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Cos’ and Effect

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By:Thomas Fleming | November 19, 2014

The reemergence of rape accusations against Bill Cosby have divided this nation of TV-watchers. Most members of Mr. Cosby’s race and a large percentage of his fellow males have responded with a skepticism that is not entirely unjustified. It is all too common for women to “discover” through therapy or introspection that their lives have been ruined by predatory males. On the other hand, recent stories that have overtaken media stars in the US and the UK remind fans and TV-watchers of what human scum can wash up in network TV, Hollywood studios, and the recording industry.

TV-watching is a kind of mental illness that limits one’s ability to perceive any reality that is more substantial than flickering images or drug-induced hallucinations, and it is probably perilous to the mind and body even to think about what someone like Mr. Cosby either did or did not do. What is instructive, however, is the the gullibility of Americans who revered this comic for so many years as “America’s dad.”

I remember back in 1985, discussing America’s moral decline at a Rockford Institute leadership retreat—a degrading episode made almost bearable only by Chilton Williamson, whose presence I had demanded. My then colleague the then Lutheran Reverend Richard John Neuhaus quite sensibly (for a change) refused to be taken in by the neoconservative enthusiasm about the changes brought about in Reagan’s new world. He said that whenever the subject of moral degeneracy came up, the response from Midge and Norman and company was always to point to the Cosby show as a sign of hope.

Mistakenly thinking I had found some common ground with Richard, I pointed out that the TV idol was not, perhaps, all he seemed to be. For example, the title “Dr. Bill Cosby” he so exulted in was a bogus degree from the  University of Massachusetts-Amherst (ZooMass as we used to call it) school of education, which awarded graduate credits for “life experience” and in Cosby’s case counted a TV special as a dissertation. Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson had backed away from this nonsense, when it was investigated.

Then there was the question of Cosby’s moral fibre, which was just a bit flabbier than that of his character Dr. Huxtable. Even before he settled out of court for an alleged illegitimate child born when Cosby was married to another woman, there had been plenty of rumors about extramarital affairs. His long-standing friendship with Hugh Hefner and association with Playboy Inc., were hardly compatible with his image as America’s dad.

But this is America, and we Americans are easily bowled over by celebrities and even more prone to accepting any African-American's credentials as hero. After all, our only authentic national hero is a a plagiarizing adulterous Marxist, who, if my informants were accurate, so hated discrimination that he let neither age nor sex stand in the way of gratifying his urges.

People who look up to Bill Cosby as a moral leader are as bad as the members of Congress who approved Martin Luther King Day while refusing to look at the FBI’s records. Race is not the issue, but honesty and common sense. If we are willing to make a fetish of actors and athaletes, we should not be surprised by the inevitable effect, which is to set them free from any moral responsibility whatsoever and destroy whatever discretion existed in America’s ruling elite. If the cause is sentimentalism and the cult of celebrity, the political effect is to put Ted Kennedy in the Senate and to elect two times a President who invites rappers to the White House and whose wife says, if she could not be Michelle Obama, she would be Beyonce!

Now that entertainment media have taken over the political process, we might as well have Cos and Beyonce or Kim and Kanye as a presidential ticket in 2016.



San Antonio
11/19/2014 09:33 PM

  Good piece Dr. Fleming. Forgive me for changing the subject, but do you have an opinion about George Weigel's piece today in Catholic World Report taking shots at Russian Metropolitan Hilarion. Surely Chronicles will not side with the Neo-cons. I would choose Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion's movement toward peace and reunification any day over Weigel and the Neo-con's lusting for war with the Russians.

San Antonio
11/19/2014 10:10 PM

  Excuse me Dr. Fleming. The piece in Catholic World Report is by Dr. Adam A.J. Deville, but he is discussing Weigel's book.

11/19/2014 10:17 PM

  I have never run across anything by Weigel that was not an embarrassing waste of time. Of the unholy "neoconservative trinity" that used to be lambasted in Trenta Giorni (Novak, Neuhaus, Weigel), he was definitely the weak sister of the group. Nothing he will ever say could possibly have any significance.

Red Phillips
11/20/2014 01:44 AM

  I don't disagree, but I would add that one of the reasons that Cosby had a reputation for wholesomeness, was because his comedy was generally not raunchy, unlike, for example, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. I always thought Cosby's comedy was quite funny, and I owned a couple of his tapes back in those days when you could get a pile of tapes if you would agree to buy so many more in the future. (I'm dating myself.)

San Francisco
11/20/2014 10:36 AM

  Unrelated to the article's topic (who can admire tv stars, anyway?), I would very much like to hear Dr. Fleming's opinion of Pope Francis. I know we shouldn't judge church leaders by political criteria (at least, by them alone), but I'm starting to get a sinking feeling about this Pope. Benedict was excellent, of course, but Francis seems to be a bit of a grandstander, and worse, someone who gets his ideological opinions from popular intellectual currents, rather than as logical derivations from Scripture and Church theology and history. Of course, I might be wrong. But why does the Church never seem to articulate what I understand to be conservative positions, except on matters of family theology? I'm not arguing that the Church should parrot Fox News (I'm glad it doesn't), only that, from property rights to military preparedness to self-defense rights to national sovereignty and immigration, the Church seems to be on the wrong side as I see it of most issues. Many of my friends, intelligent and conservative, but not learned, are very critical of the Church for that reason. Given today's marketplace of theologies as well as ideas, it is not always easy to defend the Church anymore, especially when the pious have conservative alternatives, and little societal censure at leaving ancestral faiths. The Catholic Church has already lost so many American "progressives" to ideological trendiness, if not atheism. I don't think it can afford to alienate conservatives, too. My own mother stopped going to Church after her mother died, less out of secular disagreements than dislike at feeling politically hectored (especially about homelessness, and also illegal aliens). I'd enjoy Dr. Fleming's thoughts on this topic.


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