13 Jul 2010

The Swiss Were Right

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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?

7 Feedbacks on "The Swiss Were Right"

g.e. Taylor

Let’s try some other literary dodges – Polanski is just like Jesus Christ; Joan of Arc; Galileo; Abraham Lincoln. Why do we continue to persecute those who are trying to establish meaningful sexual relations with 13 year old citizens? Are we pedophilephobes?

Maggie's Farm

Thursday morning links…

Boxing gloves increased morbidity and mortality in boxing
Stossel: Parasitic Tort Lawyers
New Massachusetts law extends censorship to IM, e-mail, Web
Dennis Prager: A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give
NYM: The Swiss were righ…

B Moe

He drugged and raped her. Anally.

I don’t care if she was 60 years old the bastard should rot in jail.


I think the author has some facts wrong. I think Polanski thought the judge had set some deal in stone and then plead guilty. When the judge decided not to let a rapist off so easily, Polanski fled. Bet had it been 42 days in jail for rape of the author’s daughter it would have been a mockery of justice instead of justice served.


Actually, they took drugs together, with him asking her about the probable effects of the pill they divided on him. It was statutory rape meaning she was not of sufficient age to give legal consent, but the prosecution clearly did not believe that she had really not consented or the plea bargain would never have been so liberal. After she received a private financial settlement, she withdrew her complaint, tending to suggest that it was a dispute over the amount of compensation all along.

bobby b

If I remember correctly, Roman’s “knowing nymphette” displayed such charms as repeatedly saying “no, no”, crying, trying to leave – all of the clear and intoxicating messages that willing and eager young teen girls have of saying “oh, yes, please do me anally right here in the pool, old man, your saggy buttocks are making me hot!”

All in all, your article reads as more wishful thinking by yet another old guy who oh, so wants to believe that those firm, nubile little twelve-year-old lovelies in his neighborhood are just being coy with him but will eventually come around.

So, as a fifty-three year old old guy and father myself, I’ll place you on notice that it might just be me who comes around. To have a chat. And to see if you give me your unequivocal assent to my plan of castrating you by saying “no, no”, maybe crying, or even trying to get away from me. Gawd, that sounds so exciting, doesn’t it? You’re such a tease!


Let’s see, she was not a virgin. She met with Polanski in private twice (with her mother’s knowledge and blessing) for “photography sessions” during which she disrobed. She drank champagne with Polanski, and shared a Quaalude with him, advising him on its probable effect upon him. Then she took off her clothes and jumped into a hot tub, so naturally we are supposed to believe that she was surprised and frightened when all this led to sexual advances. We have only her ex post facto word for it that she protested at all. Polanski says otherwise. Had that afternoon in the Nicholson house led to a role in a film, do you really believe that there would ever have been a complaint made to the police? Several well-known film actresses are known to have had affairs with directors when they were underage. Do you really think that underage girls do not sleep with Hollywood bigshots in pursuit of film careers rather frequently? All is against the law, but the law only becomes involved when somebody complains. This young woman complained, then withdrew her complaint later after receiving financial compensation.


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