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KC Johnson: the other Duke Lacrosse prosecutor

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at the crusades mounted on both sides of the Duke lacrosse case. The first has an introduction and overview. The second and third are about the potbanging protest and its connection to and impact on the controversy surrounding the “listening” statement. This one turns to the other side of the coin—KC Johnson and his blog Durham-in-Wonderland (DIW).

DIW has its virtues. Johnson has a remarkable ability to synthesize information coming in from all sides and quickly turn it into cogent text. And what he writes about is well documented and well linked, so the blog is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in tracking down a document, an event, or a quote from this or that phase of the scandal. Gathering and organizing all the detail and technicality of a legal proceeding is something he seems well suited for, and as far as I can tell his coverage of Nifong and the judicial and law enforcement aspects of the case is thorough and accurate. He’s thanked personally in the statements Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty made when they were exonerated—something he can justly be proud of.

Roughly half of the blog [correction: roughly a quarter] is devoted to the way the case played out at Duke, and there is, in my opinion, much less to be proud of on that side. Under his blog title, Johnson promises “comments and analysis about the Duke/Nifong case.” No matter what aspect of the case he’s writing about, though, he approaches it more as a prosecutor than an analyst (at times inquisitor is probably more apt). An analyst explains and explores and maybe even illuminates, if you’re lucky. Prosecution is by comparison much more focussed, selective, and agenda-driven. While the job of a criminal prosecutor is to build a case against the defendant(s), as I understand it his ultimate goal is not supposed to be conviction but the correct verdict. The big villain of the lacrosse case was a prosecutor who cared about nothing but the conviction. Johnson has prosecuted the so-called “Group of 88” Duke faculty in the court of public opinion with a similarly narrow and self-serving commitment to doing what it takes to get that guilty verdict, and he’s proven to be much better at it than Nifong. Given all the scorn he heaped on the now-disgraced criminal prosecutor, with good reason—for ignoring exculpatory evidence, manipulating public opinion and various other shoddy maneuvers—you’d think Johnson would be more principled in taking on his own chosen wrongdoers. If he is, it’s not by much.

That’s not to say that there’s any ethical equivalence—Nifong betrayed the trust he held as a public servant, and if he had been successful the consequences would have been catastrophic for the people effected. Even his failed prosecution turned lives upside down. The worst Johnson can do to any individual is trivial by comparison, but he still has enough influence on opinion and discussion of the case to do widespread damage. The charge leveled at him most often is that his attacks and misrepresentations have fueled virulent, hateful communications of the kind Provost Peter Lange lamented in his January email to the Duke faculty (Lange himself refers to blogs generically as one source of the attacks that trouble him but doesn’t single out DIW or any others by name). I have very little inside information about the personal costs of these attacks and don’t want to imaginatively overstate them—however bad things were when the controversy was most heated, I think it’s safe to say that most of the faculty who came under attack will be able to shrug it off, if they haven’t already. I doubt that it’s so easy for those who’ve gotten the most virulent and threatening messages, though. Three that are particularly vile are included in Duke Professor Charles Piot’s recent critique of DIW. Regarding the effects of such attacks I don’t have anything to add to what Lange and Piot have to say, best considered along with Johnson’s rebuttal of Piot and his response to “The Group of 88’s E-Mail Canard” of Lange and others. Later I’ll have plenty to say about the relationship of DIW to the more strident and bigoted rhetoric about the case.

In early October, Duke professors James Coleman and Prasad Kasibhatla sent a letter to the Duke Chronicle in order to correct what they felt was a broad misconception left by the lacrosse controversy about the relationship of Duke faculty to their students. Coleman, who teaches law, is widely admired both for his early, pointed criticism of Nifong and for the clarity and evenhandedness of the report on lacrosse team behavior issued by a committee he chaired. In a “Cast of Characters” post, Johnson justly puts him first of the list of heros. Coleman and Kasibhatla single out Johnson (along with Stuart Taylor, coauthor with Johnson of the book Until Proven Innocent) for contributing to “the continued drumbeat of destructive criticism” that’s spread the notion that

the faculty at Duke and at other universities are increasingly a bunch of ideologues who care less about the their students and more about promoting their own extremist agendas. Nothing could be further from the truth. Faculty at Duke… care deeply about students and are passionately committed to their personal and intellectual growth. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the daily life of a faculty member will quickly appreciate the time, effort and energy that faculty put into teaching, advising and mentoring students. To suggest otherwise, on the basis of isolated and selective incidents that occur over the course of complex events and are taken out of context, is nothing more than a tragic rush to judgment.

A glance through the signatures on the internet petition circulated by Friends of Duke University gives a pretty good idea of the problem. The petition was originally a statement by the Duke Economics Department, and in one of its two clauses they affirmed that they welcome to their classes and other activities all students, including members of the lacrosse team. Posted as a petition for the public at large, signatures by non-faculty (the vast bulk of the 900 or so) are, in effect, admonishment to Duke faculty to be tolerant, and many who signed—I hope the majority—did so in the spirit of affirming broad tolerance and urging the administration to be more vocal in supporting the indicted students. But the signature pages are peppered with hectoring, intolerant jabs at the 88. What Coleman and Kasibhatla make plain is how shallow these judgments are, and how disconnected they are from the day-to-day reality of the university as they see it. It’s by no means debilitating harm, but still a shame that a professor, of all people, would foster such a narrow-minded judgment of a university.

I got a taste of Johnson’s prosecutorial tendencies in our email exchange, in which he kept wondering when I’d produce my “evidence.” I fully understand his insistence that I back up my harsh characterization of DIW, and it may have been poor judgment on my part to lay my bottom-line opinion out so baldly when I knew it would be days before I’d be prepared to explain it in detail (and as usual it’s been many more days than I expected). But “anti-academic,” “irrational,” and “insidiously divisive” are clearly matters of (more or less well-informed) opinion, so I found it odd and a little ridiculous that he kept wondering what evidence I thought I had unearthed about the “Group.” I’m sure he had every confidence that there could be no such thing.

Something that comes out both in Johnson’s email and the response to me he posted on DIW is his conviction that if I was attacking him I must be defending the “Group.” I’m certainly not defending the “Group of 88,” for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, and I’m in no position to defend any individual’s statements or actions with reference to case. I don’t doubt that some Duke faculty, including some who signed the “listening” statement, prejudged the guilt of the lacrosse players and acted rashly and irresponsibly on that basis. Like the potbangers, a fair number of people around campus let their outrage and moral certainty get the better of them. People who cared about broad issues of social and racial justice should have been more concerned and vocal about due process and fair play in the investigation and prosecution of the rape allegation. I think Duke as an institution has everything to gain from looking all those problems squarely in the eye, though when I say that I’m thinking of a broad-minded and inclusive oral and documentary history and not the inquisitional “full public accounting of the faculty’s conduct in spring 2006” that Johnson mentioned in one of his last emails to me. If there was ever anything to gain from dwelling obsessively on the most outrageous and indefensible aspects of the “rush to judgment,” that time is long past. And if the behavior of a faction of Duke’s faculty was so abominable, it didn’t require Johnson’s heavy-handed, narrow-minded, scornful, divisive polemic to bring it to light.

~   ~   ~

Writing to welcome new readers to the blog after the publication of his book, Johnson describes the event at Duke that galvanized his interest.

I first turned my attention to the Duke case after an April 2006 ad signed by 88 members of the Duke arts and sciences faculty. The ad stated unequivocally that something “happened” to Crystal Mangum; and said “thank you” to protesters who, among other things, had carried “CASTRATE” banners and blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters of the lacrosse team. The professors’ decision to sign the ad betrayed the ideals of their—and my—profession.

Johnson’s writing his own blog, so he’s entitled to go after the folks who offend him in whatever way he wants. On the other hand, not only is he deriving credibility as a critic of academics and academic culture from the fact that he’s a professor, he’s positioning himself as a defender of academic ideals. I think it’s fair, then, to expect him to analyze or criticize or, if he must, prosecute in a way that’s consistent with those ideals, and in my opinion he doesn’t come close to meeting that standard.

His worst failure—one I consider positively anti-academic—is that he is a friend to ignorance, often in subtle ways but sometimes they’re not so subtle. He’s willing to pass judgment without drawing clear lines between what he knows for sure, what’s probable, and what’s unknown, and he avoids shining a light into the grey areas if they make for useful innuendo. He offers little resistance to readers inclined to render superficial and harsh judgment of the figures he attacks—regularly boiling his attacks down to a dismissive or derisive phrase that’s repeated as a tag line or epithet, for instance. Another thing that flies in the face of academic or journalistic standards is that he often makes no attempt to interpret and convey the main point and purpose of the texts he criticizes, approaching them instead like a prosecutor digging for evidence, free to pull out a passage or just a phrase and give it a literalistic, context-free reading if that furthers his case. Combine that with the habit of dwelling with self-righteous and unwavering certainty on an interpretation of the evidence that puts his opponents in the worst possible light, and there’s little chance of constructive debate—another core academic value.

For me the foundation of the scholarly enterprise, and what I most value in a student, is free-ranging curiosity. A prime academic virtue that gives curiosity some space to do its work is the placement of understanding before judgment (it’s something I’ve thought about when I’ve taught music classes like Intro to Jazz because they’re a great opportunity to give students some practice at suspending judgment). Whether it’s a scholarly ideal or the pie-in-the-sky idealism of a marginal academic, I don’t know—the success of Johnson’s “Group of 88” campaign suggests the latter. But on a personal level I find it disturbing that DIW—a sprawling text that purports to analyze an intricate human drama—is relentlessly and schematically judgmental. With the interest in people and things almost entirely channeled into prosecuting rather than understanding, Duke-in-Wonderland—the version of reality in which Johnson has an open-and-shut case—is a dismal and intellectually impoverished place.

The second sentence of the welcome message quoted above (“The ad stated unequivocally…”) puts in a nutshell Johnson’s principal complaints about the “listening” statement (an earlier post has a few more links to articles about this statement, which was published as an ad in the Duke Chronicle). I’ll call it the standard indictment formula, because variations of it crop up dozens of times in DIW. Its two clauses highlight the most objectionable lines in the “listening” statement. Johnson raised the issue for the first time in his April 23, 2006 post titled “The Group of 88,” which points out that

[t]he statement spoke of “what happened to this young woman” (which at that point consisted of nothing more than uncorroborated allegations) and gave a message to campus protesters: “Thank you for not waiting” until the police completed their investigation. Activities of these campus protesters, as we now all know, included such items as the “wanted” poster and branding the team “rapists.”

I can accept this first blast, before the charges have been reduced to a formula for incrimination, as justified indignation—the parts of the ad that he singles out bother me, too. And I don’t discount the bitter frustration behind his refrain, in subsequent entries, that nobody on the faculty or administration at Duke is calling Nifong to account or speaking up for the students under investigation. But right out of the gate, Johnson is making sweeping claims that say much more about his sensitivities and prejudices than about the ad. In the very next paragraph he has the ad’s endorsers thinking in unison about holding the lacrosse players broadly responsible for prejudice and oppression and even wanting them prosecuted solely on that basis:

In today’s Newsweek, a student at predominantly African-American North Carolina Central carried the Duke 88’s thinking to its logical, if absurd, extreme. The student said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”

The apparent confidence that he can read 88 minds at once reflects his certainty that the text of the ad coming from the people who endorsed it can only mean one thing—a cornerstone of the “Group of 88” crusade and an article of faith that Johnson has never questioned or analyzed in any serious way. The two lines in the ad that really matter are the two that strike a nerve and serve as the basis for the standard indictment. The other thing that registers is that the ad talks about perceived incidents of racism or sexism, which to Johnson translates into a charge that racism and sexism is rampant at Duke. His willingness to let a text be defined by a selective and sensitized reading of it is entirely characteristic.

~   ~   ~

Here is my best effort to summarize Johnson’s principles of Groupthink—the assumptions and habits that have allowed him to create a monster called the “Group of 88” out of the 88 people who chose for one reason or another, and with no thought of forming an ongoing collective, to endorse a text that was emailed to them (as a gesture of resistance to the idea of a “Group of 88”—and I’m know it’s futile—I’ve chosen to refer to those who signed the ad as “endorsers,” which is less of a mouthful than “signatories”):

  1. Johnson knows what message the 88 endorsers sent when they signed the ad. Any claim by an endorser to have read the ad differently or intended a different message is either disingenuous or delusional. In particular, there is no denying that the ad signals a firm belief that a rape occurred at the lacrosse team party. So, for example, Johnson has no trouble dismissing out of hand Alice Kaplan’s claim that “the statement was about the climate on campus…. There’s nothing in the statement that says anyone is guilty or innocent.” What she said, and should retract and apologize for, is what Johnson says she said, not what she thinks she said (here’s another post along the same lines).
  2. The ad-hoc collection of 88 people who endorsed the ad is a cohesive, capitol-G “Group.” The absolutist interpretation of the ad is one basis for this myth of unity, I think—they all signed the same statement, so they all said the same thing, so they all must think the same. There’s also the hypnotic power of language to create the impression of substance. The “Group of 88” is the title of first post about the “listening” statement—a convenient way to refer to the collection of people he’d just become aware of. A facile and uncritical writer, Johnson settles comfortably into the habit of calling people who endorsed the ad “members of the Group of 88,” as if the “Group” was an organization with members like the Academic Council or the YMCA. Naturally, the “listening” statement becomes the “Group of 88 statement.” From the perspective of a prosecutor a useful feature of the “Group” is that, no matter how much like an organization he treats it, it has no spokesperson and so will never answer back.
  3. The “Group of 88” is a meaningful reference point for any discussion of Duke faculty or campus culture. In fact, it’s practically mandatory. When Johnson writes about ad endorsers they’re always tagged as “Group members,” several times if possible. “Group sympathizers” and “Clarifiers” (those who didn’t endorse the “listening” statement but signed the “concerned faculty” statement in January) are also habitually tagged. Put a few endorsers together in a room, with or without others, and you have a “Group of 88” event. A post about a few endorsers is, more often than not, a “Group of 88” post (“The Group of 88’s Latest Defense,” “The Group of 88’s Imagined Reality”, “The Group of 88 Rehab Tour”, which I somehow joined in “The Group of 88 Rehab Tour Continues”). In fact the phrase “Group of 88” or some variation is sprinkled so liberally and gratuitously throughout the text of DIW that it is made to seem relevant to just about everything.
  4. With an occasional exception, “Group members” are only newsworthy when they do or say something that serves the prosecution—the only reason to mention any of them is to attack, criticize, disparage, or dismiss them. This means that, on DIW, they are almost entirely defined by the statements and actions Johnson feels are prejudicial or hostile to the lacrosse team, that show them to be unreasonable, thoughtless, or conspiratorial, or that in some other way put them in a bad light. My guess is that’s what Coleman and Kasibhatla had in mind when they complained that Johnson and Taylor portrayed faculty members “on the basis of isolated and selective incidents that occur over the course of complex events and are taken out of context.” In his series of “Group profiles”—entries in which he describes the scholarship of select endorsers—the only ones he profiled who had not already been roundly condemned for other reasons were those he could portray as radically left-wing, overly PC, engaged in marginal scholarship, or in some other way ideologically suspect. There is a short post about his selective profiling followed by a long discussion of it on the blog Acephalous. More than half of those who endorsed the “listening” statement have done nothing else that warranted a mention on DIW, and the bulk of “Group of 88” criticism is directed at less than a quarter of the group.
  5. Because their behavior is always placed in the context of the “Group,” most anything bad that’s said about one endorser reflects badly on all of them.

The “Group of 88” a miserable excuse for intelligent analysis, but as a rhetorical tool it’s worked brilliantly. It’s a sticky gob of condemnation and scorn, and anyone who tries to defend it is swallowing a poison pill—something I’d prefer not to do. Drawing on 15 years experience on the Duke faculty, much closer to the action than I’ve ever been, Stuart Rojstaczer sums it up this way in his review of Until Proven Innocent:

With regard to the ‘Group of 88,’ Taylor and Johnson are engaging in demagoguery. Certainly there are some left-wing crackpots at Duke (and no doubt some right-wing crackpots). But there are nowhere near eighty-eight of them. These eighty-eight faculty members are not an organized group that thinks in lock step…. The drama created by Taylor and Johnson related to this ad and the “Group of 88” may be believable to some; but it is fiction.

The review as a whole is a well-informed, no-nonsense look at both the strengths and weaknesses of the book—I highly recommend it.

~   ~   ~

A prime example of Johnson’s willingness to use ignorance to his advantage is his treatment of the “Castrate” banner from the potbanging protest. As I wrote a couple of entries ago, the existence of the banner first registers on DIW in early January 2007, when it’s mentioned in Johnson’s dismissive response to an editorial by Cathy Davidson. A separate post on the same day—“Cathy Davidson: In Her Own Words”—uses a picture of the banner as a bludgeon by framing it with a quote from her editorial on top (she’s “adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade”) and on the bottom the line from the “listening” statement thanking protestors (the image no longer displays, but from the name of the image file—“castrate2pb3.jpg”—there’s no question what it was). The Liestoppers page makes the same insinuation graphically:

POTBANGERS NOT WAITING

castrate banner

“Thank You!” - Duke’s Group of 88

Throwing the “Castrate” banner at Cathy Davidson was, as far as I can tell, pure and simple opportunism. If there was any reason to single her out for the treatment, I can’t find it and Johnson doesn’t mention it. The picture was available, it was useful reinforcement to Johnson’s message that Davidson’s editorial could be written off as sheer disingenuous hypocrisy, so up it went. It seems like the revelation of such a vile threat would warrant some discussion, but careful, rational consideration would distance the banner from the people Johnson most wants to associate it with—not the potbangers but the ad endorsers. In the same vein, but even more groundless and opportunistic, is Johnson’s exploitation of the revelation months after the events that

[Duke lacrosse coach Mike] Pressler and his family were subjected to death threats. Protesters taped signs to his house with such messages as “DO YOUR DUTY. TURN THEM IN.” Several days later, when the Group of 88 issued their “listening” statement, the professors offered a message for such protesters: “Thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.”

This insinuation hangs on the bare thread of Johnson’s choice of the word “protesters” for a few vicious, small-minded people who took it on themselves to harass Pressler and his family—taping threats to someone’s house in the middle of the night is not “collective noise.” And though Johnson doesn’t suggest that it was “protesters” who made the death threats, putting the harassment that was supposedly covered by the ad’s “thank you” in that context gives the insinuation extra bite. It’s not clear what Johnson’s basis for mentioning death threats is in the first place, since the Sports Illustrated article that Johnson cites doesn’t mention them (it’s an article that’s worth reading, by the way).

So, does Johnson believe that the endorsers were actually thanking the people who were taping signs to Pressler’s house at night? Does he believe that they knew that was happening, or that they didn’t know but would surely have approved if they did? Does he believe that all or even some of them knew about the “Castrate” banner and were approving it with the ad’s “thank you”? Or that they didn’t know about the banner but some or all of them considered the threat or even the act of castration appropriate in the circumstances? Johnson considers all of these to be irrelevant questions, as far as I can tell. Like the readers of DIW who have left comments for me, he seems to think that the only reason to raise them is to absolve the endorsers of all sin.

What I’m actually suggesting is something quite different and very simple—that Johnson ought to act like a professor. A smart man arguing a strong case doesn’t need to make wild insinuations, and I consider the insinuations about the “castrate” banner and about Pressler’s harassment both to be wild. In an environment where, for instance, “Mr. X” can write me off as “just another Klan of 88 enabler” in the TalkLeft thread about my posts, they make for fine demagoguery (there are a fair number of references to a “Klan of 88” in the comments on DIW, as well). Johnson’s insinuations are congenial to the knee-jerk fantasy that there’s a moral equivalence between the 88 people who signed the “listening” statement and the Ku Klux Klan, and to any number of other fantasies based on blanket, facile judgment of liberals, left-wing academics, “angry studies,” and the like. The only stance consistent with the academic ideals that Johnson claims to defend is to actively resist that kind of ignorance and bigotry. Thinking more like a prosecutor than an academic, he gives them free rein.

The general reaction to my focus on the “castrate” banner has been that it was just one of many outrages, that the professors who signed the ad would have or should have known about enough of them not to say “thank you,” that I’m making too much out of it. Of these, the one I take most seriously is from Nick, a recent alum who was a student in one of my classes (the link is to his second of three comments—the first is on that same post, and the last one puts the lacrosse experience in the context of his Duke experience as a whole). He grants that professors may or may not have been at the potbanging protest or known about the details, but

it is not as if the other protests were much better. Sure some talked in more abstract terms about racial and sexual issues at Duke and abroad, but most speakers just assumed or even declared the lacrosse team rapists. I was shocked that such intelligent people could react in such a way…. My problem isn’t that radical professors (and some are pretty radical) responded in this way…. My problem is that such views were accepted (or even respected) by other professors.

Based on that experience, I understand his indignation. I hope that I would have been offended too, if I had walked across campus and found people on soapboxes pretending that denouncing the lacrosse team as rapists was somehow striking a blow for justice or fighting the good fight against sexual assault, and had then heard colleagues describing it with approval. I wish some of the people who were in the thick of that, including some who signed the “listening” statement, would step up to the plate and speak candidly about the atmosphere Nick describes. At the same time I’m confident that there are students—some of the ones quoted in the “listening” statement, for instance—who had vastly different experiences, and a range that are in between. None of them make Nick’s any less valid or worthy of attention.

When I raised the issue of his insinuating treatment of the “castrate” banner in email, Johnson’s response was to allude to all of the coverage of the potbanging protest and to several other outrageous protests—his boilerplate response to the suggestion that the protestors thanked in the “listening” statement are not the ones who attacked and prejudged the lacrosse team. Criticizing my posts in DIW he imagines—and I warn anyone short on sleep or prone to migraines not to think too hard about this sentence—that I “suggested that [his] chief fault was suggesting that the Group’s ad could be interpreted as suggesting that the sole message of the potbangers’ March 26 rally was the ‘castrate’ banner.” This is wildly off the mark, but gives him a chance to repeat yet again a few of the other protest banners and slogans that have been grist for the DIW mill since it started grinding a year and a half ago. Then he wonders if I’m imagining that press coverage might have “fooled the Group” with a benign impression of the potbangers, or if I’m thinking that “Group members were so reckless that they thanked protesters… even though they had no idea what the protesters were doing or saying.” Whatever it is, it must be about the “Group”… PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

Next, the mechanics of misrepresentation.

{ 16 } Comments

  1. Tortmaster | December 11, 2007 at 23:09 | Permalink

    Since I suspect this post will be sent to the children’s Thanksgiving table like most of my others, I will try to be brief.

    One of your foundational arguments is one you may have borrowed from Stuart Rojstaczer, who you quote as writing:

    “These eighty-eight faculty members are not an organized group that thinks in lock step….”

    I think you do a disservice to the 88, in that you treat them like children. Every jurisdiction that I am aware of provides that only minors and incompetents are not bound by their signatures to documents. Now, I understand the “Listening ad” wasn’t a contract; it was actually much more important.

    The 88 did sign the document, and they are presumed to have read it. Moreover, they have had more than 20 months in which to deny it. At this time, one professor has recanted, so we know that that is a grown-up option which is available to the endorsers.

    The 88 have been afforded the opportunity to publish rebuttals on D-i-W, and they have had the opportunity to post anonymous comments on that blog. Professor Mark Neal even posted as himself on D-i-W, but he did not go into any depth about why anyone signed the “Listening ad.” The thing is - he could have.

    The 88 have had the opportunity to explain themselves on D-i-W or elsewhere, but they have either decided against it, or have put forth such incredible responses as the “Clarifying Statement” or Charles Piot’s half-baked “defense” of the 88.

    In summary, I believe you are treating the 88 as children and that K.C. Johnson has treated them as adults, requesting responses and demanding some type of educated answers. I note, tellingly, that you apparently didn’t even attempt to interview one of the 88 for this post. These are my opinons. Tortmaster.

    ~   ~   ~

    Well, let’s see. Johnson has put DIW on hiatus after about 1 1/2 years, having written some hundreds of thousands of words about the 88. Add that to what’s been written on Liestoppers, John in Carolina, Johnsville News, etc., etc. I think the world can stand a few posts about Dr. Johnson, however lowly and misinformed the source.

    And yes, the other comment goes to the children’s Thanksgiving table (I like the expression). This is not a post about the “listening” statement—the thing has been gone over enough, hasn’t it? I think you have some fans, anyways, who like to find all your comments on one page—I had to recreate it from copies of comments I get in email after I accidentally deleted it this evening. But feel free to start a thread somewhere else and put the link in a comment here.

    Tortmaster’s additional analysis of the “listening ad” is here.

  2. KC Johnson | December 12, 2007 at 07:00 | Permalink

    I first became aware of Prof. Zimmerman after seeing a comment of his on Claire Potter’s blog, in which he declared, “Naturally it’s been wonderful fodder for KC Johnson and others. He fully deserves the turkey award.” Prof. Zimmerman later rebuked me for missing a “subtle but I believe important point—I described your blog, not you, in unflattering terms,” though I suspect that most people would consider writing that someone “fully deserves the turkey award” is describing that person in unflattering terms. In his most recent post, he wrote, “You’d think Johnson would be more principled in taking on his own chosen wrongdoers [than Nifong]. If he is, it’s not by much.” Again, I suspect that most people would consider suggesting that someone his perhaps as unprincipled as Mike Nifong or scarcely more principled than Nifong is describing that person in unflattering terms. Prof. Zimmerman disagrees—as he is entitled to do. That he does not consider such comments to be personally unflattering, however, does give some understanding of how he makes his arguments.

    After his “turkey” comment, I next encountered a post by Prof. Zimmerman in which he described my writings on the Group of 88 as “insidiously polarizing,” “irrational,” and “anti-academic”—extraordinarily strong charges in any event, much less against a fellow academic. (Over the course of Durham-in-Wonderland, a blog of nearly one million words, the only figure about whom I used such strong language was Nifong.) Even more peculiar, in the post that applied those attributes to my work, Prof. Zimmerman cited only specific offense: that I had overlooked or ignored “efforts when the [Group of 88] ad was written to make much different points in a much different way than the protestors.”

    This claim struck me as—to put it mildly— counterintuitive. In her e-mail requesting signatures, statement author Wahneema Lubiano stated that the ad would be a response “to the lacrosse team incident,” not a general commentary about racism, or sexism, or sexual assault. And, as I stated both privately to Prof. Zimmerman and at one of DIW’s final posts, if the Group’s intent were to “make much different points in a much different way than the protestors,” it’s hard to understand why they would publish a statement—“in the most easily seen venue on campus”—saying, “To the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.” Neither Prof. Zimmerman, nor any Group member, nor any Group defender has ever explained why it was so important that the protesters not merely make themselves heard but that the protesters not wait to do so.

    In any event, I had assumed that to make such serious claims—”insidiously polarizing,” “irrational,” and “anti-academic—Prof. Zimmerman had extraordinarily strong evidence that my interpretation of the Group’s statement was wrong. Yet despite repeated e-mails to him, he never produced evidence to substantiate his original claim that I had engaged in “insidiously polarizing,” “irrational,” and “anti-academic” behavior in asserting that in their writing, “To the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard,” the Group of 88 had, in fact, intended to thank the protesters.

    Since Prof. Zimmerman asks a series of rhetorical questions of me (he did not e-mail for a response to these questions before posting them), I thought it only reasonable to respond. He asks, “So, does Johnson believe that the endorsers were actually thanking the people who were taping signs to Pressler’s house at night? Does he believe that they knew that was happening, or that they didn’t know but would surely have approved if they did? Does he believe that all or even some of them knew about the “Castrate” banner and were approving it with the ad’s “thank you”? Or that they didn’t know about the banner but some or all of them considered the threat or even the act of castration appropriate in the circumstances?”

    My answer to these questions is a straightforward one: I believe (unlike, apparently, Prof. Zimmerman) that the 88 signatories to the statement—who were, after all, faculty members at one of the world’s leading universities—meant what they said, and said what they meant. What they said, again, was: “To the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.” They didn’t say “to some protesters”; they didn’t say “to non-violent protesters,” or they didn’t say “to protesters who respect due process.” The protests between March 25 and March 29 received extensive media coverage locally, on all four Triangle TV stations.

    Many months later, in any event, the Group decided to reflect on the matter. More than 80 percent of the tenured/tenure-track faculty who were still on the Duke payroll signed a second statement, in which they said, “We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time. We appreciate the efforts of those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.” The stated aim of the March 26 potbangers, who carried the “castrate” banner; or the March 29 protesters, who blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters showing the lacrosse players’ photos? To combat “issues of discrimination and violence.”

    It surely would be better for Prof. Zimmerman’s argument if even one Group of 88 member had—as he has done—publicly condemned the “castrate” banner. None have done so, although—to his credit—one Group member, Arlie Petters, refused to sign the second statement on grounds that he wanted no part of any initiative that would cause pain to Duke students.

    To address Prof. Zimmerman’s first two questions, I have never claimed that the Group in any way thanked people who attacked Mike Pressler or who demanded his dismissal—because the Group’s statement doesn’t mention Pressler. (Some Group members, individually, did demand that Duke fire Pressler.) The Group’s statement did, on the other hand, specifically declare that something happened to Mangum; and author Lubiano did specifically say the ad was about the “lacrosse team incident.”

    Prof. Zimmerman also faults me for claiming to have known what Group members were thinking in signing the statement (coming in a post in which he claims to have known what Profs. Coleman and Kasibhatla were thinking in their Chronicle letter, this line of attack is unusual). He cites an after-the-fact statement by Group member Alice Kaplan denying that the Group’s ad took a position on the case.

    As a historian of Congress, I regularly deal with questions of legislative intent. What a member of Congress says about his or her intent before passage is of considerable relevance; what a member claims months afterwards is of much less relevance. When a member of Congress’ later statement contradicts the actual text of the bill, the text ultimately prevails. It’s a good reminder on why people should read something before voting for it—or signing a statement.
    That said, it seems to me considering someone’s credibility in an after-the-fact rationalization is fair game. In the same article from which Prof. Zimmerman’s quote came, Kaplan also stated, “I signed the statement because I care about Duke and I care about the students and the experiences they’re having.”

    Kaplan’s and Zimmerman’s colleague, Michael Gustafson, replied that he “would have a better time accepting her statement if any one of the people who signed that document had spoken out against the death threats hurled at our students, against calls for our students to be ‘…prosecuted whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past,’ as reported in Newsweek. But instead, there was silence - the same kind the faculty that supported that ad railed against. This is still a social disaster, but the inability to see it in its fullness has left us even more polarized than before.”

    As Gustafson pointed out, Kaplan’s assertion was of dubious credibility. Her actions suggested that she cared about some Duke students—those who fit into her race/class/gender worldview—but not all. That’s her right. But her own pattern of behavior undermines the credibility of her after-the-fact rationalization for signing the statement.

    Prof. Zimmerman also approvingly cites a reviewer of UPI, who asserted, “With regard to the ‘Group of 88,’ Taylor and Johnson are engaging in demagoguery. Certainly there are some left-wing crackpots at Duke (and no doubt some right-wing crackpots). But there are nowhere near eighty-eight of them.”

    Some people might consider calling members of the faculty “crackpots” to be “insidiously polarizing,” “irrational,” and “anti-academic”—I never used such a term to describe any faculty member at Duke. Given his concern with such behavior, I was surprised to see Prof. Zimmerman endorse the review. (Neither Prof. Zimmerman nor the reviewer cited any of these alleged “right-wing crackpots” among the Duke faculty.)

    As Prof. Zimmerman is aware, in any case, I never even made an argument that each of the 88 was equally extreme. Instead, the model I repeatedly used (both in the blog and in the book) was spelled out in a 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education essay by Mark Bauerlein, about academic “groupthink.” Bauerlein discussed the “law of group dynamics,” in which, among groups that share common assumptions (as the race/class/gender top-heavy Group of 88 certainly did) and lack robust internal exchanges (as occurred in this case—Lubiano declared that not one of the signatories questioned the merits of the ad to her), opinion tends to veer toward the extreme fringe of the common beliefs. The production of the Group of 88’s statement is a perfect example of Bauerlein’s model. It was initiated by a figure at the ideological and pedagogical fringe of the Group (Lubiano) and championed by a handful of similarly positioned figures (Houston Baker, William Chafe, Karla Holloway).

    To close this comment by returning to Prof. Zimmerman’s title: despite my apparent status as scarcely more principled than Nifong, several people with first-hand experience with Nifong’s unprincipled nature had a quite different view of the Group of 88’s statement than does Prof. Zimmerman.

    In a December 15, 2006 motion, in their April 11, 2007 press conference, and in subsequent interviews, defense attorneys Jim Cooney, Brad Bannon, and Joe Cheshire made statements about the Duke faculty in general—and the Group of 88 in particular—quite similar to those I made at DIW. Indeed, the defense attorneys closed their PowerPoint presentation to the special prosecutors not with a clip of Nifong but with an image of the Group’s statement, which they saw as the most potent example of the springtime rush to judgment.

    Were Cooney, Bannon, and Cheshire, too, “insidiously polarizing,” “irrational,” and “anti-academic”? “Turkeys”? Scarcely more principled than Mike Nifong?

    ~   ~   ~

    To the charge of describing both Prof. Johnson and his blog in unflattering terms, I plead guilty.

  3. KC Johnson | December 12, 2007 at 08:07 | Permalink

    A correction of fact to Prof. Zimmerman’s post above.

    He wrote, “Roughly half of the blog is devoted to the way the case played out at Duke.”

    Durham-in-Wonderland had a total of 1152 posts. Of that total, 159 dealt with faculty-related issues (around 90% of those involving Duke faculty, the rest with profs from other schools). There were 13 Group profiles, and 83 posts dealt with the Duke administration. A handful of posts in the blog epilogue section (the post-Oct. 6 period where I posted far less frequently) dealt with conditions at Duke.

    I believe that most people would consider roughly 270 posts from a total of 1152 to constitute a quarter of the blog, not “roughly half of the blog.”

    As with the section of my comment above in which I provided answers to Prof. Zimmerman’s post questions, I would have gladly supplied this information to Prof. Zimmerman by e-mail, had he requested it before his post. I have no more interest than does he in seeing the blog portrayed inaccurately.

    ~   ~   ~

    I’ll note the correction.

  4. Mr X | December 12, 2007 at 09:50 | Permalink

    this is your “factual” evidence post against DinW?
    Klan 88 members and enablers are subject to immediate release upon apology for their misdeeds. the Klan is a group only in that they unified to attack the players. I couldn’t care less about their “greater vision” or their marginal scholarship. they offended the players and need to admit their sins. Duke has already covered them up in the settlement, so let’s move on and apologize to those harmed most.

  5. Michael in NH | December 12, 2007 at 11:18 | Permalink

    [To the charge of describing both Prof. Johnson and his blog in unflattering terms, I plead guilty.]

    If you were charged with a crime that you didn’t commit and were in a trial, would you prefer as your counsel (realizing that they aren’t lawyers):

    A) KC Johnson
    B) Lubiano
    C) Yourself
    D) Piot

    Your posts purport to be fair and balanced but when someone responds to you with facts and reasoned analysis, you move onto something else instead of defending your work. Would your writing be satisfactory work in a Writing 101 class?

    ~   ~   ~

    All I’ll say in answer to the first question is that it seems like Johnson is well suited to be a lawyer—much more so than me, for sure.

    Where did I claim that I was going to be fair and balanced? I do try to be fair—no doubt I fail sometimes—but writing in my own blog I’m expressing my own opinions and biases. As far as responding to “facts and reasoned analysis,” I’d love to have some that connected in a thoughtful way with my actual posts.

    I’m confident that what I’ve written would be quite acceptable in Writing 101 if the assignment was to state and support an opinion. Run it by a writing teacher and see what they say, though.

  6. michael s. | December 12, 2007 at 11:54 | Permalink

    Prof. Zimmerman after reading your thoughts, some of DIW, and Prof. Johnson’s book it seems clear that your apologies and excuses for the Group of 88 fall short.

    They do not have any moral ground to stand on. The court filing by the defense identified some of the many actions of the Duke faculty that were prejudicial to justice. That’s probably why the Group of 88 have been so relatively quite (aside from Piot’s weak attempt) in responding directly to Prof. Johnson.

    Why do you defend the indefensible when they can’t do it for themselves? Any if you are so intent on carrying water for them why haven’t you interviewed them directly?

    ~   ~   ~

    I am, indeed, a miserable defender of the “Group of 88.”

  7. Ken Duke | December 12, 2007 at 14:46 | Permalink

    Dear Professor Zimmerman:

    You can write forever about what the signatories of the listening ad really meant, and how they are wonderful teachers, and you can chide Professor Johnson all day long for being too harsh on the 88. But the fact remains that the 88 erred when they produced an ad that anyone who was not living in a hole knew was thanking the potbangers and carriers of the “Castrate” banner. And while the 88 may have been making a salutory, if, as it later turned out, misplaced effort to side with the weak against the strong, the ad clearly caused great pain, especially to the three young falsely accused men and their families. But everyone makes mistakes, even the 88, and a simple, “We are sorry” would go a long way to making things right.

    Ken Duke
    Attorney at Law*
    Durham, NC

    *I do not represent anyone associated with the lacrosse cases.

  8. RRH | December 12, 2007 at 18:45 | Permalink

    I think everything is susceptible to different interpretations. For instance, I thought, in line with what Prof. Z says, that the line about “KC deserves the turkey award” referred to KC’s blog, taken as a whole (including us in the Sunshine Band), and did not refer to KC as an individual. On the other hand, my interpretation of the Cathy Davidson quote about “fair legal proceedings” above supplied her with a far more sinister motive than EITHER Prof. Z’s OR KC’s interpretations.

    Those who are regular readers of the “commentariat” of DiW will know that I have been among the 88ers’ harshest critics. However, those who know me also know that I have advocated drawing a pretty bright line between those that we feel betrayed their students (the signers of the ad, plus any who joined any demonstrations against the students) and those who did NOT betray their students. Prof. Z is one of those on THIS side of the line. In addition, in my opinion, he has proven to be the best informed, most logical, the fairest, and most honest of the defenders of — well, he doesn’t like being called a “defender of the 88ers”, so shall we say, a proponent of a more benign interpretation of the actions of many of the Duke professors during the Lacrosse Hoax.

    Well, I promised the kids we would go out for dinner tonight, so I’ll close with the hope that Prof. Z won’t be driven away by any bruising treatment he may have received from the Sunshine Band.

    RRH

    P.S. If I see “free reign” one more time, I’ll pop a blood vessel. Does one HAVE to be a former horserider to know the term is “free REIN”? It refers to what happens when you let the reins go totally lax (no pun): The horse is then free to run as fast and far as s/he wants.

    Also, Prof. Z, I recall that at least once in this post, you used “principle”, where you meant “principal”.

    The kids are taking a bit longer than I thought to get ready, so I’ve found it: “… in a nutshell Johnson’s principle complaints about…”

    RRH

    ~   ~   ~

    Thank you for the words of moderation. From my perspective there’s been nothing I’d call bruising treatment, so there’s no need to worry about that. I know what I mean when I say I’m not a defender of of the “Group of 88,” so others can call me what they want. I would very much like to see other Duke faculty speaking for themselves about the protests, in particular, but other contentious issues as well.

    I’ll just go ahead and fix the errant homonyms—I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any injuries.

  9. Debrah | December 13, 2007 at 01:05 | Permalink

    This comment has nothing to do with my post and has been moved.

  10. beckett | December 13, 2007 at 11:55 | Permalink

    As J.L. Austin once remarked, there is always the bit where you say it and the bit where you take it back. Austin was talking about Dewey and pragmatism, but the observation holds true for academic writing in general, and certainly applies to Prof Zimmerman. His careful, mincing prose barely seeks to say anything at all, except when he skirts close to firm opinion (“turkey”) and then takes it back (nothing personal, KC).

    KC is an anomaly among academics on this respect. He has no problem stating what he really means the first time. And when he applies his formidable intellectual rigor to any question, whatever he contends can be countered only by an equally formidable and rigorous intellect. Unfortunately for Prof Zimmerman, he’s not that guy. And neither, so far, has been a single member of the Group of 88.

    beckett

    ~   ~   ~

    I never took back the “turkey” remark.

  11. Debrah | December 13, 2007 at 21:21 | Permalink

    Prof. Zimmerman, I do hope that this question “has something to do with your post” because it certainly has “something to do” with your responses.

    Are you really proud of some of your glib responses?

    Do such responses rise to the intellectual level of anything close to KC’s responses to your criticisms? I’m sure many would like an answer to this illustrative question.

    “I never took back the ‘turkey’ remark.”

    Perhaps a bit of projection has taken place in this instance.

    ~   ~   ~

    The only response that beckett’s comment merited was that correction. Your dismissive and demanding comments have nothing to contribute to either conversation or understanding. If you want to comment in that way you can, if you want, start a thread on another discussion site and post the link as a comment—there are already threads relating to my blog on TalkLeft and the Duke Lacrosse Case Discussion Board. Otherwise I will move your comments (like this one) to the extra comments page or simply delete them.

  12. k. keating | December 15, 2007 at 20:00 | Permalink

    This generic recap of the sins of the 88 has been moved to Extra Comments.

  13. k. keating | December 17, 2007 at 10:39 | Permalink

    Is it ” generic” to question if empathy moved these professors to place the ad, why empathy never moved them to also make a public statement on behalf of these “other” students (the Lacrosse Team?)

    ~   ~   ~

    Yes, I’d call it generic—I believe it’s a point that has been made many times. But it’s also a good question, and short.

  14. William Bell | December 17, 2007 at 17:17 | Permalink

    Methinks you’re barking up the wrong tree. You haven’t persuaded me that KC was unfair to the so-called Group of 88, but the criticism of Richard Brodhead in the book he wrote with Stuart Taylor is largely tendentious and injudicious — or, as you might say, “prosecutorial.” Addressing that would be a better use of your time.

    ~   ~   ~

    My concern isn’t “fairness” but the quality of the analysis, and in that I think the treatment of Brodhead and the “Group of 88” is pretty much all of a piece. I’ll give your point some thought, though.

  15. Matthew | December 20, 2007 at 00:09 | Permalink

    You can delete this if you want, but I just want to applaud you for only deleting off-topic posts and responding to others. While some of us disagree with your assertions, you have at least debated the issues and have not censored posts and people who disagree with you like some of your contemporaries on other blogs.

    To this, I tip my hat. Best wishes in your future endeavors.

    ~   ~   ~

    Comments like this do tend to start an off-topic thread, so I was tempted to delete it. But it gives me a chance to say, first of all, thank you. I do value feedback and dialog. I think it’s also important to note that I get relatively few comments, and of those relatively few are openly hostile. If either or both of those things changed, or I was pressed for time for some other reason, I might also feel that I had to take a more draconian approach to comments. I’d much prefer not to, though.

  16. J. Elliott | January 9, 2008 at 00:20 | Permalink

    Dear Author,

    I’ve come to this site via a link at TalkLeft. Your analysis on some points is dead-on, I believe, and I’m pleased to have found your work. Thanks to you for taking the time to put it all together, and to MarkR. for having mentioned it.

    In reading your description of the urge to ‘spectactularize’ the event and the actors in it, I clearly see parallels to many of my own writings on the subject. The general thrust of most of my postings, which typically took hours to assemble? They’re designed to ‘perfect’ the PC supporters of the Hoax (capitalized, please!) as cartoonish hypocrites who gladly abandoned their principles when the right temptress came a’ callin’. I plead guilty to the technique you’ve described and am genuinely thankful for having my awareness of it broadened. Not that I’m claiming pride at using the technique. I will, however, plead necessity. It’s my opinion the bloggers and angry community supporters just barely got the job done in helping to derail the false prosecution.

    Johnson’s blog clearly had some bad days. His penchant for settling on favored phrases like, “from whole cloth”, annoyed me. And he was plainly strident. Still, KC was all there was during long stretches and the usefulness of his site was beyond question - if one thought the real crime hadn’t yet been exposed. Johnson kept the flame burning with daily updates in a way that prevented the Hoax from dying. Being somewhat removed from the event, you might not be aware of how unstoppable Nifong really was or aware of the dejected state of many D3 supporters during the summer after indictments. KC’s shrill style might be irritating and some of his readers might have been moved to rash actions (ugly emails), but wasn’t that exactly what was needed for exposing the false prosecution? Seriously? And didn’t the motives of those pushing a criminal trial in the absence of evidence deserve a critique?

    The Bar committee which decided to investigate Nifong, mid-trial!, did so by a one-vote majority, IIRC. Without the Bar trial, no conflict of interest to cause Nifong to remove himself as prosecutor on the case. And without Johnson and Liestoppers raising holy hell, daily, then possibly no vote to censure Nifong at that time. That’s my guess. Had business as usual come about, the best the victims could have hoped for was some type of dismissal or action against Nifong AFTER the trial. Not good enough. You wouldn’t disagree with that point, would you? That the false prosecution needed to die ASAP? The bloggers helped to keep the pressure up for someone, anyone, to please step forward and do something!

    I doubt the good will of many Hoax enablers was ever in play. There were many who sided against the Laxers/D3 immediately and didn’t quit until they had to. The blogs’ shrillness had little effect on driving these people into Mangum’s or Nifong’s side. These folks were already running to assist them anyway.

    Your article is nicely written and well worth the read on many of its points. However, and I say this with respect, it covers a great deal of ground without giving the three victims of the political prosecution much consideration at all. In short, it is a lot of energy put into this, that, and other things but misses the main point - three families were targeted for a junked up, half-a** criminal case which served only one purpose. The DA needed publicity to save his pension, and he found ‘perfected’ scapegoats that he could use as whipping posts. The victims were selected due to their race, gender, and social status. The jury who might judge them was being driven into racial payback mode by both the DA and his PC helpers. It seems to me that these are the large issues, although I have enjoyed your analysis tonight.

    That you’ve spoken to nada on the victims, or the reason the LAX players were singled out as a team, makes me scratch my head. If the point of this piece is to illuminate the ‘mistakes’ made in interpreting the listening statement and the larger way both sides became polarized, then one must consider what events were driving these developments. Start with the party itself, billed as the most shameful party of the last 50 years. Why? Strippers have been shaking their butts at college parties, male and female, for decades. Attending a nekkid dancer show is a rite of passage in college America. A somewhat shady ritual, perhaps, but one that is practiced from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The LAX team did nothing out of the ordinary by calling up an escort service and requesting dancers for a college drinking party. Why were these particular college stripper-hirers raked over the coals while all the others get to ogle without a peep of criticism? I wrote once on TL that for the LAX haters, and they are legion (I used to be one, so I should know), this party was a singular event in time. No one has much cared about strippers at college parties in the past, and no one cares about them right now. But at one school, on one weekend, and at one particular party, hiring strippers was an abomination. So bad the president of the school was moved to scold them in front of the world, and suggest that they deserved whatever might come their way. Egads, naked women being allowed to practice their self-chosen line of work and exercising a woman’s right to her own body. For stellar pay, no less. Shoot the males who dialed the phone.

    From the start, there were those who mangled the so-called ‘event’ for the purpose of making the LAXers look like bums. This was deliberate and had an aim attached to it. I couldn’t stand these guys at UNC, during my time. Cocky, rich, and tight with each other, they had things I didn’t and I resented it. So what for me then, and so what for others now! That’s my take on this part. Excessive drinking that kills and other extreme behaviors should be regulated by the schools, but the students have to be allowed to decide who is the most popular among them. Just gotta live with it. They always chose someone, that’s the nature of adolescence. The campus crusaders who want to supplant these rich, white, elitists with some other type to be Kings and Queens need to grow up and make peace with the part of themselves that wants to meddle. All they can possibly do is swap out the rich white boys for some other archetype who’ll proceed to drive everyone nuts with cockiness. It isn’t progress, but sideways movement. It’s not worth tearing up the school, and it isn’t a fit topic for adults to worry about. And besides if a white parent who is paying full tuition, and therefore partly footing the bill for the low-and-no tuition students, can’t get a fair shake for his kids at a place like Duke, then why bother? Why would a parent capable of paying that kind of money want to send her child to a school that tells everyone that their type of child is ‘bad’ and needs to be taken down for the greater good? Call it what one will, but the LAXers were crucified because many at Duke think it an outrage that rich white jocks are still at the top of the pecking order. The Hoax was a ‘perfected’ vehicle for doing something about it.

    You’ve deconstructed the rendering of the listening statement but dodged the cause of the anger that drives people to make into more than intended. The quick reaction to the stripper party was so over the top, so unbalanced, that those of us who pay attention knew the PC crowd would push for campus ‘reforms’. There was soooo much going on with the listening statement beyond the gang rape allegations. It was a rallying cry what what might come, as much as anything else. A call to assemble the troops. No DNA had come out, nor any other solid evidence, and the case was beginning to look iffy. The listening statement threw some more quarters into the righteous indignation meter.

    There was a gigantic, race and gender-based sideshow coming into focus that ran parallel to whatever Nifong and Mangum were hatching. Those of us who felt targeted by the campus pogrom (white guys like me) and others who simply saw through it all, were bothered by it. Why wouldn’t we be? Then, Nifong actually went so far as to file charges. That was the flash point for the blogs.

    Your analysis of some issues concerning the Hoax are nicely put. But you seem to have a tin ear for what motivates the bile shown the PC potbangers. This is fine, your blog (if this is what it is) doesn’t have to be promise objectivity. Yet the fact that you can take all the time to put this impressive piece together, while barely mentioning Nifong’s victims or the millions of dollars they spent trying to avoid 30 year trumped up charges, tells me where your concern lies. Nifong is disbarred and the Attorney General has found the charges baseless, so we all see this case was a mistake. But we don’t see the same mistakes.

    Some see a team of college students doing nothing different from many hundreds of thousands of their peers, getting taken to the cleaners by a racist liar, a crowd of haters drunk on their own bias fantasies who couldn’t stand their high standing, and a petty DA who didn’t mind using them for his own ends. I’m speaking of the team, not the hapless defendants. What happened to them was something far worse than a simple mistake. Others think the big mistakes revolve around the way Brodhead and some Duke faculty took it in the shorts from those who were doing everything they could to stop the madness. They want to set the record straight on the way the bloggers stepped over the lines.

    We all see mistakes in the Hoax. Some of us thought it was mainly about 3 guys getting hauled up on BS rape charges, with a heapin’ helpin’ of PC newthink thrown in for good measure. But we don’t all see it that way.

    ~   ~   ~

    A long and generous comment—thank you. I appreciate the perspective, and the suggestions about where it seems that I have a “tin ear.” It’s food for thought that will take me a while to digest.