I was very disappointed to learn of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s disgraceful behavior. I have always rather enjoyed Schwarzenegger’s work. Granted, he was not exactly a great actor, as such, but he has a great screen presence.

People often talk about separating art from the artist, vis-a-vis the artist’s work being excellent, but the artist himself being a total jerk. It can be tough to enjoy a piece of art when you know the person who made it was a wretched human being. I have this problem all the time with a lot of my favorites.

For example, Chinatown is one of the greatest films ever made, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it was directed by the criminal wretch Roman Polanski. And then there’s Lawrence of Arabia, another absolutely brilliant film, directed by serial adulterer and all-around bully David Lean.

Moving on to my favorite music, I come to the great rock-and-roller,Warren Zevon. I don’t even know where to begin. Suffice it to say, he really was “Mr. Bad Example“.

(Since I wrote this last week, I’ll leave poets out of this one. Also, I should mention that Thingy had a good post on this a while back. Ta-Nehisi Coates did too, about a year ago, but I can’t find it.)

Kurt Schlichter at Big Hollywood asks how people who support Polanski can be for arresting the Pope:

 “I don’t know what the Pope did or didn’t do – that’s for the police to deal with, along with the Catholic Church and even God Himself. The chips will fall where they may. But I know what Roman Polanski did, because he confessed to it and then ran away. And no matter how wonderful and transcendent an artist he is supposed to be – I think he’s generally a hack – the same standard applies to him that applies to everyone else.”  

Schlichter also criticizes Christopher Hitchens for his plot to arrest the Pope. (Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to point out that Hitchens himself is firmly in the anti-Polanski camp.)

However, Schlichter is right in that this provides a fascinating test of where people stand in the so-called “Culture War”. Many leftist types want Polanski to go free, and favor punishing the Pope. And indeed, this is hypocrisy. But it also reveals much about how each side thinks. Let’s compare the two men’s crimes:

–Polanski drugged and raped a child while they were both under the influence of alcohol. When a Judge reneged on his sentence, he panicked and fled the country.

–The Pope is head of an institution that has, apparently for a very long time, been covering for its child-raping members. The present Pope himself has apparently personally signed off on these cover-ups. It’s important to point out, however, that this is technically irrelevant. Even if he hadn’t, it’s his responsibility as head of the organization.

Polanski’s crimes are those of an individual against a society–an institution. Though he clearly harmed an individual, that individual subsequently forgave him. But, as those who want to punish Polanski correctly note, her forgiveness does not matter. The point of punishing him is to uphold the law, to protect society as a whole from such criminals.

The Pope’s crimes are those of an institution against individuals. Therefore, the people who are pro-Polanski and anti-Pope are, by and large, hedonists and anarchists. The people who are pro-Pope and anti-Polanski are rigorous authoritarians.

My position is that both Polanski and the Pope have committed serious crimes, and both ought to be punished for them. Those on the Right, of course, are loath to admit that an Establishment is corrupt; those on the Left are seemingly in total denial that their anti-Establishment artist actually committed a horrible crime.