The asymmetry of disgust

This week. I’ve pondered a post on the Occupy movement and actually going to one forced a silence for a little while. This post is not about the occupy movement, but I was provoked by the multitudinous number of interests, some of which were more about implying things than actual facts or statement (we are planning to write an extended post on this subject). Implying suggestive terms is the worse kind of rhetoric and it undermines a decent and rational conversation but alludes to fear mongering or already present prejudices, instead of attempting to justify or acknowledge them.

Two of the posters that were put up on a series of columns were relating to wikileaks. One simply said ‘free Bradley Manning’, who is currently alleged to have given a number of the infamous diplomatic cables to wikileaks. But the other one implied that Julian Assange’s trial is a set-up, show trial or distraction technique from the importance of the wikileaks movement. I will grant that commenting on any current legal case is never a good idea to pass a judgment before the officiating body (or in other words: what the hell do I know?), however, there is an aspect of a permanent stain on anyone’s name if there is ever an accusation of sexual assault. For many people, this allegation is the death of a professional career, even an allegation which is later shown to be false has already committed serious damage. It is odd though, how within the critical discourse of the ‘occupy’, there wasn’t enough distancing from a man currently on trial. I suspect that there are many who are willing to turn a blind eye to a ‘hero’s indiscretions if they are still a hero. If I am to be honest, I think I would still consider the likes of Aeneas or Achilleus to be great heroes (even if they are fictional) despite being distinctly flawed, in the case of the former, I wonder whether his flaws are inherent to his character.

I was thinking the other day about a particular celebrity who has seemingly been forgiven for the fact that he was not only convicted guilty of rape, but is almost celebrated for the personality and bravado he has about that instance. I speak of the appearance of famous boxer-rapist Mike Tyson, who appeared notably on the Comedy Central roast of Charlie Sheen (another instance of a celebrity who is complimented for womanising). There are a good number of people who will distance themselves from the work of wikileaks from its cult of personality leader, but the ‘at-least-ambivalence’ response is a dangerous tacit sign of acceptance of a very serious allegation. There is an asymmetry to separate the wrongdoings of a person from the person when it seems convenient to one’s self-concept. To downplay such an allegation is to downplay the seriousness of the act.

I note another asymmetry between disgraced celebrities. When Gary Glitter was convicted of child sexual abuse, it was a virtual death of his career. Many of Glitter’s songs had particular prominence in the US, usually as introduction songs for sports teams before big games, and would almost definately provide some form of royalty fee to the artist. There was a notable disappearance of those songs after he was convicted guilty, definately the case after his second conviction, that his act was so heinous that his fame was retconned (and one should not understate the prominence of some of his songs) as if it were erased from history. Compare this to say, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out which is hardly percieved as coloured by the activities later emerging by the man. It is interesting how some cultural asymmetries occur in our perceptions for essentially similar kinds of phenomena. I suspect there’s a Knobe effect/x-phi analysis waiting to be made here.


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