Woody Allen, Morality and Artistry

The Dish

In some ways, I wish this weren’t so. It would be a less fallen and compromised world. But the human mind can, alas, live quite fully in places where the practical moral conscience seems irrelevant. And so it is essential to understand Heidegger’s foul complicity in the Third Reich but impossible to reduce his world-historical genius to it. That T.S Eliot was a rancid anti-Semite does not, frustratingly, dilute the perfection of the Four Quartets, nor does Philip Larkin’s racism alter the triumph of Aubade. Jefferson’s thought and career, for that matter, will always elude the facts of his ownership of human beings and intercourse with some of them. Perhaps with less essential talents, the sins may more adequately define the artist. But that, in many ways, only makes the injustice worse. Those with the greatest gifts can get away with the greatest crimes.

We can and should rail against this, while surely also be realistically resigned to it. It struck me, for example, rather apposite that as the blogosphere is debating whether to boycott Woody Allen’s films in future because of this horrifying story, exponentially more people are tuning into the Superbowl to watch a game we now know will render many of its players mentally incapacitated in their middle ages and beyond. We know that this spectacle is based on the premise of brain damage for many of its participants, but we watch anyway. Reforms in the game that might change the number of concussions are resisted by the fans as ferociously as by the owners. And in the excitement of the game, such things are so easy to obliterate from our minds. We forget that this massive industry knew full well what they were doing and yet subjected human beings to this fate for years. They abused people’s bodies and minds for money – and now we are required to celebrate their entire cult en masse for one night.

Dahlia Lithwick urges the jurors of the court of public opinion to stop pretending we can arrive at any meaningful conclusions:

Recognize that dressing your personal opinions up in fancy talk of “burdens of proof” and “presumptions of innocence” helps clarify almost nothing and confuses a great deal. Mob justice often has all the trappings of an unbiased search for truth, but it’s actually just an (understandable) outpouring of rage and blame. We have statutes of limitation, not to punish complaining witnesses but because the legal system recognizes that memories and evidence are degraded over time, even as umbrage on both side burns brighter than ever.

Investigative journalism is one thing. But the Court of Public Opinion is what we used to call villagers with flaming torches. It has no rules, no arbiter, no mechanism at all for separating truth from lies. It allows everything into evidence and has no mechanism to separate facts about the case from the experiences and political leanings of the millions of us who are all acting as witnesses, judges, and jurors. So go ahead and tweet your truth or publicly shame someone who is tweeting hers, but don’t believe for an instant that this is how complicated factual disputes get resolved or that this will change hearts and minds about our woefully anti-woman, anti-victim culture.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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1 Response to Woody Allen, Morality and Artistry

  1. Pingback: Burn Victims both Wanting and Fearing the Embrace of Another | Leadingchurch.com

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