Can We Please Stop Mining Cosby's Old Material for Clues To Prove He's a Rapist?

There are plenty of reasons to think that Bill Cosby might be a rapist. But the fact that media outlets are willing to offer up alleged clues found in old standup routines does nothing but cloud the issue.
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There are plenty of reasons to think that Bill Cosby might be a rapist. But the fact that media outlets are willing to offer up alleged clues found in old standup routines does nothing but cloud the issue.
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It was only a matter of time before we reached the inevitable next stage in the freshly revived Bill Cosby serial rape accusation saga. That would be the stage where the internet's army of amateur sleuths begins digging back through Cosby's comedy bits looking for some sort of autobiographical tell that will prove he's always been a rapist.

You'll remember back in February it seemed like half the people on social media had determined that Woody Allen molested Mia Farrow's adopted daughter partially because the evidence he had telegraphed within his own films was simply too overwhelming to deny. "He's always had a thing for young girls; look at Manhattan," was the familiar refrain. Well, now Cosby's getting the same once-over. And at least one routine has been unearthed that seems to ominously show Cosby's infatuation with, as a Village Voice headline proclaims, "wanting to drug women's drinks."

It's from all the way back in 1969 and in it Cosby talks about hanging out on the street corner as a 13-year-old and hearing about "spanish fly." He jokes about how he and his friends were obsessed with it as horny teens and then delivers the punchline: he finds out years later that he and the crew of I Spy, the show he did in the 60s, were going to be shooting in Spain. The audience laughs; the bit goes on from there.

As with all comedy, the delivery is everything -- and his delivery isn't really all that creepy or weird. He's playing on a hugely popular urban myth that guys were dumb enough to fall for back when I was young and was literally sex-crazy enough to stick my dick between two couch cushions if I thought it would get me off. Even the Beastie Boys were rapping about spanish fly at one point. In other words, Cosby's bit feels innocently mischievous and self-deprecating, particularly for the time. But of course now, because we're trained by confirmation bias to view everything through the prism of "Bill Cosby the Rapist," it takes on a new sheen of pure menace.

There are plenty of reasons to think that Bill Cosby might be a rapist. But the fact that media outlets are willing to offer up alleged clues found in old standup routines does nothing but cloud the issue. It's precisely why the court of public opinion in the era of social media saturation is so dangerous. Cosby's old material is immaterial and yet that doesn't matter one bit to the people turning a very serious set of accusations into a fucking meme. If this is for real it deserves better than to be some stupid, ephemeral pop culture obsession -- that won't serve the cause of justice -- and it shouldn't be tried by hashtag or click-bait headline.

This morning Howard Stern played the Cosby bit and went on a tear about how Cosby's a hypocrite and how he never found him funny anyway (as if that's somehow relevant in all of this). Also, Janice Dickinson is now accusing Bill Cosby of rape.Janice Fucking Dickinson, who's sincerely one of the most desperately narcissistic, grotesquely attention-hungry creatures our dumb-ass reality show culture has ever extended an ounce of extraneous relevancy to -- she says Bill Cosby raped her back in '82.

You know, a lot of people are giving Cosby shit because he refused to comment on these allegations to NPR's Scott Simon -- but I swear I'm beginning to think that if he keeps his mouth shut he's eventually going to look like the most sensible and potentially even respectable person involved in all of this. And imagine how unfortunate that will be if he's actually guilty.