So I tried. I did.
I tried to stay out of this whole Bill Cosby kerfuffle but after reading David Carr’s excellent piece I figured that as both a student & critic of media, it was time to contribute to the fray. Not because my opinion matters all that much, you know what they say…opinions are like…well, you know.
If you are tired of reading/hearing about the accusations against Bill Cosby, read no further.
Look, even if a fraction of what these allegations are purporting is true (the sheer volume of them certainly points to something), Bill Cosby is a jerk at best and a serial rapist at worst. If the latter is true, he needs to be held legally accountable wherever, and if, possible.
If it’s the former, he needs to retire. Right now.
The story behind the story is just how complicit the media has been in continuing to turn a blind eye to “America’s favorite Dad”. This past weekend I heard journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the podcast On The Media, recount his experience from 2008 covering Cosby for The Atlantic (the article was about Cosby’s black pride tour). I was aghast.
Coates, in his own words, “At the time I wrote the piece, it was 13 peoples’ word—and I believed them. Put differently, I believed that Bill Cosby was a rapist.” Seriously dude? The Society of Professional Journalists lists ethical guidelines and one of them states very clearly “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.”
By your own admission, you were neither vigilant nor courageous. You believed Bill Cosby was a rapist and completely ignored it! WTF?
He recently wrote a form of apology and acknowledged his own disregard of what he believed to be true. Something tells me had he dug in his heals, what he believed would have ended up being the real story and not some puff piece about Cosby telling kids to pull up their pants.
That kind of wanton avoidance is the journalistic equivalent of the “I was just following orders” argument.
I’m sorry Mr. Coates, this makes everything you have written, and will write, entirely suspect…at best.
Carr also points out a Kelefa T. Sanneh New Yorker article where Sanneh “…treats the allegations almost as an afterthought…” Towards the end of his piece, Sanneh points a finger at Cosby biographer Mark Whitaker for not discussing the rape allegations in his book Cosby: His Life and Times. But Sanneh is not much better, he barely acknowledged it!
Whitaker recently said he “was wrong to not deal with the allegations” in his book. Geez Mark, ya think? Almost 500 pages long and you couldn’t find any room? I dunno, it would seem to me that over one dozen women accusing Bill Cosby of drugging them and behaving wildly inappropriate (at best) would certainly be part of his life and times. I’m just sayin.
Carr certainly includes himself as one of the journalists who deliberately avoided asking Cosby about the rape charges that follow him around during his interview with the comedian in 2011. But so far, I’ve only read David Carr who offered up any sort of honest explanation:
“We all have our excuses, but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer…No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; that he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.“
You all did let those women down. Shame on you. And I get the not upsetting the balance thing. I do. But, isn’t that kinda what journalists are supposed to do? Look for the truth?
Oddly enough, it was one of Cosby’s own who called him out and ignited this recent discussion. Comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a “rapist” during a show in October:
Thirteen? And it’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the fucking smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom. Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches. I don’t curse on stage. Well, yeah, you’re a rapist, so, I’ll take you sayin’ lots of motherfuckers on Bill Cosby: Himself if you weren’t a rapist. …I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. …I’ve done this bit on stage, and people don’t believe. People think I’m making it up. …That shit is upsetting. If you didn’t know about it, trust me. You leave here and Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ It’s not funny. That shit has more results than Hannibal Buress.
The best comedians have a long history of being truth seekers and truth speakers. The best journalists, same thing.
What happened? When did we reach the point where the journalist actively deviates from the truth and then continues to adhere to a recklessly deceitful narrative?
The password is integrity.
I shudder to think how many women may have been hurt as a result of this type of flagrant disregard over the decades.
We can all admit that Bill Cosby, the man, transcended race and almost everything he did seemed to be devoid of it. Yes, we knew Bill Cosby was black, we knew Fat Albert and his gang were black, we knew Cliff Huxtable was black but it didn’t matter. Their problems were everyone’s problems.
His comedy and his television shows spoke to the struggles of being a man, a father, a husband and a human and all but stripped them of the struggles of a black man, a black father, a black husband or a black human. It was, and still is, an amazing artistic accomplishment. The man helped recalibrate the race discussion in America. It’s impossible to try to explain how significant that is. Unfortunately, he now finds himself standing in the rapidly drying cement of almost every single stereotype people have about black men.
If we are to believe the allegations, then his career and legacy will be decimated. And rightly so. You simply can’t walk around pretending to be, “America’s Dad” and then, allegedly, be drugging women and raping them.
Jesus, talk about hubris.
It sucks that his entire career is being held hostage by nothing more than allegations but there appears to be A LOT of evidence to support them. And I don’t wanna convict the guy without due process. So, if possible, Bill Cosby should be taken to task not by the media, but by the law. His accusers should have the chance to face him and he them.
And if there is no legal recourse then he needs to go away. He’s done. The best thing he could do to hold on to any semblance of his legacy is simply go away and remain silent.
To continue performing is tantamount to violating these women again.
I honestly don’t know how to reconcile all the accusations with the comedian I revered growing up. But you know what? His alleged behavior is deplorable and if even one of those allegations proves true, I’m OK with his career being ruined.
Actually, I guess I do know how to reconcile it.