Some Points of Orientation, Principle, and Method Regarding the Accusations Against Bill Cosby

Updated July 20, 2015 / Originally published December 18, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


This article was originally posted at revcom. us on December 18, 2014. While various depositions Bill Cosby has given have come to light since this article was written, the method and approach argued for in this article remain very important.


Fundamental relations of oppression, and fundamental matters of principle and method, are involved in regard to these accusations against Bill Cosby, and how this is approached. It is a very real phenomenon, and an egregious outrage, that many women who are raped and sexually assaulted are then intimidated, or otherwise prevented, from coming forward or from pursuing this. This needs to be resolutely opposed and fought against. At the same time, as outrageous as this is, as much as it is an additional assault on these women and on women overall, that is not the same thing as saying, and should not lead to an approach that says, that every accusation of rape or sexual assault is automatically (or almost certainly) true—nor even that if there are many people making similar accusations, then those accusations are therefore true (there have been more than a few instances where multiple accusations against a person have proven to be false). What is true has to be determined by a scientific approach, relying on evidence and the correct analysis and synthesis of what the evidence as a whole indicates. Accusations are a kind of evidence—as are denials of those accusations—but in and of themselves they do not constitute a sufficient basis to draw definite conclusions.

It is not possible at this point to determine—on a sound, scientific basis—whether these accusations against Bill Cosby (or his denials) are true. What is clear is what the major mass media are doing and how this creates and contributes to a very bad atmosphere and approach to things. What has been unfolding with this whole media campaign around Bill Cosby is in no way an attempt to create and encourage an approach that contributes to getting to the truth of the matter and seeking justice, but rather one that works against and undermines that and feeds a frenzied culture of "tear down blood lust" that these media have already done much to create and foster. What we see in the way these media operate in situations such as this—a process that hardly involves even a pretense, let alone any real substance, of due process, which in fact such mass media are not designed or constituted to create—is a one-sided "trial by media" and a "media tyranny" where, once a person has been targeted, there is no real basis or possibility for them to defend themselves in any meaningful way—where denials are treated as evasions and yet more occasion for going after the person—and all this works, in very harmful ways, to create and reinforce the kind of culture and atmosphere that no decent human being should want

Our Party has put forward very sharp criticisms of Bill Cosby, based on what he has clearly said and done, in his attacks on the masses of basic Black people—blaming them in effect for their conditions of oppression—attacks by Cosby which have been welcomed and widely broadcast, in a favorable way, over many years, by the very mass media that are now relentlessly going after Bill Cosby. Criticizing, even sharply denouncing, someone based on what they have undeniably said and done—for example, how Bill Cosby has repeatedly attacked masses of Black people and aggressively upheld doing so–is very different from how these major mass media have proceeded in regard to accusations of rape and sexual assault against Bill Cosby which (at this point at least) have not been proven and which he denies.

Something that very few, if any, commentators, etc., seem to be raising, but which should be very much a part of the overall approach to this, is the question: Has Bill Cosby in some way angered forces in society who in fact wield much more wealth and power than Cosby does—forces among the ruling class of this society, including those who own and control the major mass media—and what might this have to do with the role that these media are playing in all this? And another dimension to this that needs to be explored is: Does the way the media are dealing with accusations against Bill Cosby have something to do with other things going on in society, in particular the assaults on Black people, and more particularly Black men, being carried out in a concentrated and acute way now by the ruling class and its major institutions, including the mass media as well as the police and the "legal system"? The fact that Bill Cosby has himself, over many years, said and done things which constitute very harmful reactionary attacks against the basic masses of Black people does not necessarily rule out the possibility that the way he is being gone after now might in some way be linked to, or part of, an overall assault going on against Black people.

These kinds of things, which do need to be thought about and explored, are not the same as, and do not answer the question, whether the accusations of rape and sexual assault being made against Bill Cosby are in fact true, or false. That is something that needs to be determined in its own right—through a scientific approach and method—and it may be the case that it will not be possible, at least for some time, to definitively determine this (or determine it with sufficient scientifically-based certainty). While that remains the case, and even as efforts are made to scientifically approach and evaluate this, and  other possible dimensions of what is going on with this whole thing around Bill Cosby, it is very important to fight to, first of all, create the kind of atmosphere in society overall and in different institutions and parts of society, that make it much more difficult for rape and sexual assault to be carried out, and that encourage and support women in resisting this and in coming forward to raise this and seek justice when it does happen, while at the same time insisting on a consistent approach of proceeding in relation to accusations of rape and sexual assault, and accusations of crimes and wrongdoing in general, through a process that relies on a scientific method and approach and where the kind of "trial by media" and "media tyranny" that is so commonplace these days, and the very poisonous atmosphere this creates and reinforces, will be firmly rejected and denounced.*

*Where a person is involved as an accused in legal proceedings, but this person is part of the apparatus of state power, and the "prosecutor" is also part of the apparatus of state power—such as those very rare instances where a cop who kills someone has their case brought before a judge or grand jury, and the even more rare cases where this actually goes to a criminal trial—and particularly because there has been, over a whole long period of time, a very clear pattern where killings of this kind are almost always declared "justifiable," it is correct, there is a sound scientific basis, for believing that the regular procedures of the legal system are very unlikely to result in a just outcome, and that any investigation and legal procedures involved are very likely to be fundamentally tainted in a way to result in no indictment or, in the very rare cases of indictment, no conviction. But that is different from a situation involving an individual, even an individual with considerable wealth and influence, who is not part of the apparatus of state power.

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