Tuesday, September 29, 2009
BACKGROUND. I'm not sure whether this is a case of serendipity or synchronicity. Hence the portmanteau title. But the clever Klavan monologue certainly anticipates to a tee the disgusting apologetics we're seeing from celebrities, the mass media, and the western world's cynical diplomatic corps with respect to the arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski.
If Polanski's fate were the only moral issue at stake here, I probably wouldn't even comment on it. There is no case on his behalf, and outrage at his arrest by any party is as ludicrous as it is loathsome. He pleaded guilty to a repulsive crime, fled the country to escape sentencing, and regardless of his age, is obviously subject to punishment for the original crime and for his flight from American justice. Period.
But this is what liberals so often like to call a "teachable moment." Some aspects of the Polanski affair, whether by serendipity or synchronicity, are curiously resonant with a multitude of other recent events in our national life. Which is why they are worth commenting on. They expose the profound moral corruption of those who claim to have a monopoly on what's best for the American people. Consider all the disturbing echoes, parallels, ironies, and tin-eared hypocrisies in play here.
There's the sudden dramatic confirmation of Klavan's metaphor, proof that celebrities really are an oddball manifestation of the worst of identity politics. The group to which Polanski belongs -- er, Hollywood -- closes ranks around a threatened member without hesitation, freely reorienting the narrative away from simple right and wrong to the grievances and persecutions they pretend are products of their unique status in the culture. An obvious criminal is, in convenient relativist terms, really the victim of establishment bigotry that has nothing to do with his own actions. If he weren't a star, nobody would have thought him worth pursuing, so the pursuit is itself a kind of hate crime.
Which is reminiscent of the furor surrounding the recent return of Michael Vick to the NFL. We saw the same kind of determination to diminish, by omission and misreprepresentation of fact, the crimes that made him a convicted felon in the first place. We were told that he has paid his debt to society in terms that make absolutely no sense to average citizens -- he lost more money than any of you could make in a score of lifetimes, and how dare any of you seek to deprive him of the opportunity to "practice his profession" or "make use of his extraordinary talents" to punish him further for behaviors which his particular ethnic identity made him more vulnerable to than any of you could possibly understand? Never mind that an attorney who commits a felony is automatically barred from practicing his profession or using his laboriously acquired mental skills to return to his prior level of financial prosperity. That attorney is probably a Jew anyway.
Which is another peculiarly illuminating aspect of the Polanski defense. When's the last time you heard a self-professed liberal employ the "victim of the holocaust" defense for any kind of antisocial behavior? It's certainly not permitted to the state of Israel, which is ubiquitously and uniformly condemned for supposed war crimes against a Palestinian population who have publicly, repeatedly, and unmistakably endorsed the exact same genocidal intentions that led to the murder of 6 million Jews under Hitler. In the larger instance, the Jews are the criminals. (It was only days ago, wasn't it, that our president publicly scolded Israel to the U.N. General Assembly for intransigence in negotiating with enemies who have never even conceded their basic right to exist?) In the specific celebrity instance of Polanski, the Jew is the victim. The Jew who drugged, raped and sodomized by force a 13-year old girl. After all, she's 45 now and never won an Oscar.
Which... let me know when you start to see the serendicity... reminds me of the "liberal" outrage when conservatives presumed to mention the name of Mary Jo Kopechne during the hagiographic bathos surrounding the death of Teddy Kennedy. Serious, admired (in some quarters) columnists fearlessly denounced such quibbles regarding the late senator's character and advanced the argument that Teddy's devotion to liberal causes like socialized medicine was, on balance, worth the death of a young woman who made the mistake of fluttering too near the searing flame of Kennedy family destiny.
All this from the people who claim to care the most about the weak, the voiceless, the downtrodden. Michael Vick's football talent outweighs the torture and murder of mere dogs. Teddy Kennedy's senate career outweighs the inadvertent death (negligent homicide) of a young woman he casually seduced and abandoned in an underwater Oldsmobile. Roman Polanski's cinematic gifts outweigh the long ago rape of a child who probably looked older than 13 at the time, has long since been publicly identified (outed?) by the press, and doesn't want another encounter with celebrity.
Oh. And another thing. The Europeans are up in arms about the Polanski case. Specifically, France and Poland. Which is supposed to make us feel small? Aren't these the newly secular cultures whose enlightened take on the role of government in looking out for the defenseless little people, and their healthcare and welfare and all that crap, are driving our new president's agenda to remake America in their image? Aren't they? So. In Europe, drugging a 13-year-old and fucking her in the ass against her will is okay? If the buggerer in question is a "great" movie director? Got it. Democracy and the preeminence of the common man over the aristocratic elites is well and truly dead in the part of the world that raised aristocratic elites to a height that led to the revolutionary establishment of the United States in the first place. Glad that's settled. Just as our president is steering us harshly in their direction.
Is that the end of our (not so) brief? No. There's one final point, a last act to the drama that might actually make sense of it all. (Pay attention, AllahPundit: here's a hint about the consequences of your tedious, feckless cheerleading for secularism.) What precisely is it that makes Roman Polanski such a cultural aristocrat that he should be exempt from the criminal justice system? His movies, right? Well, let's take a look at them.
Rosemary's Baby. A young woman manipulated by her husband and his friends into being raped by the devil and then forced to deliver the Antichrist. She ultimately consents in her role as the mother of all evil. Chinatown. A movie that hinges on the dark secret that an incredibly powerful man forced his own daughter into incest and has like designs on the child of that perverted union. The Ninth Gate. A quest for Satanic power whose surprise ending turns the supposed hero into the inheritor of the evil omnipotence the audience assumes he's been attempting to prevent. Such movies may be well crafted, brilliantly shot and edited, masterfully directed, but that doesn't make them great. Content matters.
I don't know what happened in Roman Polanski's youth. I don't presume to judge that. What I do know is that his movies do not illuminate anything other than the extraordinary darkness of his soul. For that he may deserve our sympathy, apart from his real world victims, but he does not deserve our admiration as the kind of artist who inspires his audience to live up to the best that is in them. Rather, he has fulfilled the destiny of doomed artists in every age: he has mapped for us, exposed to us, the pathologies that have twisted and destroyed his own life.
There are at least two lessons to be drawn from the fiasco that is Roman Polanski's existential plight. First, there are always unintended consequences, even in the world of "art." We will never know what process of serendicity made Sharon Tate the victim of the Manson family. The damnably pesky problem is that her horrific murder is so esthetically consistent with the entire life and "oeuvre" of Roman Polanski. Is that coincidence? Or some sequence of cause and effect that all of us, including him, can only guess at? We can only, and mostly sadly, wonder.
Second, the tone-deaf defense of this sexual offender by elites in show business, the media, and other centers of power should serve as a warning to the rest of us that the rational utopia being plotted for us by the most gifted, intelligent, and highly educated among us is a post-modern nightmare almost beyond imagining. Kind of like The Ninth Gate. Is this really the nature of the illuminated elite we're being asked to defer to and trust?
Whatever they say, and no matter how eloquently and persuasively they say it, the elites who are so convinced they know better than we do how our lives should be lived, regulated, and confined lack a true moral compass. Their decisions on elementary questions of right and wrong change depending on who the subject of consideration is, not what the applicable principles of morality and justice might be to the ancient legal standard of the "reasonable man."
Whoopi. If anybody knows about women's rights, she does.
Which... yeah, I know... reminds me of the ACORN mess. ACORN employees calmly discussing ways of setting up houses of underage illegal alien prostitutes are cause, among the elite liberals, for investigating the wicked journalists who entrapped them and made them, uh, what's the word?, "victims." Not that there's any pattern here. As Andrew Klavan scrupulously points out in his video. Right and wrong are defined by who you are, who's asking, and, sometimes, by what color and ethnicity you are.
Welcome to the Brave New World. Let's all pray for the freedom of Roman Polanski from all possible personal responsibility for the decisions he's made in his life.
Amen. Not that we believe in a higher power or anything disgusting like that...
P.S. I'm not planning to pepper this post with hot links to individual voices in the controversy. However, if enough of you don't know what all I'm referring to in current media, let me know, and I'll go back and give you the links.