In these times we feel an instinctive reaction, we want to believe that the people we like are not Bad People. We find ourselves tempted to defend them, to say nice things about them, to paint their behavior in the best light and read their apologies with rose-colored glasses.
I would like to offer some rebuttals to the thoughts you may be having.
1. “I want to say something in his defense”
Ok, but do you need to say something right now? Is what you’re about to say going to add something to the conversation? Is it possible to just wait until you know more before you weigh in on these particular accusations?
So often with these stories, after the first accusations, more end up being brought forward. Do you want to have gone to the mat for someone only to find out there are a lot more stories waiting in the wings? Is it possible that your skepticism could be misplaced or even that you could hold onto it for a few days and see how it all shakes out? Is this comment right now going to help anyone or just make you feel better about having liked this guy before?
Are you just trying not to feel guilty about liking someone? It’s ok that you liked him, he was very likable, it was probably his job to be liked. You don’t have to feel guilty about that.
2. “But I’m a good judge of character”
You probably are a good judge of character insofar as it involves how people are going to act towards you, especially if you’ve actually met the person involved. The thing is, it’s likely that you haven’t met the person involved and, if you have, that you didn’t met the person in the same circumstances as those that are accusing him. Lots of people would vouch for the character of Jeffrey Epstein, but most of those people wouldn’t be teenage girls.
Even people who abuse a lot of people don’t abuse most of the people they interact with. Most people are safe around most abusers most of the time. This is especially true for people who are successful. They’ve got jobs and things to do with their time. It’s not abuse 24/7.
It’s not your fault that you didn’t know about these character flaws, they weren’t aimed at you. But maybe give a little benefit of the doubt to people in a better position to know. Especially if the person you like confirms that the accusers actually did know and interact with him in ways that mostly match the accusers stories.
3. “But this person in particular seems so nice and good”
Ah yes, this guy is not like so-and-so who seemed like he was so angry or creepy with women, he’s downright affable and friendly. How could he have done a Bad Thing? He’s professional and a good guy? So many of these other accused people were openly jerks, but not this one that I like!
Well, being nice and affable doesn’t prevent you from being a jerk in private. In fact, it helps you get away with being a jerk in private. Even when you’re not doing it on purpose to get away with stuff, the fact that people like you means you will get away with more stuff and won’t be held accountable for your actions. It means you’re more likely to have crossed boundaries without being called on it because no one wanted to tell the nice guy he wasn’t being nice.
Best case scenario, it means a mostly good person never had the opportunity to learn to be better because no one called him on his shit. Worst case, he’s using his niceness to hide his not niceness. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust someone just because they seem nice, it just means that if you don’t know someone very well, what they seem like isn’t very much to go on, one way or the other.
Anyway most people aren’t all one thing or the other. People are complicated, someone can do a bad thing without being a bad person, and still deserve to face repercussions for that. Unless you are his personal friend or family, you’re probably not the support network he needs right now.
4. “But I really like his work”
His work doesn’t disappear because he’s been accused of something, and even if he’s held accountable for his actions, the penalty is generally not the erasure from existence all previously published work. You can still watch the show and it still has value. You just no longer have the luxury of enjoying this work without knowing the context of the creator. Everyone gets to decide how to cope with the context of the creator in their own way.
It’s also important to remember that often their work comes at a greater cost than we can know, all the people they abused who left their industry whose work we will never see and the human cost on how that abuse shaped those people for the rest of their lives.
5. “Fine but his position/fame is too valuable to my cause to lose”
So this is a question of strategic value, and it is a cold and calculating one that has nothing to do with who you believe but what is most useful to you for others to believe, but let’s be honest: is he really that valuable? And are you in any position to be the strategic mastermind here? Are your comments online going to be the thing that gets people to dismiss the accusations and rally around your hero to your cause? Is your flawed hero really better for your cause than someone new or different?
And finally, to return to #1, are you sure you want to defend him right now, before the facts are known, before other stories have come to light? Are you sure that’s strategically valuable? And are you sure that being his defender right now is going to be a good look for you in a week or a month? And if it is, why not wait a week or a month and say it then?