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Natalia Naman Temesgen: Bill Cosby's meme challenge backfires

Bill Cosby's meme challenge backfiresRape is a topic that most of us would rather not discuss.

It is arguably one of the worst crimes committable. What's more, addressing it forces a country led largely by straight men to punish and criticize other men. That can be an uncomfortable dilemma, especially when the alleged rapist is a man well liked by the public.

But sometimes, a well-liked, alleged serial rapist brings the onslaught of critique on himself. And on Monday, that was Bill Cosby.

I hate to be the one to lay this on you if you haven't already heard about it. I say that because Bill Cosby holds a special place in many American hearts for his roles on "I Spy," "The Bill Cosby Show," "The Cosby Show" and for young audiences, "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" and "Little Bill." His accomplishments are numerous, his political activism notable and his career epic. Also, the man has made many of us laugh aloud.

Cosby is at the start of a national comedy tour, so perhaps he felt the need to invigorate Twitter and keep his buzz going. On Monday, he (or his public relations rep, who should probably be fired) took to Twitter and wrote: "Go ahead. Meme me!" He included a cheery photo of him as well as a link to his website's Meme Generator. A meme, in this context, is a photo over which Internet users write original captions, then share online.

Twitter users responded with a tidal wave of razor-sharp memes whose captions highlighted Cosby's rape allegations. Cosby has since deleted the "Meme me" tweet as well as his website's Meme Generator. He has been ignoring the issue on his website and Twitter. An interesting stance, considering how similar it is to the way he has dealt with the rape accusations over the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, the media has been re-educating the public about these accusations, and some of the accusers have been speaking up once again in light of the renewed attention to the matter. There are more than a dozen women, by the way, and each reports that Cosby drugged and raped his victim.

My goal in writing this column really isn't to pile on Bill Cosby (or Woody Allen or Stephen Collins), but to ask why it is that so few of us have even heard of these allegations. Is it the untouchable quality of celebrity? Is it our culture of misogyny? Is it because it destroys our nostalgic, positive view of Bill Cosby? (A man began vomiting after hearing about the allegations during a recent Hannibal Burress comedy act.)

The fact is these allegations are not funny. They are sickening. These women are just as much alive and human as Cosby. Call it a Twitter snafu, but there is something fated about their cries for justice being heard once more.

-- Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at nataliadian1@gmail.com or on Twitter@cafeaulazy.

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