Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free as a bird now

And now, for some real outrage. The Swiss government has decided to not extradite Roman Polanski so he can finally face justice for his rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He is now a free man. Though “free” is kind of relative considering the majority of his “imprisonment” was being confined to his luxury Swiss ski chalet and grounds. We should all be so lucky.

This puts a sad, sickening end to the spectacle that has been the Free Polanski movement. His supporters are no doubt thrilled, but what are they really thrilled about? That a very rich, very successful, very acclaimed, very entitled man was able to – again – evade justice that is long overdue? This is something to cheer about?

That Roman Polanski is talented has never been the issue. He is talented. “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” “The Pianist” – great films. But talent is not a get out of jail free card. Much discussion has been made around this case (and others) about what responsibility an artist has. As an artist, your greatest responsibility is to make great art. But as a human being, your responsibility is to be good to other human beings. Not all great artists are great human beings, obviously.

Professionally, brilliant. Personally, abhorrent.

While we may quibble some on what being a good human being means, I think we can all safely agree that raping a 13-year-old girl – no matter if it was in the 70s and everyone was doing it, no matter if she had had sex before, no matter if you directed “Chinatown,” no matter if you had a tragic personal life – is not being good to other human beings.

So what, then, is the great injustice of finally facing justice? That he doesn’t want to? That he is too talented to? That he has earned the right not to? Fail, fail, faility fail.

The Internet is often a place it fueled by outrage (that and terrible, terrible spelling). With the click of a button we can register our unwavering anger about anything: two wars, an ongoing oil spill, whether “The Daily Show” is sexist, LeBron James, the iPhone 4 reception problems, how an octopus could be better at predicting the World Cup than every veteran sports analysts, whether a movie where a lesbian sleeps with a man can be good. So much so that we can fall into outrage fatigue. What are we protesting? How many petitions do I have to sign? Will I really need to learn a new chant?

But I hope, most sincerely, that in our exhaustion at everything that is wrong with the world, we can still muster enough righteous indignation to realize that never letting justice be served in a case where a man admitted to drugging and raping a child is wrong. Because that, that is an outrage.


Anonymous said...

Amen!!Talent is not a get out of jail card, nor is fame or money.

achelesox said...

I think I am most annoyed at the fact that it wasn't because of the protesting, it wasn't money or influence that set him free, it was because the American judicial system never bothered to send Switzerland the documents they required in order to have him extradited. Bureaucracy is evils greatest alliance!

Lili said...

I am french. The controversy concerning Polanski in my country can be described like this : on one side, people from the elitist french cultural scene, old actors, filmmakers, writers, and even the minister in charge of Culture have gathered to protest against the extradition, arguing that he is so talented, etc.

On the other side, french citizens, who have discussed aspects of the law, and the question of equality which is a very important issue to french people. And we, citizens, are horrified that talented Polanski should not face jail just because he is talented.

Switzerland is not France and we don't have any means to change their system. But what was chocking was seeing all those VIPs and "beautiful people" in Europe agreeing to protect an outlaw and child molester.

LiteraryVice432 said...

I sometimes forget what a brilliant, concise, fierce, and inspiring writer you are.
We all know you're witty and smart but your ability to write in a way that inspires people to move, believe, push, change, or think consistently catches me off guard.
I'm glad your voice is out there.

Amy said...

Very well put, Ms. Snarker.

Anonymous said...

Polanski is a huge scumbag.

I don't even understand this whole sh.t about him. Guilty? Guilty. Why is he running around like some movie director? Who is this so called human to avoid his punisment? Oh, my, people like this turns me into a monster.

Maybe in my country this case doesn't even get in front of any court. Maybe nobody gets to know about it.
The girl's family get a serious amount of money and we are done.


Tirza said...

"This puts a sad, sickening end to the spectacle that has been the Free Polanski movement. His supporters are no doubt thrilled, but what are they really thrilled about? That a very rich, very successful, very acclaimed, very entitled man was able to – again – evade justice that is long overdue? This is something to cheer about?"

That's an easy and seductive argument to make (just as it is an easy an seductive argument from the other side to make that this very witchhunt of the past year is because he is a very successful, very acclaimed, very entitled man. Would you really have cared so much if this was a random guy?), but please also consider the reasons and motivations behind this sudden cry for the extradition of Roman Polanski, and exactly what justice it would serve if he did come to trial - again - in the USA? Here are two good articles that focus on the dubious juridical and political motivations of all of a sudden starting to persecuting him again:

and: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jul/12/roman-polanski-extradite-swiss-us

And I'm not saying this to be apologetic. What Roman Polanski did was abhorrent, no doubt about that. And sure, my gutfeeling also says 'lock the bastard up, he had a fair too good deal in life'. But taking a step back and looking at the whole picture, and with whole I mean including the juridical and political side of it, I find this sudden witchhunt a little problematic, to say the least.

@achelesox: It's not 'merely' bureacracy. USA did not 'forget' to send documents, they refused: "She also said that US authorities had refused to provide certain documents pertaining to the original case, which had made it impossible for the Swiss justice ministry to decide otherwise than as it did." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/jul/12/romanpolanski-switzerland)

Switzerland did not make a moral decision here, but a political one, namely they decided not to just comply with whatever USA (I'm talking government here, not people- obviously) demand, when the USA themselves so rarely comply with other countries requests. Please keep this in mind.

Tirza said...

ps sorry about those long links in my comment, I don't know how to do it properly otherwise...
And please, I am not excusing the crime or whatever, I've just learned to look at the whole picture of any story, and this picture is, well, troubling on many accounts... (leaving me with many conflicted feelings about it). And ms Snarker: please let it be known that I hold you in high regard and thoroughly enjoy your blog, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the trouble to comment with what I guess for many is an undesirable view of things...

Unknown said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

"What are they really thrilled about? That a very rich, very successful, very acclaimed, very entitled man was able to – again – evade justice that is long overdue? This is something to cheer about?"

I guess some are happy because the mantra of :EWhite Male Privilege" is still kicking.

The bigger question is: Are we going to let those that we are a fan of off of the proverbial "Hook."

I remember reading an article on this site where certain celebs were is favor of granting Polanski Amnesty.
Those celebbrities were mentioned on this siten I presume because they have a fan following.

The ONLY salient remedy to show dissatisfaction is monetary in the eyes of te entertainment industry. Online petitions are virtually useless unless you are trying to get a beloved character back on a television show (e.g. Betty White on Saturday Night Live, Karina Lombard on th L Word season 4 or 5).
You want to get a massge across? Don't pay for their product. Simple as that. Don't see their movies (unless for free - like online). Don't but their records etc. That's what gets the message across.

Also useless are self serving online proclamations of moral outrage.

cee-cee said...

Ahhhhhh, "Ms.Snarker", THIS is why I read you! Love the snark, love your wit, love your droll ways with a phrase, but it's your cogent calls to conscience --and action!-- like this one that have made me such a huge fan. Thank-you

Anonymous said...

@Tirza - I respect your arguement but I have two bones of contention: 1. Would we still care so much if this case involved a "regular" guy? Emphatically - YES. 2. This would never have happened if RP were a "regular" guy. A "regular" guy would have been thrown in prison in the 70's when the crime was first committed.

The injustice in this world can be so horribly overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that you comeback,
so are you okay?
I had very bad feeling yesterday,
today will go well right?

have a nice day, and cheer up.

Anonymous said...

I agree he is wrong.
besides, really is there people who support him?

what on earth...?

Tirza said...


"1. Would we still care so much if this case involved a "regular" guy? Emphatically - YES."

Sure, the public yes. Would the American government all of a sudden hunt a man down 30 years later (the arrest warrant wasn't issued until 5 years ago or so). I sincerely doubt it.

"2. This would never have happened if RP were a "regular" guy. A "regular" guy would have been thrown in prison in the 70's when the crime was first committed."

With this I fully agree. And its a bad, bad thing it didn't happen. But a ruling was made (and whatever happened afterwards is shredded in mystery). I get the feeling that now, a global community wants him retried, even though the victim herself has wanted the case closed for years now (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/07/roman-polanski-victim-director-is-not-a-threat-prosecution-should-end.html), so tell me: exactly what justice is being down hunting him down and throwing him to jail now? It it the principle of it all? That's an emotional argument, and a very understandable one at that, but 'justice' isn't just about emotions, as the New York Times article nicely demonstrates.

Once again, I agree with the sentiment fully, I'm just saying to make a fair assesment of this whole mess you have to take the full picture into account, including the - what seems to me- rather dubious (I would even say hypocritical) motives to all of a sudden start persecuting him now.

As for horrible injustices in the world, I think there are a lot of graver ones that are of some much needed attention.

Chirper said...

Tirza, the reason the US did not send the documents is that legally (and yes, I'm an attorney) if the warrant is valid on its face, the court has no authority to look behind it. Ordering the extradition of a prisoner is a ministerial function--the court has no discretion whatsoever to delve into prior proceedings. However, for reasons which are still unknown, the Swiss court listened when Polanski's attorneys raised the issue of bias by the original sentencing judge in California. Legally the Swiss court had no authority to do this.

Again, what many people are overlooking is the fact that Polanski is a fugitive from justice. Rightly or wrongly, he was still under the jurisdiction of the California criminal justice system when he fled. Grown-ups and responsible people don't flee--they take the case up on appeal, and had Polanski done so, he would have won and gotten his freedom after his 60-day stay in the psychiatric facility back in the 1970's. Instead he considered himself to be above the law.

I have no tolerance for this whatsoever, and yes, IMO anyone who does this deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law, "artist" or not. We either have rules that apply to all or we have anarchy. Self-entitled assholes, whether they're Roman Polanski, Lindsay Lohan, LeBron James or Mel Gibson are not heroes.

The only good thing to come out of the Polanski debacle is that additional victims came forward, and transcripts and psychiatric reports from the proceedings in the 1970's were posted on the web for the world to see what a criminal pervert Polanski is. And unless the son-of-a-bitch comes back to California and appears in court in person, he'll never work in this country again, which delights me no end.

Sorry for the soapbox oration, but I had to deliver it.

Bekka said...

didn't we keep putting former Nazis behind bars until they practically died out? if there's one thing americans are obsessed with, it's finding closure and putting the bad guys away.

to me, really, trying to excuse polanski's actions is pretty much saying, "Because he's so talented, I will do whatever I can to justify him raping a little girl."

Anonymous said...

@Chirper...i love it when the smart kids chime in - well said.

@Tirza - I don't think the passage of time removes a person's culpability in a crime, especially one involving a child.

Tirza said...

Chirper: As far as I have understood it (and sure, I am merely a laywoman reading my daily dosis of news so I might be wrong) the whole point is that the Swiss believed the warrant wasn't valid on its face, and that the sealed testimonies concerned might indicate that he had already served that time (and perhaps those documents didn't, we won't know). My point being - and that is what I mean with this whole thing being politically charged - that if the US did indeed not meet the criteria of the extradition warrant, its not entirely fair to point to the Swiss and say they're letting a man free merely because he's a famous artist. That's some very selective reading of the decision.

Please bear in mind that on a political level, the USA government often makes demands on other countries without wanting to meet theirs, so don't be surprised when at some stage one of those countries objects. This might perhaps not be too obvious when you are a US citizen, but when you are not (as I am), it all too often becomes clear that the USA government politically likes to measure with two sizes (not really sure if you can say that in English). This case has grown way above the simple 'man did wrong, man must be punished' and has substantial political meaning by now. And once again I ask, which justice exactly is being met here? Two quote from the NY Times article I posted above:

"Two major flaws instill doubt about the legitimacy of the request to extradite Mr. Polanski. The first goes to the very aims of criminal law. Those are usually stated as revenge, deterrence, punishment and rehabilitation. Revenge is widely recognized as illegitimate. In Mr. Polanski’s case none of the legitimate aims seem applicable.

As he has not, as far as we know, committed any crimes in the three decades he has been living in France and Switzerland, the objective of deterring him from committing a future crime carries no force.

Nor do punishment and rehabilitation seem applicable. Punishment, like rehabilitation, is meant to be salutary, not vindictive. The purpose of both is to enable the prisoner to return to society and to function in a social setting without committing more crimes. As Mr. Polanski has been living in Paris for three decades as an apparently law-abiding citizen, those objectives do not come into play. What seems left is revenge."

Which, for one, the victim at least doesn't desire.
Frankly, I am surprised by the lack of critical outlook on that.

theliminalstate: I have no where stated that the passage of time removes the culpability of the crime, nor have I denied the severity of the crime, nor have I apoligized for Mr Polanski's crime (that's @Bekka), nor have I called Mr. Polanski a hero (@chirper).

I am trying to take a look at this whole thing beyond the instinct feeling of moral right and wrong - which I share - and to shed a critical light on the whole uproar surrounding the case, the politics surrounding the case and exactly what justice it would serve if Mr Polanski would be extradited and serve the, what was it, remaining 50 days of the ridiculous original sentence (that's an honest question, cause I honestly don't know).

Since Ms Snarker always struck me as an intelligent, critical thinking, nuanced person, I thought there might be room for that on this blog...

Oh and Bekka, a little sidetracking here, but "didn't we keep putting former Nazis behind bars until they practically died out? if there's one thing americans are obsessed with, it's finding closure and putting the bad guys away. " is true for many European countries, but certainly not for the USA. As far as I know, the USA didn't persecute any Nazi's after the Nuremberg trials. As for you 'wanting to beat the bad guys': ratify the International Court of Justice and then we'll talk further

Tirza said...

err.. sorry for the really long post *blushes*

Chirper said...

Tirza, I don't mean to start an international incident, but again, you're missing the most important point: Polanski was under the jurisdiction of the California criminal court when he fled. It drives me insane when people ignore this point. He was a fugitive from justice. HE PLED GUILTY TO THE CRIME. If he had a problem over the judge's bias, he should have had his attorneys make the appropriate motion before the assignment judge to get the trial judge removed from the case.

Quite honestly, I don't care about the New York Times quotes--the Swiss court has no jurisdiction to look behind the warrant to investigate whether the trial judge was biased. Nor may it question the basis of Polanski's punishment, inasmuch the man is a fugitive. THESE ISSUES BELONG SOLELY BEFORE THE CALIFORNIA COURTS.

Given that Polanski is a fugitive, it is totally immaterial how Polanski's victim feels. She and her family obtained civil redress when Polanski paid them off with a civil settlement. TWO criminal matters need redress at this point--the rape and the subsequent flight from the jurisdiction. That makes two debts owed to societal order, not to the victim.

Sorry for the SHOUTING, but I have problems when somebody begins "I'm just a layman but..." and refuses to listen to what U.S. law and due process are actually about. And as for this:

"This might perhaps not be too obvious when you are a US citizen, but when you are not (as I am), it all too often becomes clear that the USA government politically likes to measure with two sizes..."

I don't know about your citizenship or past sins of your country, but it is universally acknowledged that the Anglo-American accusatorial/adversarial system affords defendants more rights than any other justice system on earth. Had Polanski acted responsibly and used the system the way it was intended to be used, instead of acting above the law by fleeing the country, we wouldn't be debating this today. As the assistant principal in "The Breakfast Club" says, "You can make book on that, missy."

PS: The US didn't conduct the Nuremberg Trials--it was an international tribunal on which British, French, Russian and American justices sat. What we have done since that time is conduct trials to revoke the US citizenship of and deport Nazi war criminals, John Demjanjuk being the most prominent. As far as the International Court of Justice is concerned, why should the US ratify something that may fly in the face of the workings of its own justice system?

Tirza said...

I'm starting to be a bit baffled, but ok. You seem to have a problem with my side of the discussion, which is valid enough, to each their own viewpoint. What I don't understand is why you should have a problem with the fact that I state that I am just a lay woman, basing my arguments on what I have read in the several newspaper I read (which, I am guessing, most of the people who have an opinion on this or any other thing they are not involved in themself do). I see it fit to state that, so people know where my opinion comes from. I cite from those sources, so that people in a discussion know where my information comes from. I don't really see what is problematic about this, except for the fact maybe that it doesn't seem to comply with your opinion.

Let me try to clearify some more things for the final time, cause they don't seem to come across:

1. A treaty of extradition is an agreement between two nations, its is not a matter of one nation having to bow down to the laws and wishes of another nation. It seems (as I can tell from the sources of which I quoted some above) that the US government did not meet the full criteria of the agreement and that based on that, the Swiss government denied the extradition. This has nothing to do wether or not you believe that this issue solely belongs in front of Californian court and the Swiss have no right to deny USA anything because, as you say

" why should the US ratify something that may fly in the face of the workings of its own justice system?"

Why should that only go for the US justice system?

I could comment on the other aspects of your threat too, including the US' notorious reluctance to extradite criminals themselves, but I feel we are not getting anywhere anyhow and I don't want to hijack this thread anymore, especially since a critical note seems not to be wanted here so I leave you be.

Ps: as for the Nuremberg trials, I know this, I was just trying to nuance Bekka's point. Let me rephrase: after the Nuremberg trials - in which the US were participant - by my knowledge the USA has not actively persecuted and locked up Nazis.

g'night from The Netherlands

Anonymous said...

er....blame the US government ladies. He was released on a legal technicality.

Anonymous said...

Meh. I don't even like his films either.

Becky said...

Quite bloody right. It's revolting. Great post: well-crafted opinion on an important issue, with a side-note to poor internet spelling.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the outrage against Polanski "supporters" is somewhat misdirected. I'm on the Polanski "supporter" side of this simply in the sense that I think chasing him around the world at this point is a pointless waste of police resources, that could be better spent preventing other 13-year-olds from getting raped.

I don't care about justice, I don't care about revenge, I care about the total number of victims of sexual abuse, and spending time and money chasing a rich 74-year-old asshole around the globe does nothing to reduce that number.

Face it, he "won" - throwing him in jail for the last 10 years of his life won't do much to offset his evading punishment for most of it. Time to move on, the justice system resources are finite, they need to be spent productively.

(note how none of this has anything to do with anyone's talent)

Anonymous said...

why linsay is on same line?
did she attack a boy who never want?
just a question,

very long comment here, wow...
I'm from other country, but
I'm not one of them who wrote very long,
polanski is okay people.
if I misunderstand never mind.

Anonymous said...

I have a question
how long a person supposed be in prison
if the person sexually attacks a child?
is it longer than 33 years?

I read some news and feel that
this is complex. it's not only about
the man and the kid at the moment,
it's also about national things.


ds, it's almost night,
have a good sleep, and sometimes
I did comment not nicely but i
want you remember I have temper, reasonably
cus of many bad things I'm getting experiences.

you know what I always want,
of course want you be happy, healthy, and ???
(it's not three letters.)
I hope you feel better, more and more~ :)

jplock said...

...any other demographic (ethnicity, orientation, gender) the story is much different... or rather that it is the story that is told and judged and advocated is different, while the facts remain the same...

vrgriffith said...

I agree with DS though Tirza makes some excellent points.

You perpetrate a sexual crime against a child, you should do the time-- not matter how many years ago it was.

Artistic genius is not a get out of jail free card. Nor does it excuse moral abrogation Woody Allen.

And jplock is right. If this hadn't been a rich white guy or if the child had been male, there would be a completely different framing of the story and outcome

lilian said...

"......What seems left is revenge." (NYTimes)

Which, for one, the victim at least doesn't desire.
Frankly, I am surprised by the lack of critical outlook on that. -Tirza

Did you really mean that???? We should let the desire or "not"-desire of a victim decide to punish a crime and a perpetrator?

Do you realize how often female victims of violent crimes just want to "forget".... and still we have to punish the crime!
I actually had a urge to throw up when i read this (i work as a lawyer with such victims!).

And the point here is: Polanski was found guilty!
He just decided he didn't want to spend time in prison and escaped to Europe.
And THAT annoys the crap out of me!

And what, he had a hard and horrible past? My family, being german Jews, had a hard and horrible time too, but none of them raped young girls!

And let's not forget that he had a romantic "relationship" with the 15year old Nastassja Kinski in the 70ies (he was 43! years old at the time!).

So, yes i think he seems to be parthenophile and it makes me angry that our neighbours (Switzerland) didn't have the guts to send him back where he belongs!

Tirza said...

That is some seriously creative cut and paste quotation of what I wrote (plus the addition of some things I never said)...