Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Rape Culture and Right Conduct, Continued...

Now, recently an "open letter from Dylan Farrow" appeared in the NY Times.  It was accompanied by an op-ed from Nicholas Kristof, whom I quote thusly:

Look, none of us can be certain what happened. The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?
Yet the Golden Globes sided with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. That’s the message that celebrities in film, music and sports too often send to abuse victims.
“I know it’s ‘he said, she said,’ ” Dylan told me. “But, to me, it’s black and white, because I was there.”
I asked her why she’s speaking out now. She said she wants to set the record straight and give courage to victims: “I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.”
These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?

Just how far do we wish to take this argument?  

So far much of the comment around the 'net that I've heard is about "if you question Dylan's story you're for rape culture."   I myself see the situation differently: if you don't put things in the right perspective about issues like this you might be enabling rape culture because you might be trivializing  justice itself.

But let's go back to Kristof's question: When there are allegations just how do you treat a person?  

We have, shortly after Kristof's op-ed appeared, there was an article in the Daily Beast from a guy who might be considered a friend of Woody Allen, who brings up a lot of relevant things (and some irrelevant things) related to these allegations that didn't make it into Kristof's column.  I quote thusly:

A brief but chilling synopsis of the accusation is as follows: On August 4, 1992, almost four months after the revelation about Woody and Soon-Yi’s relationship understandably ignited a firestorm within the Farrow household, Woody was visiting Frog Hollow, the Farrow country home in Bridgewater, Connecticut, where Mia and several of her kids were staying. During an unsupervised moment, Woody allegedly took Dylan into the attic and, shall we say, “touched her inappropriately.” Later in the day, it was alleged that the child was wearing her sundress, but that her underpants were missing. The following day, Mia’s daughter allegedly told her mother what had happened, and Mia put the child’s recounting of the story on videotape as evidence...

Let’s back up a bit: Mia’s allegations of molestation automatically triggered a criminal investigation by the Connecticut State Police, who brought in an investigative team from the Yale-New Haven Hospital, whose six-month long inquiry (which included medical examinations) concluded that Dylan had not been molested. I’ve since read a recurring canard that Woody “chose” the investigative team. Yet nobody has suggested how or why Mia’s team would ever outsource the investigation to a team “chosen” by Woody. Others have said that the investigators talked to psychiatrists “on Allen’s payroll” before letting him off the hook. The only way I can explain this is that the investigators, naturally, would have spoken with Woody’s shrinks before giving him a clean bill of health. So technically, yeah, Woody’s shrinks would have been paid a lot of money by Woody over the years. (Let’s even call it an annuity.) The same would be true of his dentist, his eye doctor, and his internist. 
As for the evidentiary videotape of young Dylan’s claims, it’s been noted that there were several starts and stops in the recording, essentially creating in-camera “edits” to the young girl’s commentary. This raises questions as to what was happening when the tape wasn’t running. Was Mia “coaching” her daughter off-camera, as suggested by the investigators? Mia says no—she merely turned the camera on whenever Dylan starting talking about what Daddy did. Maybe we should take Mia at her word on this. Since I wasn’t there, I think it’s good policy not to presume what took place. 
The videotape and the medical exams weren’t the only problems Mia faced in bringing abuse charges against her former lover. There were problems with inconsistencies in her daughter’s off-camera narrative as well. A New York Times article dated March 26, 1993, quotes from Mia’s own testimony, during which she recalled taking the child to a doctor on the same day as the alleged incident. Farrow recalled, “I think (Dylan) said (Allen) touched her, but when asked where, she just looked around and went like this,” at which point Mia patted her shoulders. Farrow recalls she took Dylan to another doctor, four days later. On the stand, Allen’s attorney asked Mia about the second doctor’s findings: “There was no evidence of injury to the anal or vaginal area, is that correct?” Farrow answered, “Yes.”
I won't go into the more irrelevant details of Robert B. Weide's piece I've quoted; but I think this information above is relevant to the question Mr. Kristof asks.  Let's slightly reframe Kristof's question: When there are allegations as well as exculpatory evidence  just how do you treat a person?  

Mr. Kristof apparently gave a forum to someone who might have been coached to the point where to this day she truly believes events took place that didn't happen.   (And no that doesn't make her a liar; it merely makes her possibly mistaken*.)   Mr. Kristof did not go into any detail about the exculpatory evidence that exists, and pointed out that he is not an impartial observer.   Mr. Kristof's behavior in some ways is more clear-cut in terms of its professional implications than the question Kristof asked, as it goes to journalistic  ethics, though it is an opinion piece.   Should Mr. Kristof give back his awards?   Frankly I think he should do that for his pro-sweatshop writing.  The fact that the context of events like the McMartin preschool affair are left out to me is damning though.  

It has been considered ethical in our society where there are allegations and exculpatory evidence that we don't treat a person as though they committed a crime.  So most readers of this blog would agree that Edward Snowden not be charged with a crime.  Edward Snowden of course is a far more attractive figure than Woody Allen, and I for one am not all that enamored with Hollywood awards.  

To answer Mr. Kristof's question though, if someone loses a civil case, in which allegations of criminal acts aren't developed into findings of fact, it seems morally questionable to sanction such a person in their career.   Right conduct would be to demonstrate graciousness towards them.   I wouldn't necessarily give such a person an award though, especially one who has not really had an impact outside of New York and Hollywood for decades.

Everyone I have quoted here, and myself included, is against the alleged crimes committed.  We differ in how the evidence is viewed and presented.

It does not enable rape culture to point out exculpatory evidence in cases where sexual abuse has been alleged.  Rather, I would submit, to ignore exculpatory evidence would enable rape culture more, as it would minimize those cases where there isn't exculpatory evidence - because it creates an equivalence between the two classes of cases!

So no, I wouldn't have given Mr. Allen an award, and I wouldn't have published Mr. Kristof's piece in the form it was presented, and I'd have doubts about publishing Dylan Farrow's letter without additional context.  It's probably why their public editor pointed to Mr. Weide's piece.

* This to me is one of the most potentially ghastly aspects of what I've seen written about this, and Kristof's writing.   Kristof  - and the other writers I've quoted, though Mr. Weide goes near the point - downplay in large extent the issue of the malleability of a child's mind.  See also here for more context.   The Allen - Farrow case is precisely the type of case in which it is most likely that false allegations might be made.  Kristof ought to have known this, and ought to have considered that there was a real possibility that he was not so much helping Dylan Farrow as enabling what possibly was Mia Farrow's abuse.   And again, it is to me the opposite of rape culture to bring up this point, and enables abuse culture to downplay or minimize or ignore it!

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