How accountable do we hold public figures?

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The six degrees of separation theory entails that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. Perhaps this is not completely true in all cases, but the proposition does hold some weight. Every year, you and your ill-mannered distant cousin are encouraged to share a dinner with each other on Christmas. He may commit a heinous crime further down the line. You live your own life. They live their own. None of your business? Should there be any guilt, no matter how small, be associated with you for merely sharing a table with this person on multiple occasions? It depends on how much you knew, what you knew, and the situation itself.

Businesswoman Karen Brady has recently cut ties with Philip Green, a man accused of sexual and racial harassment. Yet, why did she not cut ties with him when he sold BHS for a mere pound? This consequently left many people in a financially precarious situation. It left a £571m hole in its pension fund. It is hard to extend compassion to an immoral person. One could argue that it was for financial reasons. But it also turns out that she has heavily praised this man’s character on multiple occasions in the past. In this case, she should be held accountable to some degree for her long-term partnership with him. This is not the same thing as saying that we should blame her for his alleged crimes. The two are different things.

I hope that most reasonable people would agree that we should view each case on an individual basis and innocent until proven guilty is something that we should not dispense with completely. What is happening now is that we are trying to fit a one shoe fits all formula to a very complex problem. A rather recent case involves Lady Gaga and disgraced singer R Kelly. In 2013, she passionately defended him despite decades’ worth of allegations and evidence against him. She defended her previous defence of him by saying that she was in a bad place mentally. Such a serious and dismissive excuse is simply not good enough, and she should take more responsibility.

Last modified: 13th March 2019

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