Thursday, May 20, 2010

Regarding Dr. Kimmel

[Update below, 6.18pm, 5-20.]

Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, has a research profile (“Gender, Sexuality, Masculinity, Political and Social Movements”) that would put him at home with the race/class/gender-obsessed Group of 88. Kimmel’s personal website describes him as “among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today”; his most recent book is Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

Kimmel is no stranger to the Duke campus. In 2009, he gave a campus lecture on “Adventures in Guyland.” The lecture’s two co-sponsors were the Women’s Center, formerly headed by Prof. Robyn (“Campus Enforcer”) Wiegman and the Kenan Institute of Ethics, formerly headed by Prof. Kathy (“speciesism”) Rudy. Keep those connections in mind.

Yesterday, Kimmel penned an article for the Huffington Post offering the now-familiar meme that the killing of former UVA lacrosse player Yaerdley Love by former men’s lacrosse player George Huguely illustrates “lacrosse and the entitled elite male athlete.” Kimmel argued that “such guys [as Huguely] are the epitome of what I describe in my book Guyland as the ‘culture of entitlement.’ They think they can do anything they want and get away with it, and usually they’re right.”

Kimmel claimed that Huguely benefited from “a culture of protection” typical of lacrosse—“a bubble of class privilege, athletic status and a fraternal wagon-circling when things go wrong. If things go terribly wrong, the culture of protection -- including parents, coaches and alumni boosters -- hire high-priced lawyers who manage to get records expunged and witnesses to forget what they saw. Lacrosse’s bubble of protection is a bit different from that of football: It's a country-club entitlement, based more on class than athletic revenue.”

It’s difficult to generalize about an entire sport based on one incident, so Prof. Kimmel provided some additional examples to strengthen his thesis:

It was a bunch of lacrosse players from Glen Ridge (N.J.) High School who gang-raped a 14-year-old moderately retarded girl in 1989, and it was members of the Duke lacrosse team who were accused of raping a stripper hired for a team party. (Yes, yes, I know: The woman who accused them turned out to be a lying schemer; the guys were exonerated. But it's interesting that their friends and classmates found the story utterly plausible, as they told countless reporters. And the team did, after all, hire strippers for their team party in violation of all team and university rules.)

The paragraph above contains three unambiguous statements of fact:

(1) That the Duke lacrosse captains violated “all team and university rules” when they hired strippers;

(2) That “friends and classmates” [emphasis added] of the Duke lacrosse players told “countless” reporters that they considered at least one version of false accuser Crystal Mangum’s tale “utterly plausible”;

(3) That high school lacrosse players raped a mentally challenged 14-year-old girl in New Jersey.

None of these statements has any basis in reality.

(1) The hiring of strippers for a spring break party was a tasteless and stupid decision. But, like the roughly 20 Duke student groups or teams that apparently hired strippers in the 2005-6 academic year, the lacrosse captains violated no existing Duke rules in their decision.

I e-mailed Prof. Kimmel to ask for a citation to even one “team and university rule” (much less “all” rules) the lacrosse players allegedly violated. He replied, “I remembered reading that the then-president said something of that kind when it happened.” He provided no citation for the article in which he encountered this statement. No record of such an assertion by President Richard Brodhead exists.

(2) It’s quite true that a small minority of Duke students—and a more significant contingent of faculty (about 88 of them, to be precise)—not only found Mangum’s tall tales “utterly plausible” but made public, guilt-presuming statements on the case. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised that upon his invited visits to Duke, Prof. Kimmel discovered that figures such as Profs. Weigman and Rudy presumed guilt. But faulting the lacrosse players for dozens of the Duke professors setting aside the academy’s traditional fealty to due process in a rush to judgment would be a little like officials in the Celtics-Magic series calling a foul on Paul Pierce for getting his head in the way of Dwight Howard’s elbow.

In any event, and more significant: just who were the friends of the lacrosse players who told countless reporters that they found at least one version of Mangum’s fabrications (presumably not the one in which she claimed to have been raped while suspended in mid-air) utterly plausible? I asked Prof. Kimmel to provide me with some citations to corroborate his claim.

He declined to do so, and merely said, “I suspect that I relied on those reports from faculty [emphasis added] and the students I read about in the same media outlets as any other New Yorker, plus a couple of lecture trips to Duke in the past three or four years, during which time I spoke to quite a few students and faculty [emphasis added] who said they weren’t at all surprised.”

Nothing in the above reply, of course, relates to Prof. Kimmel’s remark about “friends” of the lacrosse players doing anything, much less telling “countless” reporters that they had found Mangum’s story “utterly plausible.” His presenting as fact that the players’ friends found Mangum’s story “utterly plausible” is highly misleading at best and unprofessionally inaccurate at worst.

(3) As part of his effort to discuss the particularly unappealing characteristics of lacrosse players, even in comparison to football players, Prof. Kimmel also mentioned a 1989 gang-rape by lacrosse players—of a mentally-challenged 14 year-old-girl—in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

Some might argue that this example was a bit of a stretch—two crimes, committed 20 years apart, hardly confirm the allegedly pernicious culture of a sport.

In any event, and much more significant: the Glen Ridge rape wasn’t committed by lacrosse players. It was committed by football players. (The victim was 17, not 14.) And in 1989, at the time of the rape, Glen Ridge High School didn’t even have a lacrosse program.

In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Prof. Kimmel if there was another 1989 Glen Ridge gang rape, this one committed by lacrosse players, to which he referred. He did not reply.

Doubtless Prof. Kimmel did not write an essay for a high-profile publication intentionally littered with factually inaccurate or wildly misleading statements—statements he based on recollections of unspecified articles that a “New Yorker” might have read four years ago. Indeed, I have little doubt that Prof. Kimmel actually believed that what he wrote was true. In the groupthink atmosphere that dominates so many humanities and social science departments, “facts” that conform to the prevailing narrative, such as those Prof. Kimmel presented in the quoted paragraph, get “remembered” in ideologically convenient ways, to such an extent that a prominent professor could pen an article for one of the highest-trafficked news sites on the internet and not even bother to check his assertions.

For those in the reality-based community, however, such cavalier disregard of facts is nothing short of extraordinary, and is fatal to the credibility of the author.

[Update: Prof. Kimmel e-mails to say that the factual errors have been removed from his item as it was cross-posted, and that these errors will also be removed from the HuffPost item. (As of this writing, the HuffPost item has not been changed.) No notation exists in the cross-posted item that an edit to remove factual inaccuracies has occurred.]


Quasimodo said...

Odd that "friends and classmates" could find Mangum's accusations believable; when the Coleman commission invited students to come forward and testify about any bad behavior by the lacrosse team, not one student came forward.

An article in Tower magazine in 2005 cited the relative anonymity of the lacrosse team as one reason for their academic success (IOW, they weren't BMOC). They slid under the radar.

But that wouldn't fit the narrative...

DHall said...

FWIW -- the article by Dr. Kimmel was also posted at the website In the article there, the paragraph with the statements about the Duke Lacrosse team and Glen Ridge High School have been removed.

skwilli said...

"..I have little doubt that Prof. Kimmel actually believed that what he wrote was true."

True dat(sic). And there is no combating that kind of incompetence.

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

His credibility is enhanced by supporting these shibboleths(shibboleth defined as a word or phrase which distinguishes one group from another.) So this meme will not be extinguished as long as it is such useful shorthand.

Michael said...

When two individuals with backgrounds and viewpoints as different as Benedict XVI and Al Gore write and speak extensively on the pernicious decline of reason in the western world, there must be something to that point, no?

Prof. Kimmel demonstrates that having a popular axe to grind trumps the "search for Truth" in the modern academy every time.

Anonymous said...

As to the Glen Ridge case: Understandably KC may have been reluctant to delve into details, for fear (although he is pretty fearless) of appearing to defend some pretty awful behavior by those high-school FOOTBALL players. (Hey, it was Kimmel, not KC, who made a big deal over the disctinction between football and lacrosse).

But in truth there was no rape in the usual sense, much less "gang rape" in that case. A bunch of high-school jerks took advantage of a 17-year-old girl's mental limitations, by cajoling her into masturbating with an object (which one of them lubricated for the purpose) in front of these bozos. A couple of the guys also allegedly touched her breasts.

Certainly NOT a pretty tale, clearly unethical even for high-schoolers, and ultimately illegal -- but it is a further distortion in the underlying argument, to refer to this ugly incident as "gang rape", which it was not.

Sorry to nitpick, but why let Kimmel get away with taking even further liberties with the facts.

A Duke Dad said...

Facts ? ?

We doan need no steenkin Facts.

Prof. Kimmel is guilty of Cannibalism. ... He uses a canned meme.

How can you engage someone who lives in a world of "well, I think I must have heard it somewhere".

Anonymous said...

A question, if I may. Has Kimmel ever written about the criminal behavior of college and pro football and basketball players? This includes not a few sexual assaults.

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Sidney? said...

Well, to Dr Kimmel's credit, he has made the factual changes that KC pointed out to him.

KC Johnson said...

To the 6.33pm:

Not exactly: he simply eliminated the paragraph.

If he made the factual changes, of course, he'd have an essay where one para. fundamentally contradicted his desired thesis.

Anonymous said...

Is Kimmel a Comunist?

Anonymous said...

“I don’t think it really will ever be over … when I die, they’ll say ‘one of the three Duke lacrosse rape suspects died today. He led a life and did this but he was one of the three Duke lacrosse rape suspects.’”

David Evans 4/2007

Anonymous said...

Also, didn't the women's lax team get pilloried by members of the G88precisely because, as friends of the men's lax team they did not believe the allegations were plausible?


wayne fontes said...

I find the repetition of the privileged/entitled meme to be the most striking aspect of these latest shots at the Lax team. They are often the sole criticism of in an article and at this point signal to me that the critic has nothing valid to say. The intent is to shame the Lax players but I doubt that outside of PC circles it hits home with too many people.

My assumption has always been that most parents would be thrilled to say their child was a Division I athlete at a prestigious school. It reflects well on the parents who have achieved enough in life to be able to afford the tuition and on the kids who have made the grade academically and athletically.

Mangum had many laudatory articles and posts about her early on. She was praised for some dubious achievements like serving in the military (less than honorable discharge)or the mundane achievement of being a mother (3 illegitimate). At the heart of this praise is an attempt to elevate being a victim into a virtue. It's a misguided, harmful impulse. Being a victim sucks and often is the direct result of choices made by the victims themselves.

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Quasi!

Has anyone read the comments to the article in the Huffington Post? I hope someone pointed out the fictions contained in Kimmel's article. I haven't been to that site in about 6 months because it has become a neon-ized Drudge Report, and it takes about 6 minutes to load on Big Blue because of all the ads and videos.

halides1 said...

I would like to second RD’s point. In addition, other students who knew Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann had exactly the opposite reaction to the one that Professor Kimmel described. Nader Baydoun and R. Stephanie Good’s “A Rush to Injustice” recounts Duke student Emma Stevenson and her friends discussing the rape case just prior to indictments (pp. 155-156). “They joked that Nifong would probably indict someone as unlikely as Collin Finnerty because Collin was one of the nicest guys on the team and one of the least likely to hurt anyone.” Reporting several months later, Peter Applebome
wrote about the time immediately after the names of the first two indicted players were announced, “Nona Farahnik, who lived in the same dormitory as Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Seligmann, said, ‘When they said it was Reade and Collin, everyone knew it didn't happen.’”


Anonymous said...

Are there no university or faculty senate-based disciplinary bodies to which purveyors of such blatant errors and misguided, so-called academic publications can be held accountable? If university students are expected to abide by honesty in submitting their work, should not faculty be held to , at least, that same standard in their publications/work?

I hope JC will point out these factual errors in fact via publishable communicque to Huffington and any other point of publication.Such outlets also have a responsibility to corroberate submissions.

Anonymous said...

And John Burness at a dinner in 12-2006 with 2 trustees referred to a former captain of the Duke women's team as a laxititute, who happened to be sitting at the next table, with a member of the men's team.

Anonymous said...

K.C. parsed this one just right--there were, indeed, some students at Duke, along with faculty, who thought the charges were plausible, but they were mostly people who didn't really know anyone on the lacrosse team. From fairly early on, their friends doubted the charges could be true, and once the individual defendants were named, their friends were certain. Not just the women's lax team (who were, indeed pilloried for their support of the men's team by assorted columnists) but many, many students in Edens (where both Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty lived) supported the team with banners hanging from the windows and home-made t-shirts.

Anonymous said...

And "Doctor" Kimmel is a university professor?! When will colleges and universities start requiring their professors in the Identity Studies departments / programs to **get it right**?

I hope some widely-read publication prints a survey of the job prospects for graduates from the various college majors. I suspect Women's Studies, African-American Studies, and similar touchy-feely indoctrination majors would be right at the bottom.

Gus W.

William L. Anderson said...

What else can we expect from people like this? They bring their fantasies into the classrooms, and when they are challenged, they fly into a "How DARE YOU" rage.

Keep up the good work, K.C. You still are minding the store!!

Anonymous said...

Well, Prof. Kimmel is taking a beating in his comment section. Ouch.

Sounds like his son will be an avid player of this sport he derides with such intellectual carelessness.

And he's in Brooklyn...practically your neighbor, KC.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info about the comments, observer. I don't go there anymore because every other blog post is about Octomom or something even less relevant.

Perhaps Kimmel can put his two pages between two slightly thicker pages and pawn it off as a book. I'm sure the Duke University Press would be interested.

Kilgore said...

Thank you for challanging Kimmel KC. He has long been a proponent of the "group88 think" non-sensical garbage. He has made a living off being anti-male and gyno-centric. He gets accolades for his misandry and continues on the same path regardless of the sort of honest and logical feedback that you have offered. He simply doesn't seem to be very bright. He is a danger to humanitarianism.

Anonymous said...

Is Kimmel a Communist?

Anonymous said...

Well call me a sexist neanderthal, but I think it's just a hoot that Kimmel's CV reveals that he got his undergraduate degree from Vassar! in 1972! (it became coed in 1969). He's likely a product of some perverse/reverse affirmative action process. I find that somehow very satisfying.

RL alum (Duke)'75

Joey said...

All I can say is "wow." The way the Kimmel types try to hold so fast to their fantasies is almost unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Haven't checked this blog for months - so, when I drop by, what do I find? Surprise, surprise: KC's spotted another academic trying to slip in a use of the outrageous Duke fraud to support his/her meal-ticket, that wonderful race/gender/privilege narrative that works to hard to explain everything. Honest to God, it's the quantum theory of the social sciences.

KC gets on it, reminding said academic of the uncomfortable facts, and (here's the only shocker) it turms out that the academic taken to task is more "fact-sensitive" than most. After having first published his misrepresentations, which he must have known damned well were misrepresentations, he acknowledges those other nagging little details, the facts, by excising fom his article its most egregious lies - as though that fixes anything. The damage has already been done: the Duke story has been completely misrepresented one more time. Its lessons about rich white male power and poor black female victimization are still "true", and will remain so - in fact, will be come even truer as more time passes, and fewer recall the actual details.

One can assign the victim-industry's reasoning all kinds of fancy labels, but it all boils down to the fact that even those who begrudgingly acknowledge its faudulence see the Duke "rape" case as the exception that proves the rule. Geez, many people thought it was true, worried it was true, in fact an appalling number -at least 88- clearly hoped it was true,so obviously it was true.

The Duke lacrosse players have been rolled up in a narrative that they will not escape in their lifetimes.

Leno said...

Kimmel a communist? I thought he was a comedian.

Anonymous said...

KC- thank you for continuing to monitor articles that reference the DUKE LAX case. Even though it has been well reported that numerous persons in law enforcement were found to have acted criminally and negligently, references to any kind of illegal behavior continue, for the most part, to be made by the media towards these three "falsely accused" and "innocent" student athletes and LAX players. For some reason, the sport of LAX, which has about .005% (made up and possible exaggeration) as many cases of violent crimes attached to its players than from participants of the major sports, seems to get stereotyped as a sport with athletes prone to commit violent and sex based crimes.
This article is so false and unsupported by facts that it defies logic how an editor could allow this be published. With this type of reporting, it is no wonder that some people still think a sexual assault of some sort happened. I think Paul Newman’s character in the movie SLAPSHOT said it best, “Dicky Dunn wrote this so it must to be true”, despite knowing the obvious falseness of the reports but suggesting the reaction of the readers and which explains the public’s false conclusions. No less than a full retraction of the article with an admission of faulty reporting and an apology to Reade, Colin, Dave, Duke LAX and the entire sport of LAX is in order.
KC- you would be performing a valuable service by publishing another book documenting some of the articles since the declaration of “innocent “ was made that still suggest that these players are the criminals. The public needs to compare the accomplishments of the three accused athletes and the Duke LAX program to the law enforcement personnel, the prosecutor, the accuser and The Group of 88 since the declaration of innocent. “Until Proven Innocent” is not over there should be a Part II and likely a Part III before we can put an end to the story of what happened March 13, 2006. The injustice placed upon Reade, Collin and Dave is ongoing and needs to be curtailed.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that, as of today, over three months from this post, Kimmel has still not updated his HuffPo article.

Sorry you got lied to, Prof. Johnson, though I have to imagine that you're used to it by this point.