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We must confront the possibility that serious and important viewpoints, fossilized in our minds, are wrong.  And even if our foundational opinions aren’t “wrong” in the sense of being inaccurate, they are most certainly limiting.  We are becoming stupider.

The question isn’t whether we are willing to fairly judge Woody Allen.  The question is, whether we are willing to fairly judge anything.

The commentary on the DailyKos in response to “Judging Woody Allen, Part 1 and Part 2” has been remarkably civil, informed and fair-minded.  Inevitably the back and forth has been about the charges and their possible veracity.  That was not the point, but it illustrates the point.

One writer asked “why judge at all?” and that of course is the core question: what is this feral mania to slap judgments upon those we do not know, with incomplete facts and furious intensity? I personally have no wish to judge Allen, nor even to think about these horrible charges and their implications.

I posited “Judging Woody Allen” first to ask that question: why judge at all?  And I am grateful to those who posed it more directly. Of course there are legitimate reasons to judge: the issues are incredibly important, not only for those involved but for all of us, grappling to manage abuse or false accusations of it.   Many are offended that Allen, a suspected criminal, is lauded by Hollywood for his film-making; they feel it is a slap in the face to his alleged victim.  She describes it as torture.  So we are left to wonder whether an artist whose work has been powerful and important deserves to be shunned or praised, in such circumstances.  That is an important issue; most people have an opinion.

The other purpose of “Judging Woody Allen” was not to judge him (many readers have noted that my piece is hardly a forensic enquiry into the details of the case) but to examine the effect of bias on one’s judgment.  I used my own for illustrative purposes: I love Allen’s films, like the character he has portrayed and “grew up” with his sensibility and work informing my own tastes. This burdens me with a bias in his favour, which has in fact decided the issue in my mind for two decades.

Trying to put that bias aside is difficult, to say the least.  Pushing through the rubble and noise of the case, the fact that I have tried best to ignore (the “Soon-Yi” element) keeps surfacing.  It may tell us a lot, or may say little.  Clearly, it has shaken my confidence in my established view.

My opinion of the case matters not one whit, fortunately.  What matters here, is the powerful effect of my bias on my willingness to examine facts and my ability to weigh them.  And that is what I am inviting readers to do: examine your bias and how it bends your vision. This is a crucial thing because frankly our biases are becoming a cultural disease making discussion or even thought, more difficult.

I have written about the political implications of this before (“Likemindless Souls”) and was sparked to revisit it some months ago by an innocent conversation about Stevie Nicks (yes, that Stevie Nicks).   A colleague, young enough not to remember the 1970s (she never even visited them) discovered Stevie Nicks in this century and came to appreciate her music. Shorn of all the noise, nonsense, baggage and intoxicants which distort the frame for those who were there, the music of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac becomes “new”.  Could I listen to an artist again, I asked myself,  trying to hear the music instead of my own bias?     Doing so has opened doors for me, taking me long past Stevie into corridors of music yet unexplored (“Songbird over the Rainbow.“)

You see, it is possible that innocuous and unimportant opinions, having settled in and become the bedrock of thought, are simply wrong.  And springing from that we must confront the possibility that serious and important viewpoints, equally fossilized in our minds, are also wrong.

And even if our foundational opinions aren’t “wrong” in the sense of being inaccurate, they are most certainly limiting.  We are becoming afraid to think outside our own boxes, afraid to listen outside our own boxes, and increasingly that means one thing: we are becoming stupider. The question isn’t whether we are willing to fairly judge Woody Allen.  The question is, whether we are willing to fairly judge anything.

One test is to engage in a polite discussion with someone whose opinions run wholly counter to our own.  And to listen to them, and to learn why they believe those things, and to consider what may be correct in their opinion, and what may be incorrect in our own.  We should refrain from telling them our view, for fear of snuffing out the conversation.  We are not required to surrender to the opposing argument, just to listen.   Because maybe, just maybe, we’ve got something a little bit wrong.


That said, I am still totally right about gun control ("Three Hundred Million Gun Nuts")

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Comment Preferences

  •  To me it's not really about Woody Allen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    His movies are getting more and more sinister, since Crimes and Misdemeanors. Let people analyze them years from now, that's his legacy.

    It's really about the sexual exploitation of children and that is really a major issue in our society.

    To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 09:53:27 AM PST

    •  Can we have a diary about JUST sexual exploitation (0+ / 0-)

      of children, then, without all the extraneous baggage?

      If you HAVE to have a HIGH PROFILE CELEBRITY to use as a Horrible Example, I recommend Roman Polanski. Everyone knows he was guilty, there is absolutely no excuse for what he did, and he no longer tries to deny it. Or is it that that was Too Long Ago and no one is making waves about it these days?

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 04:10:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  He no longer denies it (0+ / 0-)

        but he appears to view himself as the real victim of the criminal justice system and the original judge in his case. I believe he still claims his victim was "not unwilling," as if crying, begging him to stop and take her home repeatedly was...foreplay maybe?  

        And, yet, how many in Hollywood signed that petition in support of essentially saying "never mind!" to the criminal charge? Woody Allen was one.

  •  It's always too late for anyone publicly accused (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of child molestation.  Once the accusation becomes public, the accused is automatically guilty in the eyes of many.

    A significant enough part of the population will always believe the accused is guilty, despite any and all evidence to the contrary, and the accused will have to live with a ruined reputation and stigma of child molester for the rest of her/his life.

    I don't know exactly what occurred in Mr. Allen's situation.  but IMO, because he was legally exonerated, there is no excuse for the continued assault on his life and reputation.

    But this is what happens to everyone who is ever publicly accused of child molestation, no matter how frivolous the allegation is.  Once a person is accused of this horrible crime, even if it is shown that the accused was a thousand miles away at the time of the alleged incident, s/he will be forever guilty in the minds of some.

    Unfortunately, no matter how unfair or unjust it may be, this is how it works.  Anyone accused of child molestation is a pariah for the rest of their lives, and must live for the rest of their lives with the knowledge that many of the people that know about the unproven allegation will view her/him with suspicion and disgust.

    Sad, but true.

    She told me I could choose anyone I wanted to help me save the planet, so naturally, I chose you.

    by Lavender Menace on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 10:14:09 AM PST

    •  Boy, lots to unpack here, (4+ / 0-)

      but I'll winnow it down to two points.

      Read this PDF of the court's ruling in the custody suit that Allen brought seeking custody of Dylan, Moses and Satchel (now known as Ronan).  He was was excoriated by the judge, denied custody and forced to pay all of Farrow's legal expenses.  He was definitely NOT exonerated.  This article relates the thoughts of the prosecutor involved, which was he believed that Allen had committed the sexual abuse but because Dylan was too fragile to be the center of trial he decided to not bring the charges (you'll have to dig for the info in a very long article, but it's all in there.)

      The idea that Allen has been made a pariah is laughable.  He has made many of movies since the allegations became public way back in the '90s and has worked with dozens of respected actors and actresses who have paid no mind to the possibility that they're working with a child molester and abuser.  He was just honored with a major achievement award and his latest movie is up for a Oscar.  He's been defended by the likes of Barbara Walters on public television, who used his seduction, exploitation and marriage to his step-daughter (who was herself a child at the time of said seduction and exploitation) and subsequent adoption of two other young girls as some sort of proof that he's a swell guy.  Given all that, Allen is hardly a pariah.

      I'll leave it at that, other to say that I'm appalled by some of the opinions I've been reading on this progressive blog regarding the molestation and abuse of children by a man with great privilege and power.

      "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

      by Got a Grip on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 12:06:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Two things: Thank you for validating the point of (0+ / 0-)

        my post, and if you consider MSM articles and custody rulings to be such proof positive evidence that you can make a definite judgment that someone is guilty of child molestation, well, again, thanks for validating the point of my post.

        I agree with the OP, it's really best not to make accusations and judgments in situations like this.  

        If you are wrong, you are bearing what is one of the most heinous types of false witness against an innocent person possible.

        I remember when Michael Jackson was found guilty of child molestation by members of the "Soon To Be Internet Lawyer's Guild.

        Their "verdict" was something like...

        ..."That little black transgender weirdo guy has to be guilty, all you have to do is look at him to know he's guilty."

        She told me I could choose anyone I wanted to help me save the planet, so naturally, I chose you.

        by Lavender Menace on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 05:41:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure how (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sharon Wraight

          my pointing out two false statements in your comment validates anything you said.  But, then again, I'm not sure what Michael Jackson has to do with any of this, either.  Someone is throwing things against the wall to see if they'll stick and that someone isn't me.

          "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

          by Got a Grip on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:48:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Apparently, we have different concepts of (0+ / 0-)

            what some specific terms can mean.

            I resent being unjustly accused of making false statements when there is clear evidence that the statements can be true.

            My conception of the term pariah is the same one as the main definition entry at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website.

            noun pə-ˈrī-ə\

            : a person who is hated and rejected by other people

            It seems to be clear that, as evidenced by your post and many many other postings by numerous different individuals on internet sites, that many people hate and reject Mr. Allen.

            My conception of the term exonerate is the same one as the secondary definition entry at the Merriam Webster website.

            2. exonerate

            :  to clear from accusation or blame

            Because I believe in Presumption of Innocence ~ that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty ~ I have always considered having allegations of criminal behavior legally dismissed without any formal charges being filed for the aforementioned criminal behavior to be an exoneration.

            Otherwise, anyone who is falsely alleged to have committed a crime and not had formal charges filed against them would still be considered a suspect in a criminal matter.

            How long is the statute of limitations on suspicion, and what are the procedures and requirements for exoneration from dropped allegations?

            If no formal charges were filed against Mr. Allen within the allowed period of time specified in Connecticut statute of limitations to file formal charges for first degree sexual assault, this ostensibly indicates that the State deems that there was not enough evidence to file formal charges.

            Apparently the prosecutor in this case said that he felt Mr. Allen was guilty, but did not pursue allegations of child molestation because he and the mother agreed that the child was too fragile to go through a trial of this nature.  Which really means, translated from the language of prosecutors: "because we have no forensic evidence, and a recognized panel of child abuse experts has already deemed that the child was not abused, I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning this case".  

            The fact is, all children are too fragile to go through this type of trial, and they don't make good witnesses for the prosecution for many reasons.  One main reason is that most any ambulance chasing defense lawyer can easily discredit the testimony of almost any child under the age of twelve with a fully allowable line of questioning in a courtroom.  Mr. Allen had the money to hire the best defense lawyers money can buy, and the prosecutor in this case knew that, under the circumstances, he couldn't win.  

            I can almost guarantee that, in this case, if the prosecutor saw any reasonable possibility of proving guilt and winning the case, he would have filed charges faster than you can say "guilty as charged", and the fragility of the child would have been moot as a factor in going to trial.

            It is unfortunate timing for a molested child when allegations of child molestation arise during a period of extreme marital/relationship discord.  The adult party that pursues the allegations can then be seen as having a clear motive for coaching a child to speak falsely in order to serve the vindictive purpose of an adult seeking revenge.  In these rare cases, the child is a victim of the vengeful adult, and the accused is as well, because the vengeful parent knows that, even if the allegations are completely false and have no evidence to back them up, their purposes will be served by tarnishing the accused person's reputation for life, and stigmatizing them as a pedophile.

            I know that it is difficult for most people to imagine that a parent would use their own child as a weapon in such a vile and despicable manner, but it does happen.  Rarely, but it happens.

            I personally believe that, in all cases of alleged child molestation, a thorough evaluation by a panel of psychologists or psychiatrists experienced in the area of child abuse is the best determinative indicator of a young child having been molested.  Unlike prosecutors, who always get some personal reward for any conviction in a trial they prosecute, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendant,

            Psychologists/psychiatrists in these types of cases are much more likely to be objective.  The interviewing panel should thoroughly interview the child, and both parents, and require both parents to take an MMPI.

            While I believe that every allegation of sexual abuse of a child should be thoroughly and honestly investigated, and that most allegations of sexual abuse of a child are true, there is a small percentage of allegations that are not.  I have had the misfortune to be witness to two incidents where a vindictive spouse has indisputably coached a child to tell them that they were sexually assaulted by the other parent, and then made allegations of child molestation against the other parent.  The court, of course, in both these cases, had no recourse but to order an investigation.

            In both of these cases, neither case went to trial or were plea bargained.  Both cases were investigated by psychologists experienced in the area of child abuse.  In one of the cases, a recording was made of very young child explaining how a parent had coached the child ~ verbatim: "My (parent) told me to say it, I didn't make it up.  S/he just thought it was a good idea".  The entire recording is chilling;  further avenues of open ended questioning of the child in this case left no doubt that one of the parents had viciously used the child for their own sick rewards.

            Unfortunately, in each case, respectively, an innocent child and an innocent parent sustained permanent damage, in so many ways, inflicted by a vengeful, and arguably sociopathic, other parent.

            So please forgive me if I do not immediately consider every person accused of sexual assault to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when there is no forensic or other tangible evidence of an assault, and there is a strong possible motive of vengeance for bringing false allegations.

            Sociopaths are very often the most charming and convincing liars, whether they be child molesters or bringers of false allegations.

            Presumption of Innocence ~ love it or hate it, but it may save you from getting lynched by a mob for no good reason someday.

            She told me I could choose anyone I wanted to help me save the planet, so naturally, I chose you.

            by Lavender Menace on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 10:43:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  How many Woody Allen diaries do we need? (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Mr Robert, Ozy, Johnny Q, The Jester, erush1345

    And why did they start showing up in the first place, much less continue on and on?

    •  Exactly. We don't know what happened and no (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      matter how many diaries we write we won't.

    •  ~11 in the past week (0+ / 0-)

      and counting...

    •  Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sharon Wraight

      which I read, and that's when I started thinking about the question of whether I believed her, and if so, should I continue to buy the entertainment Allen is selling.

      •  Ah, that's what set these all off? (0+ / 0-)

        I thought it would have made more sense if these were all lumped under the 'House of Lights' group or whatever the name is, but a lot of them simply seemed to be random.

        I think the various authors do themselves a disservice when they try to point to WA's relationship with Soon Yi, since it seems to have started when she was already past the age of consent and around the time she legally became an 'adult' and become a long term marriage between adults.  To me, that actually undermines the idea that his attraction to her was about her being a child.  People may well find it 'creepy' that he got involved with the adopted daughter of his (whatever the relationship with Farrow was), but I'd think if it was an attraction to kids, he'd have been molesting her as a child, not marrying her once she was old enough to do so legally.

        At any rate, I never liked WA's stuff anyway - way overrated as far as I'm concerned.

  •  You are asking people to apply their intellect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    towards evaluating their emotions.

    It's a noble endeavor, but sadly it has also become a futile endeavor, especially here at Daily Kos.

    Non futuis apud Boston

    by kenlac on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 11:30:55 AM PST

  •  Victims of abuse may see it differently (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That I think is the one fact I would like this community to keep uppermost in its mind. For so many this is not a theoretical discussion, this is a discussion to which they bring their own experience.

    I have had in my own life direct experience with two situations where young victims were not believed. So I bring that.

    •  Victims of false accusation DO see it differently, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and a couple of them have presented their viewpoints in various posts.

      We need to remember that we all bring our own personal baggage to the table.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 03:57:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, exactly so (0+ / 0-)

        and that's the tension.

        I would hope every victim of abuse can acknowledge that not everyone who is accused is guilty, and that victims of false accusations can also acknowledge that not everyone claiming to be innocent is telling the truth.

        •  But there is an inequality (0+ / 0-)

          Who is hurt more, in a more lasting way, someone who is falsely accused, or someone who is molested and not believed?

          Really, think about it.

          If  accuse you I am not violating your BODY.

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