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The Allen-Farrow Saga, the Times, and Me: Four Blunt Points

Woody Allen attends a screening of 'Blue Jasmine', on Aug 27, 2013

Photograph by Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

Woody Allen attends a screening of 'Blue Jasmine', on Aug 27, 2013

Did Woody Allen sexually molest his daughter Dylan in 1992? I don’t know. Why is this sordid affair being replayed in the pages of the New York Times? I know, but the answer ain’t pretty. Could the sanity quotient be raised, even if only marginally, by several blunt observations? Let’s try.

1. We—the thinking public—don’t need to know the truth. Sometimes we need to know whether a salacious sexual allegation is true or not. We needed to form an opinion about whether Clarence Thomas floridly harassed Anita Hill and then lied about it, or whether this elaborate accusation was a cynical weapon Thomas’s liberal foes used to try to keep him off the Supreme Court. Why? Because we the people—acting, God help us, via the U.S. Senate—were deciding whether to invest Thomas with tremendous government authority. Thus the Thomas-Hill affair deserved our attention. Justice Thomas survived the process, and the rest is history.

In contrast, we gain nothing by feasting on the hatred and neurosis that is the relationship between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. That the putative victim, Dylan Farrow (no longer her name), has helped reinvigorate the scandal, all the while saying that mere discussion of the topic causes her unendurable pain, only makes the whole situation more meta-horrific. Let’s stop.

2. The New York Times, in particular, should stop. Bearing in mind point No. 1, the Times, our greatest daily newspaper, really ought to stop stirring this toxic soup. Nicholas Kristof shouldn’t be publishing the grievances of his celebrity friends the Farrows. Woody Allen, if he loves his estranged daughter/alleged victim Dylan, shouldn’t be publishing vindictive screeds about how Mia and everyone else is out to get him. Sure, the Times is drawing Web traffic, but come on: Don’t feed our pathetic appetite for the sins of the merely famous.

3. As long as we’re on the topic, there’s one critical issue here. Without getting into the evidence in all of its gory detail, one question does stand out as, if not dispositive, then at least important. Maureen Orth, the Vanity Fair writer who has mined the Woody-Mia-Dylan story for decades, asserts as a matter of fact:

“Allen had been in therapy for alleged inappropriate behavior toward Dylan with a child psychologist before the abuse allegation was presented to the authorities or made public.”

If that’s true—and Allen doesn’t address the issue in his lengthy statement in the Times—then I’m strongly inclined to believe that the filmmaker is lying. I’m not saying the truth of Orth’s assertion would be enough to convict Allen in a criminal trial. One might still have “reasonable doubt” about what exactly happened all those years ago. But if he had an acknowledged problem with “inappropriate behavior” toward his daughter, that’s pretty relevant. What is Orth’s source for this assertion? Why doesn’t she say?

4. I’m a hypocrite. I’ve lectured about turning away from this self-parodying circus. And yet here I am talking about it with my wife and writing about it. I am weak. We are all weak. Enough already.

Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador.

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