Apologizing for Roman Polanski? What is Anne Applebaum’s Problem?

Look, I like Rosemary’s Baby  too.

But in the Washington Post yesterday, the acclaimed historian of Soviet era gulags (in other words, a serious person), Anne Applebaum, offers a bizarre and full throated defense of Roman Polanski’s giving a 13 year old girl alcohol and Quaaludes, and then, against her will, sodomizing her in Jack Nicholson’s Jacuzzi! Talk about being a “live and let live” kind of person! Applebaum, in her high-sophisticate generosity toward the boorish ways of this particular man (he is so gifted afterall!), thinks it’s an old crime, and water under the bridge, and so we should just leave the elderly director alone. Here’s part of her cloying defense (and with a dash of armchair psychoanalysis):

He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film. He can be blamed, it is true, for his original, panicky decision to flee. But for this decision I see mitigating circumstances, not least an understandable fear of irrational punishment. Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father survived Mauthausen. He himself survived the Krakow ghetto, and later emigrated from communist Poland. His pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson, though for a time Polanski himself was a suspect.

Irrational punishment? Using the Holocaust to arouse compassion for a child rapist? WTF?! I wonder if Applebaum would make a similar argument for John Demanjuk? You see, Demanjuk is an old man and the Holocaust was a long time ago. I mean, hell, you do stupid things when you’re young.

How could anybody make such cynical and nihilistic arguments against long overdue justice? Oh, Andrew Sullivan has the answer. It turns out that Anne Applebaum’s husband is lobbying for Polanski’s case to be dismissed! Apparently, it’s the “Cheney Daughter Syndrome.” Defend the man you love, and especially double-down on that defense when his behavior is at its most reprehensible:

Anne Applebaum created a firestorm over her passionate defense of Polanski and her failure to disclose that her husband, a Polish foreign minister, is lobbying for the dismissal of Polanski’s case.

In other words, stand by your man!:

Oh, and here’s a lovely quote by Polanski (from 1979 and offered to Martin Amis in an interview) bemoaning his persecution by hypocritical Puritan Americans:

“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”

Ah, yes. Polanski is the consumate Renaissance Man. Give us that old time Greco-Roman “man-child love” religion. Next, look for a vigorous aesthetic defense of his behavior forthcoming from Camille Paglia.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Apologizing for Roman Polanski? What is Anne Applebaum’s Problem?

  1. 5Cats says:

    Except that John Demanjuk was not “Ivan The Terrible” after all. The Soviets fabricated evidence to score political points, plus they just plain hated anyone who escaped their territory after WW2, eh?
    The same Israeli court which found him guilty later exonerated him and threw out the charges. He was not allowed to return to the USA because they said he lied on his origional application, or some such excuse.

  2. santitafarella says:


    Damanjuk is now in Germany, and the courts will decide his Holocaust participation innocence or guilt, not you. Likewise, let Polanski face an American judge and jury, and let justice be served.


  3. Lorna Davies says:

    Ironically even though Camille Paglia has been much criticized for comments seen as condoning rape even she has said she supports the extradition of Polanski.

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