What Barry said. I haven’t had time to say anything about the subject until now, so I’m glad he came out of hiding to say it himself (and better than I would have, too).

I know that most of the comments directed at celebrities, especially those seen as freaks in some way, are just like so much of what people say: thoughtless, knee-jerk verbal impulses. But in this case, it bothers me more than usual.

My first serious girlfriend in high school was molested by her father from roughly age 4 to 14, and I was the first person she told about it. A month later, she had a fight with him and finally got angry/brave enough to tell her mom. The family, of course, was divided, he eventually spent a year in jail, and she spent a little time in a mental hospital. Some of our limited free time after school was spent with me driving her to her group therapy sessions; not exactly the kind of storybook romance kids dream about. As one might imagine, her sexuality was very confused and painful for her, and judging from what I heard from mutual friends in the years that followed, my armchair analysis would be that she saw sex as a means for gaining affection while also being angry/repulsed by the other person for wanting her in that way. I heard recently that she had a few kids and ran her own independent business, so I assume she’s achieved some semblance of normalcy in her life, but it wasn’t easy, and it could have just as easily turned out differently. That lesson has always stuck with me, and probably has a lot to do with why I still maintain a mostly liberal outlook despite a natural tendency toward misanthropy and pessimism. So many people would have turned out differently if only they’d had a fair chance.

And so a lot of people now justify harsh judgments of Mackenzie Phillips because she was a “junkie” who “consented” to an incestuous relationship. They ask why she had no moral compass while ignoring the fact that she had been blindfolded and spun ever since she was small child. In such dizzying circumstances, she never once had the kind of clear mind needed to give informed consent to anything. John Phillips never gave his little girl the moral guidance that is a child’s birthright. Instead, he made sure that she felt complicit in her drug abuse and sexual exploitation, assaults and rapes. That’s what mega-perps like John Phillips do. They turn children’s lives into unspeakable hell and then instruct their victims to blame themselves for their pain. The rest of the time they make sure that their prey understands just how unspeakable everything is. And they do this while counting on the average person to snicker away from such situations with seedy little jokes rather than summon the courage to confront the unspeakable. Because of such societal cowardice, John Phillips was able to hide in a bright spotlight.