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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hannibal Buress-the Man Who Took Down Bill Cosby

After all, the Cosby rape and sexual battery stories had been around for years prior to his joke but only after it did this give a real impetus to the social media drive that finally ended with Cosby being charged today.

“The charging of Bill Cosby with alleged aggravated indecent assault against a former Temple University employee – months after dozens of women came out with accusations, more than a decade after dark rumors began to circulate – has been strange in a number of ways.”

“The story of Cosby’s alleged crime has been in the news so much – and things move so quickly in the age of social media and 24-hour coverage – that it seems a very long time coming. The case is also emotionally complicated for a lot of people: Cosby was not just another pampered, reckless celebrity, but someone who entered public consciousness as a racial pioneer. His grumpiness and patronizing bootstrap rhetoric over the years did not entirely destroy the residual warm feelings a lot of people held for him. For anyone who remembers “I Spy” or Fat Albert, Cosby’s downfall has been disorienting.”

“But what may be the strangest of all: Despite the usual call that a suspect of a crime should not be “tried in the media” or “convicted in the court of public opinion,” it was the media – especially social media — and public opinion that drove the case. It was a joke about rape by Hannibal Buress, captured on video, and an ensuing storm online that kept the story alive. Meanwhile, the judicial system groaned along, and statutes of limitations kept a number of cases from moving forward. Between the New York magazine cover, other print coverage, and steady outrage online, this has worked very differently than previous sexual assault cases.”

“In the old world – in the days before video clips that could go viral, online venting, the recent visibility of standup comedians – would Cosby have ever come to justice? Would he still be treated deferentially by reporters and, when challenged, give the kind of vague, evasive answers he’s so practiced at?”

“It’s hard to know for sure, but what’s certain is that for years, Cosby’s alleged crimes were an open secret among many in the press and media. So what took so long? “What took so long is that those in the know kept it mostly to themselves,” the late David Carr wrote in November, 2014, as the accusations picked up traction. “No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; that he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.”

“Journalists as respected as Ta-Nehisi Coates (in The Atlantic), Kelefa Sanneh (in The New Yorker), and Carr himself (in the on-flight magazine Hemispheres) mostly or entirely dodged the issue. Carr continued: “Those in the know included Mark Whitaker, who did not find room in his almost-500-page biography, ‘Cosby: His Life and Times,’ to address the accusations that Mr. Cosby had assaulted numerous women, at least four of whom had spoken on the record and by name in the past about what they say Mr. Cosby did to them.”

It’s strange. I was never a fan of the Cosby Show-it was a little too, eh, wholesome; I was a teenager and to me it was sort of like the black Brady Bunch. I found the show scarcely watchable-today even more so with all the cable and video choices.

I did enjoy his stint on Fat Albert as a younger kid. But yet, I feel something of a sense of loss. He was a cultural icon. When a cultural icon falls like Cosby has, it’s almost like losing a close friend or family member. Bill Cosby as social icon is dead.

I for one find it impossible to believe he isn’t guilty-if this is one or even a few accusers maybe it could be about money or fame but with all these different women coming forward-some white some black, some rich some less so, from all different backgrounds and walks of life, it’s impossible to believe they are all lying.

Cosby’s one saving grace is that his history with the other 39 accusers may not get mentioned in court-obviously the prosecution is fighting to include it while the defense fights to keep it out.

Buress is seen as a feminist hero but this wasn’t his goal and he’s not entirely psyched by the notoriety it’s garnered him prospectively.

“Since the joke, more than 40 women have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual abuse. Cosby has since been vilified by comedians (Judd Apatow, most prominently) and pundits alike, and the evidence against Cosby continues to pile up — a 2005 deposition uncovered earlier this month by the Associated Press revealed that Cosby acknowledged that he obtained quaaludes with the intention of “giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with.”

“Nonetheless, Buress’ public reaction to the media firestorm he helped ignite has been one of relative apprehension.”

“In an interview with GQ, Buress opened up about the situation and revealed that the buzz around his Cosby joke actually halted Comedy Central’s announcement of his new show, “Why? with Hannibal Buress.”

Let’s face it, what made Buress’ words so powerful is that he’s a black comedian. If a white comedian had said the same thing it would not have given the social license to go after Cosby this way.

“Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the ’80s,” Buress said in the bit, mocking Bill Cosby’s public persona. “Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby,” Buress reasoned, “so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

“Shaky video footage of Buress’ Cosby joke went viral.”

There’s a joke that another black comedian made-I can’t remember who, maybe Chris Rock? Whoever it was I believe I heard it on the Howard Stern Show. He made a joke about just how far some black folks push the ‘the black credit card’-the idea that black folks will have your back if you’re also black.

What happened to Cosby is about a lot of things. But one thing is that he didn’t have such a card-he had maxed it out. There was a lot of anger in the African-American community over his jibes about how the black community needs to just pull its socks up and take personal responsibility. This, maybe more than feminism was what led Buress to make the joke.

In any case, the rest is history.

UPDATE: if Cosby has a chance of winning, maybe he should hire Tom Mesereau who got Michael Jackson off and seems to think there are a lot of questions here-starting with the politicization of the case; the prosecutor actually ran in the election on prosecuting Bill Cosby and this is being filed literally a few days before the statue of limitations has run out.

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