Friday, April 04, 2014

Durham News: Cohan Book "Fiction"

[Update, 6.43pm, 6 April: The left-leaning and very politically correct Salon has now reviewed the book; and even there, in a publication that might be expected to endorse the Cohan/Nifong "something happened" thesis, no such endorsement occurred. Quite the reverse, in fact: reviewer Laura Miller seems to accept that no rape occurred, and instead (oddly) frames the case as a lament on how actual victims are now less likely to come forward. (Miller, as expected, does issue generic warm comments about Cohan, whose worldview is very much at home on the pages of Salon.) So which publication will endorse the Nifong/Cohan "something happened" thesis? The Herald-Sun? That seems to be about Cohan's last chance.

A reminder, I have reviewed the book for Commentary, and will have some posts about the book here starting on Tuesday, when the book is formally published.]

[Update, 6.05pm, 6 April: In a just-published Times review, Susannah Meadows offers some kinder words about Cohan's writing than does Wilson. She also suggests that Cohan "has added a lot of new details to the narrative," but she mentions only one new item, the relationship between Coach K and the Duke board. The other two items Meadows references (Ben Himan's and Roy Cooper's comments on the investigation) were known by summer 2007. I've counted less than ten new, case-related items uncovered in more than 600 pages, mostly minor points and nothing relating to the criminal allegations.

That said, the takeaway from the Meadows review confirms the perspective already offered in the Neff article. She notes (and having read the book, I agree) that Cohan "hasn’t unearthed new evidence. There is still nothing credible to back up the account of an unreliable witness." She also observes--again confirming the Neff impression--that Cohan largely allows Nifong to make non-credible assertions without challenge.

Finally, Meadows repeats Cohan's assertion--also referenced yesterday in the Daily News--that Duke settled with the three falsely accused players for $60 million. In the book, Cohan offers no evidence to corroborate the claim, and appears not to have noticed the article from the well-connected Bernie Reeves that the settlement was around $18 million. I have no reason to doubt Reeves' reporting.]

Bob Wilson reviews the new Cohan book and leaves little doubt as to his interpretation, labeling the book "a 650-page attempt to resuscitate disgraced former district attorney Mike Nifong." Though he expresses the sentiment more harshly, Wilson, like Neff, suggests that the book allows Nifong to present his interpretations virtually unchallenged, making Cohan's assertion that Neff hadn't read the book (when he text of Neff's article made clear that he had done so) even more bizarre.

"Let’s remember first off," Wilson notes, "that nothing Nifong says about his execrable attempt to railroad three Duke lacrosse players on sexual-assault charges can be taken at face value." (Generally convicted liars aren't the most reliable sources.) Yet Cohan accepts Nifong's recollections and new theories of the crime at face value.

Wilson dismisses the Cohan portrayal of Nifong as "lop-sided." He also discusses the book's coverage of campus culture, which he deems in some way "redeeming"; I have a slightly different take, as I'll discuss next week.

You can read the entire review here.

21 comments:

Chris Halkides said...

In the Cosmo interview Cohan said, "The defense was very skillful in finding procedural errors in the prosecution’s case..." Does he think that that a lineup which treads the guidelines of how to conduct them, as well as common sense, into the ground is a mere procedural error? Is discovery just a technicality? If the case had gone to trial on extremely dubious DNA and line-up evidence, there is no guarantee that a jury would ferret out the truth. I find Mr. Cohan's views about the supposed wisdom of having a trial to be at best naive and at worst disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

Even after Nifong's case had collapsed, TV Talking Heads and their guests were saying, "This case needs a trial."

Jim In San Diego said...

As Chris H. has pointed out, William Conan's motivation is a puzzle. He has written three fairly well received books on business and economics, including The Last Tycoon and the House of Cards, gritty exposes of the fall of Lazard Freres & Co, Bear Stearns, respectively. What in the world makes him interested, now, in the eight year old Lacrosse Rape Hoax? Why would he honestly spend a book rehabilitating someone like Mike Nifong?

Strangely, Mr. Conan responds to Joe Neff's critique of his sources and methodology with an uninformed ad hominem attack on Joe Neff. Usually, well done research and logical conclusions drawn therefrom are defended with facts and responsible argument. Not here.

Has anyone noted that Mr. Conan is a graduate of Duke University? And, for ten years or more he has orbited among the business elite of the nation - folks like, say, Robert Steel, and the other members of the Board of Trustees of Duke University?

Perhaps there are darker motivations afoot. Perhaps Mr. Conan has gotten something, or wants something in the future, that he feels he can get here.

Jim Peterson

KC Johnson said...

To Jim:

Also odd from Cohan: the Neff point was clearly true. So why challenge it? Everyone--not just those who saw and early or review copy--will see the book next week, so it's not as if Cohan can keep the bias secret

Anonymous said...

Did the topics/targets of Conan's other books come with a cadre of people well armed with the facts and highly motivated to challenge him when he screwed up? I would guess not.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing puzzling about William Cohan's motivation. He wants to resurrect Tom Wolfe's Great White Defendant(s). Has anyone forgotten how eager media types were to believe Nifong? And that "something happened in the bathroom?"

Anonymous said...

If the whole thing was conducted to unite people of color to join together in outrage against persons of non-color as a common perceived enemy for the purposes of politics and elections, than the purpose of the book could be to try to obliterate that fact by resurrecting the case as something realistic and not just the political drama for purposes of mind control that it was. If duke wanted to have a case that was not conducted in the manner that it was, then the case would have been whatever else duke wanted.

Anonymous said...

Eight years until the case is brought up in again like it is in this book by a Duke author - must be election time again.

Anonymous said...

Does Cohan try to claim Mangum's murder conviction is a big frame-up?

KC Johnson said...

To the 6.14:

No, but unrebutted he allows her to imply she was innocent.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 6:08 pm: who said he screwed up in his other books? They were quite well done.

Anonymous said...

In his Cosmo interview, Cohan described Crystal Mangum as:

"quite poised, quite intelligent, quite articulate, and quite clear thinking."

Anonymous said...

"quite poised, quite intelligent, quite articulate, and quite clear thinking."

In other words, she played him for a fool, and he fell for it.

Anonymous said...

Is/are Bob Wilson and Linwood Wilson one-and-the-same?

Is/are Wilson a Communist?

Anonymous said...

What political party does this book support in any way? Is it political or just Duke being Duke?

KC Johnson said...

To the 10.23:

The book reflects a kind of Upper West Side, bien-pensant liberalism, but the politician it most strongly criticizes is Dem Roy Cooper. The only agenda is pro-Nifong.

Anonymous said...

With that scenerio you have Duke excused for accussing the team in the manner in which they did because of what Nifong did, although of course Nifong was doing what Duke wanted in the first place.

You then have AG Cooper vilified since he is now 'enemy' number one to the republican (and democrat/independent/liberal?) Dukies with his bid to run for governor against a Duke republican governor and the opportunity for a republican AG in the position he might leave behind, but only if he loses.

Then you have the public brain-washed again about that case, either way, in the middle of the current Mangum murder trial that leaves Duke's actions in dubious question again.

Anonymous said...

What is the political party of the author, do you know? (whatever duke wants/needs is an option on this ballot)

Sandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

KC posted earlier: "Neff observes that “most of the new content in the book comes from Cohan’s interviews with Nifong . . ."

So, the 10-or-so new items that you have noticed, KC - are they ~10 new & true (as far as you can tell) items, or does Nifong's "sandbagged" assertion count?

Cohan claims to have come up with a 'magisterial' treatise by interviewing:

- Nifong
- Mangum
- McFadyen (who spoke only of the fateful American Psycho email?

Anyone else interviewed?

"Magisterial', one might add, with little or no analysis as one reviewer said.

KC Johnson said...

To the 7.03:

He also interviewed Bob Steel and Nifong's attorney, and maybe Peter Wood.

That's about it.