Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Bernard-Henri Levy on Polanski.

Bernard-Henri Levy had a powerful and emotive essay on the Huffington Post.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion  he gets to the core of the matter re those who are condemning Polanski when he concludes his essay on the following note,

Because it is shameful, finally, that we can’t, when we talk about his life, evoke his childhood in the ghetto, the death of his mother in Auschwitz, the murder of his young spouse, eviscerated along with the young child she was carrying, without the prayers of the new popular justice crying, “Blackmail!': even for the most abominable serial killer, the prevailing “culture of excuse” jumps to scrutinize the difficult childhood , the broken family, the traumas — but Roman Polanski would be the only person in the world under judicial jurisdiction not to have the right to any kind of attenuating circumstance…

It is the entirety of the affair, in truth, that is shameful.

It is the debate that is nauseating and from which we must abstain.

I hardly know Roman Polanski. But I know that all those who, from close and from afar, join in this lynching will soon wake up, horrified by what they have done, ashamed.

Bravo to Bernard-Henri Levy whose call is really to view the life of Polanski in holistic terms.  Almost all avoid or deny that  the murder of his mother, the the murder of his wife and about to be baby have any relevance to Polanski’s life after these terrible tragedies.  It is so much easier not to look at the horrors that Polanski went thru.  To deny that one’s past has anything to do with one’s present is surreal.

As for Levy’s final line that those who “join in this lynching will soon wake up, horrified by what they have done, ashamed.”  Such is unlikely.  To experience the horror they must become open to Polanski’s horrors; the risk of doing so is that they would then have to deal with their feeling of guilt.  Such would end up making them more similar to Polanski who has felt survivor guilt throughout much of his life.

October 28, 2009 - Posted by | rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, shame

6 Comments »

  1. I think there is VERY GOOD ARTICLE & GREAT VOICE AGAINST the situation WE WITNESS .What seems the MOST IMPORTANT is RATHER the temperature OF THE WORDS then THE WORDS THEMSELVES .This is THE ACCUSATION of THE WORLD as IT IS NOW .The philosopher doesn ‘t NAME THE THINGS as THERE IS NO THE PLACE for It & It would MAKE a HUGHER MESS but THE THINGS are SIMPLE .People don ‘t want to KNOW WHAT really happened ,they DON ‘T QUESTION what GIRL SAID ,the DON ‘T THINK about THE CUL DE SAC -by the way one of Roman Polanski movies – SHE WAS IN ,as being 13 YEARS OLD ,having jealous BOYFRIEND ,older SISTER who heard her conversation & MOTHER .They also DON ‘T UNDERSTAND the situation which TAKES PLACE on every PHOTO SHUT or MODELLING SESSION ,wher the ATMOSPHERE of THE ATTRACTION between THE PHOTOGRAPHER ,PAINTER & SOMEBODY who pose is NEARLY ALL THE TIME ON & It could QUITE easily TRANSFORM into the DIFFERENT SITUATION OF QUITE sexual CONTECST .All this is NOT THOUGHT ABOUT & that ‘s WHY there is such a BIG DIFFERENCE between THE REACTIONS OF THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT & the REST .The REST SIMPLY DOESN ‘T know & doesn ‘t WANT TO KNOW as well .Taking INTO ACCOUNT that the GIRL WAS AN EXPERIENCED model/actress SHE KNEW SUCH THINGS – no WAY NOT TO KNOW .Another THING IS her KNOWLEDGE in THE AREA LOVE AFFAIRS which WERE KNOWN to HER BEFORE she MET Roman Polanski ,which could be easilt read from her OWN WORDS .So the GIRL was not naivette in the professional way & also in the sexual WAY SO SHE could GUESS what HOW THE SITUATION COULD DEVELOP ,If she DIDN ‘T WANT to TAKE PART IN Roman Polanski ADVANCES she COULD DO EVERYTHING – SHE COULD CRY ,SHE COULD RUN AWAY ,SHE COULD DESTROY the THINGS IN THE APARTMENT ,SHE COULD ALSO FAINT or ACT ILLNESS OR ANYTHING WHAT SHE DIDN ‘T DO .She didn ‘t as SHE WANTED TO BE FAMOUS & ALL THIS what is connected with THE PICTURE WHICH MEANS POWER ,UPHEAVAL ,MONEY & all this YOUNG LADIES & not only YOUNG LADIES IMAGINE – WHAT sometimes THEY ARE GIVEN but NOT ALWAYS …Years later after her LAWSUIT AGAINST Roman Polanski ,when the CASE WAS SETTLED she STATED :IT WAS NOT RAPE ,she also MADE THE AGREEMENT ABOUT the MONEY TO BE GIVEN ,even OF COURSE ,we don ‘t know WHAT REALLY HAPPENDED in THE MONEY MATTERS the THINGS BETWEEN TWO of THEM WERE MANAGED ,when they WERE NOT MANAGED FOR Roman Polanski who COULD NOT ENTER United States & HAD TO CARRY ALL THE BURDEN of the THINGS WHICH HAPPENED once with SOMEBODY WHO was NOT SUITED FOR THE OCCASION ,not SUITED IN THE WAY of AGE & in THE WAY OF MIND – saying THIS I don ‘t FOLLOW ALL THE THINGS we know so MUCH AS ACCUSATIONS & LABELS which are THROWN from EVERYWHERE but completely DIFFERENT THINGS .If somebody knows THAT HE IS DEALING with THE PERSON whose AGE could BE THE BASE for THE FUTURE LEGAL PROBLEMS He must BE PREPEARED FOR THE TRUBLES .Roman Polanski WAS NOT – taking INTO ACCOUNT THE PROFESSION he expresses HIMSELF BY & WITH THE GREAT SUCCESS not only IN THE COUNTRY he was born in ,or lived FOR SOME YEARS BUT IN AMERICA were HE MADE MOVIES WITH THE BEST ACTORS ,IN THE LANGUAGE HE HAD TO LEARN ,HAD TO have THE INFLUENCE on ALL COLLABORATORS & THE AUDIENCES WHICH WERE MOSTLE MADE of CITIZENS OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES ,SPEAKING OTHER LANGUAGES & OF DIFFERENT CULTURAL EXPERIENCES – ALL THIS NOT THE TASK for the MAN WHO is not CONSCIOUSLY PLANNING EVERYTHING & PLANING to AVOID EVERYTHING WHICH COULD BRING OBSTACLES ,CHANGE THE PLANS .Taking all this INTO CONSIDERATION I don ‘t think HE MADE A CONSCIOUS CASTING OF the GIRL …This APPLIES to HER AGE but WHEN It comes to HER MIND It was – as It SEEMS also NOT QUITE A GOOD IDEA as she PLAYED IN A LITTLE BIT STRANGE WAY .I mean all THIS DOESN ‘T LOOK as THE BEHAVIOR of so called VICTIM but RATHER OF somebody WHO IS CAUGHT IN BETWEEN ,in between MEANS BETWEEN EXPECTATIONS of DIFFERENT KIND .The BEHAVIOR of GIRL as A LITTLE BIT OLDER ONE ,sueing Roman Polanski in 1993 also SHOWS THE PERSON in the STRANGE WAY & again SHE CHANGES her VERSION of the STORY .Of course WE COULD look AT THE situation in a different ONE WAY from the POINT OF VIEW of SO CALLED VALUES & BELIEFS ,we could think LIKE THE CONSCIOUSNESS of THE DEED is not NECESSARY to STATE THE DEED as EVIL – It was like this IN THE GREEK TRAGEDIES ,in this WAY THE WORLD BEHAVES as THE CHORUS ,I mean PEOPLE WHO COMMENT the EVENTS OF TRAGEDIES & EXPLAIN why THE MAIN HERO is going TO COMMIT SUICIDE or DO ANYTHING SIMILAR ,like THE HARM to HIMSELF but EVEN OUR WORLD BEHAVES in SUCH A WAY there is NOT A PROPER PLACE for SUCH STEPS – THEY LEAD nowhere AS THERE IS NOT THE PLACE TO WITNESS ANY AWFUL CRIME against HUMAN LAWS here AS IF WE THINK in THE WAY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES ,PHILOSOPHY : the way the things ARE SEEN IN THE SPHERE OF SEXUALITY DEPEND ON THE TIMES & THEY VARY when It COMES TO THE CULTURES INVOLVED – THERE IS REALLY NOTHING UNIVERSAL IN THIS AREA when It comes TO THE AGE of THE PEOPLE WHO ENGADGE IN THE PURSUITS OF SEXUALITY & the RUKES DEPEND on the THINGS people BELIEVE IN or rather they APPLY in the MANNERS WHICH SUIT existing INSTITUTIONS MSTRUCTURES & ALL UNNAMED SOCIAL ORDER ,So little PRINCESSES WERE CHOOSEN to be MARRIED & as quickly as possible the relation was CONSUMATED OFTEN ON THE VIEW OF ALL THE COURT ,which FOR US could be QUITE STRANGE ,AWFUL & UNBELIEVABLE & THE AGE WAS NOT TAKEN IN THE CONSIDERSTION or the difference IN AGE but It was the problem OF SOCIAL INTEREST & POWER & QUITE OTHER THINGS THEN NOW .As we KNOW in other COUNTRIES THE YOUNG GIRLS are all the time THE SUBJECT of STRANGE RITUALS marking RITES OF PASSAGE & nobody is SURPRISED so THE SURPRISE of THE WORLD of THE sexual encounter of NEARLY 14 YEARS OLD woman & 30 years older man IS NOT UNIVERSAL IN KIND & has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BASE OF HUMANITY ,THE COMENDMENTS or DIFFERENT INNER RULES – It ‘s JUST THE ARTIFICIAL RULE which is STRUCTURED by THE LAW ,but LAW IS NOT THE NATURAL LAW social thinkers OF OTHER TIMES WROTE ABOUT & It has nothing DIVINE INSIDE – It ‘s JUST THE SYSTEM APPLIED to MAKE THE SOCIETY WORK but FOR THE SOCIETY NOT AGAINST It .Im this CASE It ‘s – WHAT IS WIDELY SEEN – AGAINST IT & If we would ALLOW THIS TYPE OF THINKING & treating THE PEOPLE WIN – It WOULD BE NOT ONLY BAD ,It would MEAN THE VICTORY OF EVIL over the VALUE OF CIBILISATION .
    Agnieszka Jackl

    Comment by ROCKQUEEN | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. I can’t recall a famous legal case where traumatic experiences were enough to acquit a defendant. It’s frequently brought up at serial killer trials and the trials of child molesters and rapists but traumatic experiences have not been enough to acquit.

    And besides, there is no statute of limitations on rape and child molestation in the vast majority of states. Instead of using appeal to emotion arguments perhaps people can use legal ones. Appeal to emotion arguments work in hot campaigns where people are illiterate of the political process but are shot down in criminal courts.

    Crime of passion defenses (i.e. appeal to emotion arguments) like with Clara Harris here in Houston end up with a lesser sentence than they should, but the people still wind up in the pen. But with Harris’ case, she’s a woman and for some reason women get lesser sentences. It’s a load of crap, and I’m saying this as a female.

    Comment by Nadya | November 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Oh great. Another defense for Polanski using completely irrelevant factors, because there is nothing relevant to defend Polanski with.
    Actually, if you’d read any of the very intelligent arguments against Polanski out there, they have addressed all of the lame softballs you mention over and over again, and it’s gotten really tiresome having to respond to them. But I will for your sake:

    “Almost all avoid or deny that the murder of his mother, the the murder of his wife and about to be baby have any relevance to Polanski’s life after these terrible tragedies.”
    We don’t really consider rape acceptable therapy for this. Not to mention we don’t really think it wise to belittle all the other people who have gone through tragedy determined not to victimize others by saying that they should all be sociopaths.

    “It is so much easier not to look at the horrors that Polanski went thru. (sic) To deny that one’s past has anything to do with one’s present is surreal.”
    Not nearly as surreal as the argument that violence in response to violence should go unpunished, and victims of violence should be above the law. By the way, pretty much everyone is aware of what Polanski went through. His defenders have dragged it up as a defense many times now.

    “To experience the horror they must become open to Polanski’s horrors; the risk of doing so is that they would then have to deal with their feeling of guilt.”
    To experience the horror of a 13 year-old girl knowing that she was going to be raped, one must risk imagining what is was like. SOmething I really don’t believe any of Polanski’s defenders, in their rush to relive him of the CONSEQUENCES FOR THE ACTIONS HE TOOK AGAINST A 13 YEAR-OLD GIRL WHEN HE WAS 43 YEARS OLD, ever really bother to do.

    Comment by julie | November 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Of course, rape is not accceptable therapy. I believe you know what I meant- that to understand anyone, one must view the persons past. To thoroughly embrace the horrors of Polanski’s past may lead many to feel that Polanski’s punishment should be mitigated. How much horror can be put on the shoulders of one man and those doing it feeling it is the right thing to do? I believe that “we” are able to do this since we distance ourselves from him, deny the relevance of his past and demonize him. Putting this guy in jail for what? To be raped, to be put in solitary, to take away attention from the fact that thousands of rape kits remain untouched in the LA District Attorney’s office. I personally believe that Polanski is being used as a scapegoat for those who are not doing their jobs.

    You say-

    “Not nearly as surreal as the argument that violence in response to violence should go unpunished, and victims of violence should be above the law”

    Unforunately all too many people believe that responding to violence with violence is fine. Our jail and prison systems facilitate violence and degradation which faciliatates more violence.

    I do not mean this to be a lecture, Julie, and you probably know that most rapists use rape to deal with their anger and haterd of women, to deal with their feelings of powerlessness. And often as a result they pass on what I call the sting, meaning that they often create their victims in their own image- women feeling hatred, anger and feeling powerless as well as fear. And then some of these victims in
    the name of justice want to violate and hurt and have violence done to those who have raped. The cycle goes on, the beat goes on.

    And as for your last comment as to experiencing the horror of rape as experienced by the 13 year old girl, here is the dilemma, the 13 year old girl did not want others to know of her experience- such is why there was a deal on the guilty plea. Over and over again Ms. Geimer says to drop the whole thing. She does not want to go thru it, not now and not then when she was a child. Now if you are a victim advocate, you are ignoring the victim and putting your needs above the victim, your need to punish Polanski. Julie,
    given the victim’s desires, can’t we just drop this? Who benefits from going on withthis. Can’t we just say no,enough is enough.

    Comment by dankprofessor | November 15, 2009 | Reply

  5. Funny thing is – if there is this ‘cycle’, where is Polanki’s? Geimer was the only one who ever cried rape, which even then could not be proven least the double sodomy. With all the women he had bedded in his life, only ‘one’ cried rape? Rapists are repeat offenders, and Polanski sure as hell did not need to force himself on that one girl suddenly or raped anyone. To concentrate only on her side, is fatal ignorance of his own. I’m sure most people would like to be heard in case they are accused of rape.

    ‘To experience the horror of a 13 year-old girl knowing that she was going to be raped, one must risk imagining what is was like.’

    Gee, she could just have walked out the door – and talk about the exact same emotional blackmail tactics Julie accuses all his supporters of, by appealing to our sympathy – or to ‘imagine’ [Geimer's or their own] rape.

    Besides, if people keep denying him his past life before and after in regards to how it shaped him, then NO ONE else’s has any significance either, and I’m sure Julie wouldn’t like that, or to ignore her own ‘ordeals’ through that. You’re defeating and your own argumentations, Julie, as usual.

    You don’t have the monopoly on rape, let alone an alleged one from decades ago, get a life alright. Or, no, go on and live in your sad rape and sodomy word till you blow. Or better still, read my blog, to see the whole picture of this much maligned case. But I doubt you want to be ripped from your polarised rape and sodomy fantasies.

    Comment by Novalis Lore | January 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. Mr Polanski’s mother died about 67 years ago, his wife, 41 years ago. If Mr Polanski had too much to drink, drove and hit someone and did them servere damage, should a lawyer then bring this up in order to attempt to secure a light sentence and lessen his responsiblity? “he drank because of the tragic deaths of his mother and wife, your honor…” At what point does he get to stop claiming that he is a victim of these past events? His mother was gone 30 years and his wife, 8 years when the Geimer assault took place. A long time in the case of his mother and not a short time in the case of his wife. Just exactly when is it that this man can stop claiming that past events should allow him to pay no price for any wrongs he commits in the present?

    If Mr Polanski felt traumatized by these past events, as I am sure he did–and had trouble healing, he could have and should have sought out professional psychological help. I read, however, that after Sharon Tate’s death, within one month of it ( according to a current biograpny by Christopher Stanford)– that he instead engaged in sex with some young women as some sort of balm. It seems to me that sex–and especially with YOUNG girls/women for Mr Polanski is what he turns in every sitution, and like an addcit turns to drugs. Drugs do not cure ones pain–at some point you look at the source of the pain, you ask yourself why you are not healing and you do something constructve and APPROPRIATTE to addrss it. This is being a responsible adult.

    His past sufferings where brought up in the probation reports and it was feared that based on them he would be “destroyed” if he went to jail for even a short time. The judge then did not agree, At any rate, he spent 60 days in jail in Switzerland and did fine. So then I think that demostrates he will not be destroyed if he comes back and spends some time in jail PRIOR to sentencing which he would certainly have to do as he will have to do as there is a warrant for his arrest in the US–he broke a law when he fled.

    He should return, make his charges of misconduct to the court as re: Rittenband– a judge has said he was aware of the assertions of misconduct and to him they seemed to carry some merit and so he would be willing to hear arguements regarding them. If there is a open minded judge then why is Polanski refusing to come and end this matter? Because he will be arrested when he enters the country. Well that is the law–he can seek a swift hearing on the misconduct matter before his sentencing so he will not have to be locked up long. He has a chance to be sentenced lightly it would appear but because he thinks he should not have to obey the current laws, or go to jail—that he should be able to cherry pick what he will submit to and not submit to, well then he makes himself, his family — and the victim Samantha Geimer continue to suffer–as she states that she wants the matter to end becasue it bothers her to have it in the news reminding her of the past. He is currently reponsible for any suffering he is enduring because he refuses to face the matter head on and end it for all parties concerned.

    Comment by perry | May 24, 2010 | Reply


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