The piece I wrote just a few hours ago on the arrest and potential extradition of Roman Polanski is now up at the Huffington Post. As is common, posted at the bottom of it are several links to related stories, one of which is a public appeal from French writer and philosopher (the latter being an amusing redundancy) Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Titled "Artist Rally Behind Roman Polanski," the open petition is so far signed by over a dozen mostly European actors, filmmakers, authors and designers.
I think it's important that I reprint Lévy's demand (because that's really what it is) in its entirety so that you can appreciate how thoroughly full of crap the whole endeavor is.
"My journal, 'La Règle du jeu,' is working in support of Roman Polanski and mobilizing writers and artists through the following petition:
'Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison.
He risks extradition to the United States for an episode that happened years ago and whose principal plaintiff repeatedly and emphatically declares she has put it behind her and abandoned any wish for legal proceedings.
Seventy-six years old, a survivor of Nazism and of Stalinist persecutions in Poland, Roman Polanski risks spending the rest of his life in jail for deeds which would be beyond the statute-of-limitations in Europe.
We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, require it.
Bernard-Henri Lévy, Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Pascal Bruckner, Neil Jordan, Isabelle Adjani, Arielle Dombasle, Isabelle Huppert, William Shawcross, Yamina Benguigui, Mike Nichols, Danièle Thompson, Diane von Furstenberg, Claude Lanzmann, Paul Auster'"
Where to begin.
First, the gargantuan arrogance on display in this thing -- Lévy's piously condescending tone -- is staggering even for a self-described French philosopher. The idea that he sees himself, his fellow artists and the region of the world in which they all live as somehow more socially and culturally advanced than the rest of us is obvious. He doesn't care that a girl was raped. He doesn't care that the act was committed in the United States. He cavalierly offers as a defense the notion that in Europe, where the civilized people are, the statute of limitations would've run out on this silly little offense years ago.
Except that there's no statute of limitations at play here because Polanski's not facing charges. He was convicted. He fled. He's still wanted because he copped to the crime three decades ago but never faced sentencing.
I'd really like not to draw a distinction between Europe -- particularly the easily assailable French -- and the United States in this matter, because the reality is that it should come down to only one thing: right and wrong. Where someone happens to live or what his or her cultural mindset might be should have no bearing on it whatsoever. That said, there's simply no way to ignore the likely predisposition of a French philosopher and artist to unleash some particularly virulent strain of moral relativism in a case like this -- to utilize his superior intellect to hem and haw over what exactly constituted a pursuable offense and whether Polanski had contributed enough to society through his films to bring his Karmic tab even.
Once again, I don't care if the man lived inside a human skin suit made to look like Orson Welles and was the one who, in reality, directed Citizen Kane. I don't care if Polanski's entire career since 1977 could in fact be directly attributed to his desire to atone for having raped a 13 year old girl. He never took responsibility for what he did on terms that weren't completely his own, and he has to now. Period.
Wrong is wrong.
I don't care how brilliant the man is. He's not above the law.
And defending him simply because he's an artist isn't just sickening -- it's sociopathic.