Category Archive 'Roman Polanski'

13 Jul 2010

The Swiss Were Right

, , , ,

In the aftermath of the Swiss decision to reject the American bid to extradite Roman Polanski, the predicatable indignant editorials are beginning to appear.


Eugene Robinson
, in the Washington Post, is not at all satisfied with the outcome.

It’s relevant that Polanski has never shown remorse. He claimed in a 1979 interview that he was being hounded because “everyone wants to (have sex with) young girls.” It’s irrelevant that the victim, now a middle-aged woman, has no interest in pursuing the case and reliving a traumatic episode. What matters is what Polanski admitted doing to her 33 years ago — and the fact that Polanski decided to run away rather than face the music.

Swiss officials noted the obvious: that Polanski never would have visited Switzerland if he had thought he was putting himself in legal jeopardy. Since he’s not a legitimate candidate for kidnapping and rendition by the CIA, he’s now home free — unless he somehow makes another mistake. He’ll always have to look over his shoulder.

That’s punishment of a sort, but not nearly enough. How about this: As long as he steers clear of U.S. justice, why don’t we steer clear of his movies?

I strongly disagree with the majority of the journalistic community on this one, and since I’ve already explained why at considerable length, today I plan to take pleasure in quoting myself.

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that Roman Polanski’s flight thirty one years ago was precipitated by precisely the same sort of journalistic feeding frenzy which has been replayed all over again recently. A firestorm of sensationalized accounts of Polanski’s misdeed alarmed the publicity-conscious judge who intended to set aside the conventional processes of justice and overrule a plea bargain already agreed to by both the prosecution and the defense.

Polanski did not escape justice. He had already served a 42 day term of imprisonment, which was supposed to constitute his actual sentence. Polanski also settled privately with the young lady, paying her a sum of money of a specific amount never publicly disclosed. What Polanski escaped was injustice.

He escaped a breach of the normal, impartial, and objective processes of justice, which were in the process of collapsing due to official cowardice and unwillingness to resist a wave of public indignation, mischievously created by irresponsible journalism.

Long-standing cultural restraints on sexual expression and activity have been dwindling away in America for all of the last century, but one powerful prohibition not only survives, but continues to be able to turn ordinary Americans into something very much resembling belligerent Muslims bent on wiping out any stain upon the chastity of their females in blood: the issue of age.

Underage sex is still a kind of priapic third rail. And like Nabokov’s Humbert, Roman Polanski proved to be another sophisticated European gentilhomme d’un certain âge susceptible to the charms of the knowing nymphette. His sin happens to be relatively unique in being capable of getting Americans in general worked up into a lather of righteous indignation just as effectively in 2009 as in 1978 or in 1955 (the publication date of Lolita).

In exactly the same way that the idea of black sexual aggression directed at white women was once upon a time so horrifying an idea to the general community in certain American states that any close resemblance to that supreme phobia could suffice to set into motion the processes of storytelling which would fit the details of the actual case into the terrible archetype, frequently with lethal results, so too today is the idea of adult sexual aggression directed at children a compelling, and potentially dangerous, archetype.

Let’s try another literary trope. Picture Roman Polanski, not as Humbert Humbert, but as Tom Robinson, the black defendant in To Kill a Mockingbird. Just like the Polanski case, To Kill a Mockingbird features a public frenzy of indignation at a defendant accused of being a sexual aggressor toward an innocent victim, who is supposed to be protected from the advances of anyone like the defendant by powerful social taboos. Just as in the Harper Lee novel, adjudication of the Roman Polanski case revolved around issues of just who was the actual initiator and whether female consent had been given. Fearful archetypes and framing narratives can work in exactly the same in either case, can’t they?

12 Jul 2010

One Point For Europe

, , , ,


76-year-old Roman Polanski is now again a free man.

European civilization and rationality, for once, triumphed over American mobocracy and barbarism when the Swiss Ministry of Justice took a technical route to dismiss the US request for extradition of internationally-renowned director Roman Polanski.

The Swiss had asked to examine American records establishing whether a previous plea arrangement for an observation period of confinement in a psychiatric unit had been accepted by both sides and subsequently reneged upon by a press-conscious judge. The Los Angeles district attorney’s office refused to supply the relevant records, which tends to suggest strongly that they would have confirmed the reality of the alleged plea bargain arrangement. So, the clever Swiss, noting that the records could prove that Polanski had already actually served his sentence making the extradition request invalid ruled that the extradition request was incomplete and consequently defective, and deserved to be dismissed.

US justice in this matter was, by comparison, politically-motivated featuring, in 1977 and now, public officials posing as champions of the people in the midst of a firestorm of gossip, innuendo, and public misunderstanding whipped up by an opportunistic press. The Swiss tried to do justice. The Americans tried to score points with the mob. I applaud the Swiss.

Variety

New York Times story

Previous Polanski coverage.

06 Oct 2009

Polanski’s Sentencing Report

, , , ,

As I’ve previously observed, a lot of people on both the political left and right neglected to consider some pretty obvious aspects and details of the liaison between Roman Polanski and a certain young lady 32 years ago and simply accepted her Grand Jury testimony uncritically as a perfectly factual and objective version of events.

That acceptance of a less than complete, biased and self-interested account, combined with a liberal application of emotionalism and indignation, easily turned a tawdry Hollywood casting couch trist into a horrid sex crime with a child victim. Left or right, a surprisingly large number of people seem to find the editorial equivalent of participation in a lynch mob to be a gratifying form of self expression.

The probation officer all those years ago was in possession of a more accurate and complete understanding of the case, and his sentencing report, quoted by the New York Times, arrives at very different conclusions.

The report, submitted by acting probation officer Kenneth F. Fare, and signed by a deputy, Irwin Gold, recommended that Mr. Polanski receive probation without jail time for his conviction on one count of having unlawful sex with a minor. In a summary paragraph, the report said: “Jail is not being recommended at the present time. The present offense appears to have been spontaneous and an exercise of poor judgement by the defendant.” It went on to note that the victim and her parent, as well as an examining psychiatrist, recommended against jail, while a second psychiatrist described the offense as neither “aggressive nor forceful.”

Despite Ms. Geimer’s age and her testimony that she had objected to having sex with Mr. Polanski and asked to leave Jack Nicholson’s house, where the incident occurred, the probation report concluded, “There was some indication that circumstances were provocative, that there was some permissiveness by the mother,” and “that the victim was not only physically mature, but willing.”

As we see, the authorities at the time, took the young lady’s testimony of her own reluctance with a very large grain of salt, doubtless concluding that both the circumstances of the encounter and many of her own actions signaled explicitly affirmative intentions.

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that Roman Polanski’s flight thirty one years ago was precipitated by precisely the same sort of journalistic feeding frenzy which has been replayed all over again recently. A firestorm of sensationalized accounts of Polanski’s misdeed alarmed the publicity-conscious judge who intended to set aside the conventional processes of justice and overrule a plea bargain already agreed to by both the prosecution and the defense.

Polanski did not escape justice. He had already served a 42 day term of imprisonment, which was supposed to constitute his actual sentence. Polanski also settled privately with the young lady, paying her a sum of money of a specific amount never publicly disclosed. What Polanski escaped was injustice.

He escaped a breach of the normal, impartial, and objective processes of justice, which were in the process of collapsing due to official cowardice and unwillingness to resist a wave of public indignation, mischievously created by irresponsible journalism.

Long-standing cultural restraints on sexual expression and activity have been dwindling away in America for all of the last century, but one powerful prohibition not only survives, but continues to be able to turn ordinary Americans into something very much resembling belligerent Muslims bent on wiping out any stain upon the chastity of their females in blood: the issue of age.

Underage sex is still a kind of priapic third rail. And like Nabokov’s Humbert, Roman Polanski proved to be another sophisticated European gentilhomme d’un certain âge susceptible to the charms of the knowing nymphette. His sin happens to be relatively unique in being capable of getting Americans in general worked up into a lather of righteous indignation just as effectively in 2009 as in 1978 or in 1955 (the publication date of Lolita).

In exactly the same way that the idea of black sexual aggression directed at white women was once upon a time so horrifying an idea to the general community in certain American states that any close resemblance to that supreme phobia could suffice to set into motion the processes of storytelling which would fit the details of the actual case into the terrible archetype, frequently with lethal results, so too today is the idea of adult sexual aggression directed at children a compelling, and potentially dangerous, archetype.

Let’s try another literary trope. Picture Roman Polanski, not as Humbert Humbert, but as Tom Robinson, the black defendant in To Kill a Mockingbird. Just like the Polanski case, To Kill a Mockingbird features a public frenzy of indignation at a defendant accused of being a sexual aggressor toward an innocent victim, who is supposed to be protected from the advances of anyone like the defendant by powerful social taboos. Just as in the Harper Lee novel, adjudication of the Roman Polanski case revolved around issues of just who was the actual initiator and whether female consent had been given. Fearful archetypes and framing narratives can work in exactly the same in either case, can’t they?

03 Oct 2009

30 Years After

, , ,

America has not changed all that much from the days when Hester Prynne won her letter. We are still the same nation of boobs and Babbitts and blue-nosed Puritans which nearly a century ago used to drive H.L. Mencken right up the wall.

Leftwing or rightwing, you’d think the typical member of the American commentariat just fell off the turnip truck and came stumbling down the highway pulling hayseeds out of his ears for all the weeping and wailing over the generation-ago naughtiness of Roman Polanski.

Both sides of the political spectrum are making the elementary error of confusing rape in the statutory sense resulting from the female being too young lawfully to provide consent with the kind of rape which is a grave crime of violence and a terrible violation of a person’s will and sovereignty of person.

Read the Grand Jury testimony (Part 1 Part 2) of the young lady (whose current privacy I propose to respect by referring to her as Dolores Haze) and one can easily perceive that it is a version of events particularly uncomplimentary to Mr. Polanski, collaboratively achieved by the prosecuting attorney and the sullen and inarticulate young woman who is bringing a complaint against him, while trying to put the best possible light upon her own conduct.

It requires only reading a little between the lines and paying attention to details to note that Miss Haze and her mother obviously sought out Mr. Polanski’s acquaintance with the young lady’s career advancement in mind. Her mother readily gave permission for her daughter to meet and to pose in private for Mr. Polanski.

Gosh, when an attractive young woman harboring entertainment industry ambitions agrees to “pose” alone and in private for a famous Hollywood director, is it possible to imagine that anyone involved would suppose for a minute that such a meeting could lead to hanky panky?

The famous director and the nymphette met twice for photography sessions featuring the young lady disrobing. When Miss Haze went with Mr. Polanski to Jack Nicholson’s house for the second photo session, even the simple people back where I grew up would have observed that they were not getting together to say the rosary.

Ex post facto protestations of reluctance aside, the philosopher is obliged to note that Miss Haze seems far from innocent and her overall behavior the opposite of unwilling. She was not a virgin at the time of her sexual encounter with Mr. Polanski. She had disrobed in front of him in private on two occasions. She implicitly recognized the social and convivial aspects of that private meeting at Jack Nicholson’s house by willingly drinking champagne with Mr. Polanski, and by sharing a Quaalude with him (which she identified for the uncertain director, who even consulted her about its likely effects on him).

After which festivities, Miss Haze willingly took off all her clothes, and hopped naked into a jacuzzi. Sexual activity ensued.

In her Grand Jury testimony, Miss Haze makes some effort to portray herself as startled and frightened by Mr. Polanski’s completely unexpected advances. To believe her testimony to be literally true requires supposing that the social connection between these two people was unrelated to the well-known Hollywood casting couch and to believe that anyone might meet an older man alone, drink and do drugs with him, disrobe for him, and hop naked into a jacuzzi while having no intentions of granting greater intimacies. If any particular editorialist actually believes that, I can only say, in the Irish manner: May God preserve your innocence!

The more cynical among us tend to suspect that, had some substantive career assistance (or even an appropriate gift) been forthcoming, no statutory rape complaint would ever have been lodged. Consequently, I tend to view the Polanski affair, not as an authentic case of rape, but as a payment dispute in which one side is able to whistle up the assistance of the criminal law.

Polanski, of course, was behaving unethically, using his fame and worldly position to obtain the sexual services of an indecently young girl, whom he evidently couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to repay with his patronage.

There is no doubt that the relations between Roman Polanski and Dolores Haze were against the law.

But, the “he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl” narrative is wildly inaccurate and inflammatory. In reality, Polanski cynically had exploitative sex with a much younger girl when she made herself available, with dubious intentions of repaying her in the manner she expected. They drank and did drugs together. You can hardly accuse a man of drugging a victim into submission by sharing a drug with her.

The plea bargain arrangement made (Polanski would plead guilty unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and be let off with the 42 days he served under psychiatric evaluation) indicates pretty clearly that the prosecutor took the same view of the Polanski case at the time that I do now. Polanski broke the law, doing something fairly shameful he ought not to have done, but it was not really rape at all. He deserved some legal penalty, but he did not deserve the gravest possible punishment.

What happened back in the 1970s is exactly the same thing which has happened again 30 years later. America’s psycho-sexual insanity was provoked by the Polanski affair the way a bull is provoked by a red flag. All the Christers and the wowsers began howling for Polanski’s blood, writing misleading hysterical jeremiads about drugging and raping poor little 13 year old maidens, and the next thing you knew, Judge Rittenband, who was sensitive to public opinion, expressed the intention of throwing out Polanski’s plea bargain, while keeping his guilty plea. Facing an exemplary penalty, Polanski wisely fled into exile.

The only things that seem to have changed in 30 years are: Roman Polanski has become a very old man and the middle-aged Dolores Haze says she has forgiven him. The American obsession with striking poses of self-righteousness has not changed, nor our intelligentsia’s penchant for inflaming mob opinion with misleading narratives.

30 Sep 2009

Culture War Skirmishes All Over the Polanski Plain

, , ,

Brendan O’Neill, like yours truly, finds the Roman Polanski left-right skirmish a competitive exercise in narrative-framing with a lot of posing.

(T)he worst aspect of the Polanski affair is the competition of victimhoods. It is testimony to the domination of the victim culture in contemporary society that both Polanski haters and Polanski defenders, both sides in this bizarre re-enactment of the Culture War of the 1960s and its aftermath, have used the language of victimology to make their case. For many American and British commentators this is all about Samantha Gailey, whom they have transformed into the archetypal and eternally symbolic victim of the alleged great evil of our time, Child Abuse. ‘Remember: Polanski raped a child’, says a headline in Salon, in an article that provides sordid, misery-memoir-style details of what Polanski did with his penis… (Remember, Roman Polanski raped a child, Salon, 28 September 2009 ). For European observers, by contrast, Polanski’s actions can be explained by his own victimised past, especially during the Holocaust. We have to understand his ‘life tragedies’ and how they moulded him, says one filmmaker (Roman a Clef: Wanted and Desired, Documentary.org, 2003). Anne Applebaum, the American commentator who spends much of her time in Europe, says Polanski fled America in 1978 because of his ‘understandable fear of irrational punishment. Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father survived in Mauthausen. He himself survived the Krakow ghetto.’ (The outrageous arrest of Roman Polanski, Washington Post, 27 September 2009 ) (Applebaum fails to disclose that she is married to the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, who is actively campaigning against Polanski’s extradition.)

This spat in victimology confirms that the politics of victimhood, the pursuit of law, politics and morality in the name of respecting and helping victims, dominates debate on both sides of the Atlantic, but in the Anglo-American sphere it is the victim of child abuse that is most sacrosanct, while in Europe it is the victims of the Holocaust who enjoy the greatest, most unquestioned moral authority – to the extent that Polanski’s pretty cowardly fleeing of America in 1978 can be excused as a latent reaction by a tortured man to the emotional horrors of Auschwitz.

L’Affaire Polanski has become a Culture War that dare not speak its name, a pale and dishonest imitation of the debates about values and morality that have emerged at various times over the past 50 years. As a result we are none the wiser about the legal usefulness of 30-year-old arrest warrants or contemporary extradition laws, as desperate political observers have instead turned Polanski into either a ventriloquist’s dummy or a voodoo doll for the purposes of letting off some cheap moral steam.

David Zincavage, failed to disclose when he editorialized against the Polanski extradition, that he is married to Karen L. Myers, who has seen several Roman Polanski films. She also alerted me to Brendan O’Neill’s article.

28 Sep 2009

Conservatives Wrong on Polanski Extradition

, , , , ,


Roman Polanski

The director Roman Polanski is a significant artist of international stature. He is also 76 years old. More than 30 years ago, Polanski had sex with an underage girl in California. The judicial proceedings which took place at the time were improperly influenced by the superfluity of media attention focused on a famous Hollywood director entangled in a sex scandal.

Marina Zenovich’s 2008 documentary film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired made it generally known that Polanski accepted a plea bargain which put him behind bars in very unpleasant circumstances “for psychiatric evaluation” for 42 days in Chino State Prison. After which time, according to the deal made with prosecutors, Polanski was supposed to be let off without further incarceration.

Newspaper reports, however, inflamed public opinion about the case, and Judge Laurence Rittenband arbitrarily decided to void Polanski’s plea bargain and impose an exemplary sentence, essentially sacrificing the unlucky director for the gratification of the tabloid mob. Polanski was temporarily at large when he learned of the judge’s intentions, and prudently fled into exile in Europe.

Polanski was certainly guilty of a form of sexual misbehavior which, depending on the overall circumstances, can be prosecuted as a serious crime. But consensual sex with underage girls is only “rape” in a technical sense. Michelle Malkin is making a regrettable spectacle of herself striking ridiculous moralistic poses, calling Polanski a “perv,” and describing sensible persons disinclined to support wasting government time and resources on seeking pointless vengeance on an old man a generation after the fact “crime-coddling apologists.”

This kind of naive legal absolutism rests on a childish fantasy that human acts, their legal status, and the outcome of judicial proceedings are matters of black and white, that good people, like Michelle Malkin and the rest of us on the Right, are always in favor of enforcing the letter of the law. I’m not. Laws (like our immigration and drug laws) can be ill-considered. Courts are sometimes corrupt. They are sometimes mistaken. Laws can be wrongly or simply arbitrarily enforced. After 30 years, some laws are no longer worth enforcing, some cases are no longer worth punishing.

The young woman who had sex with Polanski, now middle-aged, has said publicly that she thought she was being exploited by the court at the time, that she forgives Polanski, and that she finds the idea of re-opening the case against him embarrassing to herself and her family. So whom do we need to be avenging?

Patterico
, who actually works at the same Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has gone even more loco with the same law-and-order zealotry.

He is raving about a conflict of interest in Anne Applebaum editorializing in favor of clemency in a stale and aged case involving an internationally renowned artist who is elderly, who has made significant cultural contributions, and who has himself been more than once a victim of terrible injustices. Anne Applebaum, you see, is married to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. Polanski is a Pole, and Poland is protesting his arrest, so Patterico thinks her editorials need to be accompanied by a warning of undue influence from the Polish Government. Lord!

I personally think conservative righteousness, outrage, and pettyfogging argument is more appropriately reserved for graver issues than a case of Hollywood hanky-panky from thirty years in the past. And, until Utopia is achieved and we have a perfect legal system administered by angels, applying a flawless legal code in every case with precision accuracy and scrupulous evenhandedness, I think we can skip all the rah-rah law-and-order nonsense.

Sometimes the law is an ass. And the day the US undertook to extradite Roman Polanski over a roll in the hay that occurred during the opening days of the Consulship of Jimmy Carter is one of those times.


Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Roman Polanski' Category.

















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark