Sunday, February 24, 2008

From the Editorial Page

The Wilmington Star-News was the first North Carolina newspaper to demand that Mike Nifong resign. (It did so in a December 27, 2006 editorial.) Its comment on the recently filed lawsuit was, however, peculiar. The paper conceded that unfair harm had befallen the players:
Reporters found numbers of Duke students and faculty members eager to offer their opinion that many lacrosse players were little better than swaggering sexist louts. The story was shaping up as a morality tale about arrogant rich boys abusing a young black woman working her way through school. Duke cancelled the rest of the team's season. But when the accuser's story turned out to have as many holes as an ancient athletic sock, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong refused to drop the prosecution. Eventually, it was Nifong, not the lacrosse players, who was put on trial.

But, the editorial nonetheless criticizes the lawsuit, on the grounds that the "the players and their families [do not] seem eligible for food stamps."

It might be, as the Star-News implies, that federal law should be changed to allow only those whose families are eligible for food stamps to file civil suits. Such a change, however, would eliminate one of the key effects of civil litigation--deterring against future misconduct. As Jim Coleman explained in September, in discussing the three falsely accused players' civil suit against Durham, “When the city acts in ways that are so totally outrageous and could have been prevented, I think the damages ought to be sufficient to deter that kind of behavior in the future and also to send a message to other cities and prosecutors across the state."

The same line of critique, of course, could apply to Duke, especially since no indication exists that the University has enacted any reforms suggesting that it learned lessons from the case.

A more appropriate response came from Bill Ordine in the Baltimore Sun. He wrote,
Cutting through the legalese, what the players -- none of whom were charged in the dismissed sex assault case -- are saying, especially as it applies to Duke, is that instead of supporting them, the university sat back while they were under general harassment . . .

Not named is any news organization. And I realize that there may be no sound legal grounds to include a newspaper or a TV or radio station or an Internet site as a defendant in such a suit, but -- and I'll likely be considered a heretic in the church of the Fourth Estate for saying so -- that's too bad.

If indeed the players and their families suffered emotionally, if a player's reputation remains forever tarnished as "that guy who was on the Duke lacrosse team when," then a fair amount of blame falls on the media.

And not for merely reporting the story. That's what we do. And sometimes, simply reporting on a case fairly and down the middle causes emotional distress to the innocent and creates unflattering impressions that last a long time. Still, it is our obligation to do the reporting.

But this case was different. There was something akin to a Salem-like hysteria going on in the early days of the Duke lacrosse case with newspaper columnists and broadcast and Internet pundits taking bits and pieces, such as some players' early reluctance to talk with investigators, and building a case of obvious guilt. The judgment was as vitriolic as it was premature.

To be fair, those types of observations, when they appeared in print, came largely from opinion writers and not in news stories. But the public sometimes doesn't discern among the types of information with which it's bombarded, and the resentment and tension in Durham and on the Duke campus fed on the in-print and on-air rushes to judgment.


Finally, on the N&O op-ed page was none other than Group of 88 stalwart Karla Holloway. In a bizarre critique of media coverage of this year's presidential race, Holloway claims, "America reads race as a minority identity, with whiteness being the unstated norm. In the ongoing presidential race, the political pundits chatter easily about the Latino vote, or the black vote, which seems just fine until the illogic of that calculus rears its discomfiting head. If some of us are black or Latino or Asian, then (gasp!) others of us are white . . . Newscasters have suddenly found themselves having to acknowledge that not all the male or female voters are black or Latino or Asian -- identities that have heretofore been easily spoken. There is another side of the equation. But even with analysts like Matthews speaking that identity in acknowledging 'white men,' this concentration on race does a disservice to all voters."

One wonders if Holloway has been following American politics at any point in the last three decades. She appears unaware that political analysts cited the "Reagan Democrats"--white ethnic voters--as critical to the 1980 election. Or "angry white men" as the driving force behind the 1994 Republican Revolution.

Anyone who has watched even a few minutes of election-night TV coverage over the last three decades can doubtless recall exit polls discussing white (as well as black and Hispanic) voters.

Having deemed as novel a situation that is, in fact, not new, Holloway urges people to avoid "easily sliding into racial rhetoric," to "admit their discomfort with racial designations," to adopt a "diminished interest in producing race as the singular difference that matters." Coming from a person whose approach to the lacrosse case appeared almost entirely race-based, and who said that she would again sign the Group of 88 statement in a "heartbeat," this advice reeks of hypocrisy.

But how, according to Holloway, should America adopt a "diminished interest in producing race as the singular difference that matters"? Through "diversity" hiring in the media: "It would be a good result if, at the very least, our nightly news would include a diverse field of commentators past this moment when a potential first black president is the subject of the season."

Of course.


mac said...

Holloway forgot to mention that the media is also fascinated with the sex vs. class phenomena, and how women are voting as a non-block (as opposed to voting choices women of any particular race) Soccer Moms vs. Single Moms, Stay-at-home Moms vs. Pantsuit Professionals, etc.

Of course, judging from the invited "sex-workers" who paid homage to Duke, it's likely we'll be hearing from her Klan (perhaps in a scholarly paper or two) on the transexual community's voting-orientation (and how they should be able to change their votes after they've been cast.)

But seriously: Ordine's comments are, hopefully, the beginning of a trend.

Anonymous said...

When you rarely publish anything in high ranking peer-reviewed journals like Holloway- this (an op-ed) may likely count as a publication. I'll never forget that Kim (I'll fail lacrosse players because I can) Curtis actually had op-eds on her CV- as someone in high education and someone that works hard and long to get quality pieces published in good journals- that is a really sad.

miramar said...

It was amusing to see Holloway write: "Perhaps this will be the election that keeps future debates in this country from easily sliding into racial rhetoric. It seems obvious that with our complex demography, we need something more rigorous than race or ethnicity to describe the differences between voters."

If college students applied the same principle, no one would take her classes since racial rhetoric is the only thing she has to offer. (I am of course not suggesting that too many people are taking her classes now.) Can you imagine Holloway calling for "something more rigorous"? I can't imagine anything less rigorous than this inane drivel.

Hman said...

Fact number one: none of the media comments about this lawsuit were made by people who actually read more than 10% of it.
Fact number two: these same commenters paid little attention to the nuts and bolts of the case even when it was being illuminated by a blazing hot media bonfire.
Media-whores are lazy. They know that their job is to scan a story long enough to find the right sort of raw materials to crank off a simple morality tale involving victims of powerful forces and (optional) rescuing heroes. Then have another beer.
Anything that does not fit their preconceptions will go unseen and un-noticed. And if something is genuinely unusual - like the leadership of an elite University deliberately trying to harm some of its students - their eyes glaze over as their brains give up on dealing with something new and strange.
The Monty Python guys made a number of great skits about this. They were all pretty funny. This happening in real life is not funny but at least they warned us.

Michael said...

...and I see that she's still billing herself to the world as a Professor of Law.

Debrah said...

It's so glorious to have KC back in action!

Debrah said...

I don't understand it.

Perhaps someone can explain this to me:

Obviously many posters offer up great comments here. Why do some of you not stage an editorial-writing démarche regarding such topics?

I would love to send the N&O a scathing critique of Holloways's nutty column--which I'm sure she will store away as a "scholarly publication"; however, I recently sent in a comment on the Obama candidacy and they won't allow more comments from the same person--even the Diva!--until after 30 days have past...IIRC.

They just keep elevating people such as Timothy Tyson, Holloway, and Orin Starn......helping them hide from their horrendous past actions and behavior.

That column written by Holloway is basically comical.

The average reader won;' bother finding out the history of this open racist who uses "race" as the oxygen she breathes.

There is a deep need inside me to force the N&O to print the other side.

If enough of you write letters to them on this subject instead of merely mouthing off here, it will do more good than you know.

For the Lacrosse Hoax as well as society in general.

Jim in San Diego said...

Listening to the tortured logical twistings of someone of the ilk of Ms. Holloway, with contradictions and hypocrisy at every turn, one wonders if she just suffers a form of insanity.

In a world where two plus two does not have to equal four, anything is possible, I suppose.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Must agree with Debrah at 12:23 PM. It is indeed glorious to have KC back in action. With regard to Karla Holloway, I would only say that you reap what you sew. The contemporary liberal left has given us "cultural diversity," affirmative action, and the hyphenated American. By its having emphasized, race, gender and ethnic origin as part of American life, did the liberal left think that would not become a prime issue when a black man and a woman chose to run for president of the United States?

Jack in Silver Spring.

Anonymous said...

My generation of the Sixties, with all our great ideals, destroyed liberalism, because of our excesses.

-Camille Paglia

Anonymous said...

Do these people not understand that supporting the lacrosse players is supporting the rule of law . . . commenting in apologia to discount or discredit the damage to the lacrosse players is more of the hypocrisy that created this fiasco in the first place. The perverted logic of these editorial excuses is at the heart of a racist system of political correctness. The discrimination that jumps out in Duke's response and in its administration and its faculty was already present and in gear in the academic environment of the school. It did not require Nifong to activate it, but rather, the Nifong hoax put Duke's way of thinking into the public arena so that others have become aware of it. In spite of their legal difficulties the collective group of academic racist of faculty and administration still have not been challened sufficiently. Those that cannot understand this or the need for such a suit have not been paying attention.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Holloway's gripe (that voting blocs are sometimes referenced by race) is precisely because, in the real world, voting blocs based on race exist. The reason you don't often hear about a white male voting bloc is because 95% of white males don't consistently vote for the same party no matter which candidate in particular is running. Same goes for Asians. Ergo, an "asian male voting bloc" simply does not exist.

But black citizens' votes are as predictable and unwavering as a NY Times endorsement; no matter who the candidates are, no matter what their positions are, blacks will vote for the Democrat literally 90-95% of the time. Is Holloway really arguing that you shouldn't be allowed to notice that?

traveler said...

Re: Three Student not engaged in litigation:

1. Matt Danowski:
Matt’s father, John Danowski is the new lacrosse coach that replaced Mike Pressler. ($$$$ in hand is better than……)

2. Kevin Mayer:
Kevin’s father, …..“Thom Mayer later attended Duke University School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1977.”

3. Matt Zash:
Plays a midfield position for the Philadelphia Barrage, a professional lacrosse team. The team won back to back MLL championships.

Zash game notes:

“…..Matt Zash ….scored two goals …during Philly’s five-goal run.”

“….the Barrage has one of the deadliest midfields with ….. Matt Zash,…..”

Anonymous said...

The answer to the equation is simple:

2 + 2 = racism

When racism is found under every rock, or, as the Diva noted, is the oxygen of one's existence, then "racism" is the answer to everything.

God = racism

It will be great, one day, to have everyone forget about racial categories. I suspect Holloway, Chafe, Lubiano, Jackson and Sharpton will be the last ones dragged kicking and screaming into that golden era. They are the ones who earn a living based on racism. As for the election, it is nice to see that, as far as Barack Obama is concerned, the word white is not so homogenized.

E = mc(racism)

On another note, I'm surprised that none of the students have filed defamation lawsuits against the media. I guess the statute of limitations is probably 2 years, so there is time. For the Herald-Sun and the N&O, the lax students have a lot of time because the Herald-Sun and N&O's last defamatory column has yet to be written, I suspect. What's Barry Saunders doing?

Anonymous said...

If Holloway had not written this, would the criticism be the same? You know I try to hang with you on this blog, but sometimes your biases seem to interfere with your reading. Just to illustrate, the point in her oped about diversity in the media she makes is connected to an argument about having diverse reporters not only assigned to the race beat. This just makes sense to me. When you misrepresent like this KC, it doesn't help our objective in this to get people to be appropriately indignant about this matter.

KC Johnson said...

To the 3.20:

No, the criticism wouldn't have been the same, because the issue would have been irrelevant to the subject of this blog. (Unless, of course, it had been offered by another Group of 88 member.)

Demanding more "diversity" hiring in the media is, it would seem to me, a most unusual way to get beyond race consciousness.