Polanski, or How to Make Yourself Look Like a Class Act

I guess as someone living in California, it’s part of my civic duty to write something about Polanski being arrested in Switzerland. My first reaction, having seen last year’s documentary, was a feeling that it ought to be let go. But my second reaction was that anyone writing to defend Polanski, who has been well remunerated in his career and had benefits few ever have, should spend their time worrying about those suffering far greater injustices than for being arrested for crimes that they plead guilty to. Like, Robert Harris, maybe you should write about those who are facing the death penalty, or those whose family miss them and they while their time away beyond the reach of habeas corpus. Polanski had his day in court. Plead guilty. Then fled. Now we get a lot of pathetic articles saying that it’s a long time ago, which admittedly is a human trait, but really, it’s a long time ago because Polanski fled. He would have served his time long ago and been out for many years by now. He decided to flee. Can we now get back to those who don’t even get trials in the US? Instead you get embarrassing tripe like this:

He thought he could settle the matter at last, and his subsequent, vigorous legal attempts to have the case against him closed — supported, remarkably, by his victim, Samantha Geimer, the one person who comes out of this affair with her dignity enhanced — clearly infuriated Mr. Cooley.

polanskiMr. Cooley is the LA district attorney. Let me pause right here: Isn’t this gracious? The young teenager (just a year and half older than my son) was raped and Harris pats her head for being the “one person who comes out of this affair with her dignity enhanced.” I guess he should know how hard that was, given that Polanski hired private investigators to dig up any sexual past she had and his lawyer spread innuendo all over the newspapers. But whose fault is it? Yup, the economy.

It sounds very much as though Mr. Polanski became overconfident, both in the rightness of his own cause and in the safety of Switzerland as a refuge — a country that after the credit crisis suddenly seems to be much more eager to cooperate with international authorities.

I make no apology for feeling desperately sorry for him. The almost pornographic relish with which his critics are retelling the lurid details of the assault (strange behavior, one might think, for those who profess concern for the victim) make it hard to consider the case rationally. Of course what happened cannot be excused, either legally or ethically.

I’ll leave it there, but there isn’t here, as far as I can see, an “almost pornographic relish.” I’m among the first to complain about the media’s own violations of victims of various crimes, but here people have been left to sputter about the crime because of non-arguments like this. They read stories like this and can’t help but want to scream, he raped a 13-year-old girl who repeatedly told him no. And I don’t get how this last sentence can make sense of this argument: yes, it “cannot be excused, …legally.” Um, so then what’s the problem, again?