August 03, 2003

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XCI

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Richard Cohen was a little late with his last column, so it took me a day or two to catch up to it. I still find it strange that in a column whose statements and conclusions I generally agree with, I can find so much to take issue with. Come with me as I consider Richard Cohen Considering the Kobe Bryant Case:

On the matter of Kobe Bryant, I am agnostic. It could be that he raped the woman who came to his hotel room or it could be that he did not. I state these possibilities with certainty because I, as opposed to so many other commentators, have no idea what happened that night behind a closed hotel-room door.

I am pretty much in complete agreement with Richard thus far, though it should be noted that not knowing the facts is not usually much of an impediment for Richard when the motives of his political opponents are to be questioned.

I do know this, however: Bryant has terrific timing.

But isnít there an implicit assumption of guilt here? I cannot imagine any time being thought of as terrific if Kobe is innocent.

The zeitgeist -- not a basketball term, I know -- has changed. Just a few years ago, Bryant would have been dead meat.

A few decades ago in some locales, this might have been even truer than Richard realizes.

A sexual assault charge would have presumed him guilty, not innocent.

Actually, I think Kobe is pretty much assumed to be guilty even now. Itís just that he seems to be getting a pass because of his celebrity. This is a very, very bad thing.

Instead, it is his accuser who's been presumed guilty -- of fabricating the charge or being unbalanced, or both.

I donít follow all the pre-trial publicity because Big Mediaís obsession with it doesnít merit my attention, but Iíll accept that Kobeís accuser/alleged victim has probably been treated roughly by the uninformed. But Kobe has been slandered as well if he is innocent. The real problem is the propensity of so many to pontificate in the absence of any real information.

On the Internet, on talk radio and in the press, Bryant's accuser has taken her lumps.

I find it interesting that Richard considers the press somehow different than the Internet and talk radio, donít you?

We know her name -- or, with minimal effort and access to Google, you can find it out. A search will come up not only with her name but pictures of her as well -- hundreds of listings. You can learn quite a bit about her, none of it necessarily true, but what the hell, in an Internet-cable news era, literal truth, like fair play and balanced coverage, is considered oh-so 20th century.

Oh, please. But then again, I know that Richard prefers his lies with the patina of truth conferred by the imprimatur of officialdom.

Remarkably, there's been little backlash. In the old days, television talk shows and op-ed pages would have bristled with reminders that no matter what a woman's mental state or her past, she could still be a rape victim.

No, for somebody whoís pushing 60, Richard has an odd idea of ďthe old days.Ē In the old days, she wouldnít have had a chance. It is only in recent years that the pendulum swing of ďall sex is rapeĒ feminism went too far. Perhaps we are entering a time where the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. I donít know.

"No" means no, remember?

No. This is at the core of the many problems with the interpretation of sexual relations the last few years. No has never always meant no any more than yes has always meant yes. Itís funny to me that people so hung up on nuance in, say, international affairs, suddenly lose the ability for chromatic discrimination when it comes to human affairs.

Every man knows that the difference between persuasion and coercion can be a thin and moving line.

Unfortunately, not every man knows this. But donít women know this as well?

"No" always means no -- except when it doesn't. Men and women alike also know that a kind of extreme feminism -- really a parody of the movement -- has resulted in ridiculous sexual harassment suits that embarrass women in general and convince men that having a young female colleague accompany them on a business trip approaches embezzlement as a career ender.

So Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon are parodies? Wonít Camille Paglia be surprised.

This, of course, has hurt women.

I concur. This is another of those unintended consequences that utopians are blind to. But it should be noted that it has also hurt men.

In a way, the old Victorian notion of women as hysterics has its contemporary equivalent in the examples of women as humorless prigs who have substituted lawsuits for smelling salts. Mention sexual harassment and women, as well as men, roll their eyes.

Well, Richard ought to know.

If the charges against Bryant prove unfounded, then I feel awfully sorry for him. He's gone through hell and may be guilty only of violating the writer Nelson Algren's rules for life: "Never play cards with any man named 'Doc,' never eat at anyplace called "Mom's' and never, never, no matter what else you do in your whole life, sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own."

Thatís a pretty low bar for ďmoralĒ behavior. Hmm, Iím beginning to get a sense of dťjŗ vu here.

But while Bryant may have been targeted for his celebrity, he also has benefited from it. He's known and liked.

His enablers are legion. My sense of dťjŗ vu is getting stronger and stronger.

His accuser is unknown and increasingly disliked.

Wow, this is getting spooky. Imagine how weird this might be if were about something other than sex.

For a long time -- since the William Kennedy Smith case, actually -- I've thought that the press is wrong in not revealing the names of purported rape victims.

Well Dick, youíre wrong. I think it is much better to protect victims of rape Ė purported or otherwise -- and those accused as well until they are convicted. The fact that not everyone acts honorably is not an excuse for all of us to jump on the media bandwagon to pump this story for everything its worth.

Why should this crime be the sole exception -- different, say, from a mugging that reveals the male victim to be a closeted homosexual?

The only exception? So Richard has the name of all the people held incommunicado at Guantanamo?

The Bryant case has not changed my mind -- especially since with the Internet and talk radio, the old gentlemen's agreement about not naming victims in sex cases has broken down.

The gentlemenís agreement. Careful Dick, your sexismís showing.

But naming someone and vilifying her is a different matter. If the woman is a phony, then that will come out in court.

Maybe. But then again, I still think O.J. is a murderer, so what do I know?

If, however, she is truly a crime victim, then she has been assaulted twice -- once by Bryant and again in the way she's been treated.

I think itís wrong to equate any amount of verbal abuse with the physical abuse of rape. But, then again, Iím not a professional journalist who believes words given under oath donít matter when itís only about sex -- as long as youíre famous.

Posted by Charles Austin at August 3, 2003 05:29 PM

Interesting link to Dick's extracurricular activities. Don't the current journalist ethics rules require him to disclose those facts before commenting? Howie Kurtz should weigh in....

Posted by: Martin at 05:23 PM

in an Internet-cable news era, literal truth, like fair play and balanced coverage, is considered oh-so 20th century.

Unlike in the newspapers where truth reigns supreme and columnists like Richard Cohen present fair and balanced arguments? There is none so blind then those who refuse to see.

However, my comment not withstanding, I think we should give Richard a little slack. Every once in a while, when he is willing to question the Liberal dogma of the day, it appears that there is a rational Richard Cohen hidden beneath the Liberal Richard Cohen persona.

Posted by: Richard Nieporent at 10:40 AM