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Can We Still Trust Anne Applebaum? Her Irrational Defense of Polanski

As for the fact that Polanski fled rather than return to court, Applebaum sees “mitigating circumstances.”  After all, the man feared “irrational punishment.”  Irrational punishment? A jail sentence for forced sodomy and rape? How horrible. This from the resident of a government -- Poland -- which just last week passed a law requiring forced chemical castration of all sex offenders who raped children under the age of 15! And yet that same government -- including Applebaum’s husband, the Foreign Minister of Poland -- is working on behalf of the campaign to free Polanski.

So what are the mitigating circumstances? She lists them: His mother died in Auschwitz, his father survived Mauthausen, he was orphaned in the Krakow ghetto and then lived in Communist Poland. All true. Her argument reminds me of those African Americans who applauded the jury nullification in the O.J. Simpson case, arguing that African Americans were oppressed for a century and many were lynched, and this was payback and proof that even if guilty, the accused had a right to go free because of the past history of oppression. Did Applebaum see “mitigating circumstances” in the O.J. trial outcome?

Third, she notes Polanski’s age: 76. Evidently the persecutors of the Gulag or the Nazi death camps, if still alive and caught living free for crimes they committed half a century ago, should also go free because of their age. Did she chastise the Israelis for catching Eichmann in Argentina and putting him on trial in Jerusalem? Does she believe that Germany should now release Ivan Demianiuk because the man claims he was wrongly identified, that he was only a guard forced to do what he was asked, and that he is now in his 80’s?

Finally, Applebaum says nothing about the horrible rape and mental and physical injury sustained by an innocent 13-year-old girl. She has young children who, I believe, are now close in age to the victim decades ago.  If her daughter were at a party and a famous film director appeared, drugged her, and raped her in a similar fashion, would Applebaum rush to his defense because he had suffered in the Holocaust and made good films? To ask the question is to answer it.

Yet, in a more recent blog, the columnist stands firm. She did not know when she wrote it that the Polish government her husband represents would be lobbying for Polanski’s release, and of course, she does not write on behalf of her husband or his government’s position. But she still maintains that the original rape was not “a straightforward and simple criminal case.” Evidently, she cites the known fact that the girl spoke to her mother on the phone, and her mother approved some of her behavior. This may be called the “bad mother” defense; she should have told her daughter to leave. Instead, she evidently was glad that the girl had achieved a welcome at the home of such major Hollywood luminaries including Jack Nicholson.

So, I am more upset that a columnist like Anne Applebaum has somehow lost her senses and her moral compass than that the Hollywood elite -- whom we all expect to rally around one of their own -- has joined in the ruckus to free Polanski. Does she not realize that these columns hurt her own calls for justice to those who suffered in the Gulag, and her understanding that for certain crimes, there is no statute of limitations?  Does she want her readers to take her seriously in the future?

We have come a long way from both morality and seriousness when an intellectual columnist like Anne Applebaum can write in defense of the indefensible. Now if only Polanski had agreed to colorizing his early black and white films. Then, perhaps, the auteurs would not have sprung so readily to his defense.