Writing in Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg, one of the nation’s most astute political commentators, urged politicians not to “lower the bar for candidates’ campaign bloggers.”
The occasion for his column? Amanda Marcotte’s apologia, in which she claimed that her departure from the campaign was a blow for those hoping to allow “everyday citizens to engage in politics in the language and manner that is comfortable for us, if not for the establishment.” If Marcotte’s comment is any indication, Rothenberg correctly observes, she and her ilk “believe that all ‘everyday, common people’ eschew civility and reason. Sorry, but that’s not the case. Not by a long shot.”
Marcotte and other populist bomb-throwers can write whatever they want—this is one of the nice things about a blog. But that freedom, Rothenberg argues, “doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held responsible for their comments or that mainstream reporters should pay much attention to them”—as Marcotte demanded when she attacked those who had criticized her writings on the lacrosse case. Indeed, “since campaign bloggers are no less campaign staffers than press secretaries, a campaign ought to take responsibility for hiring those people, including any embarrassing past behavior.”
Rothenberg concludes that Marcotte and her blogger colleague, Melissa McEwen, “would have been “fired immediately by Edwards if they had been in a traditional staff position.” Why should candidates apply a different standard to bloggers?
As if to prove Rothenberg’s point, Marcotte, having resigned in disgrace from the Edwards campaign, is again offering her theories on the lacrosse case. Her remarks came in comments from her following post: “I just want to remind you that having sex with someone too drunk to resist is against the law and you can be found guilty of rape if you do it.” Since there’s not a scintilla of evidence of any “sex” in the Duke case, much less a contention that the accuser was unable to resist because she was too drunk to resist (Nifong, as it’s worth remembering, once demonstrated to a national TV audience how aggressively the accuser “resisted”), it would seem that Marcotte’s post would have nothing to do with the Duke case.
But such a view, of course, would not allow for entering the mind of Amanda Marcotte. In her comment, she began by claiming that Ryan McFadyen “would defend a rapist who was caught in the act on videotape.” (The statement is demonstrably untrue, but facts aren’t exactly Marcotte’s friend.) Moreover, as another commenter told Marcotte:
As a blogger who claimed that your posts were satire, ironic and utilised literary techniques to make a point, surely you can recognise it when others use it to make their own point. So which is it Amanda? What you wrote was satire and didn’t divulge any hatred or bigotry of Catholics?
Then the above quote is also satire, as the writer claimed it was. It clearly uses hyperbole to make an ironic point. i.e.: That they would not behave in such a manner ever, even though many are prejudiced and bigoted to believe that they do. That to believe so is absurd . . .
Or are you implying that you get to be held to one standard and those you disagree with are held to another?
Marcotte, obviously, believes that she gets to be held to one standard, and her critics another. She then addressed anyone who has contended that no rape occurred. “No one talks to you,” Marcotte fumed, “because you are rape-loving scum . . . That you defend [the players] makes you such lowly, sleazy scum that it’s no wonder no one talks to you. They’re afraid by acknowledging you, they will catch the evil. Know this. Absorb it. Hope you enjoy sleeping at night, you sick, hateful bastards.”
This is the person that John Edwards wanted as his campaign blogger.
Even sympathetic commenters have had enough of Marcotte. Another wrote,
As someone with whom I agree in so many respects, I do not know why you are so dumb about the Duke lacrosse case, and why you continue to perpetuate the myths about it. This is a case over which the left wing should be outraged, it is a classic case of railroading innocent men, but just because the accused are white men and the accuser a black woman, you must pretend to believe her and join in railroading . . .
Feminists and the left in general are totally mad to support the Duke lacrosse prosecution, because it is a travesty of justice, and it will be used against feminists and more importantly genuine rape victims will have to fight it before they are able to fight their own, for years to come.
I urge you to reconsider your approach on this one, because, you are damaging those you claim to support.
Don’t count on a change from Marcotte anytime soon.
My colleague, Stuart Taylor, spoke about the case Friday in Memphis. The summary of his remarks, entitled “The Duke Lacrosse Case and What It Says About Our Criminal Justice Process, Academics, and News Media”:
What it says, he suggested, is mostly bad: Durham N.C. prosecutor Mike Nifong made an "outrageous rush to judgment," most of the media botched the story because of their political correctness and general shadiness, and Duke professors and administrators were spineless and all too eager to join Nifong’s side.
Two prosecutors served on the panel with him; both provided what could charitably be termed unimpressive commentary. Federal prosecutor Tim DiScenza said that while Nifong might have “violated every prohibition we have about disclosure of evidence,” in the federal system, North Carolina rules might be different. (Actually, they’re not more lenient, and in any case, the Constitution does apply in North Carolina.) He also chastised Taylor for criticizing the media’s coverage of the case, and for suggesting that grand juries are rubber stamps of prosecutors.
DiScenza’s remarks continue what has been an unusual pattern in this case: the prosecutors who try to find excuses for Nifong. The most egregious figure to behave in this fashion has been former Denver district attorney Norm Early.
Here’s Early, on CNN, on December 26:
I don't know whether [Nifong] has done a great job, an average job, a medium job of handling this case, because I don’t know all the evidence. But what I do know is that the defense has done a very good job of trying to smear the victim and smear Mr. Nifong.
He did not possess enough information on December 26 to evaluate Nifong's performance?! Early—as customary in his comments about the case—refused to supply any evidence to substantiate his allegation.
Just like the Trustees’ refusal to condemn the Duke faculty who misbehaved has created a false impression that extremists among the Group of 88 are characteristic of all Duke professors, so too do comments such as Early’s create a false impression that somehow Nifong’s behavior is the norm among prosecutors nationwide.
Those who want to return to events of last spring can sample this youtube video of one of the potbangers’ protests—in this case, their march on Provost Peter Lange’s house.
That people made snap judgments was unsurprising. What is striking, however, is the moral certainty of the potbangers. Based solely on an unsubstantiated allegation, they had no hesitation in taking absolute actions, and using the case to make broad statements about society.
And, of course, the potbangers, like 87 members of the Group of 88 (the exception is Math professor Arlie Petters), have not only refused to apologize but continue to defend the propriety of their actions.
The Chronicle has a new, and well-done blog, which contains a link to the Common performance containing one of the rapper’s two insults of the lacrosse players.
I am puzzled that this issue persists. As far as I understand (and if I’m wrong, I hope Duke students will correct me), the Last Day of Classes event is intended as a celebration for students. We have, in this case, a performer who insulted Duke students in a public, and vulgar, fashion. How can there be any doubt but that his invitation to perform should be rescinded?
Three arguments in favor of moving forward with the performance have been advanced: (1) the contract cancellation fee would take a bite out of the Student Activities budget; (2) there might not be enough time to book another act of comparable quality; (3) lots of other people, not just Common, rushed to judgment last spring.
Addressing (1), it would seem, provides a perfect opportunity for the Brodhead administration to encourage healing on campus, by volunteering to cover the cost of the cancellation fee out of University funds. Objections (2) and (3) are hard to take seriously.
A performer invited to campus has insulted students using a vulgar epithet as he grabbed his crotch. And yet the “campus culture” activists are quiet; from the Duke professors who have spent the last several months behaving as if they were latter-day cultural Puritans, we hear nothing. Why is this selective silence not surprising?
[Update, 10.57am]: A rare useful article in today's Herald-Sun notes that Mike Nifong is becoming legendary in federal circuit courts. Nifong's actions have made it into two opinions, one in the 5th Circuit and the other in the 6th Circuit, as emblematic of prosecutorial misconduct.
Bill Thomas on the development: "I am not aware of any other case from the circuit courts that single out a prosecutor by name to exemplify prosecutorial misconduct. It is an extremely unusual circumstance. I have never seen it done before in my career of more than 25 years."
In the Wonderland that is Durham, public information officers seem to practice disinformation instead. A case in point is DPD spokesperson Kammie Michael. She reached her high point in the lacrosse case on March 28, when she definitively stated, in writing, that Kim Roberts was not the first 911 caller. In fact, Roberts told the responding officers on March 14 that she had made the call, and she reiterated the point in her March 22 statement.
So, two options exist: (a) Michael was lying; (b) Michael is incompetent, and gave the press wrong information because she didn’t know how to find accurate material.
It appears Michael’s performance in the lacrosse case was not a one-shot deal, and the matter has now come to concern Mayor Bill Bell. A week ago Saturday, a Durham police officer Charles Callemyn, was killed in a traffic accident. Michael told both reporters and a list-serv that Callemyn “had not been involved in any prior traffic accidents while he was a Durham officer” and “had a clean driving record” with the department. Both statements were wrong.
Bell was blunt in his response: “We need to check our facts before we put information out to the public. If that wasn’t done, we need to understand why.”
The episode came on top off inaccurate information recently supplied to the City Council by Police Chief Steve Chalmers. Meanwhile, the information officer appears to have gone out of business: “As per Deputy Chief Ron Hodge, I am under a directive not to respond to any further questions from The Herald-Sun at this time. Please have Bob Ashley contact Deputy Chief Hodge if you need any further clarification.”
If she’s not supplying information, for what is she being paid?
One final item: despite addressing the theme of Michael providing inaccurate information to the press, the Herald-Sun article ignored the deception practiced by Michael in the lacrosse case, even though it involved a H-S reporter (Brianne Dopart). Apparently, Editor Ashley's loyalty to Nifong's prosecution transcends even solidarity with a fellow reporter on staff.