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Richard Day: Satire and Baltimore
Nick Kristof is, by his own admission, friends with Mia and Ronan Farrow, two people who have been pursuing their vendetta against Woody Allen for years. If you follow any of the coverage at all, that much is clear. Mia and Ronan hate Woody Allen and say so in public, at every opportunity. For his part, Allen says nothing about them. Now, Kristof sees fit to publish Dylan Farrow's allegations of childhood sexual abuse by the filmmaker. Laughably, Kristof covers himself by saying that Allen refused to give him an on the record interview. He then references Allen's previous denials but weakens them by claiming that when the issues were raised back in 1992 that the prosecutor claimed to have enough evidence to bring charges but didn't in order to "spare Dylan."
First, Allen was right not to grant Kristof an on the record interview. Kristof is clearly biased. Were I a columnist working on a story alleging criminal acts, who counted the victims among my friends, I would not expect the alleged perpetrator to grant me an interview under any circumstances. The Times should never have allowed this. It's yet another example of lack of editorial oversight over the op-ed columnists.
Second, this notion that the prosecutor had a case but didn't bring it is just silly. Prosecutors routinely make claims like this. "I didn't prosecute in order to spare the victim," is just swagger. When prosecutors can win, they prosecute. Remember, the problem in American justice is not that prosecutors are not eager enough to pursue charges against people.
The Farrows have now been attempting to harass Allen for going on 25 years. This is only acceptable in the mass culture because most people view Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn as "creepy." This is partly because all they understand is the short hand, "He married his adopted daughter." In fact, she was Andre Previn's adopted daughter and considered the composer her father. Allen was her mother's boyfriend. Still creepy? Sure, if you must. Some people think that all May/December relationships are creepy. I don't, but I have no real hang ups about other people's consensual, adult relationships. This "creep" factor is what gives currency to child abuse allegations that were not pursued by prosecutors more than two decades ago.
This is all news now because Allen received a justly deserved lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes and now his excellent film Blue Jasmine is up for multiple Oscars. The outrage, apparently, is that the movie industry (and to a lesser extent, film fans) never turned against Allen. Says Kristof:
"These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?"
First, as Kristof says, the evidence is always ambiguous. Second, what does this have to do with artists honoring other artists for their achievements? Kristof would have the awards committees snub Allen's films, no matter how good they are, because of unproved criminal allegations that Allen has denied? Kristof would have actors refuse to perform in his movies even though he is one of the most gifted writer/directors in American cinema? Kristof would have Allen's friends shun him even though they have had real friendships? Kristof would have audiences starved for smart films shun the once a year tonic that Woody Allen has put out consistently since the 1960s?
Kristof says, in effect, that people should be shunned on accusation because of the "hundreds of thousands of boys and girls" that are "abused each year." But shunning an innocent person does nothing for those who were actually abused and, as Kristof admits, the evidence tends to be ambiguous. If, in light of that ambiguity, authorities act and somebody is convicted, he may have an argument. But society is not better off ignoring good, vital and useful art on the basis of allegations, particularly in this case where the accusers have been dead set against their target for a very long time and the journalist has declared his loyalties rather than pursued diligence.