Yesterday, I wrote the most surprisingly and immediately successful blog post of my life over at Broadsheet, “Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child.”
I first realized I’d hit a nerve when I linked to it on Twitter, and the retweets started pouring in, continuously and (as of this writing) endlessly. (There have been hundreds involving “@kateharding” at this point; no clue how many links to it altogether, but I just realized bit.ly tracks clicks on your shortened links, and that one’s had 6,883 so far.) I figured something was really up when I was invited to be on a right-wing talk radio show, and I saw the article tweeted by a high-profile conservative blogger. (Who knew being disgusted with Roman Polanski would turn out to be the ever-elusive common ground between right-wing dudes and liberal feminists?) Then more media requests came in, including one from France. (I’ve been turning them all down, mostly because they all want me to do it live during work hours.) Also, an unprecedented amount of fan mail, coming via my published address, Facebook, and the general Broadsheet addy. Plus an appreciative tweet from Cheryl Strayed, a writer I’ve adored for years and certainly never expected to “meet” via her saying my work was awesome. And then a couple of letters from journalists not looking to interview me, just telling me I’d nailed it.
The post went to number one on Salon, and is still there at this writing. This morning, I found out that in less than 24 hours, it got over 100,000 page views. (I hope I’m not revealing site secrets here, but let’s just say that’s awfully rare for Broadsheet.) Then a friend e-mailed to tell me Amy Sullivan at Time called it “the best, most comprehensive rebuttal” to Polanski supporters. Another friend pointed out the Salon post was cited on the Wikipedia entry for Polanski. Later, over at Newsweek, our new pal Kate Dailey wrote, “There have been a lot of smart and convincing rebuttals to these objections, most notably Kate Harding’s forceful, powerful essay on Salon.” Around which time, my editor wrote and said, “OMG HOW BIG IS YOUR HEAD NOW? I am putting an end to this well-deserved praise pile-on by telling you that there is something funny on your nose.” Because she is awesome like that.
Today, I wrote a follow-up rant for Jezebel, focusing on the ridiculous amount of celebrity support Polanski is getting. Neither my editor there nor I expected it to get anything like the traffic of the Salon piece — the news is a day older, I’ve already said plenty — and who knows if it ultimately will, but 45 minutes after it went up, she IMed me and said, “It’s already gotten 5,000 page views.” Just checked, and about 6 hours later, it’s gotten 24,000.
Yes, my head is enormous right now, but that’s not the point of this post. Well, not completely.
Here’s the interesting thing about all this: All I’ve done is say that Roman Polanski raped a child, fled before he could be sentenced for it, and thus, by any reasonable standard, deserves to be punished — all of which is a matter of public record, except the opinion on punishment, which is common sense. I didn’t break any ground here. I didn’t uncover any news. I didn’t turn a phrase so exquisite it will be studied in lit classes in 100 years. I just called a fugitive child rapist a fugitive child rapist.
And it turns out a whole lot of people were waiting to hear someone say just that, straight-up, unencumbered by a bunch of bullshit about the importance of his work, his artistic genius, his age, whether his victim looked 13 or not, the judicial misconduct that marred his case or, most gallingly, the “punishment” he’s already “suffered” by spending more than 30 years in “exile.” (If being wealthy, successful and almost completely free to roam Europe counts as exile, sign me up.) A whole lot of people really just wanted to hear someone in the media say, “He raped a child. He fled the country. He damn well should have been arrested, he should be extradited, and it really shouldn’t have taken three fucking decades to make that happen. The end.” But very few people in the media did.
Why is that? Why have so few journalists stated the obvious? Why have I only heard about three people in the film industry (Kevin Smith, Luc Besson and Greg Grunberg) saying, in essence, “He fucking drugged and raped a kid, and he’s not above the law,” while hundreds of celebrities are signing petitions demanding his release, wearing “Free Polanski” buttons and trying to spin his arrest as an attack on artistic freedom? Why am I suddenly a freakin’ darling of the right, while a bunch of liberals argue it’s been such a long time, he’s suffered so much, he’s so old, he survived the Holocaust, his wife was murdered, and oh yeah, did you see Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired? JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT! (Let me be clear: Judicial misconduct sucks, and there does seem to have been some here. Polanski and his lawyers have every right to vigorously protest that. But whether he raped a child was never at issue — only his sentencing for it — and also, HE FLED THE FUCKING COUNTRY instead of pursuing his concerns through the legal system.) As Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery tweeted earlier today, “Seriously, all it takes for smart lefties to believe Polanski [should] not be punished for child rape is agitprop documentary? Pathetic.”
Pathetic indeed. And yet.
The overwhelming response to my posts is as heartening as it is head-embiggening. Far more people than I could have imagined were thrilled that someone came along and stated the obvious. But still, “Roman Polanski raped a child, end of fucking story” is far from the dominant media narrative about the case right now. Still, people are endlessly debating whether it was appropriate to arrest a fugitive child rapist.