The last week has featured several extraordinary articles from the mainstream media. In addition to the must-read Charlotte Allen article in Weekly Standard (highlighted yesterday by Liestoppers), begin with a two-part commentary from John Podhoretz in the New York Post, “Senseless” and “Orwell University.”
In the first column, Podhoretz offers a compelling explanation of why this case has attracted so much attention: “that at every turn, simple common sense was overcome and discarded due to an intoxicating cocktail of raw political calculation, shameful butt-covering and self-righteous political correctness that was ingested by nearly every authority figure and political actor in this homely city of 272,000.”
What was more important than adhering to common sense—or, of course, to due process? For one, “the political career of District Attorney Mike Nifong, who just happened to be in a tight re-election campaign.” For another, “the ideological reputation of
Podhoretz then sets his sights on the Duke arts and sciences faculty, and especially the Group of 88/87. As he notes, though Richard Brodhead asked professors to withhold judgment until the facts were clearer, “this was not acceptable to the 88 profs.” Their statement thanked the “protesters” who refused to wait.
As a result, Podhortez correctly argues, “At a moment when Duke students were being shadowed by a rape accusation, one-ninth of their professoriate had effectively declared that those students did not deserve the presumption of innocence - primarily because so many of their fellow students were supposedly being victimized by the atmosphere of ‘racism and sexism.’” Stephen Baldwin presents a good summary: “There was a collision between political correctness and due process, and political correctness won.”
The rape claim has collapsed but, Podhoretz asks, “do the Gang of 88 care? Tuesday night, they released a new statement (or most of them did, anyway). And while complaining of being misunderstood and misperceived, they find after seven months that . . . they were right all along.”
“You might call,” he notes, the new statement “Orwellian if you wanted to put a highfalutin name to it. Here’s a better word: Bulls--t.”
Podhoretz and Allen aren’t the only widely read figures to have dismissed the (rump) Group of 88’s “clarifying” statement. Dan Abrams did so as well. The Duke graduate and general manager of MSNBC has generally avoided criticism of Duke over the past several months, but he let loose this week on the (rump) Group.
Last week, Abrams noted that try as hard as they might, the Group “just can’t get away from some of the language in their original note.” In his opinion, “They simply can’t back out now. They are not willing to say, ‘You know what, now, based on everything we have learned, we are sorry. We put it out at the wrong time. We should not have said it in the way that we did.’ They are unwilling to just say we blew it.”
And, Abrams pointed out, it’s important to “remember, it wasn’t just this ad.” Professors such as Houston Baker, William Chafe, Karla Holloway, Thavolia Glymph, Peter Wood, Orin Starn, and Wahneema Lubiano aggressively pushed the administration into a harder line against the lacrosse players in order to forward their own personal, pedagogical, or ideological agendas. Months later, Abrams lamented, “you don’t hear that those professor out there publicly saying, ‘You know what, I’m sorry. We shouldn‘t have pushed the way we did.’”
Abrams predicted that once all charges are dismissed, the University will make some sort of statement acknowledging the misconduct of its faculty. I hope he’s right.
Captain's Quarters has taken note of this peculiar offering, with a scathing commentary:
Students at Duke would be better advised to ask what the "lacrosse scandal" (as opposed to the Nifong scandal?) tells them about Duke University and its loyalty to its students. The answer appears to be that they will throw students to the howling wolves at the first opportunity to appease locals on the thinnest of accusations, even before the evidence has been evaluated.
What I find fascinating about this course, offered in this semester, is that instructors Anne Allison and Margot Weiss believe that they can reach the conclusions they imply in the synopsis. New courses have to win approval from a faculty committee, which usually means at least a few weeks of preparation before the deadline for inclusion in the semester catalog. They will have already set their instruction before such developments as the discovery that Nifong conspired to hide the DNA evidence from the defense and knowingly misrepresented the case to the media. The pair have reached conclusions far ahead of hearing all of the evidence; is that the standard of education at Duke? It certainly appears to be the standard of administration there.
Mostly, though, the spectacle of Duke attempting to sit in judgment on a scandal in which it acted so badly is little short of despicable. Duke and its faculty and administrators should be ashamed of themselves.
Students who so desired could have taken a year-long seminar in "The Group of 88 and Why We Were Right," since a fall-term seminar co-taught by Thavolia Glymph (things were "moving backwards" when the DNA tests came back negative) and Susan Thorne placed the case in the context of gender and race issues.
In an earlier e-mail to me, Thorne stated that she had taught some lacrosse players, and seemed to suggest that she had a good experience with them. I wonder whether she thought of any of her former students when she affixed her signature to the recent "clarifying" statement, or whether she reflected on her former students' experiences as she remained silent while evidence of Mike Nifong's mistreatment of them mounted.
I recently received an e-mail from Cash Michaels, announcing that a “coalition of social justice groups coming together Feb. 10 to march on the Legislature are a diverse mix of people and communities who all believe in the same goals.” He didn’t say what those goals were—repealing the recommendations of the Actual Innocence Commission? Public funding of the Mike Nifong Legal Defense Fund?
Michaels’ paper, the Wilmington Journal, published an editorial last week containing a thinly veiled threat to Roy Cooper, that unless the AG brought the case to trial, he would face political ramifications from black voters.
Michaels is, alas, misdirecting his anger—he should be fuming at Nifong. Had Nifong turned the case over to Cooper sooner, rather than attempting the December 21st frame, perhaps Cooper might have bowed to such political pressure.
At this stage, however, bringing the case to trial would amount to suborning perjury from the accuser, since her latest tale (we’re now, of course, into double digits for the number of versions the accuser has offered) directly contradicts the April 4 lineup used to identify the players Nifong targeted, as well as myriad other unimpeachable electronic evidence.
A fascinating thread on the Liestoppers discussion board calls into question Michaels’ journalistic fairness. Last week, Michaels published sixth-hand unverified gossip, forwarded to him via a Karla Holloway e-mail. He also quoted from a John Burness e-mail that seemed to imply that Burness opposed Brodhead’s decision to readmit Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty.
The entire Burness e-mail, however, is now posted at LS—and it says exactly the opposite of what Michaels implied. In fact, Burness goes out of his way to defend Brodhead’s action. I wonder why Michaels didn’t quote the entire e-mail.
Those who watched the recent Paula Zahn CNN special got to hear from, among other figures, a Wheelock College American Studies professor named Gail Dines. (Dines is right now busy organizing a conference entitled “Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing Theory, Re-thinking Activism.”) On the program, Dines waxed rhapsodic about the “victim” and appeared unaware of many of the central details of the case. Accordingly, Zahn spent most of the segment questioning another of the panelists, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.
Dines has shot back with an essay that (unintentionally) explains why Zahn shied away from her. To prepare for the broadcast, Dines says that she did some reading (what she read isn’t clear) and consulted with a handful of colleagues, among them Mark Anthony (“thugniggaintellectual”) Neal. She complained that she wasn’t on additional segments—she wanted to be on at least two, and perhaps three.
Perhaps Zahn was concerned that Dines didn’t know some of the basic facts of the case (or what she prefers to term “the so-called ‘facts’ of the case.”) These “so-called ‘facts,’” reasons Dines, “have mainly been planted by the defense as a way to spin the case.” This certainly is an ingenious interpretation of Dr. Brian Meehan—he’s a defense plant, out to destroy Nifong!
In compiling her own facts, Dines states that she relied on what “law professor Wendy Murphy has pointed out.” How reassuring.
Dines’ “so-called ‘facts’ of the case” include the following:
“This obsessive focus on the woman is not particular to this case; routinely the media focus on the women victims, with a certain prurient interest. Instead, we should put some of the focus back on the men in this case, as we know much about their behavior that night that is not under dispute.”
- In fact, Newsweek plastered two of the players’ mug shots on its cover. The accuser’s name, on the other hand, has not been revealed even once by the mainstream media.
“They saw the hiring of two black women to strip as a legitimate form of male entertainment. They didn’t see the commodifying and sexualizing of black women’s bodies as problematic in a country that has a long and ugly history of racism.”
- In fact, the captains specifically requested white strippers.
“Later that night, 911 got a call from a black college student out walking with her friends who was called ‘nigger’ as she walked past the team’s house.”
- In fact, the call came from Kim Roberts, as she admitted on 60 Minutes, and was in response to a racially charged argument that Roberts herself initiated.
“And to top it all, not one lacrosse player has come forward to express any regret at that night’s events or offered any apology for being part of a drunken strip party that humiliated and degraded two black women.”
- In fact, the captains issued a statement of apology on March 28.
Dines actually managed to appear thoughtful in contrast to Tom Ehrich, a Durham religious figure who pens a nationally syndicated column, and who decided this week to write on the lacrosse case. He argues that the dropping of charges would be a "tragic outcome"--and, Herald-Sun style, even registered his concern for the accused players, who without benefit of a trial "would carry into adulthood and every job interview unanswered questions about their actions and character."
Since a trial seems unlikely, Ehrich decided to fill in those "unanswered questions" himself. The lacrosse players' behavior, he argues, "has been a lens into larger cultural issues that are corroding our common life," revealing "the same kind of attitude" as corporate bosses who bankrupted Enron, the leadership of the Catholic Church who attempted to cover up for pedophile priests, and all other "citizens who think dishonesty is a clever strategy instead of a moral failing."
Perhaps one of the departments that formally endorsed the Group of 88's statement can bring Ehrich in as a visiting professor next fall.
The Winston-Salem Journal has an interesting profile of David Freedman, Mike Nifong’s new lawyer. Freedman specializes in cases dealing with misconduct by lawyers.
His peers have good things to say about him: District Court judge William Reingold remarked, “There is no bigger compliment that a lawyer can get than to have another lawyer hire you when there’s trouble. What that means is that you’re the lawyers' lawyer.”
Freedman is going to need every ounce of his talent to help Defendant Nifong prevail.