What We Can Learn From the Cosby Tragedy

(Disclaimer:  I am not a mental health professional.  The statements in this blog post are based on personal observations only.)

Earlier today, we heard that former entertainment legend Bill Cosby was convicted of three felonies related to the sexual assault of Andrea Constand in Pennsylvania.  He has been accused of being a serial rapist.

(Note: Ms. Constand has agreed to be identified publicly.)

Sexual assault has something predictable in common with every other type of cruelty:  It’s an effort to gain control over one’s own life by creating out-of-control situations for others.  It’s an abuse of power, motivated by weakness of character.  It’s pathetic.

Sexual assault has something else in common with other acts cruelty:  It’s likely to turn into a vicious cycle which continues to disgrace the cruel person while damaging or ruining innocent people’s lives.

We don’t always see the cruelest people approaching.  Some of them seem perfectly alright — even better than most people — until they do horrible things that can’t be reversed.

I’m not sure the general public should have been surprised when we learned that Bill Cosby is capable of using extreme cruelty to empower himself.  Although he once projected an image that was trusted by fans of TV comedy (what?), I remember a late 1980s appearance on Larry King Live which made me wonder if Mr. Cosby could love/hate himself more intensely even if he tried.

He was on Larry King’s show to promote a movie he had worked on, but he said the movie was no good so he was advising his fans against seeing it.

On the surface, that might sound like an honorable thing to do, but Mr. Cosby’s manner implied something less than honorable.  He was smug, and kept hesitating as if he was giving his admirers time to absorb their idol’s greatness.  At the time, I wondered if his statements were damaging the future job prospects of other people who had worked on the film.  He really sounded as if he didn’t give a damn about anything other than demonstrating what a great guy he thought he was.

Although I never paid close attention to Bill Cosby’s work, I still can’t unsee that Larry King interview from the late 80s.  It was eerie.

I’ve known some losers who are popular.  They do everything to impress the right people, and put knives in the backs of individuals who question their motives.  Most of them can go on that way indefinitely, without being exposed as the assholes they are.

By the way, according to a news article by David Montero on the Los Angeles Times site, after the guilty verdict Mr. Cosby used the a-hole word in court while shouting at the prosecutor, Kevin Steele.  Later, Mr. Steele claimed the profanity exposed Bill Cosby’s true character.  Yeah, okay, an entertainer who has emphasized the importance of family-centered pop culture isn’t allowed to call someone an asshole, even under pressure.

Forget one nasty word used to refer to an adversary.  We can expect all criminal defendants — innocent or guilty — to have negative feelings toward the lawyers who argue in favor of conviction, revoking bail, tough sentences, etc.  It isn’t relevant to this situation.  What is relevant is Mr. Cosby’s generally arrogant attitude.  Some arrogant people really are creepy, and at this point you’d have to grasp at straws to argue that Bill Cosby isn’t creepy.

And now, a word on attorney and victims’ rights advocate Gloria Allred.

Ms. Allred has appeared publicly with some of Bill Cosby’s accusers, and she apparently has been retained to represent their interests.  It may serve an important purpose for her to advocate for those clients in front of cameras, especially since the names of some of Mr. Cosby’s accusers are already a matter of public record.

Gloria Allred is not immune to self-promotion, though.  She has a long history of high-profile work which has made strong impressions on the public, while carrying out duties that are often regulated by confidentiality rules.

I won’t suggest Ms. Allred has compromised the confidentiality of her work with clients.  However, in 2002 she told reporters that she had filed a report with a public agency, asking that Michael Jackson (not a client of hers) be investigated for child endangerment.

Her request was prompted by a memorable incident in which Mr. Jackson dangled his infant son, Blanket, over a balcony in Germany.  His treatment of his child was dangerous, and it brought into question his fitness as a parent.

Gloria Allred didn’t stop there, though.  She spoke to the media, and offered her personal opinions on Michael Jackson.

Family issues are delicate, and when others intervene they should use care to be discreet.  Yes, it’s necessary to contact Child Protective Services about some — well, many — things, but you risk escalating a problem with an unstable parent if you bring the news media into it.  The only likely benefit of an I reported so-and-so for his bad behavior with kids news conference is publicity for the person holding the news conference.

For an idea of exactly what Gloria Allred displays to the public, see her website at https://www.gloriaallred.com

Ms. Allred’s home page has links to pages with lists of awards, statements of praise and photos with public figures (a 1979 photo with Patricia Hearst appears on the home page, as an apparent teaser).  What’s the point?  If Gloria Allred is that admirable, why emphasize it?

Gloria Allred isn’t really the issue, though.

We can’t expect anyone to be selfless, and when people get close to being selfless they are often taken advantage of and end up feeling bitter.  There’s a balance we should all seek.

My own experience has taught me that extreme behavior of any kind is a danger signal.  Whether it’s a quality we associate with virtue or something less attractive, there’s potential trouble.  It’s more difficult to see fault in ourselves than in others, but we should always try to recognize it regardless of the source — and then try to keep it in perspective.

Bill Cosby is so impressed with his alleged genius he doesn’t view women as human.  He isn’t the only person to fall into that trap, either.  The #MeToo movement documents human tragedies resulting from the assumption that boundaries don’t apply to truly great (sic) people.  It’s a weakness in our society, but any individual who caves to the encouragement to degrade others is accountable.  Bill Cosby is one of many.




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