Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pearlman Defends Roberts

One striking element of the reaction to the lacrosse case has been the general willingness of those who rushed to judgment (i.e., the Group of 88, Selena Roberts) to attempt to cover up what they did in spring 2006—rather than simply apologize for their rush to judgment—and the willingness of their apologists (Charlie Piot and Robert Zimmerman are the best examples here) to accept their after-the-fact rationalizations even when those rationalizations directly contradict contemporary documentary evidence.

Add former SI columnist Jeff Pearlman to the latter list, based on this interview with Tyler Hissey:

Tyler: With her book coming out, Selena Roberts continued to take a lot of heat for her Duke Lacrosse columns. Despite evidence proving that Roberts got the issue dead wrong--the story was about the systematic abuse of innocent young men being railroaded by a corrupt prosecutor and a media willing to rush to accuse, not the oppression of minority women--she has not only refused to apologize, she continued to make baseless assertions in defense of her view while promoting her tell-all book about Alex Rodriguez. As many bloggers and Jason Whitlock noted, it was tough to accept any fact from an unnamed source in her book without a grain of salt after his refusal to take accountability for her Duke columns. You wrote a couple of posts defending her career, but, in light of this Fire Joe Morgan-style analysis courtesy of Duke case expert K.C. Johnson, do you feel any differently on the matter?

Jeff: I don't, because I don't think what she wrote was nearly as terrible as people made it out to be. If you read her work at the time, it's more an attack of the culture, not the athletes themselves. And she was right, in that regard. [emphasis added] That said, would I have handled the aftermath differently? Probably. The one thing I've learned the hard way in this business: Acknowledging shortcomings almost always goes well in the long run. Again, I didn't think her stuff was nearly as offensive as many do. But clearly it was taken in a certain way--one I don't think she intended.

As the link to DIW pointed out, even accepting her absurd after-the-fact rationalization that she was writing about the “culture,” not the “crime,” Roberts was factually wrong in what she had to say about the team’s alleged “culture” in her March 31, 2006 column. In that column, it’s worth remembering, Roberts mentioned not the players' alleged racism or sexism but instead claimed that the team’s anti-snitch “culture” explained why none of the players had cooperated with police—even though the captains had fully cooperated with the police and the players’ attorneys were begging rogue DA Mike Nifong to examine their exculpatory evidence.

I can see where Pearlman would want to defend a friend. But describing Roberts’ column in a blatantly misleading fashion is far beyond the requirements of friendship.


Anonymous said...

Quoting Pearlman:

"But clearly it was taken in a certain way--one I don't think she intended."

This is a standard rationalization used by bad actors -- which amounts to: "Gee, I didn't intend to scramble my baby's brain while shaking it violently."

In this context, it's action, not intention, that counts.

Duke Prof

Anonymous said...

Selena long ago decided she couldn't apologize for her obvious mistakes and bias in this case. She thus had to come up with some sort of spin to explain them. She decided on "I was writing about the culture, not the crime."

As KC has frequently (and more than convincingly) pointed out, this is transparently bogus: she most certainly wrote about the "crime", and got many things badly wrong about the culture. She was, and remains, a lying scoundrel.

But, weak as it is, she and her supporters - like scoundrels everywhere - cling to their irrational rationalization because there simply isn't anything else they can hold onto (having absolutely ruled out the option of facing the truth).

Anonymous said...

Pearlman: "The one thing I've learned the hard way in this business: Acknowledging shortcomings almost always goes well in the long run."

How 'bout you go explain that to Selena?

Mike Lee said...

I've written about this before and I really cannot wrap my mind around the thought process. This is particularly true in the case of college professors. I am amazed and absolutely puzzled as to why these well educated people cannot simply admit error and apologize.

This is the aspect of the case that is the most astounding to me. I can understand the rush to judge, the actions of Nifong, the protests, all of it. But I cannot understand why college professors and other smart people cannot simply say, I'm sorry I was wrong I apologize.

It's a sad commentary on all of the people who acted inappropriately and makes them very small in my eyes. It is particularly pathetic when you consider many of these people are professors at a University like Duke.

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest and quit beating around the bush. Roberts lied (intentionally or not) and she needs to be called on it.

Has she been asked about the outright false information contained in her column concerning the lack of police cooperation?

Gary Packwood said...

Cash Cow of Culture

It is extraordinarily difficult to twist the phrase GROUP-THINK into the term CULTURE although there are many more potential readers for articles about 'culture' as we found out via the CCI.

If fact there is just no end to the blathering that can surround a culture of commenting on culture.

Group-Think allegations need some proof or at least a couple of facts tossed into the second or third paragraph of an article.

Journalists will need to be pulled kicking and screaming away for their new found cash cow of culture lest they be sent out into the real world involving listening and interviewing.

I just stop reading when I hit the phrase ...Some Say!

No justice, no peace said...

From "Yes! Fifty Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive"

"#28 Admitting you’re wrong makes people trust you more. Company A published an investors relations report, contributing slump in sales to overall economic climate. Company B said slump of sales was relevant to a few bad decisions by top management. Net result? Investors viewed company B more positively. You’d think that they’d be viewed as a bunch of screw-ups, but admission of a mistake made investors more confident the situation was under control, while company A investors got the uneasy feeling of the ship floating in the waters with captain losing control."

What are they teaching kids in schools these days? One would think it common sense to admit ones mistakes.

Jim in San Diego said...

Actions count.

So does intent, in many many ways.

Selena Roberts acted. She also did exactly what she intended to do.

I would not give her any slack on this.

Jim Peterson

skwilli said...

When they are wrong, they are wrong. They will only change their tune when faced with consequences for their actions, which will likely never happen. I hope there is an afterlife with an accounting at the pearly gates, just to see them try to weasel out of it one more time. I'll take a front row seat for that.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, in the "alternative" media, KC gets some support.

In a column titled, "NYT: DUKE LACROSSE PLAYERS KILLED MEREDITH KERCHER", Ann Coulter writes:

"[T]his is how the [The New York] Times portrays all criminal prosecutions: Ruthless prosecutor railroads innocent bystanders for mysterious reasons. (Unless the victim is a late-term abortionist or the accused is a Duke lacrosse player.)


Anonymous said...

The NY Times coverage of the Lax Case was nothing short of disgraceful. Between Roberts' columns and Duff Wilson's so-called reporting did they get anything right? Talk about agenda driven journalism!

At least Ruth Sheehan at the N&O had the decency to publish a column saying she was wrong. Apparently Selena Roberts and the Times are not to be held to the high standards of a regional NC newspaper.

So much for the newspaper of record.

Debrah said...

Similar to media organizations, the Jay Schalin column at Minding the Campus describes in stunning detail the way in which people in academic administrations rationalize their destructive and dishonest behavior.

In this offering readers will get more of a glimpse into the mindset of those in the highest positions of the academy and its eerie culture of inauthenticity.

The UNC system is currently trying to put a spin on the unethical behavior of some of the top administrators at one of their universities which is detailed here.

You can see a strong correlation with Duke regarding the way they conduct their business.

I particularly loved the way he describes the personality types who hold these positions.

In any organization people with like minds and shared sensibilities---and most especially the media---will readily obfuscate and lie for their own as Pearlman does here for Roberts.

The media and the academy do seem to be stunningly proficient in this endeavor.

Gary Packwood said...

Debrah 6/24/09 5:47 PM said...

...Similar to media organizations, the Jay Schalin column at Minding the Campus describes in stunning detail the way in which people in academic administrations rationalize their destructive and dishonest behavior.
....In this offering readers will get more of a glimpse into the mindset of those in the highest positions of the academy and its eerie culture of inauthenticity.
Good article from Minding the Campus. Thanks

I would suggest a slightly simpler explanation as most of these folks slowly over time come to see themselves as overseers of a sovereign nation with a command and control system of governance.

It helps if there are twenty or thirty alums continually floating around who feel the same way.

Oh, Richard the wine is divine.

And of course the G88 and reporters sans serif an ethical compass know that and milk it for all that it is worth.

It takes a village.

Debrah said...



Very funny, and so true.

That column really captured the mindset of those in administration. The guy Oblinger really thought he'd get by with all that he did.

But, in the end, he still has a cushy teaching position waiting for him. Not much of a punishment.

Now it's been discovered that many of his emails are missing from the time in question.

No doubt, Duke's Gang of 88 and Duke's administration have deleted many of theirs from the last few years.

Of course those people know what's going on as they fake surprise and lack of memory.

Being scrutinized beyond their denials has been a shock to them.

And, yes, it does take many players for their show to go on.

Chris Halkides said...


I think that professors in the physical or biological sciences have an easier time admitting that they are wrong than professors from other disciplines. Scientists often try to disprove a hypothesis, and accept it if they fail to disprove it. Plus, a mentor usually tries to impart the superiority of the data over the student’s cherished beliefs. Some sample quotes: “The data are the data.” “Don’t fall in love with your own ideas.” “When you do an experiment and it turns out the way you expected, that’s good. When it turns out the way you didn’t expect, that’s even better, because now you have learned something.” I am not saying that physical and biological scientists never stubbornly cling to their ideas. What I am saying is that they are often forced to change their minds in a way that cannot always occur in other fields of inquiry. Lest anyone think I am patting myself on the back too much, I speak as one who had to change his mind substantially about many aspects of this case.