San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle is getting hot under the collar. The Polanski-supporter published a scathing op-ed just before 10am PST on Sunday, October 11. But by early morning October 12, the article had been taken down. The reason? LaSalle got into a flamewar with his commenters and huffily announced that he was “leaving this post up for exactly five more minutes, and then I’m taking it down because I can’t keep up with… the stupidity. Five more minutes, maybe I’ll put it back up later…”
To be fair, the commenters were ruthless, and they had a lot of material to work with. I’ve read a LOT of Polanski apologism, and this was still a jaw-dropper. LaSalle wrote “celebrities get a raw deal from the law and the courts.” While admitting Polanski “did a bad thing,” LaSalle argues that Polanski’s early trauma should “earn him some human sympathy. Just some. So why none? Why no human sympathy?” LaSalle thinks many people hate Polanski because they’re jealous of his talent and pretty wife: LaSalle’s readers vociferously disagreed. So he unpublished ALL their comments AND the article.
The article and comments are now back up at SFGate.com, but LaSalle has threatened to pull them again “if things degenerate to the level they were at in the early morning hours…” LaSalle has admitted to personally deleting many comments because (he says) they contained “personal attacks or vulgarity.” According to him, the Chron’s comment moderators don’t have the time to police LaSalle’s commenters as quickly as he’d like, so he’s picking up some of the slack. LaSalle also deleted a few of his own replies to commenters, but only because of grammar reasons, he said, such as “subject-verb disagreement.” Personally, I hope he’ll be able to keep the article and comments online, if only because of the 285 current comments, an overwhelming majority condemn LaSalle’s views as simplistic and poorly reasoned. I agree, and find it astonishing that LaSalle thought his opinion—that we should all be more sympathetic to the man who drugged and anally raped a 13-year-old—was universal. But hey, we can’t all be Jay Smooth. Some choice LaSalle-commenter exchanges below, bolding mine.
Commenter: Mick, you have a tendency to selectively engage with the least defensible opposition.
Mick LaSalle: I don’t think there’s any nuance of this case where my opinion isn’t either out there or can be easily imagined. You might just be agreeing with me, which I would not ask you to admit here, but in that quiet place inside. No, but seriously, I absolutely assumed everyone agreed with me. That’s why I was so completely dismissive in the beginning, with the first post. I thought EVERYBODY agrees about THIS, it’s just so OBVIOUS. It never occurred to me that I had the minority opinion. It’s interesting.
Commenter: Mick, comments were deleted for a previous post including your own, because they supposedly include “personal attacks” and thus violated the Terms and Conditions of the site.
Mick LaSalle: Nooo, if one of my comments is deleted, it’s because I said it should be deleted. I had a typo in there that I didn’t want to see quoted.