Polanski Defend-a-Thon, Part 2

[Trigger Warning]

Melissa has Part 1 (which disappointingly includes Whoopi Goldberg, who draws a line between “rape” and “rape-rape,” and leaves me wondering what the difference is — and if there’s also rape-rape-rape, and how many “rape”s we have to string together before we decide someone did something wrong).

Add to the list:

Ann Applebaum, whose piece is, in my opinion, one of the most egregious. First, she calls what happened between Polanski and his victim “statutory rape.” Well, yes, since the girl was 13 — but she was also drugged and anally raped after she said no. That is, to borrow from Whoopi Goldberg, “rape-rape,” and would have been no matter what the victim’s age. But, Applebaum reminds us, Polanski is a victim too!

He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.

Lawyers’ fees are not how you “pay” for a crime. Not being able to come to LA to receive an Oscar is not “paying” for a crime. And I’m pretty sure there’s not a whole lot of professional stigma going on when you receive the highest award in your profession (even in exile), and an audience of your peers stands up and applaud you.

Disappointingly, Katrina vandenHeuvel, editor of the Nation, agrees with Applebaum.

Richard Cohen also stands up for Polanski, basically arguing that the dude did a bad thing, but shouldn’t be punished — unless punishment means that Richard Cohen gets to punch him in the face.

Patrick Goldstein says Polanski is being “hounded” by LA County prosecutors and compares him to Jean Valjean:

We live in an age that is so thoroughly post-modern that you can find an obvious literary antecedent for nearly every seamy media storyline. The same goes for the Polanski case, which is full of echoes of “Les Miserables,” the classic Victor Hugo novel about Jean Valjean, an ex-con trying to turn his life around who is being obsessively tracked and hunted down by the Parisian police inspector Javert.

Hugo’s story is a tragedy, as is the life story of Polanski, who was a fugitive as a boy and is now a fugitive as an old man. Whether the L.A. County district attorney office has its way or not, it is not a story that can have a happy ending. I think Polanski has already paid a horrible, soul-wrenching price for the infamy surrounding his actions. The real tragedy is that he will always, till his death, be snubbed and stalked and confronted by people who think the price he has already paid isn’t enough.

…and I want to quit life.


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85 comments for “Polanski Defend-a-Thon, Part 2

  1. jemand
    September 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    “I think Polanski has already paid a horrible, soul-wrenching price for the infamy surrounding his actions.”

    because the actions themselves don’t deserve any punishment? Just the “infamy” he got? Ugh.

  2. Persia
    September 29, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Anne Applebaum’s husband is also the Polish foreign minister who’s lobbying for Polanski’s release. Stay classy, Anne.

  3. Nanci
    September 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    ugh, why would you compare Polanski to Valjean (I’ve loved that book since I was 13).

    I hate that everyone is saying ‘he plead to having sex with a minor’, yeah, because he thought that was his best shot at not having to go through a trial and being found guilty for drugging and raping a girl (not just stat rape). But when he heard the judge wasnt going to let him off that easy, he ran.

    But what makes it worse are all those directors and writers whom works I’ve loved that defend him (I’m talking about you Monica Belluci and Pedro Almodovar :/)

  4. September 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Dear Patrick- Stealing bread when you’re starving does NOT EQUAL raping a child. Thanks for a terrible literary analogy. No love, yogagrrl

    I mean, really? What the BLUE FUCK.

  5. Medea
    September 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Jean Valjean stole bread to feed his sister’s hungry children. He was punished for that crime by nineteen years of hard labour. Had Valjean’s crime been the rape of Cosette while she was in his care, Javert would have been the novel’s hero.

  6. September 29, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Polanski raped someone. Ergo, that makes him a rapist.

    Really, Whoopi et co. It is crystal clear. There is no room for another interpretation.

    Unless maybe in the Bizarro World.

  7. September 29, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Jean Valfuckingjean. Seriously.

  8. Linoleum Blownaparte
    September 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    “in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.”

    Whu?

    If you’re winning Oscars, it’s a safe bet you haven’t been professionally stigmatized.

  9. Shane
    September 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Polanski has been punished. Under the terms of the plea bargain he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and reported to a state prison for psychiatric evaluation with the understanding that he would be sentenced to probation after the fact. It’s not a just punishment by any means, but it was the deal they hammered out.

    The judge then violated the plea bargain by discussing the possibility of imprisonment and deportation with a deputy DA who was not involved in the case. Polanski, who was imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz, didn’t respond well to the possibility of life in prison and fled the country.

    All sides of this issue need to be presented.

  10. September 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Judges don’t “violate the plea bargain” by having discussions with DAs.

    I understand why Polanski fled. I’m even willing to concede that there’s a case to be made for prosecutorial misconduct, and I hope that’s examined. But the idea that Polanski actually went through the criminal justice system and was punished? No. He fled before he could be sentenced. I understand why he fled — he didn’t want to go to jail and there were rumblings that the judge was going to send him — but that doesn’t mean that he faced his punishment. He ran from it.

  11. a lawyer
    September 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Goldstein:

    I think Polanski has already paid a horrible, soul-wrenching price for the infamy surrounding his actions.

    Wow, this one is particularly impressive. Being forced to live a life of luxury in France and accept an Oscar in absentiais a “horrible, soul-wrenching price”?

  12. September 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks, Shane, for the Clif notes from the film. What other sides do you have in addition to that one? You know, put the “all” in “all.” Where does it say that the judge has to accept a plea deal?

  13. Bitter Scribe
    September 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I’m most disappointed in Applebaum. She’s conservative, but she’s got some chops as a writer/researcher. “Gulag” was a great book. I’d have thought she’d have more sense.

  14. September 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Yes, it’s real rape. Yes, he fled from going through the system. I haven’t seen much discussion in the feminist blogosphere, though, about how the victim wants this all dropped. Granted, it’s a bad idea to let a victim’s media-fatigue guide whether a rapist is punished, but it also seems spiteful to keep pressing Polanski for this when his victim is ready to move on. It raises real questions about whether justice should be retributive, transformative, preventative, or oriented towards providing peace for the victim.

    I don’t know his whole story, but if we grant that he kept shacking up with underage women, consensually or not, there’s real reason to say that he should go through the criminal justice system to get him to change that behavior… except that sex offenders have a miles-long record of not being successfully transformed by criminal justice programs, in prison or out, into non-offending citizens. The recidivism rates are through the roof on sex offenders, so it doesn’t seem like there’s much purpose here in using a criminal justice system to try and help him exorcise or manage those inclinations.

    If it’s a question of providing peace for the victim, well, we’ve got our answer, as discussed above, but also as discussed above, maybe that’s not the best way to build a criminal justice system.

    So that leaves societal retribution and just keeping him locked up to prevent him for doing this to other women. As has been talked about at various major points on this site, retributive justice tends to become viciously racist and doesn’t take into account major broad societal problems reflected in or completely separate from criminal justice: to what extent did the aggressive individualism of United States society fail to address Polanski’s trauma as a Holocaust survivor and refugee? Or as the surviving spouse of a woman brutally murdered? What are the reasons that he might not have been able to, or perceived himself as not being able to, get help for his criminal desires? How much of his attitude about young girls stemmed from a culture he was entrenched in that approved of such behavior? I have a hard time not finding a lot of the arguments against iron-fist justice and strict policing for sexual assault in underprivileged communities to apply to Polanski as well.

    So are we just proposing to lock up a 76 year old man because he might force himself on young girls, and we want to limit his access to women? Or is this hubbub really not about the rape at all, but about wanting a rich, talented guy to be shown that he can’t escape the system? Because that last one seems kind of… spiteful. Why make him suffer as a token of the system subjecting the famous to the same standard? It flips things on their heads; if he’d been a normal guy and had fled, he probably never would have been pursued. Are we trying to be harsher on the rich/famous/powerful?

    • September 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm

      @The Flash

      Granted, it’s a bad idea to let a victim’s media-fatigue guide whether a rapist is punished, but it also seems spiteful to keep pressing Polanski for this when his victim is ready to move on. It raises real questions about whether justice should be retributive, transformative, preventative, or oriented towards providing peace for the victim.

      As others have said, in criminal justice the victim’s wishes get to be considered (not necessarily deferred to) during sentencing, not beforehand.

      But in any case, he should stand trial for breaking bail and choosing to become a fugitive from justice. Rich people with social influence should not just be able to run away and get away with that.

  15. Featherstone, QC
    September 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I agree with the fellow above who stated that RoPo has already served his punishment basking in the sun and salt air of the French Riviera, stuffed to the brim with all those horrible cassoulets, patisserie and confections.

  16. September 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    My biggest problem with the “But the victim says…!” argument isn’t just that it has no bearing on the legal aspect of crime and punishment, but that it SHOULD NOT.

    If Victim Forgiveness becomes a valid argument against punishing people for crimes, that puts yet another unreasonable burden on victims of violent crime, and I can quickly see it becoming coercive.

    “Not my Nigel! He’s such a good guy! He would never do (insert sexual assault here)! Oh, wait, he did? Well, that’s no reason for it to ruin the rest of his life. Look, honey, if you just FORGIVE him, he doesn’t have to go to jail!”

    Fuck that shit.

  17. Gina
    September 29, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I have a daughter who is turning 12 in a few weeks, and it makes me insane when I hear people repeatedly describe this as statutory rape. He wasn’t 15, and she wasn’t legal consenting age, to my knowledge. Polanski gave her drugs and alcohol, which speaks to intent, as far as I’m concerned.

    Of course this would have been a crime no matter how old she was. But I tell you, I would have come down on his head like the End Times if that was my child! What is wrong with people?

  18. September 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    The Flash, that’s why there’s a difference between civil and criminal proceedings.

    The purpose of criminal proceedings aren’t just to get closure for the victim. There’s a reason why criminal proceedings are The State vs. The Accused, not The Victim vs. The Accused — when someone commits a crime, it’s not just against the accused person; it’s a violation of a broader social contract.

    I’m not sure what you’re proposing. Because recidivism rates are really high for sexual offenders, we shouldn’t punish sexual offenders? Because we live in a sick culture when it comes to young girls, people who do harm to young girls shouldn’t be punished? Because a “normal” guy maybe wouldn’t have been caught we shouldn’t prosecute people who are caught? (I’ll also toss it out there that a “normal” guy fleeing from the authorities probably woudn’t flaunt his presence at major entertainment events, either, or choose to visibly have ongoing relationships with other underage girls).

    Fuck that noise. Polanski committed a crime. He did serious harm to a young girl. Not prosecuting him sends a message, not just to his victim but to women and to men. If Polanski decided tomorrow that he forgave Charles Manson, would you advocate letting Manson out of prison? After all, he’s an old man too.

  19. iiii
    September 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    “Polanski, who was imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz, didn’t respond well to the possibility of life in prison and fled the country.”

    Perhaps he should have thought of that before he fed a 13-year-old girl quaaludes and forced his penis inside her.

    I always wonder at these sorts of arguments – we’re talking about a middle-aged man with a responsible job. I’d have thought the guy was capable of figuring out that he was in a jurisdiction where it is illegal to rape children, and capable of foreseeing that if he did choose to rape a child, the state might take an interest. If he didn’t like the idea of prison, well, maybe he shouldn’t have raped a child.

  20. September 29, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Akeeyu:

    Yes and no. Again, spreading a little perspective to the other side, is it fair to give someone a dramatic sentence for something the victim doesn’t have conviction about? There are cases where this is right and cases where it’s wrong- is the victim being coerced into forgiveness, or is the situation less dramatic?

    I understand Whoopie Goldberg trying to draw lines between “rape” and “rape-rape”, because what Polanski did, versus, say, the situation outlined in Observe and Report (girl enthusiastically starts taking guy’s psychiatric medication at dinner and then does some tequila shots. He gets kind of drunk, they have sex with her passed out, he starts to question whether what they’re doing is right, she wakes up and urges him to keep going), do seem pretty different: two intoxicated people and a guy not realizing he doesn’t have valid consent, versus a violent act with intentional intoxication of one person by a more powerful person. And in that case, even if Seth Rogen’s character in Observe and Report committed rape according to the law, and say Anna Faris’ character had a roomate who had reported the incident to the police, it’s not hard to see the difference, both at a moral level and from the perspective of a society trying to identify people who are inclined to rape and stopping them.

    So there are times when it’s reasonable to say that an act which is legally rape should be forgivable, and foreclosing that possibility is both babying victims and forcing them to go through legal procedures they really don’t want to deal with.

    Although I guess that’s what not-pressing-charges is for… when a case has already gone to trial, any forgiveness by the victim is probably not organic.

  21. September 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    The Flash, there’s a difference between taking circumstances into account and taking forgiveness after the fact into account.

  22. bellareve
    September 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    “there are times when it’s reasonable to say that an act which is legally rape should be forgivable”

    This would be hilarious if it weren’t so profoundly offensive and disturbing.

    The Flash needs to come with his or her own personal trigger warning.

  23. cathy
    September 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I highly doubt you have ever been date raped, Flash. This is rape. There is no ‘it wasn’t rape because I thought the victim was asking for it’ defense. You have consent or you do not. Rape is rape. “babying victims” How dare we baby a thirteen year old child who was drugged and raped? Our current legal system makes things hard for rape victims, and this girl’s name and identity are now public as ‘that girl who was raped by Polanski’. Of course this is traumatizing for her. I really think her ‘just make this all stop’ forgiveness is even more forced than the example given by an earlier poster. Also, just because you have forgiveness does not mean you deserve forgiveness. If a holocaust victim forgave the Nazis would that mean the Nazis deserve forgiveness and their actions were less wrong?

    “except that sex offenders have a miles-long record of not being successfully transformed by criminal justice programs, in prison or out, into non-offending citizens.” So, leaving him out of prison means he continues to victimize girls and jailing him means…he will still want to but won’t be able too. Trust me, for those girls, the difference of him not being able to actually be out raping people makes a huge damned difference. The man who molested me molested at least three other girls, two after he was reported. If he had been locked up he probably would have still wanted to molest people, but those girls would not have been raped. Prison does not reform people, but it can keep violent criminals from raping more kids and that’s a good enough reason to me to jail a rapist.

  24. September 29, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    IMHO, people watch “Chinatown” and “Repulsion”–and they just don’t want to convict the man who made such great art.

    But I went through this with Norman Mailer* already: yes, great artists can be SCUM. Just because they are great artists does not mean we must approve of their crimes and misogyny.

    Polanski is scum. Why do people like Goldberg seem unwilling (unable?)to separate the two facts? Bottom line: she would never grant moral amnesty to a man who had not made these movies. His status as a great director is the real reason people defend him, which is just reprehensible.

    Wanna get by with rape? Be a REAL TALENTED GUY and even feminists (like Goldberg) will overlook it.

    *Norman Mailer stabbed his wife at a party (i.e. witnesses galore) and didn’t serve a single day. He WAS Norman Mailer, after all.

  25. jemand
    September 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    ““there are times when it’s reasonable to say that an act which is legally rape should be forgivable”

    This would be hilarious if it weren’t so profoundly offensive and disturbing.”

    well, I *suppose* when my boyfriend and I in the privacy of our own apartment decide to each do 3 shots each of tequilla prior to having sex, I certainly hope it’s never prosecuted, even though technically in some states sex with a woman who is drunk is classed as rape regardless of her specifically consenting to that “sex while drunk” before imbibing and not revoking consent throughout the evening.

    But seriously, if anyone really thinks that kind of case would *EVER* get even remotely near a courtroom they’re living in an alternate reality.

  26. melancholia
    September 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    This is a perfect example of why people hate douchey Hollywood liberals.

  27. September 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t think reasonable people can disagree. This is one of those Dreyfus Affair things where if someone disagrees I’ll hold it against them forever.

    There are three things going on here that I can see. Feminists are universally calling it rape. Some folks who travel in social circles where Polanski apologism is taken as a test of personal loyalty (I’m looking at YOU Whoopi) or have other conflicts of interest (I’m looking at YOU Applebaum) are making any argument they can for him. Then, there’s the great horde of rape culture. Lots and lots of people that only know Polanski’s work are parroting defenses of him, even though this is rape THREE WAYS : (1) she said no, (2) she was incapacitated by quaaludes, and (3) she was THIRTEEN — three years under the age of consent at the time and so young that he had to ask her mother for permission to photograph her.

    Folks who recognize that his act was indefensible but somehow want to defend it fall back of the “but the victim wants him let go” defense. If this were a defense, we might as well give up prosecuting domestic violence, because DV survivors very, very frequently decide not to cooperate in prosecution of their assailants, though the longer the pattern the greater chance they will get killed if they finally try to leave. As Jill absolutely correctly points out, out criminal justice system is not designed to and does not attempt to redress a private wrong by the defendant against the victim. In the criminal justice system, an agent of the government prosecutes the defendant for a breach of the defendant’s obligations to the community: the penal code we are all subject to. On paper, the rape of a 13 year old girl is not about whether she wants redress; it’s about the community’s stance that the rape of 13 year old girls is a violation of our obligations to civilization that should be punished, and that interest should be vindicated even if she is too scared or too tired to fight on her own behalf — in fact, I say, all the more so because she can’t be expected to carry the ball herself.

    The defenses are all bullshit, and parroting them makes you a bad person — a rape apologist, and an apologist for a rapist.

  28. Catherine
    September 29, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Oh no not Katrina from the Nation. I can’t even believe that. How can that be?

  29. Featherstone, QC
    September 29, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Is the “not rape-rape” defense ever employed for similar fact patterns?

    The victim’s age and coerced intoxication aside, she was more than explicit in rejecting his oral, vaginal, and anal advances before each was consummated, no?

    What is “rape-rape” or “real rape” if not this?

  30. William
    September 29, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Hey, and I say this as a sexual assault survivor, I get the desire to defend Polanski. The man is an artist of rare skill, he has had an incredibly tragic life, he has suffered horribly, he has endured things that no person ought to be asked to endure. As a therapist I would be able to muster a significant amount of empathy for the man, and I am willing to entertain the argument that he was broken by the events of his life and that, even when he did inexcusable things, he was doing the best he was capable of doing at the time.

    The rub there, of course, is the “inexcusable.” Regardless of his history, regardless of the trauma he had experienced, he drugged and raped someone. I can understand the fear that the thought of prison might have provoked in a man who had seen the inside of a concentration camp, I can understand why he would flee at the thought. I can even understand the rage that comes from having had a plea bargain promised to you and then torn away, but he drugged and raped someone. His history cannot wash that away, nor can his art. The bottom line is that Roman Polanski drugged and raped someone. He did it, he has admitted it. Everything else is just window dressing.

    I agree that there are some crimes for which context and time might render the idea of punishment moot: killing in self defense, stealing when you’re starving, even acting under some kind of extreme duress; but I just can’t imagine a situation (outside of having a gun held to your head) in which rape can be mitigated. If you’re going to defend Polanski, or even just take the “theres two sides to this story” stance, you need to ask yourself a simple question. If a man admitted to drugging and raping a 13 year old 30 years ago, then fled the country, became a plumber, and never denied having raped the girl, would you be so aggressive in your defense of his freedom if he were to be arrested tomorrow? I think most people would be hard-pressed to say yes, and thats what we call discrimination.

  31. Kristin
    September 29, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Shorter Hollywood Response: “But Polanski is a Special Artist. He has given us *films*! He’s too…too…. Special to bother with details like the *law.*”

    Ugh…

  32. Kit
    September 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Sigh, I get the distinction that Whoopi was trying to make. He pled guilty to statutory rape on condition that the other charges would be dropped. They were. He wasn’t convicted of rape, but rather knowingly having sexual relations with a minor. If I were a celebrity discussing this on tv, I’d probably carefully make the distinction too. Those of us regular folks can take note of the fact that he admitted to having known she was only thirteen and that the legal age at that time in CA was 16. We can also take note of the civil suit where she won damages on his having drugged her and then had sex with a screaming, pleading child attempting to escape. But the legal decision has been made. He has been convicted of statutory rape already and been sentenced for that. The statute of limitations has passed on re-charging him with anything else. He is an escaped convict. If he wants to ask for clemency because of any circumstances at all, he has to not be on the run. He has to do it within the system. Now I have an opinion as to whether he should get clemency, but I’m not in charge of making the decision. And the Swiss only get to make the decision as to whether they will return escaped criminals to this country or not.

  33. September 29, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I’d have some sympathy had Polanski gotten violent with some member(s) of the Manson Family. Or a coupla Nazis.

    But the girl he raped had no connection to the tragedies Polanski endured. A starving person stealing food is nothing like a depressed man raping a girl who inflicted no pain on him. That people are actually saying such a thing is HUGELY indicative of rape culture, though.

  34. Sheelzebub
    September 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    You know Flash, it’s fascinating to me that now, Polanski’s rape-apologist defenders are so eager to respect her feelings, when over the past 31 years (and even now), they pillory her as a nymphette, a Lolita, and a golddigger and starfucker. If they are truly so fucking sympathetic to her wishes, how about this–they can cease and desist the puritanical slut-baiting rape apology BS, disavow it, and fucking apologize for each and every instance they engaged in it. They can also come down HARD like a ton of fucking bricks on people who DO engage in it.

    But no. Because like Whoopi said, it’s not “rape-rape,” since giving a 13-year-old quaaludes and alcohol, and then fucking her when she continually asked you to stop isn’t rape. FFS. There is no gray area here. She was 13 and he was 44–it’s not a sex case, it’s a RAPE case. And for the love of all things holy and profane, I am really. fucking. tired. of the rape apologism I’m seeing from erstwhile progressives.

    Seriously, what Thomas said. You’re a waste of space if you think this shit is anywhere near okay. I don’t care if you’re Whoopi Goldberg or Terry Gilliam (et tu, Terry? Burn in hell, asshole). An adult does not give a 13-year-old drugs. An adult does not give a 13-year-old alcohol. And adult does not fuck a thirteen year old. That’s rape. Polanski shouldn’t get a pass just because he’s a wealthy, White, connected artiste.

  35. Sheelzebub
    September 29, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Oh, and WRT to the trauma defense: how about women and girls who have been raped? I’m willing to bet that say, the OC pack rape survivor wouldn’t get the bucketfuls of sympathy because of her trauma if she assaulted a child or hurt someone. Damn, I know two Cambodians who escaped Pol Pot’s genocidal regime–do they get a special pass for raping kids? Or is that something that’s just reserved for famous White dudes with money?

  36. libdevil
    September 29, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I can think of at least one example of something “legally rape” that shouldn’t have been. There was a case out of the midwest or plains states a few years ago in which a young man was charged for having consensual oral sex with another young man – one just over and the other just under the age of consent. Had they been opposite sex partners having PIV intercourse, it wouldn’t have been a crime because of their close ages. In that case, it was the blatant discrimination to allow heterosexual intercourse but criminalize consensual homosexual acts between persons of approximately the same age that was controversial.

    Unfortunately for Flash, this is just the opposite of a justification of Polansky – look at all the conditions that have to be true for Flash’s statement to be true. He’s not making an argument in good faith, because he expects people reading his comment to be dumb enough to think, “Well golly, maybe in some really rare cases, the law screws up and criminalizes something that shouldn’t be, so obviously this must be one of those!” No. I’m not that dumb, and neither are most people. Raping children is a crime for a lot of damned good reasons, and no amount of hand waving, “but what if” bullshit is going to change that.

  37. PrettyAmiable
    September 29, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    “there are times when it’s reasonable to say that an act which is legally rape should be forgivable”

    Restated with any other violent crime, this would never, ever hold. I honestly think that if Polanski committed any other crime, this entire situation would have worked out very differently. No one makes excuses for their murderer friends, but people are willing to do so for their rapist buds.

    The reason this needs to hold, in my view as an assault victim, is that letting it go is akin to acceptance of this man’s actions for a mitigating circumstance (which, as far as I can tell, is a fucking Oscar). We extradited that former Nazi without further ado for not facing his crimes, but we’re drawing a different line for rape. Stupid.

    And don’t get me wrong. I didn’t charge any of my assaultors either because it was the right decision for me, but the second it becomes something publicized where society gets the chance to accept an action or reject it, we have an obligation to the future mes to help them not grow up in a world where their rapist’s actions can be justified away.

  38. September 29, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    (girl enthusiastically starts taking guy’s psychiatric medication at dinner and then does some tequila shots. He gets kind of drunk, they have sex with her passed out, he starts to question whether what they’re doing is right, she wakes up and urges him to keep going), do seem pretty different: two intoxicated people and a guy not realizing he doesn’t have valid consent, versus a violent act with intentional intoxication of one person by a more powerful person…. So there are times when it’s reasonable to say that an act which is legally rape should be forgivable,

    Well, I see your point. I can see how there would be a difference between those two scenarios, and that the difference between them is enough to drastically reconsider the potential sentence or conviction of someone who were accused of either “type” of rape. The analogy doesn’t fit this case, though.

    In Polanski’s case, people think he should be off the hook not because he committed a less-violent or intentional type of rape; it’s been established that he did. The arguments that I keep hearing are “let’s respect the justice system and the punishment it meted out,” and “but he’s so taaaaaaaalented.” Neither defense is particularly good, and here’s why: regardless of what the jury or judge decided, regardless of what that metaphorically means overall, the crime has been committed and other people’s lives are negatively affected by those actions, regardless of jail time or decision made. And the law is in a constant state of change; there are precedents and mistrials and other considerations. Secondly, I’m sure that every single person convicted of a violent felony has amazing talents in some thing or another, so how would we possibly choose which ones put the individual possessing them above the law? Why would a talent have anything to do with a violent crime? It’s too silly to figure out.

  39. Marlene
    September 29, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Don’t most of the people we keep in our prisons have seriously unpleasant life histories? When did that get you out of prison?

    I was beaten as a child and have been poor and hungry and a victim of violence and discrimination in a culture that sees me as less than human. I’m fucking brilliant and charming too.

    What can I get away with? Where’s my get out of jail free card?

    Fuck that guy! Put him under the jail.

  40. Catherine
    September 29, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    “What is “rape-rape” or “real rape” if not this?”

    I have a terrible, sinking feeling that the answer to this is that “real rape” is if the woman or girl fights to the death and she better look like she did. That means, you have to fight until the man beats the shit out of you leaving you looking like a car-accident survivor, or you have to be beaten to death or into a coma. Then it’s “real rape”. A woman or girl who makes the choice to survive her rape, well, that’s not a “real rape”. I don’t even know where to begin on that, other than to say, there was a time if I ran into Whoopi somewhere I would have shook her hand and now I’d spit at her. For real. I don’t have the mental energy to argue with these backwards harm-causing idiots.

    Thomas – that was a great post, I agree 100%. I too do not believe that reasonable people can disagree.

  41. Bitter Scribe
    September 29, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    OT, consider a post about this. It looks like a bunch of jerk cops in Pittsburgh grabbed a handcuffed G20 protester and forced her to kneel and spread her legs to serve as the centerpiece for a group trophy photo. Bastards.

  42. September 29, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Medea wins the internet. Everyone can go home now.

  43. September 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Wait a second. What Whoopi was obviously trying to do was clarify the difference between what the victim says he did (which is, surprisingly and thankfully, not disputed) and what he was “proven” to have “done,” defined by the legal system under which he was tried. What Whoopi seems to be doing is making sure that we remember that, for example, you can’t justify calling someone an “murderer” in a newspaper before they’ve been convicted of murder. You have to follow it up with “alleged,” or something that clarifies that that’s what is being accused, and reminds us to remember that people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. In fact, she even says several times that she isn’t aware of all the facts, and implies that her opinion could change if she heard convincing evidence to the contrary. It’s clear that the things we’re all discussing on this thread are the things that she doesn’t know, like the fact that it involved more than a 40-something guy and a 13-year-old girl. She seems to have invented “rape-rape” as a way to explain that “statutory rape” isn’t always a morally wrong thing in every circumstance, and that to me says that she doesn’t know all the facts that we discuss, because I can’t imagine that she would be such a blatant rape-apologist. I think people are jumping the gun here, really fast.

  44. September 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’m waiting for the big political circus when Polanski is dropped on the state of California, creating a big headache for Arnold (Gropinator) Schwarzenegger.

    Terminator vs Predator, that will be an instant classic…

    http://kmareka.com/2009/09/29/terminator-vs-predator/

  45. Charity
    September 29, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Here’s a quote from Polanski that anyone defending him can feel free to choke on, from an interview he gave in 1979 – paints a VERY sympathetic picture, no? Definitely not the words of a predator or anything, with the kind of distorted thinking that still makes him a danger at any age, right? Please.

    “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaeldeacon/100011795/roman-polanski-everyone-else-fancies-little-girls-too/

  46. Lindsey
    September 29, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    But he’s already paid so much for his crime!

    He had to spend years, decades even living in his French mansion, only being able to make frequent skiing trips to his chalet with his model wife and two children!

    It’s terrible! Simply awful!

    The thing is, I like Roman Polanski’s movies too. But people need to learn there’s a big difference between making a good film and being a good person. The martyrdom this guy generates makes me absolutely sick.

  47. September 29, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Working with sexual assault survivors has brought me so many provocative questions and challenges about the justice system, “punishment,” and justice.

    What I’ve come to believe is that rape is another form of murder. Not “murder” in how we think of killing the physical, but in so many cases it has killed the life and spirit of women and children who have gone to hell and back. There is no measurement of how gregious this crime can be, nor can there be an adequate measure of what “justice” and “punishment” look like for the perpetrator.

    What I do know is that infamy and notoriety is nothing compared to having your body desecrated, your voice silenced, and your very basic sense of humanity violated. Call me narrow-minded and judgmental, but anyone who thinks that not being able to go to LA to accept a little gold statue as sufficient punishment does not truly understand the dynamic of the violence and horror that transpires during rape.

    She’s 13. She was drugged.

    All of this circus talk about how he’s suffered enough is bullshit.

  48. September 29, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Cacophonies, did you watch the video? Whoopi does say she’s “talking legally,” but then she says that rape wasn’t “the allegation.” Then she says that the mom set it up (after Melissa Gilbert literally says “It’s a gray area when mom is in the building” — um, what?). Then Whoopi says there’s an argument that the sentence was “a little excessive.” Again — um, what? And they all go on discussing it as if it’s statutory rape. And Melissa Gilbert says that the circumstances are gray.

    They aren’t. It’s not allegedly anymore when he admitted to it. Then Whoopi says “He did not rape her because she was aware and the family was apparently aware… I don’t know if it was consensual.”

    That is NOT Whoopi just explaining the legal circumstances.

  49. Amelia the Lurker
    September 29, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    “Patrick Goldstein says Polanski is being “hounded” by LA County prosecutors and compares him to Jean Valjean”

    Uh, yeah. Somehow I don’t remember Valjean drugging and raping Cosette. Must have missed that part…maybe it was during “Le Petit-Picpus”? God knows I skipped that…(Sorry, Hugo purists. I made my own translation of “Le Dernier Jour d’un Condamné”! I served my time!)

  50. ginmar
    September 29, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    There’s a very scary undertone to some of the stuff being said in his defense: that, sure, she was 13. That was bad. But older than that….? Well, no big deal, really.

    And he’s in exile? In his own fucking country? He was born in France. He’s French. He’s lived there off and on, mostly on, his whole damned life.

  51. Marksman2000
    September 30, 2009 at 1:07 am

    “He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees”

    Only in America.

  52. sophonisba
    September 30, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Libelling the mother is one of the sicker things about this. The reasoning seems to go:

    1. Polanski’s not a rapist.
    2. Anyway it’s her mother’s fault for letting her spend the day with a rapist.
    3. Because any good mother would have known Polanski would rape her.
    4. But Polanski’s not a rapist.

    And if it was the mother’s fault for letting her child be alone with him, it necessarily follows that if he’d raped a grown woman, it would be her own fault for letting herself be alone with him.

    The other sick thing is finding out just how many people–feminist people, yet– think statutory rape isn’t real rape. The facts are important, and I understand the eagerness to make sure everyone knows every last atrocity he committed, but statutory rape isn’t some kind of wink-wink technicality. If all you knew was that she was thirteen, that’s all you need to know to know he’s. a. rapist.

    I also died a little inside at the Jezebel comment from someone who could handle the drugging, the statutory rape, and the forcible rape, but just could not condone the sodomy. Because that’s what pushes it over into shocking, right? Vaginal rape is no big deal, apparently. That was Bill Maher’s big contribution to the discussion, too–he’s getting hailed as a stand-up ally (one of all of four!) because he just doesn’t think it’s right to, I quote, “do her in the naughty place.” If only Polanski had restricted himself to the nice part of a woman that’s designed for rape.

    I want to vomit.

  53. Sheelzebub
    September 30, 2009 at 5:20 am

    (after Melissa Gilbert literally says “It’s a gray area when mom is in the building” — um, what?).

    OMFG. Her mom wasn’t in the frakking building! Jaysus, it’s nice to know that people will make shit up to defend the rich White d00d.

    but statutory rape isn’t some kind of wink-wink technicality. If all you knew was that she was thirteen, that’s all you need to know to know he’s. a. rapist.

    Um, yeah. THIS. Because a 13-year-old who is willing is still. THIRTEEN. And Polanski was STILL. FORTY-FOUR.

    I’m disgusted–but not surprised–at how his defenders are trying to hand wave this away by saying well, she wasn’t a virgin and she’d done drugs before, so, you know, totes unrapeable. Then they turn around and whine that we’re the puritans. Guess what? The idea that women and girls must be “pure” for it to be “real” rape is a pretty fucking puritanical thing to spout. Puritanical double-standards–they’re the new libertine.

  54. pennylane
    September 30, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Cacophonies, there was no trial to produce a finding of facts. The unlawful se charge was a consequence of the plea bargain. It is entirely normal for defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge as a part of a bargain. That doesn’t mean a jury looked at the facts and was unable to make a determination. The grey area in statutory rape emerges for me when you have two peers in a consensual relationship not with a 30+ year age gap. And for people who didn’t know all the facts they were certainly willing to see the mother as entirely culpable. If you don’t know all the facts, shut up. Don’t speculate as to all the reasons why the victim is really to blame. And, frankly, the people who raise the victim’s forgiveness seem to avoid discussing the parts of her interviews in which she says that the reason she’d like this dropped is because every time it comes up people say very hurtful things about her, her family and her mother. So you can’t say out of one side of your mouth that we ought to respect her wishes while also discussing her responsibility out of the other.

    I’m so grossed out by the pearl clutching statements from Hollywood. I’m sorry but this man is not an oppressed seual dissident persecuted for his desires. He’s no Oscar Wilde. He finds nubile, pliant young women attractive. This is not the stuff of challenging oppressive social norms but of Pepsi commercials.

  55. September 30, 2009 at 6:56 am

    If past trauma gives you a license to commit crimes, then please excuse me for a bit while I go steal some diamonds.

    On a more serious note, when people use Polanski’s painful past to excuse his crimes, it is incredibly insulting to people who have lived tragic horrible lives and have managed not to pass that trauma on to other people.

  56. gretel
    September 30, 2009 at 8:39 am

    This whole thing has infuriated/triggered me so greatly that I can’t read any more rape apologist articles. I recommend every read this Eugene Robinson post in the Washington Post if they feel the same way. I plan to boycott the rape apologists pundits out there if at all possible.

  57. Just stopping through
    September 30, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Really, I needed a place to vent. I just cannot believe Whoopi Goldberg and our esteemed columnist, Anne Applebaum. The stupidity of Goldberg’s remarks is simply boundless. WTF is “rape-rape”? WTH kind of mental dribble is that? Is that what it will take for her to get another movie role? Seriously?

    And Applebaum. First–nice work there not disclosing who her husband is. Second: why aren’t more people disturbed that her argument basically is distilled down to “Don’t be too hard on him, he’s a Holocaust victim”? Is anyone else really sickened by that?

    And please don’t tell me Katrina vandenHeuvel has hopped aboard the insanity train? What, is this man’s **** lined with gold or something? It’s almost as if they think the victim should be grateful. This is sick!

    Exhibit A as to why this victim, and every other victim, would rather deal with this in silence than shine a light on it, because I swear to God the vultures stand ready to swoop. And it’s the women who should be standing up for other women, but are not.

    He was man enough to rape a 13yo, he should be man enough to face the consequences. Don’t want to go to jail? Don’t rape. Seriously, this isn’t rocket science.

    Thanks for letting me vent. I am just furious about all of these damned Polanski apologists.

  58. September 30, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I know. I know.

    One of the very few Hollywood people who said bluntly that Polanksi, good movies or not, needs to go to jail, is Kevin Smith.

    When Kevin Smith understands what the damn problem is, and Katrina Ven den Heuvel (WTF??) and Whoopi Goldberg want to handwave it away, I…don’t even know what to say anymore, really.

  59. gretel
    September 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

    My friend and I were just discussing how all these famous people are backing Polanski. What about our voices? Can we put them to use? Are there any petitions out there to sign? I know it’s not much, but it would be something. I really would like to add my name to something proclaiming that Polanski should be extradited to the United States and face the consequences of his action. I realize it’s not a magic wand, but it would be something to counteract all the extreme anger I feel about this situation.

  60. gretel
    September 30, 2009 at 11:11 am
  61. Yatima
    September 30, 2009 at 11:11 am

    EKSwitaj: “On a more serious note, when people use Polanski’s painful past to excuse his crimes, it is incredibly insulting to people who have lived tragic horrible lives and have managed not to pass that trauma on to other people.”

    YES. YES. Sing it, sister.

  62. megara
    September 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

    It think the whole thing reeks of classim too. Yes the media often dismissed rape cases, but ones where a minor was physically forced- to me those are the cases when the media occassionally gets it right- the rapist deserves punishment.

    Of course in this instance they very much did not. I highly doubt if this had been someone of less social status that the reaction would have turned out the same. I also enjoy how what “counts as punishment” depends on your status. For example, his reputation was damaged so he’s suffered enough. Actually, his reputation is right on. He’s a rapist, people.

  63. Sheelzebub
    September 30, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Gretel, you’d have to wade through the 1400+ comments on one of the Polanski threads on Oh No They Didn’t on LJ, but I do believe someone linked to a French petition, decrying the defenders (and the rape apologetics) of Roman Polanski; I believe they were saying that no one should be above the law.

    Apparently, Le Figaro ran a poll; of 30,000 people, 70% did not agree that with Polanski’s defenders or with the idea that he should not be extradited. In fact, a lot of French letters sections and blogs have been downright furious with the glitterati circling the wagons around him.

  64. Lauren
    September 30, 2009 at 11:52 am

    The New York Times has also jumped on the apologist bandwagon. The following op-ed was published today:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/opinion/30harris.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

  65. moron
    September 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I really disagree with your politics in general, but thank God you guys are getting on the correct side of this one.

    Props.

  66. Vicki
    September 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Maybe the apologists would be satisfied if Polanski was shot dead by a concentration camp survivor, since their logic is that survivors can be excused anything.

  67. jemand
    September 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    @vicki, I think some of it may be some strange form of “punishment before the act”? Or something like that? Which only comes out when it’s someone rich and famous? But it’s really insanity, you can’t be punished *before* your crime.

  68. sky
    September 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    vanden Heuvel’s recent tweets are disingenuous and full of backtracking b.s. She may reject the label “apologist,” but she sure as heck looks like one. She’s citing some stupid documentary and going on about mistrials and the like. Polanski is not the victim in this case, and I didn’t think that criminals could use “my judge was a jerk” as an excuse to become a fugitive.

  69. September 30, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    @Kit:

    But the legal decision has been made. He has been convicted of statutory rape already and been sentenced for that. The statute of limitations has passed on re-charging him with anything else.

    First, he hadn’t actually been sentenced; he took off before his sentencing hearing. Second, he can and will be tried for the bail jumping. But IIRC, the fact that he fled the jurisdiction stops the clock on any statute of limitations, so he can be tried for the original crime.

    As for the victim’s wishes, I don’t blame her for wanting to make it all go away. However, she’s not the one making that decision, especially since a) Polanski already admitted to raping her; and b) she wouldn’t have any influence over the charges stemming from him being a fugitive.

  70. September 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    I’m a conservative, but I believe this issue transcends political point of view.

    I heartily agree with the comments and articles here on this subject.

    30 days in the electric chair is too good for him.

  71. October 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    As is so often the case in matters of law and life, Zuzu is right. Polanski can be charged for fleeing, he can now be sentenced for the crime he pled to in addition. On top of that, if he had shown up for sentencing, he would have had the other charges dismissed, but they probably were never dismissed because he fled, and while he is a fugitive the statute probably tolled. The original indictment was five counts, including sodomy and rape. He had a deal to make those go away, and potentially serve time for “only” statutory rape, with a strong likelihood that he would get time served. Instead of take that very lenient deal and some risk of further incarceration, he became a fugitive and lived in luxury in the land of his birth for more than thirty years.

    Lots of people who molest children have horrible personal histories. If they are not rich and famous, nobody gives a damn about their stories.

    He didn’t “just” use his position to have sex with a thirteen year old who was sober and willing. He didn’t “just” give quaaludes to an 18 year old to use her intoxication to lower her inhibitions to sex with him. He didn’t “just” sexually penetrate a sober adult who said “no.” He committed rape ALL THREE WAYS. He forcibly penetrated a child to whom he had deliberately given alcohol and quaaludes and who still said “no.” Do that, go to jail. Even if you flee and are arrested thirty years later; even if you are a famous and talented filmmaker. That’s my position. No buts. It makes me sad that this is controversial.

    The victim does not get to turn off the process of criminal justice. It’s not a civil process. It’s not her v. him. It’s the People of the State of California, through the DA, versus the Defendant. Rape is not a civil tort. It’s a criminal offense: a breach of his obligations not just to the victim but to the whole community.

    If we as a community say, “hey, sure, it’s not a good thing, but if you’re rich, famous and talented and flee the jurisdiction, we’ll just let it slide forever,” we’re saying we as a community — as an American polity — don’t really think it’s that bad. And as I look around, that clearly is what is being said. It makes me sick.

  72. October 1, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    There’s another petition demanding that Polanski face justice here:

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/art-does-not-excuse-rape-polanski-must-face-justice

    “I really disagree with your politics in general, but thank God you guys are getting on the correct side of this one.

    Props.”

    Well, thank God that we got it right for once. It’s good to know us dumbass feminists are good for something, huh?

  73. W. Kiernan
    October 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Patrick Goldstein: …The real tragedy is that he will always, till his death, be snubbed and stalked and confronted by people who think the price he has already paid isn’t enough.

    Well I can’t speak for anybody else, but as far as I’m concerned, if:

    1.) they bring Polanski back to L.A.,
    2.) drag him in front of a judge,
    3.) have the judge declare the sentence for the crime to which he confessed and pled guilty thirty years ago,
    4.) make him serve the sentence – just like as if he were any ordinary non-millionaire who was convicted of the same crime most certainly would – and finally,
    5.) let him out of jail with his sentence served in full,

    then at that point I’d say the price he’d have paid was enough. Don’t wanna do the time? then don’t do the crime. Wanna do the crime? then don’t whine.

  74. Adam O.
    October 2, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Petition Supporting the Extradition of Roman Polanski

    http://thomashawk.com/2009/09/petition-supporting-the-extradition-of-roman-polanski.html

    It’s totally ad-hoc, but real. Thomas Hawk is apparently a tech CEO who is aghast at the apologists. No reason not to do this as well as join Facebook groups. I have heard the Obama administration does pay attention to Facebook, e.g. was encouraged by postings supporting a public health care option.

  75. shenanigan
    October 2, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Here is what I am struggling with:

    I am a survivor of sexual assault. I also am a survival of taking a sexual assault case into a campus trial, at which point it became very public. That public trial was nearly as traumatic and painful as the assault itself. When friends ask me if they should press charges against a man who has raped them, I hesitate… I tell them to think hard about it.

    Not because I don’t want to see that man punished. I do. I really, really, do. But because I don’t want to see the rape survivor suffer in order to make it happen. ‘Cause we all know how survivors get treated– in the media, in the courts, etc. Its not nice. Its not fun.

    So when I here a rape survivor say she wants the whole thing dropped I have a hard time not wanting to listen to her. I still have my doubts…. Why is she saying this? Where is this sentiment coming from? And my own desire to see a rapist publically punished and shamed for the sake of the larger case of rape.

    But even on this large scale I want to see that survivor empowered. How do we do this? How do we support her right now?

    I don’t have an answer.

  76. PrettyAmiable
    October 2, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I’d agree if circumstances were different, shenanigan. But I can tell you that I spent an hour in my shrink’s office crying over THIS. Over how I’m not heard about how wrong my own assaults were when people with considerably more clout justify it away.

    I don’t want Samantha to feel victimized again, but it seems to be a choice between her and me and others like me who feel increasingly hopeless with regards to American society.

    As an aside, I haven’t seen this mentioned: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20309753,00.html?xid=rss-fullcontentcnn

    Schwarzennegger has daughters my age, one of whom is at my alma mater.

    Cheers. It feels good to be proud of someone willing to speak out.

  77. October 3, 2009 at 12:11 am

    If Polanski decided tomorrow that he forgave Charles Manson, would you advocate letting Manson out of prison? After all, he’s an old man too.
    This is an excellent analogy. Thank you for giving me the perfect thing to say to the next person who brings up that “but she doesn’t want him to be punished” crap.

    I am just sick over this whole thing.

  78. javier
    October 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    another “progressive” website that has only the defender/apologist take on things.really sickening.
    :
    BuzzFlash.org | Progressive News and Commentary with an Attitude …Sep 30, 2009 … Jacqueline Marcus: 9/11 Cover-up, Torture, Wiretapping, BUT Roman Polanski Is More Important to the U.S. Justice Department …

    http://blog.buzzflash.com/contributors/2081

  79. shenanigan
    October 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Look, like I said. I’d love to see him punished. I am not trying to find him a loop hole. I feel reallly, truly torn.

    I am just trying to reconcile this with the multiple times I’ve argued as an advocate for sexual assault survivors that the police should not be brought into the room just cause a woman ask for a rape kit, that when we answer phone lines about rape cases that we never pressure anyone to press charges. That it needs to be her choice– when and how she brings it to trial.

    Sure the fact that this is big and public does change the situation. It seems, as PrettyAmiable mentions, there is more than just the survivors well being on the line.

    Its complicated for me. This caught some of my feelings: http://sugartheshop.blogspot.com/2009_09_01_archive.html?zx=b0e798154935e1dd

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