skipped on a US court since then, but it’s unclear that he hasn’t continued to go after 13 year old girls. (At least one of the news accounts of his “travels” has him living near a girls school and “hanging out”.)

  57. William Faulkner supposedly said “The artist’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the Ode to a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.”

    The relationship is between robbing one’s mother and “Ode to a Grecian Urn” is not quite clear, but it’s at least plausible that Faulkner meant that artists can do what’s “necessary” to survive.

    Even so, Faulkner may not have excused Polanski. Raping 13 year olds wasn’t necessary Polanski’s survival and wasn’t part of his “creative act.”

  58. Eric is correct. My friendslist on livejournal runs leftish, and it wants Polanski in prison and is infuriated at the people who supported him. Some samples:

    http://rm.livejournal.com/1721138.html

    http://jimhines.livejournal.com/468728.html (includes a handy lists of excuses made for Polanski)

    http://louiseroho.livejournal.com/ (thinks Polanski should be tried and possibly imprisoned but not ostracized)

    http://andrewducker.livejournal.com/1826117.html

    http://starcat-jewel.livejournal.com/541902.html

    And one leftwing blogger whose anti-Polanski articles have been well-received:

    http://kateharding.net/2009/09/30/on-polanski/#comments

  59. Isn’t this a case of ‘standing for our own’ too? At the small scale, people stand up for your family members, in some cases even if they’ve done some pretty serious things. At the big scale, didn’t stuff like this happen with Kevin Mitnick, with Mumia Abu-Jamal, with every prisoner of note? There’s always a group of supporters (Ok, Bernie Madoff didn’t get very many), justifying the injustifiable.

    Do note: I’m not even near to comparing the situations of Mumia, Mitnick, Madoff, etc. to this. I haven’t got enough information. Which is a shame, because then this post gets to be refuted in a short quip. Pity).

  60. Jake Fischer Says:
    > Just because you can’t conceptualize “Gurnica” doesn’t mean that you’re superior to the artist.

    “Darling, would you look at the beautiful stitching on the Emperor’s blouse. Just beautiful. I believe the fabric is made from the silk of a rare spider from Sumatra, rolled individually into threads on the thighs of native virgins.”
    “Waiter, bring me some brie, and some Beaujolais while it is still nouveau.”
    “Can you believe that Jessica, what a philistine, she just can’t appreciate the beauty of the filigree on the shirt’s placket. She can’t even see the clothes!! What of rube, yuck, yuck, yuck.”
    “Waiter, where *is* my Pellegrino?”

  61. The phenomenon of believing oneself superior and right over something you don’t understand is both one of the best and worst things about Americans. The phenomenon of believing that people that enjoy complex art are lefties, deluded, or worse, French, is certainly one of the worst parts.

    Just because Jessica can’t see the point of Guernica (for example) she assumes that nobody else does nor should, that it is only mental masturbation, that there’s no point in it whatsoever. Nevermind that millions obtain pleasure or strong emotions from looking at it, everyone that manages -that even thinks- to extract something from it is an art fag.

    But certainly, I’m wrong. I never gained anything from looking at Guernica, not even as a child, when it did remind me of the chaos of a terremote I did live, with the flickering lights, the terror, the sight of my dad running to save us. Not the patterns, not the way it looked at the war. Certainly, I have to discard it because -among other things- Pablo Picasso was a womanizer.

    Which brings me to another point people here made about Polanski and Allen: since they did something disgusting (no complaint here, I find the rape disgusting), their works are not to be enjoyed anymore. What if the engineer who built the Golden Gate bridge was a pedophile? Would you stop crossing it and admiring the structure? What about the disgusting character of many hackers, should we stop using GNU software because RMS ticks us off?

    I admire Jorge Luis Borges works. The guy himself spoke in support of the latest military Junta in Argentina. What should I do, differentiate between the works and the man, perhaps interpreting his stories on the light of his statements, or throw the baby with the bathwater?

    Oh well, I’ll go back to my Beaujolais. À votre santé.

  62. # Adriano Says:
    > The phenomenon of believing oneself superior and right over something
    > you don’t understand is both one of the best and worst things about
    > Americans.

    The phenomenon of being unable to tell the difference between asserting one’s own opinion and believing oneself superior to someone who disagrees is one of the worst aspects of Europeans.

    > The phenomenon of believing that people that enjoy complex art are lefties,
    > deluded, or worse, French, is certainly one of the worst parts.

    Hey, I love the French, the ones that read “Le Figaro” anyways. The “Le Monde” crowd, not so much.

    > Just because Jessica can’t see the point of Guernica (for example)
    > she assumes that nobody else does nor should,

    Mais non, mon ami. I said only that the emperor has no clothes. I am sure les sophisticates do see something there. They must lest they be banished from polite society.

    > Nevermind that millions obtain pleasure or strong emotions from looking
    > at it

    And the crowd cheered with delight at the beautiful new outfit the Emperor wore as he passed them by.

    > Polanski and Allen: since they did something disgusting … their works are not to be enjoyed anymore.

    No, I doubt I said anything like that. I think though it depends on the nature of the work. If the work is about a sharing of ones soul (as allegedly art is), then one might rethink one’s interpretation on the art in light of new information concerning the soul from whence it came. But that is the sort of hocus pocus that makes me dislike so much about art. A bridge is a bridge. Gravity is gravity, regardless of the depravity of the soul who riveted the steel.

    > Oh well, I’ll go back to my Beaujolais. À votre santé.

    Salut, et ici, Dites-moi tu, s’il te plaît.

  63. > The phenomenon of being unable to tell the difference between asserting one’s own opinion and believing oneself superior to someone
    > who disagrees is one of the worst aspects of Europeans.

    Cool. I’m not. That’s what I read from judging all of them “the crowd cheered with delight at the beautiful new outfit the Emperor wore as he passed them by. ” Pardon me if I inferred you felt superior from that.

    >> Polanski and Allen: since they did something disgusting … their works are not to be enjoyed anymore.
    > No, I doubt I said anything like that.

    Which is why I said “Which brings me to another point people here made about Polanski and Allen” and not “Which brings me to another point JessicaBoxer made about Polanski and Allen”. Selective reading, much?

  64. But why bother to get drawn into an argument with someone who is happy to contradict herself in successive sentences?

  65. >The phenomenon of believing oneself superior and right over something you don’t understand is both one of the best and worst things about Americans.

    There are roughly half a million minutes in a year. Let’s say that you can ask each “American” if they feel superior over something they don’t understand. Let’s further assume it takes half a minute per “American.” We’ll ignore sleep and travel factors. Given that there are about 300,000,000 Americans, I don’t think you could manage it in your lifetime.

    Whenever I encounter the expressions “all X” in regards to people my first thought is “how could you know?” Followed by “did you ask each and every one?” Which is followed by ignoring the rest of what you’re asserting as I’m pretty certain you didn’t.

    Don’t stereotype like that. Whatever you wish to convey after that will be undermined before you type it.

  66. @SomeDude I wish people did understand that when someone says ‘All’ or uses a similar phrase, he doesn’t actually mean ‘each and every one of them’, but instead is using an image (substitute the correct linguistic term, please). Perhaps best expressed as “(Please understand that I’m talking about large trends here, and therefore when I say things like “nobody” I really mean “fewer than 10,000,000 people,” and so on and so forth.)” in http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/APIWar.html .

    If you get your knickers in a twist about this, I’m sorry. Try and think that maybe we’re not all idiots when we say stuff like this (Oh, there goes another ‘all’!).

  67. # Adriano Says:
    > Cool. I’m not.

    Not European or not confused? Either way, let me offer my congratulations.

    > That’s what I read from judging all of them “the crowd cheered with
    > delight at the beautiful new outfit the Emperor wore as he passed them
    > by. ” Pardon me if I inferred you felt superior from that.

    I find this a remarkably interesting comment on so many levels. Nonetheless, let me put it this way: most people don’t give a hoot about art, and if they feel anything, they feel an obligation to like what les sophisticates tell them is great. But ultimately they don’t care. Rather it is les sophisticates who feel a sense of superiority, not I your humble observer.

    You see, there are two things that characterize our society’s attitude to art: one is the aforementioned Emperor’s new clothes, which is to say a social pressure to adore foolishness. But the second is equally important, encapsulated in the word “shibboleth.” Which is to say, art has engaged in so much navel gazing that to understand it is to understand a complex code of narcissistic self involvement; a secret language if you will. To understand art is to learn a pointless, meaningless list of shibboleths, whose purpose is simply to separate Gilead from Ephraim. “God forbid we have to mix with their sort. Sibboleth indeed. You rube.”

    > Selective reading, much?

    Yes indeed, it saves me the discord of different opinions. How about you?

  68. adriano>Try and think that maybe we’re not all idiots when we say stuff like this (Oh, there goes another ‘all’!).

    No, I just didn’t want you slipping into incipient reflexive anti-Americanism. Which you were.

    JB>superior to someone who disagrees is one of the worst aspects of Europeans.

    Works in both directions; or rather it doesn’t.

    What you two called to mind was the “death” scene from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” Ok, so the stereotypes can be funny.

  69. Jessica, some great points about art, I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that they’re not that bright: it’s much easier to revel in aesthetics than it is to actually make a cogent point so they all resort to the former. I will disagree that low art is generally better, as it’s usually just pandering to the crowd, Gresham’s law applies to all and one has to find the good stuff where one can. One great advantage of the current PC/internet revolution is that with the democratization of the tools to create content, you can find a lot more interesting content out there. 99% is still crap but 0.1% of 10 million blog posts is still more good work than 1% of 500k newspaper articles. Which brings me to, do you blog someplace? I check this blog mostly to read your comments now, you really should blog someplace on your own.

  70. It’s not just conservatives who are framing the Polanski scandal in political culture-war terms. There are certain members of the artist elite who are not afraid to do so. From the Wikipedia article on his arrest:

    French minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, was especially vehement in his support, all the while announcing his “very deep emotion” after the questioning of the director, “a French citizen” and “a film-maker of international dimension “: “the sight of him thrown to the lions for an old story which doesn’t make much sense, imprisoned while traveling to an event that was intending to honor him: caught, in short, in a trap, is absolutely dreadful”. Polanski, Mitterrand continued, “had a difficult life” but had “always said how much he loves France, and he is a wonderful man”. There is, he added, “a generous America that we love, and a certain America that frightens us. It’s that America that has just shown its face.”

    Uh, hello? He’s not being waterboarded at Gitmo. He was arrested by Swiss authorities for a crime he pled guilty to.

    Reading things like this make me throw up in my throat a little.

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