Whatever became of that old cornerstone of British justice, innocent until proven guilty? I’ve read several accounts of the claims of sexual abuse against Russell Brand and in all of them they talk as though Brand had been found guilty on all claims. Stop it, guys. At least wait until there are court cases.
I came to Russell Brand late. I remember some of my students talking (admiringly) about him, and I thought they were talking about Russell Grant, the TV astrologist, which amused them mightily. Then I watched him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and like thousands of others laughed my leg off. Am I allowed to say that any more? Should I reverse my judgement on him and the movie, just as I’m assumed to reverse my opinion on Kevin Spacey and House of Cards?
There are three things happening in cases like that of Brand, and all three stink a bit. The first is that Brand must be guilty. No he mustn’t. He may be or he may not – it’s the job of the judicial system to establish that. The second is that we use ‘sexual abuse’ as though everyone knew exactly what it was. Luis Rubiales kissed a member of the women’s Spanish soccer team and he’s lost his job. The line between young men kissing young women on the mouth appears to be a tricky one: should he wait until she says ‘OK, kiss me now?’ The third thing that is being confused is people’s professional ability and their personal morality. Kevin Spacey may be the creepiest serxual aggressor ever but it still doesn’t mean he isn’t a superb actor. Young footballers may drive their expensive cars while intoxicated – an immoral act for sure – but that has no bearing on their skills as a footballer.
In The Crucible, Arthur Miller shows a frightening picture of what happens when people get swept up in angry denunciation of people they see as suspect. Let’s try to remain clear-eyed, even if it’s not half as much fun.