There’s no due process for Bill Cosby. You can’t tell the whole story in a 140 character tweet or 30 second sound byte and even if you could, will it be the whole truth? Everybody wants to but we can’t. I mean can you have a baby in a day? No it takes nine months. Listen, I’m just saying some things remain the same in the midst of change. I remember when faxes were new. Everyone pitching a story would call and ask, “Did you get my fax?” The answer was yes, but it still took the same amount of time and attention to read through them.
Today the media landscape that we find ourselves in is like The Tale of Two Cities, at best it’s a medium through which we can share and exchange information, report the news and even promote, market and sell our products and services; at worse it is dangerous and can be very destructive. What I see happening to Bill Cosby is the worse. What I think of his guilt or innocence is not important in this forum of opinion.
What I know to be true is that the public and particularly the media is not where we try, convict and sentence people for what is considered criminal. Texting, tweeting and excerpts from videos and sound bytes from an interview does not tell a story. It certainly does not allow for facts and evidence to be presented. So why do we get swept up in it? I told my colleague it’s as if Americans are drama junkies always looking for that next hit. Social media supplies the fix. And into that hurricane we go with open arms.
We have laws in place to protect people from the mob mentality. A Law that states we are assumed innocent until proven guilty. However, we slip willingly into the vortex of the social media phenomena; social being the key word here, a pedestrian arena not owned or controlled by journalists. Anyone and everyone can voice their opinion or view, which is great but their voices cannot be viewed as fact. This distinction between journalism and socialmediaism.. Journalists back their stories with three credible resources or more. We do not spout our opinions as if they were fact.
Today we witness victims accused, vilified, crucified and I daresay lynched in the media. Such gladiatorial arenas held in the media are dangerous.
On July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her appointed position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture because of administration reaction to media reports on video excerpts and commentary posted by blogger Andrew Breitbart on his website. Based on these excerpts, Sherrod’s was asked to resign. Later it was learned that the excerpts/statements were taken out of context, and not what was reported. The NAACP and White House officials apologized but the damage had been done. She was slandered and lost her job because of social media’s power to persuade.
Our responsibility is to capture, record and report the news; to provide insight and evoke intellectual thinking about breaking news but not to exploit the circumstances to promote and market our opinion to influence and persuade the public. Check this, just because the old allegations that Cosby has faced have resurfaced and numerous women are coming forth does not make the allegations true. It does not make it, not true. My point is that trying a man years later after the statue of limitation is over and there is no evidence except for your word and the word of others who have come forth, still does not make for a court of law.
We can’t have it both ways people. Either you respect the judicial system or you don’t. If we resort to the mob mentality whether by physical lynching or media lynching then we toss out democracy.
On twitter my article sparked a discussion about race; that I only stated what I said because Cosby is black. That is not true. I’ve never played that game, the race card game that is. Our lives is not a game. I did point to the disparity in how black men are treated in the media compared to white men. So let’s take a look at Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburg Steelers QB who was charged with rape in 2008 and settled the lawsuit. He was slapped with a six-week suspension from NFL games. A second woman told police that Ben Roethlisberger sexually accosted her while he was drunk in 2010. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger dodged prosecution when a Georgia district attorney announced that he had no evidence the quarterback had raped a 20-year-old sorority girl in a nightclub bathroom. No charges were made. There was no reprimand by the NFL or social media.
Now fast forward to 2014, Ray Rice (black) had a physical altercation between he and then fiancée now his wife, was was captured on video and made public. He and his wife accepted responsibility. Still the NFL suspended him first then indefinitely. He was vilified in the media. The video from the altercation was played over and over again to help perpetuate the image painted of him as a violent brute. Consequently Rice had his charges upped to aggravated assault from simple assault after the case was presented by prosecutors to a grand jury. Aggravated assault carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Although Palmer indicated later that she did not want to go forward with prosecution, the state followed up.
Adrian Peterson, Peterson, a former MVP NFL running back was indicted on a felony charge of injury to a child after spanking his son with a switch. The media reported that the child was struck with a “tree branch,” then he was compared to Ray Rice as violently abusive. November 4, the NFL issued a statement on Tuesday that Peterson was notified “that he has been
suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, and will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an
incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his 4-year-old son last May.” He was directed to counseling. No one supports child abuse. It’s true that if I hurt you I hurt you but even in murder cases the court considers intent.
Let’s look at Michael Vick, who played college football at Virginia Tech college football. As a freshman he placed third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft, the first African-American quarterback ever taken in that position. In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dogfighting ring that had operated for five years. He was vilified and definitely persecuted in the media. In August 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement. He returned to NFL 2009.
There are numerous stories that support this premise of insidious systematic racism that perpetuates this sort of disparity. We can look at Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Michael Jackson, and President Obama and many more, all were tried in the media and made out to be variations of the stereotypes of black males as violent, thuggish, sex crazed, lazy, reckless, irresponsible and negligent.
Black women are treated differently as well. If we look at the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case where the Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) leader and Former French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry was accused of attempted rape and sexual assault by 33 year old Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid and immigrant woman of African descent. The media painted a picture of her as a whore, a slut and one who associated with shady characters. The charges against Strauss-Kahn were dismissed in August 2011 after prosecutors lost faith in the credibility of his accuser. Later He settled a civil suit with Dialoo in 2012. Back in France, a steady stream of rumors started to emerge. Suspicions that Strauss-Kahn had been involved in a prostitution ring, which lead to a charge of “aggravated pimping” and ‘gang rape’. Charges were dropped and today he’s doing what he does, raising $2 billion for a hedge fund LSK & Partners investment firm. Here this white man was so respected that the media sided with him as they crucified the black woman
During Bill Clinton’s first bid for the President of the United States, two women came forward and claimed long term affairs with him and another claimed a one night stand. Three other women came out to accuse the man who would be President of forced sexual harassment, rape and groping. He settled the harassment suit with no apology or admission of guilt. Then there was Monica Lewinsky — intern at the White House, whose affair with Clinton fueled impeachment charges. The public did not condemn him.
Then there’s Roman Polanski who 35 years ago drugged with a Quaalude, raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl, 30 years his junior in 1977. He was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor after a plea deal agreed, in part, to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial. Polanski served 42 days of psychiatric evaluation in prison as part of a plea deal in 1978, but fled the U.S. for his native France. Hollywood still shows his films like China Town, Rosemary’s Baby and the Pianist and was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Academy in 2009. Do you see the disparity here in light of TV Land ceasing to air Cosby Show reruns and NBC dropping his new project. A man who admits to raping and sodomizing a 13-year old girl is still respected/acknowledged for his art. Woody Allen still lives comfortably going about his business and is not the victim of sordid slanderous labeling.
In the Bill Cosby case the current media has relied on light weight interviews with the women who have come forth. I suggested that If just one had gone to the doctor, and his DNA was found it would have been a little harder for him to drug and rape others again and again.
I said that I think Bill Cosby is retired from and tired of the fight; that he does not respond to the allegations because he doesn’t want to dignify it. If he chose to sue for slander what will he gain except to satisfy the public?
I am not defending any of these men but I am standing for the constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.