Coming to grips with the truth about Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

 

“Bill Cosby is a serial rapist.”

I can’t pretend to be comfortable writing that sentence. In part, it’s the respect and affection I’ve always had for the man. It’s also because the legal system has not come to that conclusion, and as a journalist I’m old school in that regard. I’ve always been wary about proclaiming guilt or innocence in the absence of a legal finding.

In addition, most of the allegations against Cosby involve actions that took place at least a quarter of a century ago, with no physical evidence to back them up. So even if I do believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist, it’s unlikely to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

But that’s the thing: I’m afraid I do believe it. After reading the latest allegation, this one from ’70s supermodel and businesswoman Beverly Johnson, I finally realize that I have no choice but to believe it. It’s not that Johnson’s story, straightforward as it is told by a 62-year-old woman, is somehow more compelling or contains new evidence that previous 20 or so accounts lacked. Instead, it is the mundane quality of Johnson’s story that finally convinces.

These stories have come from a variety of women in various walks of life — actress, model, nurse, mother, athlete, fan. Most are not seeking legal recourse or monetary damages at this late stage; most do not know each other and have little in common except their victimization by what appears to have been a genial, lovable sexual predator with no conscience.  (For those looking for more information, a useful timeline and straightforward description of the allegations is here.)

At best, I suppose, you could posit that this is some bizarre psychological phenomenon, some outbreak of mass hysteria affecting individual women all over the country that compels them to direct their pent-up anger at an innocent Cosby. The recent collapse of gang-rape allegations against a University of Virginia fraternity — a scandal driven largely by journalistic malfeasance and lack of professional skepticism — argues strongly for caution, as does the rush to convict that unfortunately typifies social media.

Even taking all that into account, though, I’m still left facing the same conclusion. It is plausible that one or two of the many women who have come forward may be later exposed as copy-cat complainants; it is not plausible that most or all fit that description.  Too many are telling their truth reluctantly but emphatically and come across as stable, intelligent people.

So if you, like me, reach that conclusion — “Bill Cosby is a serial rapist” — what then? Once the revulsion and disbelief at the man’s depravity rise up in your throat, once you realize that just seeing his photograph makes you angry and always will, what then?

Personally, I’m struck by the fact that he got away with it for so long, and on such a large scale. How that could happen?

If you read their accounts, Cosby’s accusers paint a portrait of a man who was utterly confident that his celebrity and power would protect him.  Perhaps more telling, his victims shared that belief. It was unanimous: Predator and prey knew who had the power, and who did not. Even after the attacks, once their heads had cleared and they were out of his grasp, his victims still felt just as helpless against Cosby as they had felt under the influence of the drugs that he had apparently plied so many with.

To a person, his victims believed that if they had gone public, nobody would have believed them; the cost of complaining was much higher than the cost of staying quiet. They felt alone, and the recent discovery that in fact they were not alone, that there were many others like them who shared that experience and shame, seems to have empowered them to now speak up.

But hey, things have changed, right? The timing of these attacks — all of them apparently occurring in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s — allows us to attribute the whole thing to another era that was less enlightened about rape, gender and other issues. No one today could get away with such serial sexual predation now that men and women are on more equitable footing.

Right?

At best, maybe. Certainly, the multiplicity of media now makes it more difficult to suppress stories like this, but it has also made it easier to wallow in sensationalism. The door has opened wider to allegations both true and false, and has made it more difficult to distinguish between the two.

Other things, however, don’t change as much as we might want to think. Cosby’s humor was founded on a keen power of observation. He had a shrewdness for spotting the gap between what we claim to do and what we really do, and to point it out in a jocular, non-threatening manner that allowed us to laugh at ourselves.  The truth now emerging suggests that he also saw a gap between how society claims to treat women and how it really treats women, and he used that insight to cynical advantage.

The basic elements at play here — misogyny, sex, power, celebrity, wealth, patriarchy, maybe even mental illness — do not vanish because we wish them to do so. Human beings don’t change; we’re still the same creatures that we were a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago. What does change is the culture and the rules it sets for how we operate.

We may like to believe that it couldn’t happen now. We also believed it couldn’t happen then.

Reader Comments 0

1242 comments
Dixie44
Dixie44

Are you telling me that all those women who were "supposedly" sexually abused by Bill Cosby (without knowing about each other), decided independently not to report him at the time they say this happened? What are the odds of that? He was a rich man back then as well as now. They would have been seeking monetary damages right away if they had any proof of rape (DNA). The sad thing is that the allegations alone, without any proof whatsoever is enough to destroy a person. There will always be those who believe the worst about someone like Bill Cosby. He is well loved, but there are many black people who hate him with a passion. 

femonanon
femonanon

um, about 3% of all rape allegations are false, so...let's see...maybe 1/2 of one of the women are lying? yep, that's it, probably has a split personality

this world is sick to even question a stat like 97%, what is wrong with everybody??? (is she lying !!)
Cosby is the worst >>>> a misogynistic and racist rapist

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

"The basic elements at play here — misogyny, sex, power, celebrity, wealth, patriarchy, maybe even mental illness — do not vanish because we wish them to do so. Human beings don’t change; we’re still the same creatures that we were a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago. What does change is the culture and the rules it sets for how we operate."

This sounds AMAZINGLY like a description of Bill Clinton.  When did you write the column on his serious transgressions against women?

Michele B
Michele B

I agree with the article. What strikes me is the solid similarity to each story, told from grandmothers, to the now 24 year old victim. When you're drugged, it creates a fog and this also contributed to their shame and inability to take action. He had a formula, an MO, which worked for him. He already found it expedient to knock them out to do his dirty work. He is a predator, rapist, deviant and hypocrite. His wife is delusional. This business about it not being proven in court is irrelevant. Where there's this much smoke, there's fire. I hope he finds repentance and redemption before he dies.

straker
straker

Debbie


The Korean War ended in 1953.


If you father joined the Army at age 16 and "fought in Korea", he would be at least 77 now.


Try again.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@straker 

There are a lot of lively 77-year-olds walking around right now. In fact, wasn't there just a commemoration of Pearl Harbor about a week ago with World War II veterans being honored?

straker
straker

Debbie


Is a Bundy red herring the best answer you have?

straker
straker

Debbie


I'm betting its never occured to you, not even once, that "do whatever he's told by police officers" and "raise his hands as high in the air as possible" is good and smart behavior for White people as well.


That's probably a REALITY you don't want to talk about.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@straker  -- Did Cliven BUNDY do what was told by him and raise his heads up real high?  That's part of the REALITY that YOU don't want to talk about ain't it?

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

"Exactly how does your father "have to act differently"?


Here's a word you & MiltonMan may not understand Strkaer -- it's called REALITY:


Dad's Conversations About Race: 'Most White Kids Don't Get This Talk'


Every parent of black and biracial kids I spoke with has talked to their kids about what to do if they’re stopped by police. My brother is a cop, and I don’t want to make my kids think that police officers are out to get them. But in the wake of the Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice incidents (among others), many parents view “the talk” as a necessity.

Sandy told her son to do whatever he’s told by police officers “and we’ll worry about justice later.”

“After years of saying you need to stand up for what’s right, it’s heartbreaking to tell your child, it doesn’t matter what’s right, you need to lie down,” she says.

One of Sandy’s friends Askia says she’s told her black son to raise his hands as high in the air as possible if confronted by a police officer. “He was looking at me so sad, like, you’re telling me to surrender. I said, ‘If you put your hands up or put your hands behind your back, they can never say you tried to shoot him.’”


https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/dads-conversations-about-race-most-white-kids-104952792887.html

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/14/world/asia/amercan-north-korea/


LeninTime this one made me think of you


He said the electoral system in the United States "is unfairly built for the benefit of the wealthy through the necessity of costly fundraising for political candidates seeking office. The democracy of this nation is an illusion, and its representatives act as nothing more than power brokers for those who can offer them."


He also talked about unidentified flying objects, the CIA's alleged involvement in the cocaine trade, "ultrasonic" devices that cause people to hear voices and experience bodily discomfort, and how the Western news media have unfairly portrayed North Korea.


I'm sure he believes in CIA conspiracies concerning JFK, 9/11 and all sorts of other nutty stuff too


I could see you following a similar path, Comrade.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

"My father (as well as 2 brothers and 2 sister-in-laws), is a policeman.  He's also a veteran, (along with ALL my brothers), who fought in Korea and did 3 tours in VietNam; why is it that he as a black man has to act differently than any other America who are supposedly guaranteed certain inalienable rights?"


Debbie living in a fantasy world again.  Your dad has to be at least 78 years old to have fought in the Korean War & he is still a police officer???

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@MiltonMan  -- My dad joined the Army at 16, He's in his 60's and YES he's still a police officer. He works as a community Officer and does police relations type of work, (meaning he actually goes out in the community as a police emissary and NOT as a marauding braggart).


Also, FYI -- my dad did 20+ years in the military.  When he got out of the military he joined the Police force.  Anymore questions?

gotalife
gotalife

There are only two candidates for President that still believes in accountability for governments.


Senator Sanders and Warren.


straker
straker

common - "do you not understand the idea that black is always suspected"


No.


But I do understand paranoia and victimhood. 

gotalife
gotalife

We have reached the point of no return.


Either hold them accountable or stop crying when they break the law and walk free.

gotalife
gotalife

Lets go gop.


You want to impeach him so man up and do it.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@InTheMiddle2 @gotalife 

Aren't there defined legal grounds that the Constitution requires be met for impeachment that are quite strict? You can't just do it because you dislike the President's legally permitted executive actions.

straker
straker

Debbie


Exactly how does your father "have to act differently"?

gotalife
gotalife

I stand up with the protesters to demand justice for our criminal government and media that enables their crimes.


Enough with no accountabilty for our criminal government.


Justice now.

gotalife
gotalife

Enough with no accountabilty for government.


It ends today.


The last American that said that was executed by police.

gotalife
gotalife

A nation of laws is a freaking lie and fraud.


We are not exceptional, our government is criminal and our media enables the criminal's actions.


Lets cut the crap. We are the biggest hypocrites on this planet.


This criminal government is not worth fighting for.


It is time to hold the criminal accountable on all broken laws

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@gotalife There's one good thing then.  You are FREE to leave for the country of your choice.  Don't let the gate hit you on the way out.

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

@Jackie_36  -- Ha! that's very funny!  Someone should use that ^^ in their comedy acts!  My father (as well as 2 brothers and 2 sister-in-laws), is a policeman.  He's also a veteran, (along with ALL my brothers), who fought in Korea and did 3 tours in VietNam; why is it that he as a black man has to act differently than any other America who are supposedly guaranteed certain inalienable rights?

gotalife
gotalife

Release the thousands of torture photos then resign Obama.


It is time to hold our criminal government accountable.

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@gotalife Prior to the President resigning, he should indict Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all the others who admit to criminal behavior.

gotalife
gotalife

The President is dead wrong on not looking back to bush and cheney's crimes and it came back to impeach him.


If we are still a nation of laws impeach the President for covering up bush and cheney's crimes today.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Jackie_36

You would prefer that the youngsters be taught using materials developed by America-hating liberal fascists, no doubt.

Jackie_36
Jackie_36

@LilBarryBailout @Jackie_36 Good morning to you; glad you got a pass from the basement.

If you read and comprehend what is going on, why is it necessary for a group of so-called conservatives tell you that they have all the answers to raising your children and taking care of your family?

Is it that they know best?