Monday, May 10, 2010

More Strained Comparisons

Let’s review some facts.

(A) Accused murderer George Huguely had a documented record of violence, seen most clearly when a police officer had to taser him when he resisted arrest. Allegations have emerged of a pattern of violence, allegedly involving not only the woman he’s accused of murdering but even another member of the UVA men’s lacrosse team. In his own words to police, Huguely admitted repeatedly slamming his former girlfriend’s head into a wall. Huguely’s attorney has claimed the event was an “accident” but hasn’t denied his client’s culpability; the strongest character witness in public on Huguely’s behalf has been his former nanny. And, to my knowledge, no one has accused either the Charlottesville police or DA’s office of behaving in anything other than a professional manner.

(B) In the Duke case, no crime occurred (except possibly a conspiracy to obstruct justice by the police and prosecutor). There never was any evidence that a crime occurred (except with the above caveat). The lacrosse players and their attorneys repeatedly denied committing any crime, and produced massive evidence of their innocence. The prosecutor’s behavior provided the highest-profile instance of prosecutorial misconduct in modern American history. Hundreds of their current friends and acquaintances—including the women’s lacrosse coach and many women’s lacrosse players—publicly testified to the good character of the three falsely accused Duke students. And the men’s lacrosse captains hosted a tasteless spring break party—hardly an abnormal event for college students, despite insinuations from the neo-Puritans of the media and academic left.

Suggesting that comparing (A) with (B) is “strained” is generous. And yet the comparisons continue apace.

This morning, a featured story on the AOL homepage recommends that the University of Virginia “shut down” its men’s lacrosse season. That strikes me as a case of punishing a group for the sins of one member, an unusual approach in a society that correctly frowns upon the principle of collective punishment.

Author Kevin Blackistone speaks warmly of Duke’s dismissal of coach Mike Pressler (a decision that led to a lawsuit that Duke settled out of court). He adds that “UVA officials would be smart to review the Report of the Lacrosse Ad Hoc Review Committee at Duke that investigated the Duke lacrosse team’s scandal four years ago,” which he claims shows that the Duke lacrosse players were “miscreants.”

Actually, the Coleman Committee report showed that some of the lacrosse players drank too much—on a campus where the same could be said of a significant minority of the student body, and, perhaps more troublingly, on a campus where the city had adopted a “separate-but-equal” justice policy of prosecuting Duke students and only Duke students for crimes for which other Durham residents received a pass.

That report, of course, also revealed that the Duke men’s lacrosse players were on the whole very strong students (stronger, it’s worth noting, than UVA lacrosse players); that they had strong records of community service; that they had exemplary records of dealing with Duke staff members; and that they had no documented record of unacceptable behavior on grounds of race or gender.

Those are the findings that Blackistone believes would justify terminating UVA’s program? His column represents little more than an attempt to use the UVA killing to smear the character of 2006 Duke men’s lacrosse team.

Then there’s Ruth Marcus, a rare voice of sanity at the Washington Post during the criminal case. She recently penned a column wondering, “[Is it] something about lacrosse?” She then asserted that “It's impossible to read the Huguely story without thinking back to the Duke lacrosse case,” since—despite the weakness of the allegations—"These don't sound like young men you'd want your daughter to date."

Refer, above, to cases (A) and (B), and wonder, “Is it something about left-of-center opinion columnists?”

Or take this piece in the Baltimore Sun from Peter Prowitt, who is cryptically described as “with the Vienna Liaison Office of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly.” Prowitt linked Huguely’s arrest with the Duke lacrosse case as illustrating a “culture of sexual misconduct and off-the-field troubles in men's lacrosse.” Well, no “sexual misconduct” occurred in the Duke lacrosse case. And the “off-the-field troubles” resulted from the wildly unethical behavior of a local prosecutor.

Prowitt adds that even though they were “cleared of the allegations”—a parsimonious description—it’s “clear” that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty “exercised poor judgment in this incident.” How, precisely, it is “clear”? By attending a party they played no role in organizing and probably drinking some beer? That’s behavior that Prowitt can link to the conduct of an accused murderer?

Or, even, take this article in yesterday’s Daily News from Kevin Armstrong and Michael O’Keeffe. In an otherwise very well-reported article, the reporters offer the following peculiar lede: “University of Virginia lacrosse players adhered to the code of silence that permeates locker rooms and dorm rooms Thursday, refusing to comment [on the record] on former teammate George Huguely, who was been charged in the slaying of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love, or on reports that he had a history of aggressive behavior.”

The allegation brought to mind the pernicious claims of figures such as Mike Nifong and Selena Roberts in the Duke case, that the players had constructed a “wall of silence” to frustrate the case. Yet readers of the Armstrong/O’Keeffe article would discover that the UVA players had been fully cooperative with the police investigation, and had been willing to speak with reporters on a not-for-attribution basis.

Refusing to give on-the-record quotes to members of the media when reporters demand those quotes constitutes a “code of silence”? By that standard, all of Washington, DC functions under such a code.

And, just to provide a reminder of the . . . lax . . . standards that too often permeate the mainstream media, take a look at who the Today show invited on as an “expert” on this morning’s broadcast.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Does accountability even exist in the media world? Having adjunct law professor Murphy on to discuss a sex crimes case is a little like—as we also recently saw—having former FEMA director Michael Brown on to discuss disaster response policy.

17 comments:

William L. Anderson said...

Like the Bourbons of France, the media learns nothing, and the media forgets nothing.

Ryan Paige said...

I haven't been reading a whole lot of stories relating to any of these more-recent cases, but whenever a basketball player or football player gets into trouble, are there calls to shut the whole program down?

When one Baylor basketball player killed another, the basketball program continued. They were put on probation because of several NCAA violations, but the murder itself didn't derail the program at all.

Two Providence College basketball players were charged with assault about a month ago for beating somebody up at random. Both players were suspended, but nobody is talking about shutting down the whole basketball program.

And I can't even list all the times that a high-profile athlete on a big-time college football or basketball team got into trouble (Lawrence Phillips comes to mind. I don't remember a single article saying that Nebraska should shut down their football team for the year when Phillips was arrested for beating up his girlfriend during that season).

Anonymous said...

KC, I'm just glad you keep on keepin' on. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

forAdjunct Law Professore Murphy's performance on the Today show on Monday morning was disgusting. She almost hyperventilate as she excitedly began her "opening remarks" to the jury.

Rather that answering specific questions posed, old Wendy began to establish what she obviosly thought was the guilt of the alleged child molestor under discussion.

Like medical witnesses for hire, Murphy apparently is plying her trade as the "rablerousing Expert" for the prosecution.

I wonder how many calls Murphy had to make to the various networks before NBC took up her offer.

Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

See the latest from Christine Brennan (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/christinebrennan/post/2010/05/keeping-score-university-of-virginia-tragedy-could-have-been-prevented/1)

Title: Keeping Score: Could University of Virginia tragedy have been prevented?

Quote: "The Duke story is four years old now, and while the fabricated rape charges have long since been dismissed, sordid details about the evening remain on the record: the drinking, the strippers, the racial epithets."

Well, she's right about three out of four ("fabricated rape. . . drinking, the strippers"). Not a bad percentage for a baseball player; not so good for a "reporter."

Quote: ". . .(UVa.'s code of conduct mandates that Huguely himself should have told his coaches about his arrest, but officials say he did not. . .) ¶Whoever it was, someone should have told the athletic department."

IF (if,if) Love and Huguely were dating at the time and Love knew about the arrest, is Brennan now going to blame the victim for not telling anyone at UVA? Somehow I doubt it. (NO, I'm not trying/going to blame the victim.)

Anonymous said...

Is Murphy a Communist?

Anonymous said...

Although the media's collective misrepresentation of what happened in the Nifong hoax is aggravating, these folks probably do not understand that with each rhetorical and false potshot they take, they strengthen the case the Duke players have in court. The players allege that the damages to their reputation is permanent; the defendants claim it was fleeting. Every time a reporter like Ruth Marcus or Kevin Blackistone flaps their gums about the Duke players, it merely reinforces the permanent damage that Nifong, Durham, Duke, the professoriate, etc. caused.

For its part, in the modern media and academia, the metanarrative means everything. The fact that a sitting Attorney General declared innocence, and that internal and external reports confirmed that the allegations of ridiculous amounts of drinking and sexual predation were wildly exaggerated, and in some instances non-existent, means nothing. The metanarrative was spoiled rich athletic white boys swaggering around partying and assaulting women without accountability, and the media refuses to allow facts and truth to change it. They want to the metanarrative to be true; therefore, it is true. Sad commentary on a formerly noble profession.

-Haunches

skwilli said...

“Is it something about left-of-center opinion columnists?”

...And "right-of-center" opinion columnists, and "center-of-center" opinion columnists, and all other opinion columnists...

I'm convinced that opinion columnists are the laziest bunch of journalists on earth, and that's saying a lot. Very few seem to have anything right about these cases. The print media is dying for a very good reason. I'll stick to opinion blogs, thank you very much. (wink, wink)

Anonymous said...

As I wrote in a post on the previous thread, the MSM is always looking for the Criminal White Athlete.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, KC, for continuing to expose the "usual media suspects".

There were NO 'sex scandals', at an 'off campus' house, as the MSM reported about DUKE in
March 2006. Drugs and weapons were not at this location. (Dham Police did a thorough seach)

There was a 'sex scandal' a year later when a Duke student was RAPED
at an off campus house. (The rapist, though Duke chose not to acknowledge, was a person who has been charged and convicted with other rapes.) Both illegal drugs and weapons were found at this location. (Dham Police did a thorough search.)

There was a 'sex scandal' when Duke used donated money to sponsor a "Sex Workers Art Show" . (check out details)

Shall we discuss multiple additional college level and professional 'players' accusations?
or are they 'excused' from MSM consideration?

We can only hope that MSM will even notice anything that does not suit their own very biased view.

No Justice, No Peace said...

The excellent film, "The Lives of Others" is on the Sundance tonight. It is a very powerful film about the Stasi in East Germany.

Of course, I was immediately reminded of Duke's tolerant faculty and administration.

Gary Packwood said...

Ryan Paige 5/10/10 4:15 PM said...

...
...And I can't even list all the times that a high-profile athlete on a big-time college football or basketball team got into trouble (Lawrence Phillips comes to mind. I don't remember a single article saying that Nebraska should shut down their football team for the year when Phillips was arrested for beating up his girlfriend during that season).
::
(sigh)
Dude, whose side you working for?
I can't think of any and there aren't supposed to be any!
At all!
Ever!
::
GP

AMac said...

> the media learns nothing, and the media forgets nothing.

I had a civil and informative correspondence with Baltimore Sun Op-Ed writer Peter Prowitt. In taking issue with some of his article's assertions, this blog's archives were a useful source. Now he has its URL.

Some people won't learn much, but other people will. Best to keep an open mind!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous article on the UVA/Duke comparisons in Inside Higher Education, Professor.

There seems to be no shortage of columnists willing to get the Duke story perpetually and painfully wrong.

Observer

jgm said...

Don't know if Wendy is a communist, but it sure looks like she's had some "work" done.

Anonymous said...

From KC's post:

Having adjunct law professor Murphy on to discuss a sex crimes case is a little like—as we also recently saw—having former FEMA director Michael Brown on to discuss disaster response policy.

FEMA by law is NOT a first responder to disasters.

Anonymous said...

Oh wait, nothing actually happened at Duke.

That is the true story and why we must be ever vigilant with the MSM and their inability to hold other sporting programs to the same standards.