April 26, 2018, was the day that Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated sexual assault. A group of us who served as administrators for the seminal Facebook page We Support the Survivors of Bill Cosby collectively celebrated the verdict. It was a moment of unrivalled exaltation for each one of us. We’d worked for years to see Cosby brought to account. Truth had spoken the mighty word “Justice!” to power. And in the end, power crumbled to dust.
Cosby was subsequently sentenced to three to ten years in state prison. Sadly, after serving nearly three years, Cosby’s conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — on a technicality. While his guilt was clearly in evidence, the Pennsylvania SCOTUS decided that his obscure rights at the wheeling and dealing justice gaming tables had been ever-so-slightly transgressed. In other words, crap.
While that was a shocking disappointment to Cosby’s 64 “official” victims (more about that later), it nevertheless represented a modicum of justice. Cosby went to prison, not for days, not for weeks, not for months, but for years. Years plural. And he almost stayed in prison long enough to satisfy his statutory minimum sentence. It wasn’t perfect justice, but it was some justice.
But, as it turned out, it was even more than that. Cosby’s conviction and prison time destroyed him, and it destroyed his legacy and star power forever. Once he was convicted and sentenced there was a sharp, measurable decline in online support for the man.
Literally hundreds of the disgusting, slut-shaming Cosby worshipping morons who proclaimed their undying love for Cosby and their undying hatred for the women who dared to complain about his rapey ways, crawled back under their rocks, never to re-emerge. The most fervent Cosby adherents withered away in the face of a bona fide criminal conviction — and actual jail sentence.
What happened? I’m not precisely sure. But I have a theory. I think criminal convictions carry real weight in America, deadly weight, even in the staunchest breast of the most ardent supporter. Whether they admit it or not, Cosby’s rabid rabble saw his conviction and imprisonment as a final epitaph. The war was over and they had lost. They gave up on him.
And it hasn’t changed. To this day Cosby supporters are thin on the ground. Online debates have all but dried up. Forget for a moment about what the polls say. I suspect that the real measure of Cosby apologists is to be found in the number willing to fight for him online. And that number has dwindled almost down to nothing.
It might interest you to know that many people who believed the allegations against Cosby insisted nonetheless that he would never go to jail. I think Cosby’s imprisonment showed us once and for all that no one is immune from the reach of justice.
But what was fascinating was how quickly former true believers in the lies Cosby told abandoned him the minute he went to prison. Like I say, I don’t necessarily know why this is so, but I have a name for it. I call it the Cosby Effect.
I can’t help but wonder if the Cosby Effect will also apply to Donald Trump should he go to prison. I hope so. I can’t see why not. There’s something definitive about a prison sentence, about being found unanimously guilty by a jury of your peers once the evidence is trotted out. While it’s sometimes true that innocent people have gone to jail, even so an inescapable, disreputable air still clings to them, rightly or wrongly.
If I’ve got it right, then this is another powerful reason to send Trump to prison. If Trump in jail will trigger the Cosby Effect, will essentially cause a significant fraction of his MAGA base of drooling cretins to give up on him, then it could serve yet another huge social benefit. Whether they are willing to admit it or not, many of his most rabid supporters will finally realise that Trump was wrong, Trump was evil, and that Trump lied to them.
Earlier in this article I promised more about the official number of Cosby victims. That official number has remained at 64. But those of us on the inside of the fight to put Cosby in jail know there are more victims than that. Additional victims have secretly come forward, making themselves known to us and making the true number of named victims about 100 thus far. They do not want their names known because they have seen how much vicious abuse the official 64 have had to endure. I do not blame them.
My private theory is that there are many, many more than that. From the testimony of Cosby’s chauffeur, who shuttled bright and happy women to Cosby’s lair only to have them return sullen and woozy and depressed, day in and day out, month on month and year on year, I suspect Cosby’s victims number in the thousands. It is a sad legacy of ruined lives that this monster has left behind.
I think it’s similar for Trump. I believe there’s a good chance that Trump is far, far worse than he appears, and he appears very bad already, of course. But we have only been treated to the evil on the surface, the obvious stuff.
What lies beneath must be dark, scabrous, corrupted, filthy and wicked beyond our imaginations. To my mind Donald John Trump is the most evil and pernicious American who ever lived. As with Cosby, Donald Trump belongs in prison for life. Justice, please make it so. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.