Seems there’s one law for Roman Polanski. Another for Ched Evans
Maybe it’s inevitable, now , has spent almost 1,500 days in the bowels of the Ecuadorian embassy, that memories of how he came to be in there grow ever more hazy. With a forgetfulness that, if genuine, demonstrates how rapidly the most preposterous inventions can acquire the status of fact, even his colleagues at WikiLeaks have convinced themselves that Assange was incarcerated by a British government determined to keep him quiet.
Among the more opportunistic tweets responding to the massacre in Paris, came this, from the WikiLeaks account: “David Cameron pontificates about freedom of speech while spending millions detaining #Assange without trial.” At this impressive rate of fabulation, the 2,000th day should see our unhappy visionary gagged in a dripping cell as he awaits the death sentence applied to all fugitives who dare speak freely in the Kafkaesque nightmare that is 21st-century Britain. It would bear as much relation to the facts, after all, as the current myth of his forced detention without trial.
So, to recap: in June 2012, Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was in the UK, free to speak on any subject he liked, and fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he faced allegations of sexual assaults on two women. Preferring to break his bail conditions rather than clear his name in Sweden, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he remains to this day. It is a source of consternation, at least outside his support base, that the cost of policing the embassy so as to enforce the legal process should Assange ever emerge, has now . Last November, an arrest warrant for Assange was upheld in a Swedish court.
In short, #Assange is not “detained” by anyone or anything other than his own reluctance to face questioning about alleged sex offences, in a country where extradition to the US is no more likely than it is here. But maybe this confusion about his journey from free-speech celebrity to pallid hermit helps one understand why Assange, though accused of sex offences, has survived much of the public opprobrium, internet gossip and suspicion that dogs other individuals associated with accusations of sexual misconduct, such as the harassment expert or the Lib Dem octopus, .
To the contrary. On the website where a petition denounces the footballer and convicted rapist , thousands demand the Nobel prize, along with freedom and protection, for Assange; his admirers even attempted to kickstart funds for a , honouring the man who has portrayed his Swedish accusers as instruments in a smear campaign. Other analysts, however, have detected enough evidence of female self-determination to attribute the women’s hostility to everything from sexual jealousy to a bad case of radical feminism.
Clearly, Assange’s better-informed supporters, who include celebrities such as , and, will be aware of the Swedish allegations and have chosen, for one reason or another, to set them aside. A similar immunity seems to have been conferred on Prince Andrew, following allegations of his sexual impropriety with a minor who worked for his American friend, a convicted paedophile. Though “emphatically denied”, with the extra benefit of a character reference from Andrew’s ex-wife, who was lent money by the paedophile, there has been no announcement of the type of legal manoeuvre that the similarly accused Alan Dershowitz is pursuing after allegations that he also took sexual advantage of the 17-year-old.
Yet Andrew, too, has so far escaped a petition objecting to him “assisting the economic success of our United Kingdom”, as the palace describes his various holidays. Perhaps, as happened to the creepy Blanc when he attempted to visit the UK, some other country would be good enough to help out with a banning order.
If the difference between unproven allegations and, in Ched Evans’s case, a formal conviction, can satisfactorily explain this variability in public tolerance, the footballer’s supporters are surely entitled to compare his treatment unfavourably with, for example, that of Roman Polanski. Why have opponents of Evans’s return to football, now or ever, not shown similar concern about the film director’s rehabilitation? Polanski’s return to Poland, for filming, has just prompted another , that he be returned to face sentencing pending since 1978, when he admitted unlawful sex with a 13-year-old.
It must help, of course, that successful film directors have not been classified, by whichever national committee rules on fitness for role-modelling, as officially inspirational. Polanski, like his colleague , who embarked, in his mid-50s, on an affair with his partner’s 19-year-old daughter, sister to three of his children, cannot be accused of betraying impressionable fans, those millions of starstruck kiddies whose wee moral compasses are left spinning wildly when their idols fall short.
That responsibility is still monopolised, as repeatedly confirmed in ongoing Evans analysis, by the profession that is, for many of us, more strongly associated than any other – no disrespect to full-time pimps or Sun newspaper editors – with vulgarity, aggression, racism, irresponsibility and contempt for women.
The Professional Footballers’ Association’s casual analogy between the plight of Evans, the convicted rapist, and that of the bereaved Hillsborough families only confirms that the profession that gave us ”, Sky Sport’s “”, and, yet more recently, the Premier League ” work-account remains institutionally unworthy of redemption, at least where women are concerned. Maybe it is not irrationally high expectations of football’s young ambassadors, so much as an evidence-based recoil from its culture, that has fuelled a special implacability towards Ched Evans, to the point of closing down his career.
His only hope of eventual re-employment in football, at this point, is not, surely, his future father-in-law’s website, but either a) an open letter from feminist and champion of Julian Assange, or b) an appearance by protesting that Evans’s was not “rape-rape”.
Polanski also benefited from extensive celebrity support, including, when he was arrested in Switzerland in 2009, a signed by, among the British luminaries, Salman Rushdie, Sam Mendes, Stephen Frears, Terry Gilliam, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Tilda Swinton. Everyone in international film-making, they said, wanted Polanksi “to know that he has their support and friendship”.
Perhaps there should be one law for acclaimed intellectuals and another for men such as ? But if not, the latter must have at least as good a case as Polanski for re-employment, once he has completed his sentence.
Alternatively, if a serious sex conviction should cost a footballer his entire career (along with the professions routinely closed to sex offenders) then a similar vigilance should, surely, be applied to discernible sleazebaggery in any other profession, from whistleblowing to royal work, where clemency might be mistaken for approval.