Bill Cosby’s PR firm had an idea. They put out a request across the Internet to create memes about the 77-year old comedian, actor and philanthropist.
The Internet responded. Oh, did it ever.
On Monday, the comedian — or whomever was in charge of his social media — put out a challenge with a jovial picture of Cosby in a cap: “Go ahead. Meme me! #cosbymeme.”
The Internet immediately reacted, but probably not in the way Cosby expected.
“Claire, have you seen my … nevermind, found my raping hat!” tweeted Trill Withers over the cap picture.
“My two favorite things (–) Jell-O pudding & rape,” tweeted E.J. Coughlin over a photo of Cosby smiling.
“Look at this wacky shirt I’m wearing (–) also I am a serial rapist,” tweeted Jason Steele over a picture of a thumbs-up Cosby in a patterned shirt.
Now comes the social media fiasco.
For years, Cosby has denied the rape allegations. In February, after Newsweek ran an interview with one of the purported victims, Tamara Green, Cosby’s representative said, “This is a 10-year-old, discredited accusation that proved to be nothing at the time, and is still nothing.”
Nine years ago, when Green was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, his lawyer issued a statement: “Miss Green’s allegations are absolutely false. Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or (maiden name) Tamara Lucier and the incident she describes did not happen. The fact that she may have repeated this story to others is not corroboration.”
In the case of Andrea Constand, who sued Cosby in 2005 over an incident the year before, Cosby says the sex was consensual.
At the time of Constand’s lawsuit, Cosby had been in the news for a sexual affair once before. In 1997, a woman named Autumn Jackson claimed to be Cosby’s love child. Cosby admitted to a relationship with Jackson’s mother but denied paternity. Jackson was later convicted of extortion.
At Mic.com, Maureen Shaw wondered, “Why do celebrities seem to get away with sexual assault? Cosby isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, mainstream celebrity to be accused of sexual abuse. This past February, Dylan Farrow accused Woody Allen of sexually assaulting her. Then there’s CeeLo Green, Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, R. Kelly — the list goes on and on. And yet, these men’s careers rebounded and their accomplishments somehow overshadowed any wrongdoings.
As one of Cosby’s victims, Barbara Bowman, explains, “The media creates this idealized image of celebrities: that they are untouchable, that they’re not one of us. … I don’t think people want to believe it; to believe would shatter the illusion.” Specifically in the case of Cosby, Gawker nailed it: “Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator.”
Correction: Accused sexual predator. The predomination of accusations does not equate to a preponderance of evidence.
Reading the CNN and Vulture articles is unsettling to say the least and deeply troubling even for someone like myself who has a great deal of respect for Cosby. It’s difficult to shrug off the multiple incidents as ambitious gold diggers scheming for a payday. There may not yet be a fire burning, but Cosby’s good name and reputation has certainly suffered serious smoke damage.
If it is unfair to brand the women whom have accused Bill Cosby of rape as being schemers or liars, it is equally unfair to convict Bill Cosby as a rapist without further proof–any proof.
It’s important to note that for all the troubling allegations and damning information that has gone from a slow drip to a raging torrent, Cosby has never been indicted, arrested, prosecuted, convicted or sentenced for rape. He’s been accused and the accusations were enough for him to settle the cases for money in exchange for silence. Silence is golden and buying silence has allowed Cosby to keep his golden halo from being tarnished as a sexual predator.
I am not objective about Cosby. I’ve laughed at his stand-up, watched his television shows and films and generally agreed with his sometimes harsh critiques of Black Americans. I won’t call him a role model or a hero but I will call him a man I respect.
I’m not yet convinced of Cosby’s guilt merely because The Internet and a hostile lynch mob of bloggers have found him guilty. The Internet rushes to judgment and get things wrong often. It might be wrong again.
If it is proven Bill Cosby has put his pudding pop in somebody’s Jell-O against their will I will never respect him again.
But I won’t be happy about it.
Plausible is not the same thing as proven and preponderance is not the same thing as evidence. Being found guilty in the court of public opinion in not the same thing as being found guilty in a court of law and thank goodness for that. When death comes by a thousand cuts of ugly innuendo and unproven allegations, that’s not justice, that’s wrong.
Maybe Cosby doesn’t deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty any more than any other suspected sexual predator, but he doesn’t deserve it any less.