Erasing the Past

There’s an interesting update on two stories from last week’s issue (just Premium: the stories weren’t in the free edition), which brings up a huge question: when celebrities/star athletes are convicted of a heinous crime, what should become of their past accomplishments?

Let’s start with the stories, and the what’s behind their taglines. They were in the 7 October 2018 issue.

Mercer’s wallaroo selfie.

Hop To It

Police in Grayson, La., were dispatched to an unusual traffic hazard: a kangaroo hopping down the road. It was no alcohol-induced hallucination: Assistant Chief Freddy Mercer captured the critter, and took a selfie with it in the front seat of his patrol car. When he posted the photo online, commenters said it wasn’t a ’roo after all, but rather a wallaby. (RC/WPLG Miami) …Watch me wallaby feed mate — they’re a dangerous breed mate.

Hop To It Too

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirms it is searching for an unusual animal: a kangaroo that was reported in Jupiter Farms. It was no alcohol-induced hallucination: a woman took a video of the animal hopping down the road in town and posted it online. Plus, F&W officers know who it belongs to: a man who has a license for the critter; its name is “Storm”. (RC/WPLG Miami) …Tie me kangaroo down, sport, tie me kangaroo down.

That escaped ’roo was also captured on camera:

Tagline Explanation

To explain the tags for those who didn’t recognize the lines, I included the following in the same issue:

There’s an Old Australian Stockman, lying, dying: I know a lot of you were around in the early 1960s and got the wallaby/kangaroo reference in the two stories this week. I don’t remember ever hearing the song before, but Kit and my friend Leo, who were here when I was writing the stories, sure did, and Leo brought up the song on Youtube, which led to the tags. For the rest of you, here’s the pop cultural reference we listened to:

Singer Rolf Harris offered the four Australian musicians who played on the song 10 percent of its royalties, but they decided instead to take a fee of 28 pounds split among them because they thought the song would be a flop. Yet “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” became one of the most successful Aussie songs ever.

And Then the Other Shoe Dropped

Greg in Victoria, Australia, writes:

Thanks for another great edition. I realise I’m probably not the first Australian to point this out, but you may want to update the references for ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ and Rolf Harris to ‘Singer and convicted pedophile Rolf Harris’ – or remove the attribution entirely.

(Emphasis from the original; he also provided a link to a news story.)

Sigh! Are there any celebrities left that don’t have an abusive past?! Greg was indeed the first (and still only) reader to call my attention to it, and sure enough, Harris’s Wikipedia entry has plenty of gory details, including that Harris was sentenced to 5+ years in prison at age 84 (he’s now 88, and was released in 2017; apparently it’s common Down Under to be released at the half-way point if they behave). The charge was multiple counts indecent assault on several teen girls in the 1970s and 80s, and is common in such cases, there may have been more.

It was interesting timing: after hitting Send on the issue last week, I headed to dinner with my mastermind group, before Greg’s letter arrived, and one of the discussion topics at the table was Bill Cosby, who was recently sentenced to 3-10 years in prison, and the interesting question: when public figures like that are convicted of such crimes, what does that do to their body of work?

Context Matters

Great TV or comedy is still great TV or comedy, said one table mate; my response was: Except that everything (e.g., comedy) depends on context, and even though the content was certainly good at the time (e.g., a TV show), knowledge of the crimes now does change your own context, and sure, that would affect your enjoyment should you (say) watch a re-run or DVD of that content. Would that/should that make your pleasure a guilty one? Or even feel shame for enjoying it, even if no one else knew you did?

In a timely extension to our dinner conversation, Harris’s Wiki page notes that his many honors (knighthood, recording industry “Hall of Fame” status, etc.) have all been rescinded/“annulled,” so at least in that context, the “answer” from such honorable associations to our discussion seems to be, erase the past.

But on the other hand, you can still buy The Cosby Show (all 199 episodes! [sheesh: they couldn’t have made ONE MORE?]) is still for sale on Amazon. Only $21, too. So while the sports star’s or other celebrity’s past is at the very least marked with an asterisk, for goodness sake at least someone can still make money off him (or her!)

I’m interested in what you think about this concept of erasing the past, and/or whether it is still OK to enjoy that celebrity’s (or athlete’s) past accomplishments. Comments are open below.

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46 Comments on “Erasing the Past

  1. No, if only because, in the case of a performer, it hurts everyone else who is involved in his/her work. For example, if they never broadcast another Cosby Show rerun, nobody in the cast gets any more residuals.

  2. If we erase the past, we can’t learn from it. To paint these people as monsters hides the fact that “monsters” can hide within every human being.

  3. It’s a very sad thing for others involved tn the project that the abuser is involved in.

    Case in point, Wisdom of the Crowd was a very interesting and innovative show that was dropped like a hot potato amid sexual assault allegations directed at Jeremy Piven.

    It had a wonderful cast, all of whom lost their jobs as well. I felt that it could have gone on with a recast. They do it on soap operas all the time and it works well 90% of the time. Then the cast and crew would still have jobs.

    Of course, had it worked and the series had gone on to be successful enough to be syndicated, would the first episodes be included? Should they be?

    I don’t know the answer.

  4. First a little insight into Rolf Harris. He is Australian by birth, but lived in the UK for decades, and served his prison term here. It is standard for UK inmates to serve half of their prison sentences unless there is compelling evidence that they should serve it all. Sadly bad ‘uns often get released early despite such evidence, and then re-offend. (You can even serve half a life sentence, which implies that the Criminal Justice system is much more clever than it obviously is.)

    When I heard about Harris’s crimes, my feeling was mostly disappointment that a guy who had brought so much enjoyment to so many for many decades actually had feet of clay. This reaction will upset some, but that’s just the way it is. He was also a talented painter, and I had just paid a couple of hundred pounds for a print of one of his pictures — did the value go up or down I wonder.

    If he’d been a great surgeon who had saved lives, would we say his work was evil and the operations should be reversed? If he were a great scientist who had made wonderful discoveries, would we refuse to exploit them? I don’t think we should, I don’t think we would. In fact despite countless millions of deaths resulting from the products of Alfred Nobel, I don’t recall a scientist refusing a medal when offered. It’s the same with any endeavour, it should stand on its own merits.

    Thanks for the clarification about where he spent his prison time. -rc

  5. How do we learn from the past if we erase it because we do not like it?

    If we erase the past we have no examples to use in educating our children, or for justifying punishment when others commit similar wrongs.

  6. I’m against blindly erasing all mention of such people. The reasons for giving them the awards or honorary degrees still exist, and may still be valid. Yes, review their awards and/or honorary degrees and if the justification for the award/degree is no longer valid, revoke it. Just don’t revoke all of them blindly.

    As to the person’s past accomplishments, I have no problem continuing to enjoy them. I totally agree with what your table-mate said, great entertainment is still great entertainment. As humans we are capable of compartmentalizing our reactions to people & events. In these cases (Bill Cosby & Rolf Harris) I have no problem being able to enjoy their past work, while simultaneously being appalled & disgusted at what they have been convicted of doing. There’s a recent story where the institution went full force to literally erase all evidence of the person from the campus: “The world-renowned geneticist resigned, was banned from campus and stripped of prestigious University of California titles. And though he had given Irvine $11.5 million in donations, his name was taken off the university buildings he helped support.” This is akin to the recent efforts to erase all mention of men who were once consider Confederate heroes. What’s next? Remove all mention of them from all books, remove all books about them from all libraries? What about former slaveholders? Treat them the same? If so, then we’d have to erase George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and some of our other founding fathers. After all, they were slaveholders.

    Before any evidence of a person is erased/removed, the totality of their contributions to their craft & society needs to be measured against their wrongs/outrages. Do the totality of their wrongs/outrages truly outweigh the totality of their positive contributions? If the objective answer is yes, then (and only then) should the evidence of that person be erased/removed. If the answer is sort-of (and I suspect that it will be sort-of in most cases), then erase/remove all no-longer-appropriate evidence of their presence, and (where possible) update all remaining evidence of their presence with an explanation of their wrongs/outrages. That way people can accurately judge them, knowing the full story about them.

  7. These days that is a moot point as very little is ever truly erased. Once a work is done, it isn’t going to be undone. Still, I would be hard pressed not to consider attempting erasure if the work normalizes and/or glorifies those crimes as well as profiting from them.

    • The issue is more along the lines of Cosby’s long tenure as the perfect husband and father on TV while being a rapist in reality. The program had nothing to do with his crimes. There is no reason to hurt the rest of the cast by their losing residuals over his actions.

  8. Personally, I think it’s wrong to erase the past. In trying to do so we lose something of ourselves and we could also end up hurting others associated with the accomplishments of that person. I also feel it’s okay to enjoy what they accomplished while at the same time acknowledging and condemning what they did wrong. The only time it is wrong to enjoy what they accomplished is when what they did wrong was directly a part of that accomplishment.

  9. The WWE removed Hulk Hogan from its Hall of Fame after videos appeared of his using racial epithets long ago. Fast forward three years, and they reinstated him because he had repented and was “rehabilitated”.

    Needless to say, the locker room was split about this.

  10. Most artists are forgotten anyway. Only the best and most iconic survive and then only for so long.

    Yet thanks to Youtube, Wikipedia, and more, it’s much easier to find the past — just as I very quickly found Harris’s video when it was mentioned to me. -rc

  11. A university may rescind its honorary degree, or the Kiwanis (or other) club may retract its “man of the year” award; but an album that was funny in 1965 or 1970 will still be funny today. I loved many of Cosby’s skits, and still do. And the “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” song is as good -or trite- as it was then. One can appreciate the value of the work while denouncing the behavior of the performer. Bad people can do good things, as well as the reverse.

  12. I don’t believe that we should feel guilty about having enjoyed someone’s past work when we learn that they have done bad things that were unrelated to that work. Furthermore, I don’t know why we can’t eventually enjoy their future work, as long as it does not seek to profit from the notoriety that came from their fall from grace. For instance, if Cosby was not so elderly and someday came out with comedy material that would stand on its own, as long as he didn’t seek to make light of his past misdeeds it should be allowed to succeed or fail on its own merits. I guess a period of time would need to pass before this could happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

  13. I suppose the correct answer is “it depends”. As in other recent cases, if you did something many years ago that you shouldn’t have, it makes a difference whether you own up to the possibility that it was you, or you dissemble and distract in order to confuse. I’m much likelier to forgive those who want to be forgiven than those who can’t admit who they are — or were. I think everyone deserves a second chance, if they ask for it.

    In Mr. Cosby’s case, I suppose he still gets money every time you watch his show. Same with Mr. Harris, and a lot of other entertainers. If you don’t approve, you can deprive them of those pennies and make a symbolic statement.

    Other times, it’s not easy to have an effect on that person’s livelihood, leaving it to the future to provide the punishment.

    • Regarding residuals. The point of whether or not Cosby gets his, is only part of it. How about the rest of the cast? Many of them might NEED the extra few bucks. Why should they suffer for something that they probably did not even know about, and almost certainly did not take part in?

  14. Maybe we just shouldn’t celebrate celebrities in the first place.

    Or, at the very least, not “worship” them, as our society often does. -rc

  15. No, just like the rest of our countries past should not be erased. It is up to each person on If they want to look but it still needs to be there.

  16. My enjoyment of someone’s performance in the past is definitely tainted more if it feels that their abhorrent behavior was somehow “in parallel” with what I’m watching / listening to.

    A strong case there would be UK performer Jimmy Saville and the stories eventually associated with him. His performances, strongly associated with children, just felt “dirty” in hindsight.

    Personally, I would now avoid watching Rolf Harris, Bill Cosby, Gary Glitter … but it’s hard to know if that’s a correct / moral decision.

    I appreciate reading others’ thoughts here.

  17. I have the 33 1/3 LP record album Tie Me Kangaroo Down and I am not going to throw it away just because….

    I do think what he did was definitely wrong and the punishment appropriate.

  18. I feel mixed about the question, erasing the past. Brian from Australia above has a good point in my opinion. But this I do know — for me. Years ago I heard that Mariah Carey had an affair with her manager, who was married. Eventually they married, Mariah Carey being instrumental in breaking up the man’s marriage. (Yes, I realize he was participatory and there are many other issues that we are not privy to.) From then on I have not enjoyed listening to her music. It has not appeared to impact her career, and she long ago divorced that man. But for me, it stuck. There is also OJ Simpson. Are there degrees of what we accept? I don’t know the answer. It is a good one to discuss and ponder.

  19. I think right now the hard reality is that we live in a culture where famous, powerful, rich, talented, brilliant people are overwhelmingly favored and considered over the people they victimize, abuse and otherwise do harm to. We are and have been willing to overlook massive amounts of harm that people like that do in favor of recognizing their contributions to society, to the point of erasing, ignoring, silencing, forgetting, maligning and even further abusing their victims when they do speak up. Even now, we’re asking this question hypothetically – what about the abuser? – when the damage that they have done is real, and it’s causing us to prematurely redeem and even promote powerful people many of whom have barely faced any repercussions for what they’ve done, theorizing that they’ve “suffered enough.”

    What about all of the talent and brilliance and kindness of their victims, whose futures were not considered and whose past accomplishments were not considered when they were victimized? We still haven’t gotten to a place where we can focus on that. Let’s not focus even more on the abusers. They don’t need it.

    None of their accomplishments are actually going to be erased. We’re barely even beginning to talk about not PRIVILEGING them or giving them a platform.

  20. People’s opinions on this are guaranteed to differ, and I’m okay with that. I personally do not throw out the body of work except being very specific circumstances — I got no problem with Cosby’s honorary degrees being yanked because they’re in education. If they were in a hard science, I might have a different opinion on it.

  21. You are asking does knowledge about a person take away from what they accomplished? I say how can it? History is a teacher to those of us in the present. It does not make any sense to have any award rescinded/“annulled”. The award reflected that moment in time as to what was important. The song he sang was important during that time. A record of that should exist. What does one gain by taking it away and hiding that it happened? I don’t get it.

    Where is the line we stop at if we go with what was reported above to Rolf Harris be a “Leading Practice” when someone messes up? Do we work to destroy all 199 episodes of the Cosby show no matter where they exist? Do we digitally erase him from the show? Do we destroy any recordings made of him and his comedy shows from the 60’s? If we hide that he won an award why should we allow him to remain in a digital record in any way? This is NOT a straw-man argument as the actions noted are intended to erase a record of what was done in the past.

    We should erase any history of the kings of England as they were clearly not good humans in the current context of history. How about native American leaders who raped and killed rival tribes. Can we get rid of them? Do we blow up that new monument in DC dedicated to MLK who carried on affairs and was a socialist? Do we collect and melt down those Kennedy dollars as he was a real scum bag by today’s purity standards? The bible was from what flawed person? Oh, yea that’s right! BURN every copy!

    Come on let’s clean up all of history! Let’s go full crazy! We can live in a delusional world where bad things never happen and we never once admire anyone who might not have been perfect. What a great plan.

    If one does not believe that George Santayana had it right when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Than by all means let’s sanitize history of those that are fallible.

    For your sake just hope that you never ever make a mistake or do anything that can be viewed in the context of history as being wrong.

    I’m unclear who the “you” is that you’re addressing. I, certainly, made no such proposal. -rc

  22. I have Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport on my iPod. I’m not going to delete it, but from now on I’ll have a mental footnote when it rotates through the playlist.

  23. “I Spy” was a ground-breaking TV show on several levels, and I would enjoy watching it again. (The show had original music for every episode, and was shot on the actual locations where the story occurred. Oh, right, it also had a white guy and a black guy as buddies.)

    Power corrupts, and it’s sad that Cosby was corrupted.

  24. I’ve seen many contributors allude to the line between an artist’s “work” and their “misbehavior”. I wonder about artists whose work is objectionable yet popular and well received. For example, over the decades, many modern songs have contained lyrics that glorify abuse and violence, often toward women. These songs and artists are not called out for this content. They are simply accepted as “poetic license”. Isn’t that somewhat hypocritical in the face of today’s topic in this forum?

  25. The work stands on its own. Bill Cosby may, in his personal life, may have been somewhat of a lower-than-low example of humanity, but his work as America’s father and all-around inspiration to people through television has pretty much no equal. We probably look down on him because, while we have sinned, at least we didn’t do that to people.

    Along that line, when the authorities brought the prostitute to Jesus and wanted him to pronounce her to be stoned, he idly played with the dirt on the ground and said, “Let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone.” He didn’t mean stealing a loaf of bread; he meant screwing a whore, perhaps this one. Well, they all snuck off.

    Lots of people in the past — and present — are up to their necks (or belts) in doing the nasty. Either we didn’t know it, or we just put it aside and say, “They’re only human and what they left for us more than makes up for their dalliances.”

    A long time and some distance helps bring perspective: treasure the work, overlook the failings of the worker. We have jails to separate evil-doers from those who they harmed or might yet harm. The wise among us says, “Yet, for the grace of God, it could have been me.”

    I can always count on you to speak clearly and directly, padre! Thanks for weighing in. -rc

    • “Along that line, when the authorities brought the prostitute to Jesus and wanted him to pronounce her to be stoned…” She was a woman caught in adultery. Nothing in the text says that she was a prostitute. In fact, there is some evidence that adultery was defined solely as sex between a married woman and a man who was not her husband; I can’t say for sure if this was the way it was understood in Jesus’ time, but if so then this woman was not a prostitute unless she was also married, because sex between a married man and an unmarried woman was *not* considered adultery. This “correction” of the original text sounds much like the idea that once a woman has sex with someone she is not married to, whatever the context, she’s free and available to any and all men who might want her irregardless of her feelings on the matter. We know little about the woman involved in this story but there’s a big difference between having an affair and becoming a sex worker.

      (“he idly played with the dirt on the ground”; this is an odd change. He *wrote* on the ground, what exactly we don’t know, but it wasn’t idle play.)

      “…and said, “Let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone.” He didn’t mean stealing a loaf of bread; he meant screwing a whore, perhaps this one. Well, they all snuck off.” This is a strange interpretation of this passage. I’ve run in religious circles my whole life. I’m not naive to the hypocrisy many prominent religious people have, and I’ve seen enough sexual secrets revealed to know that there are many feet of clay. At the same time, I’ve also known people who take sexual morality seriously, who follow their moral code and don’t act out sexually. I find it implausible in the extreme that *the entire crowd* (which included “the Teachers of the Law”, “the Pharisees”, and “all the people gathered” to listen to Jesus in the temple courts), every single one of them, had ALL engaged in “screwing a whore”. It seems far more plausible that Jesus did in fact mean what he said about the one without sin casting the first stone, rather than meaning “the one who hasn’t screwed a whore gets to cast the first stone”.

      “Lots of people in the past — and present — are up to their necks (or belts) in doing the nasty. Either we didn’t know it, or we just put it aside and say, “They’re only human and what they left for us more than makes up for their dalliances.”” This seems to get at the heart of it. We all mess up and are imperfect. If we threw out everything created by an imperfect human then…. we’d be seriously out of luck. But not everyone is “doing the nasty”, whatever that phrase might mean for you. (Even if it simply means “having sex”, it’s still not something that everyone is doing.) It’s possible to mess up in ways that don’t cause trauma and lifelong scarring to the people around you. And likewise it’s possible to decide that the consequence someone faces for being a rapist/assaulter/etc. is that their work will *not* be treasured, that we won’t shrug and say, “Boys will be boys, let’s just look the other way on this one.” We don’t have to let the jerks be the ones to get all the kudos and perks in life. We can make a different choice.

      (Tl;dr: “Bros will be bros but it’s okay because [sexually active] women are just ho’s, so don’t make the guys reap the consequences that they’ve sown,” is a lousy philosophy.)

  26. Thanks for posting the update, Randy!

    I’m also in two minds over the issue, so this comment may end up being a form of mental download/processing.

    It’s a fundamental principal of justice that a criminal shouldn’t be permitted to profit from their crime. It’s the root of the “Crime doesn’t pay” saying, but goes beyond that to ensure that remove any incentive for criminals to gain from their activities.

    For a “celebrity”, their name, reputation and fame are a form of currency — their future earnings are based on their reputation. So, my thoughts are not so much if we ignore or nullify their work, but whether the use of that work glorifies them and their reputation. Doing so runs the risk of them profiting.

    Another point worth considering is the societal harm of “not mentioning” their crime. This is, in part, one of the reasons that I wrote asking to clarify the attribution. In these modern times, the search rankings used by Google and others are partly based by keywords and their proximity. So, every time we post a citation about “Rolf Harris” as “singer” but not including “pedophile”, the search correlation for singer becomes stronger and the correlation for “pedophile” becomes weaker. Similar to using a name like “Brock Turner” with “swimmer” but without the “convicted rapist” appellation.

    My own opinion is that this is something we can all do to help give voice to the victims — to ensure that what they went through does not get forgotten, or buried as a footnote on page 12 of the search results.

    Just to clarify, Brock Turner was not convicted of rape: the two rape charges were dropped before trial due to lack of evidence as Turner “only” penetrated the unconscious “Emily Roe” with his fingers. He was thus convicted of the three remaining felony charges: assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. The case was considered by the public as an example of lenience since Turner faced 14 years in state prison, but was sentenced to just 6 months in the county jail (of which he served half), plus three years of probation and life registration as a sex offender, and ordered to complete a rehabilitation program for sex offenders — all of which was considered too light due to his “privilege” as a student athlete at a prestigious university (Stanford). That said, while prosecutors had recommended 6 years in prison, the judge was obliged to consider the probation department recommendation (a “moderate” county jail sentence), and the judge followed that recommendation. -rc

  27. I am a bit mixed, but I try to let their work stand apart from their personal sins. For instance, I do not agree with taking illicit drugs, but I do listen to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, and other rock bands that have kept drug dealers in business. And Rolf Harris is in my playlist as well. And Gary Glitter.

    Bill Cosby’s fall–and deserved punishment–is harder for me since I liked him on the various TV shows and like his stand up comedy. Also, a good friend of mine had met him and thought he was wonderful both to her and her daughters (I think this was before his illegal activities).

    I do have to admit it is a bit easier to separate the bad personal lives from their work than their good personal lives from their work. As an example, last year I attended a fan convention for a show I like. On the show, there is one character that is supposed to be the bad guy–slimy, not always on the correct side of the law, not many like him–but in real life, the actor is a wonderful man that took time to learn a little about each fan that said “hi” and got his autograph–and he thanked them for being fans of the show. Now when I watch that show, I think how nice of a guy the actor is rather than the awfulness of his character.

    But I do not revere nor worship performers. Yes, I like their songs, their acting, their shows, but I know they are just people that make mistakes and commit sins like the rest of us.

  28. There’s another aspect of this question that hasn’t been addressed: Cosby (and I assume Harris) stood trial and were convicted. But what about people who are accused of misdeeds and deny them? The basis of our legal system is “innocent until proven guilty,” yet we often believe the accuser(s) and punish the accused, even if only by social ostracism, without any hard proof. Is that right, fair or legal?

  29. First, take away all honors the person received. Like the singer, Knighthood, awards, etc., because someone like that doesn’t deserve such. But we also have to remember all the people involved in making the good thing they were involved in that didn’t cause harm, or were harmed themselves. They get royalties/residuals, and do not deserve to be penalized because someone like Cosby did bad things.

    Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never a good idea.

  30. I think it fair to rescind any honorary degrees and such but a degree earned by hard work and research. An honorary degree being a sort of fictional recognition that is ‘dishonored’; an earned degree is in effect bought and paid for. A person’s name on a building may have been part of a contract that was tied to donation of funds to It and therefore could presumably require repayment of said funds if the name were to be removed. Does this then impose the need to include a ream of legalese in such contracts to allow such removal of the name without incurring repayment of the donated funds?

    I indeed have heard recently that a university took a donor’s name off a building, but hadn’t actually looked at the story until just now. It was the University of Mississippi, but the donor admitted his social media post was racist and asked for his name to be removed. In other cases, I would suppose most universities have some sort of clause in the agreement that doesn’t guarantee the name will stay no matter what…. -rc

  31. I don’t believe that anyone would argue we should erase Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., from the history books. The fact that someone was scum or evil doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that they lived and who they were. Today there is an attempt to pretend that evil doesn’t exist. We can learn from bad examples as much as from good examples.

  32. I think the idea of “erasing the past” is a little off point. Some folks here have called it Orwellian, and disapprovingly followed it to the logical extreme (“We should erase any history of the kings of England”). And they’re right, of course: it would be wrong, and pointless, to pretend that no one named Bill Cosby ever existed.

    But I am generally OK with revoking honors. It’s pretty clear that no school, knowing what we do now, will ever award Cosby another honorary doctorate. I think it’s natural for schools that did to wish they hadn’t, and to take it back. I feel the same about statues of Confederate generals, streets named after them, and so on: we did these things not just to remember the Rebel cause, but to honor it, and it’s right and honorable to undo them now.

    The work stands on its own, because the world doesn’t divide neatly into good and bad people. The knowledge that someone has done something evil doesn’t obligate us to ignore or reject the good that they do — just like we mustn’t ignore a celebrity’s sins because we love their work.

  33. As far as the monetary aspect is concerned, it might be nice if future residuals/royalty payments which would have been paid to an offender were redirected to the victim(s) instead. That way, people could continue to enjoy the body of work (i.e. The Cosby Show) while supporting the victims instead of the perpetrator. That would also keep residuals flowing to others involved in the works, such as the cast of a show or members of a band.

  34. Currently in my province of Saskatchewan (Canada) our current leader of our province stuck and killed someone in the 90’s after running a stop sign. He was never charged or convicted. (Scott Moe is his name.)

    Does this reflect and look badly to myself or any other person in the province? No.

    So should the actions of one man reflect on the work of many? Again no.

    As been said many times before as long as the royalties are going to the victims and the other actors….that is a good thing. Financial restitution is the hardest to enforce for any crime.

    I liked the above comment, “let he who hasn’t committed sin throw the first stone”. Not one person in this world hasn’t done something stupid or wrong. Not one. Furthermore the law is a very grey thing and using the bibles top 10 list is good a reference point. What was legal in Germany while Hitler ran rampant…well we all know not to be moral or legal today. As well there is many many prejudices, loopholes and high priced lawyers that prevent justice always being served.

    So the larger question for me is “has the person paid/paying their debt to society”? Is that person remorseful and seeking change? To me we should all be allowed to screw up and have it washed away if so.

  35. Speaking of benefitting from the work of people who did bad things, don’t forget Wernher von Braun.

    I’m sure Neil Armstrong was very greatful.

  36. Context matters, as has been noted. I don’t have a problem with, say, laughing at the jokes from an old comedy show of Bill Cosby’s. I do have a problem with lauding whatever movie it was that Roman Polanski used to abuse the child actor on set. As for honors and whatnot, I think it would depend on what they are. For example, Bill Cosby has had his Kennedy Center Honor revoked. The Kennedy Center says, “Throughout its 40-year history, the Kennedy Center Honors has redefined America’s perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards its artists. The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor — the quintessential reward for a lifetime’s endeavor.” Seems to me that the accomplishments that led to Bill Cosby getting the award in the first place haven’t vanished and he should keep it. If information came out about some Hall of Fame sportsperson cheating, however (think Lance Armstrong), it seems like that would be an appropriate removal.

    It bothers me how much it seems we’re trying to rewrite history with today’s knowledge, morals, and sensibilities. We have to look at history, even relatively recent history, in the context of what that time was like and what the attitudes were like, and even if we condemn what was considered okay then, understand that we all make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones. No doubt we’ve all done things that future generations will look at as horrible.

  37. This is such an interesting conversation as myself am in two minds about the subject. The one thing I do disagree with is this idea that the body of work should stand separately to the creator. It was the body of work that allowed these celebrities to be prolific monsters. It gave them the good guy image that they manipulated to have easy access to victims and made it hard for victims to be believed outside the industry. Every award, honour and accolades gave them influence and untouchablilty. And of course the money meant they could pay for lawyers to intimidate or pay off victims trying to speak out. For me personally the most heinous part is that it provided them an army of co conspirators who themselves being heavily invested in these celebrities’ body of work assisted with the cover ups. In their industry it wasn’t a secret what these celebrities were doing the problem was no one felt they could speak out.

    I think it is somewhat naive to try and claim the body of work exists in a vacuum to the creator. If a predator is using the appreciation of their career to access victims and then use the value others place on their career to give them a circle of protection from repercussions, then I think it is hard to say the body of work has not been used to cause some sort of harm and, while I don’t have the full answer as to how we the public should treat that body of work, I think devaluing it by removing the awards linked to it at least means you are taking some power from the predator.

  38. I can’t help but wonder why some sex offenders get publicly villified and everyone associated with them gets the same treatment (or versions thereof), whereas others get a way scott free. I recall various interviews regarding Bill Clinton, and Monica Lewinsky, and how the treatment of those 2 people differed so much. Do we see people seeking to erase Bill Clinton’s contributions?

    “It depends” certainly applies, and in some cases it depends on a lot of factors.

  39. Before you move to condemn someone’s past because it doesn’t measure up to our modern standards, you should make absolutely certain your own life will meet the societal standards 100 years from now. Good luck with that.

    • I think that you have a good point, and it should be taken. That said, I don’t need to be perfect in order to have an opinion about the world I see around me, and as long as I am clear that what I am stating is an opinion I would appreciate it being allowed and accepted as such. I like hearing various takes on every issue.


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