Thursday, November 9, 2017

Outrage and Indifference: Comparing Sex Scandal Claims against Spacey and Trump

by Nomad

Spacey's Disgrace

In the past couple of weeks, there's been understandable outrage over revelations regarding House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey.  
This sordid tale began when a fellow actor, Anthony Rapp, alleged that Spacey at an after-hours party attempted to seduce the then- 14-year-old Rapp. 

Here's an excerpt from the allegation:
"[Spacey] picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don't, like, squirm away initially, because I'm like, 'What's going on?' And then he lays down on top of me.
He was trying to seduce me. I don't know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually."
"[Spacey] followed me to the front door of the apartment, and as I opened the door to leave, he was leaning on the front door[frame]. And he was like, 'Are you sure you wanna go?' I said, 'Yes, good night,' and then I did leave."
As distasteful and unpleasant as this account reads, that was the entirety of Rapp's allegation.   
Rapp says the incident, which happened over 30 years ago, has troubled him for years. In his defense, Spacey apologized for what would have been "deeply inappropriate drunken behavior" yet he also claiming that he "[does] not remember the encounter." 

Then, in a spectacular misjudgment, Spacey picked this time to come out of the closet. Did he think Rapp was trying to blackmail him? Who knows. In any event, the condemnation was immediate and universal. 

No actor has fallen so far so quickly. When it comes to awards, you name it and Spacey's won it. Two Academy Awards, eight Golden Globes, six Emmy nominations, four BAFTAs and two Screen Actors Guild awards. Before last week, Spacey was a top celebrity- a bankable commodity with a net worth of $80,000,000. After last week, he was just a detested pervert who couldn't keep his slimy hands off boys.

It took very little time for the floodgates to open. After the news broke, similar claims surfaced- at present count 14 other individuals have joined the list of victims. A recent USA Today article covers a litany of genital groping, fondling and other forms of non-consensual sexual misbehavior.

This suggests that Spacey had engaged in this kind of sexual misconduct going back years.

Indeed, staff on the set of his hit show now claim to have been aware of Spacey's "flirtatious behavior toward crew and cast."

Everybody seemed to know that Spacey was out-of-control yet nobody in charge took action. Literally, hundreds of reporters- in and out of Hollywood- have interviewed Spacey over the years and yet few were willing to "go there."
This was presumably because Spacey's reputation in Hollywood made him an untouchable. Alas, the immunizing effects of celebrity status is a truly fickle thing. 

Spacey is certainly untouchable in every respect now. It is unlikely that Spacey's career will ever recover. In almost universal disgust, the court of public opinion has declared him a "non-entity." Many- across party lines- think Spacey got off easy and any amount of public castigation- not excluding public flogging- will hardly suffice. 

If one listens to social media, this is a story of karma taking revenge on a dirty old man who thought he could get away with anything. Just deserts and all that.

Trump's Narrow Escape

In April 2016, Trump's campaign seemed on the verge of crashing and burning when online rumors began to surface. Something about a $100 million civil lawsuit accusing then Candidate Trump of the rape of a teenage girl over 20 years before.  

"Jane Doe" claimed that back in 1994 when she was 13 years old, she had attended parties thrown by a friend of Trump, by a one-percenter Jeffrey Epstein. In the lawsuit the plaintiff alleged Mr. Trump "initiated sexual contact" with her at four different parties when she was 13. 
At the fourth encounter, she alleges he tied her to a bed "then proceeded to forcibly rape" her.
She says she was lured to the parties, held by billionaire-paedophile Jeffrey Epstein - who is also a defendant in the case - "by promises of money and a modeling career".
Her graphic description of the alleged rape reads:
During the course of this savage sexual attack, I loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop but he did not. Defendant Trump responded to my pleas by violently striking me in the face with his open hand and screaming that he would do whatever he wanted.
Immediately following this rape, Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed.
The lawsuit against Trump also included affidavits from two anonymous women who claimed they were witnesses. BuzzFeed reported at the time:
“Tiffany Doe" claims that she witnessed Trump and Epstein rape the plaintiff multiple times. In her affidavit, she admits to acting as a “recruiter” allegedly hired by Epstein to attract young women to parties at his apartment.
The credibility of the claims was further strengthened by other details.
On August 14, 2006, Palm Beach Post did a write up on police investigations of Epstein:
Epstein, one of the most mysterious of the country's mega-rich, was known as much for his secrecy as for his love of fine things: magnificent homes, private jets, beautiful women, friendships with the world's elite.
But at Palm Beach police headquarters, he was becoming known for something else: the regular arrival of teenage girls he hired to give him massages and, police say, perform sexual favors.
In 2008, Mr. Epstein pled guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. How many years would you imagine that conviction received? 10 years? 5 years? 
Perhaps if you were anybody but a billionaire. Epstein served 18 months and a year of house arrest. Trust me, a year of confinement at Epstein's grandiose West Palm Beach mansion would no hardship for the rest of humanity. It's not San Quentin.

Before Epstein's conviction, Trump was quoted as saying in a New York magazine profile of Epstein:
"I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it ― Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
The rape lawsuit against Trump was filed but then suddenly dropped. No explanation was given for the action but the general speculation was that the accuser had either been silenced by threats or paid to be silent.
However, for candidate Trump, that was proof that the case was a fabrication and a political smear. Through a lawyer, Trump claimed that the accusations of rape "reckless, irresponsible and categorically untrue.” 
And that was the end of the story. 

When You're a Star

Of course, the adamant denial of Trump's attorney's might have had more substance if not for the fact that this rape accusation is not the first of its kind. At least fifteen women since the 1980s have made allegations of sexual misconduct. (In most of the cases, the charges have been with withdrawn.)
According to The Atlantic:
(T)here’s a long line of allegations against Trump. Jill Harth says Trump assaulted her in the 1990s. Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump once suggested he had raped her, though she has since recanted her story.
And on and on.
Going back to the start of his career, there have been a string of claims of inappropriate behavior amounting to sexual assault.

Moreover, there are the things he himself has said. 
In hot-mic “Access Hollywood” recordings, the current president was heard to boast of sexual assault and claimed that he could get away with such conduct because he was a star.  “And when you're a star, they let you do it...You can do anything.”

I imagine that that is a fairly common attitude where the rich and famous congregate. If the reports of Spacey's past behavior are true, this was an attitude that he shared with Donald Trump.
Yet today, with his show canceled, Spacey is out of work and disgraced, Trump, on the other hand, is the commander-in-chief sitting in the Oval Office.

Many of the very people who are now calling for Spacey to be put in stocks an pelted with rotten vegetables are also the people who voted for Trump.
So, no matter how detailed or horrific the claims, Trump is, by law, an innocent man and will remain so until he is convicted in court.
Just like Kevin Spacey.

Verdicts by Public Opinion

That's what is so strange about these two sex scandals. Based on an accusation of one person and supported neither by evidence or witness, Kevin Spacey has been declared guilty by public opinion. It was not the decision of any court or any jury. 
No problem.   
In the court of public opinion, the tiresome exactitudes of due process were not required. Without due process, social media allows us all to play an amateur sleuth, the judge, and the jury.
It's entertaining, I admit, but it is also often unjust.

In a moment of clarity, one Reddit commenter writes:
Our judicial system is sensibly based on the collection of evidence, the checking of facts, the cross-examination of eyewitness testimony and the legal presumption of innocence. That has never extended to the court of public opinion but we aren't talking about idle gossip here. We're talking about artists having their life's work destroyed five minutes after an article comes out and ten minutes after an allegation is made.
Yet another Reddit commenter stresses our collective responsibility to be careful:
I am saying that we as consumers of information should hold ourselves to a higher standard before blindly accepting accusations as facts.
That's only one facet of the problem. When due process is denied, the opposite kind of injustice can also happen.  In Trump's case, the timing of the lawsuit alone was proof enough that it was "politically motivated" and therefore was false, according to lawyers. 

A significant portion of the American public rejected these very serious (but unproven) allegations. The accusation of the forcible rape of a 13-year-old child is an extremely serious matter.
And yet, despite the claim, they cast their votes for Trump. 

In both cases, due process in impartial courts was replaced by an alternate form of justice. That kind of ad hoc trial by mob provides the most uneven form of justice. And that's an extremely dangerous thing for all of us.
After all, anybody can be accused of a crime and that crime could be so abhorrent and unspeakable that denials from the accused are useless. Such as crimes involving children.

In a weird twist of fiction and fact, President Trump somehow survived an accusation that would have destroyed any previous presidential candidate. 
Yet, Kevin Spacey, the actor who plays an amoral, scheming and psychopathic president on TV, saw his own career go up in flames.