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an artist is a lovesome thing, god wot

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 05, 2009

The Polanski child-rape story provides a dislocating sense of déjà vu in the peculiarly haughty indignation with which the princes of the entertainment world have come to the defense of the perp. The dismissive reasons tendered for giving Polanski a pass will have a special resonance for Catholics: "The so-called victim was practically an adult." "It all happened a long time ago." "Kids heal quick…" Sound familiar? It should.

But the Polanski defense includes an objection not mentioned -- at least not very loudly -- by those who defended the bishops' inaction in the priest pederasty scandal, viz., that those calling for justice are philistines and that the perp, being a creative soul, deserves more moral leeway than the rest of us. Mark Steyn and Terry Teachout each pounced on this fatuity -- the plea, as Steyn puts it, that "you can't make a Hamlet without breaking a few chicks" -- and demolished it beyond repair. You can read Steyn's piece here and Teachout's here.

Teachout's essay is especially interesting in that it provides an instructive parallel between Hollywood's circling of the wagons around Polanski and the Catholic bishops' defensiveness in their handling of the priest abuser crisis. It's not simply that the eminence of the chief players puts them out of touch with the moral concerns of ordinary folks, but the nobles live and move in a world in which no one tells them the truth about themselves. Read Teachout's paragraph below, mentally projecting it against an ecclesiastical background:

The unseemly rapidity with which Mr. Polanski's friends lined up to support him is also a demonstration of the extent to which Hollywood is isolated from the rest of the world. It's a company town, a place where the powerful can go for months at a time without hearing anyone disagree with them about anything. It was no joke when Mel Gussow gave the title Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking to his 1971 biography of Darryl F. Zanuck. Anyone who lives in a tightly sealed echo chamber of self-congratulation, surrounded by yes-men who are dedicated to doing what he wants, is bound to lose touch with reality sooner or later. Can there be any doubt that this is what has happened to the signers of the Polanski petition? Like Mr. Weinstein, they sincerely believe that whatever they think, say, do or want is right. In fact, I'm sure that most of them will be staggered to learn (assuming that their flunkies have the nerve to tell them) that when it comes to preying on teenage girls, most people think otherwise.

How can Hollywood execs snort away the rape of a 13-year-old as unworthy of notice? By virtue of the same isolation that allowed bishops to shift the Shanleys and Geoghans and Harrises from parish to parish and victim to victim. Power corrupts. And where power includes the power of declaring when it has been used responsibly, the circle is immutably closed. If you don't want to be vexed by certain problems, your toadies will collude in the fiction that these problems simply don't exist.

It works.

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