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What is The Truth about KC Johnson?

I’ve already written twice about this episode of the Duke lacrosse scandal. Check the first of those posts for details. I touched on it again to make some points about people jumping to conclusions in a heated controversy that’s bound to have some nastiness on both sides. But there was an important piece of the puzzle that I didn’t see until after I posted, and now I’m feeling like I went a little overboard with the fair and balanced routine. I should have learned by now not to underestimate KC Johnson’s willingness to cook up the “facts” he needs for his Durham-in-Wonderland crusade.

Here’s the tale. It’s late October 2006. The indicted lacrosse players have recently been on 60 Minutes, and the election that will decide if Nifong will continue as DA is a couple of weeks away. Duke Chemistry professor Steven Baldwin writes an editorial in the Duke Chronicle calling the administration and a portion of the faculty to account for their abysmal record during the scandal. He’s defiant and forthright in the face of the rush-to-judgment crowd’s choke-hold on campus, declaring that some of his colleagues “should be tarred and feathered, ridden out of town on a rail and removed from the academy.” He was simply insisting that professors do their duty and treat their students decently, but

[his] missive did arouse the wrath of the righteous. Ignoring any pretense of desiring dialogue and debate with those who dared to challenge their agenda, the Group [of 88] and its sympathizers immediately tried to silence Baldwin. “Clarifying” faculty Robyn Wiegman wrote a letter to the Chronicle bizarrely suggesting that Baldwin’s op-ed used the “language of lynching,” only to receive a history lesson from Johnsville News. Baldwin, undeterred, continued speaking up for all Duke students throughout the spring.

Weigman and others “proceeded to torment the professor who showed the moral courage” to demand accountability from his colleagues. One colleague even emailed Baldwin with “an implicit call for violence.” And the torment had its “unbearably sad” effect.

Professor Baldwin, having used a perfectly apt metaphor for how the unapologetic faculty members should be treated, then saw fit to kneel down at the altar of political correctness and issue the ritual apology.

That’s the operatic version of reality you’ll get from KC Johnson and Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Silverglate, in particular, can really lay it on with a trowel. Here, though, is the email from political science professor Kerry Haynie that, as Johnson and/or Baldwin see it, includes an “implicit call for violence.”

Dear Steven,

I read with amusement your opinion column in today’s Chronicle. Frankly, I found it to be insulting and out of the normal bounds of both civil and academic discourse. I hope the students that you say you love so much don’t take this lesson in hypocrisy from you. They deserve a better model than this. On the one hand you criticize some unnamed faculty for characterizing students in a pejorative manner, and then you speak of tarring and feathering and running folk out of town on a rail. You ask the faculty to speak their minds and to do what they think is right, but what you seem to really want is for us to do these things only if and when we agree with you. It is this attitude that has no place in the academy, where the free expression of ideas, thoughts and beliefs should be cherished and protected. And you even had the nerve to include a thinly veiled threat of legal action in response to some alleged slander. Steven, it is you who should be ashamed.

Are you the one with the tar and feathers? I can be found at the address below and I am usually on campus everyday. And you should know that if I ever leave Duke it will be on my terms and not because you or anybody else wants to see me go on a rail.

So, is there even a hint of political correctness in Haynie’s note? No. Does Haynie accuse Baldwin of being a racist? No. Does he slap Baldwin with a how-dare-you for defending the villainous lacrosse players? No. Does he tell Baldwin to just shut up, or threaten to sick the authorities on him and get him fired? Sure doesn’t. Does Haynie make any kind of threat at all? Nope. He does raise a rhetorical question about whether Baldwin means to get real about his wild and crazy language. It’s not a suggestion to step outside and settle things man to man. But Johnson seems to agree with Silverglate that no reasonable person could object to Baldwin’s “perfectly apt metaphor,” and there wasn’t much chance that he could get a clear impression of Haynie’s email through that thick a cloud.

Absolutely nothing about the message supports the Johnson-Silverglate myth, and it was already a stretch when it rested on Weigman’s public letter alone. How did that letter, or anything else Weigman could have done, force Baldwin to “kneel down at the altar of political correctness”?

The episode is a pretty good microcosm of the shouting match that was kicked up by the lacrosse team’s miserable party, and through it you can get the truth about KC Johnson in a nutshell—he’s done whatever it takes to turn the people at Duke he’s written about into pawns of a threadbare culture-war mythology.

How lazy can you get in the face of your own ideological fairy tales? When Johnson is criticized he’s plenty prickly about evidence, but his own interest in uncovering evidence, or even in seeing what’s already in plain sight, is about as narrowly agenda-driven as it could possibly be. There are no signs that Johnson (or, for that matter, Silverglate or the reporter for FIRE) did a speck of actual research on this episode before pontificating on its significance. Johnson must have been in contact with Baldwin, either to get Haynie’s email or Baldwin’s impression of it (and you have to wonder if Johnson even read the message before making his claim). How many other emails and calls did Baldwin get? Who were they from? In what way were they attempts to silence him? Without any of that information, Johnson is just making up stories.

Johnson’s selective attention to evidence is just as clear in his attacks on Mark Anthony Neal. His interest in anything Neal has written or said, like his interest in the responses to Baldwin’s editorial, dried up after he collected a couple of usefully incriminating items (his ears perk up late in the game when something new comes up that he can ridicule). But sometimes being selective isn’t enough. What he does to Haynie is the most blatant and slanderous misrepresentation I’ve come across. Unlike others I’ve found, it’s based on source material that wasn’t public when the claim was made, and it’s hard to imagine that’s a coincidence. But he’s not much more subtle in misrepresenting nearly every aspect of Karla Holloway’s published article about the case. He misrepresents Lubiano’s comments about “perfect offenders,” as well, and then calls her insistent corrections “revisionism”—another misrepresentation. And he passes on as fact Richard Bertrand Spencer’s fantasy that Neal has said he hears a racial slur whenever he walks into a new class at Duke—kind of a stretch, since Spencer’s claim is based on an article published more than a year before Neal started teaching there.

Johnson is all too ready to excuse himself and his readers from facing inconvenient challenges. When I emailed to ask for confirmation or comment on Haynie’s account of the exchange with Baldwin, Johnson answered that he doesn’t respond to items posted on anonymous blogs, and besides that Haynie once answered Johnson’s email with a rude and dismissive one-liner (“Get a freaking life! Quote me.”). I’d grant Johnson his objection to anonymous criticism, except that the page in question is signed by Haynie—it’s easy enough to do what I did and contact him for confirmation. And I suppose that Haynie’s angry email might be a sign that he’s so unreasonable and aggressive that it’s best to just ignore him, but I doubt it. In practice Haynie’s line turns out to be a useful addition to the collection of incriminating quotes, including Holloway’s motto and Neal’s epithet, that Johnson uses to pigeonhole and dismiss his opponents. Once he has it in the bag he trots it out, by my count, four of the five times he mentions Haynie in DIW. One of those posts is a vindictive little exposé about the books Haynie lists as “forthcoming,” an example of another standard practice on DIW—gratuitous character prosecution.

[I emailed Johnson again after this post went up and he sent back the same excuses, then followed up with a longer evasion that I’ve posted as a comment. Haynie’s page is not anonymous and neither is this one. The site Haynie’s page is on shouldn’t be anonymous, either—more on that below.]

It’s odd because Haynie was part of one of the only groups of Duke faculty that Johnson consistently credits with being sensible and honorable—the committee chaired by James Coleman that looked into lacrosse team behavior. Even though Haynie contributed to a report that was widely seen as both fair and favorable to the team and though he made no public comments I can find about team members, it seems that he felt not only angry but potentially singled out by Baldwin’s jab at “faculty who publicly savaged the character and reputations of specific men’s lacrosse players.” What that tells me is that Johnson’s simplistic version of events is far from the whole story. But Haynie’s apparent integrity in one context is small potatoes compared to the power of the myth, and in Wonderland black professors who react angrily to Baldwin’s or Johnson’s righteousness are practically by definition dangerous drones of identity politics. Given that Johnson managed to dismiss the criticism directed at him by a man he practically enshrined as the conscience of Duke—James Coleman—writing Haynie off must have been child’s play.

The root of Johnson’s analysis-in-Wonderland is the myth of a cohesive mob of irrational ideologues whose reaction to the lacrosse team and most anything else can be explained by their race/class/gender mindset. As far as he’s concerned a hint is the same as a smoking gun with these sort of people, and he seems to be convinced he knows them well. There was a time, months ago, when I thought that at least some of Johnson’s criticism of Duke faculty had value as an abrasive antidote to the more dogmatic reflexes of the academic left. But whenever I scratch the surface all I find is intellectually vacuous attacks—little more than faith-based efforts to reduce his opponents to type. Sometimes, like when he harps on Neal’s supposed “intellectual thuggery,” it’s amazing how hypocritically lost Johnson gets in his little agenda. It’s him, not Neal, who’s inclined to do violence with and to words, and to set up those he chooses to attack as targets for the self-righteous and the ignorant.

Johnson doesn’t use the language of bigots, but in the cases I’ve studied his criticism is based on the airtight reasoning of bigotry. Responding to Charles Piot’s claim that his attacks on black women have been especially virulent, Johnson claims to be color- and gender-blind.

The blog criticized black female professors (Wahneema Lubiano, Karla Holloway). It criticized white male professors (Bill Chafe, Peter Wood, Alex Rosenberg). It criticized white female professors (Anne Allison, Cathy Davidson, Diane Nelson). It criticized black male professors (Mark Anthony Neal, Houston Baker, Maurice Wallace). It criticized Hispanic professors (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Antonio Viego). It criticized mixed-race professors (Grant Farred). The common element in the critique was the professor’s position on issues relating to the lacrosse case and the race/class/gender trinity upon which the Group’s approach was based.

It’s true that he hammers away at all those professors with criticism that’s uniformly harsh. But his attacks on Lubiano and Holloway are especially intense and sustained—they stand apart as determined efforts to portray dangerous, muddle-headed ideologues who offer nothing of value. It’s hard to find any meaningful difference between his take on Holloway and the reflexive opinions of a misogynist. He accentuates the supposedly violent side of two black men, Haynie and Neal. The only justification he gives for cultivating the impression of Neal as a dangerous black man is that the quotes he uses to do so are fair game. There’s virtually no insight in any of these portraits, but there’s a great deal of incitement—implications and insinuations that cater to his readers’ anger and prejudice. All signs are that Johnson is completely unreflective when it comes to his own presumptions and biases, so it’s my guess that he’s treating gender and race as pieces of evidence that, when combined with a pernicious left-wing mindset, imply an extra dose of both bias and threat (a while back Tenured Radical wrote eloquently about being on the receiving end of this kind of thinking).

~   ~   ~

The Truth about KC Johnson is also the title of the website with Haynie’s account of his email to Baldwin. The site popped up sometime last December as an effort to counteract the picture Johnson has painted of the case. The main page is an unsigned essay that’s highly critical of Johnson. Three of the other five pages are material that isn’t available elsewhere—besides Haynie’s page, there’s Lubiano’s point-by-point response to her portrayal in Until Proven Innocent and a collection of hateful email that various Duke professors have received. Early on the summary essay veers towards a cynical stance that can, I think, be counterproductive, but as a whole it points out many of DIW’s flaws both efficiently and cogently. Along with the supporting material posted on the site there are links to other blogs that have been critical of Johnson, including mine. If it’s authentic, everything posted on the site besides the summary came from a tenured professor at Duke (and I see no reason to doubt the authenticity of anything there), so I don’t understand why the site as a whole isn’t signed by an individual or group. Anonymity is sometimes justified when it allows vulnerable people to express themselves, but I don’t see how these particular circumstances qualify. If they do, I’d be interested in having that explained.

{ 12 } Comments

  1. Robert Zimmerman | April 7, 2008 at 10:44 | Permalink

    After brushing off the question about Haynie’s email because “it’s my general practice not to respond to items posted on anonymous blogs,” Johnson emailed me this longer non-response, which fusses over trivia as a way to say nothing substantive.

    The research Johnson failed to do was the basic legwork you’d expect from any decent reporter or historian—putting the flashy evidence in context. It has nothing to do with whether or not he could or should have emailed Haynie more than a year after the fact to confirm he put up that web page. Johnson’s reflexes are crystal clear when he wonders if I know of any “additional remarks on the case made by Prof. Neal.” His interest is not actually confined to remarks Neal has made about the case—he’s just as interested in anything else Neal might say that can be presented as the remarks of a dangerous extremist, even if they’re fabrications like the thing Spencer claims Neal hears whenever he walks into a new class at Duke. With respect to Coleman’s criticism, Johnson tries to plant a tree in your face hoping you won’t bother with the forest. I appreciate Johnson’s help making my point about how narrow and self-serving his attention is to either evidence or criticism.

    In the entry Johnson put on DIW to rebut my first few posts on the case, he fulminated about how I “criticized DIW for having engaged in ‘insidiously polarizing,’ ‘irrational,’ and ‘anti-academic’ behavior,” and wondered what evidence I could possibly have to support such over-the-top charges. Now it’s spelled out in great detail, not only on this page but in lengthy posts about his criticism of Holloway and Neal. But the laundry list I make of misrepresentation and shoddy reasoning, including Spencer’s fabrication, can be ignored because as far as Johnson is concerned those issues have already been covered. And the running down of Haynie can be ignored because it relates to a claim that’s made on a web site that’s administered anonymously.

    As to “slanderous,” it was a poor word choice, since it’s by definition spoken and not written. I should have said libelous—according to my dictionary “a thing or circumstance that brings undeserved discredit on a person by misrepresentation.” I’m not stating a legal opinion, since I’m not a lawyer.

    What follows is Johnson’s email.

    ~   ~   ~

    You wrote, “There are no signs that Johnson (or, for that matter, Silverglate or the reporter for FIRE) did a speck of actual research on this episode before pontificating on its significance.”

    As I noted, responding to a contemporaneous e-mail request for information, Prof. Haynie wrote, “Get a freaking life! Quote me.” Several minutes later, he e-mailed me back, stating, “Please don’t send me any additional stupid emails on  this topic.”

    That Prof. Haynie elected not to respond to my question, and then added a request (with which I complied), not to send him “any additional stupid emails on this topic,” is his prerogative. It’s rather hard, however, to suggest that my honoring Haynie’s request that I not again e-mail him constituted a failure to do research.

    You add, “And I suppose that Haynie’s angry email might be a sign that he’s so unreasonable and aggressive that it’s best to just ignore him, but I doubt it.” Yet Haynie in writing asked me not to contact him. I take such requests very seriously, for obvious legal reasons.

    As far as I  can tell, the remainder of your post consists of issues already covered in our previous lengthy exchanges (Lubiano, Holloway, responses to which people can see in the posts to which you linked), legal judgments (“slanderous”) to which I invite readers—and especially those familiar with the legal definition of slander—to peruse DIW archives and make their own judgments, and a new allegation that my “interest in anything Neal has written or said, like his interest in the responses to Baldwin’s editorial, dried up after he collected a couple of usefully incriminating items.” Perhaps you are familiar with additional remarks on the case made by Prof. Neal? If so, I’d be happy to look them over.

    Finally, on the Coleman criticism, I would invite readers to examine the response to him penned by Stuart Taylor and me in the Chronicle:
    http://www.dukechronicle.com/news/2007/10/10/Letters/Coleman.Kasibhatla.Criticism.Puzzling-3023787.shtml

    To my knowledge, Prof. Coleman hasn’t endorsed our call for “a comprehensive review, modeled on the Coleman Committee’s balanced and commendable investigation of the lacrosse team, of the faculty’s response to the lacrosse case.” And, as we say in the letter, we were both puzzled by his criticism of us for not mentioning the alcohol section of his report when, in fact, our book directly quoted from his report’s text—

    KC

  2. Kerry L. Haynie | April 7, 2008 at 21:29 | Permalink

    Robert,
    This is the first time I have visited your blog. In my view, this post accurately captures the unethical, dishonest, and self-serving manner in which KC Johnson has dealt with the LAX matter.

    In his email that is printed above, he either doesn’t address the substance of your criticisms or he responds about y when you asked about x. For example, he ignores your query about his and Taylor’s source or sources for the lie about my email exchange with Professor Baldwin that is printed on page 284 of their book. He responds by referencing an email response I sent him on another topic long before they printed this lie. If they didn’t make this up, why doesn’t he simply identify his source or sources? He doesn’t need an answer from me to do this, and he knows it! I have a pretty good idea of how he came to see my email to Baldwin. I’m fairly confident that I and others will be able to confirm my suspicions in the near future.

    Regarding the vindictive 10/12/07 posting about me on Johnson’s blog, let me give you a little background. Johnson posted that inaccurate hit job only after I joined Professors Coleman and Kasibhatla in criticizing the misleading and self-serving manner that he and Taylor were characterizing the Lacrosse Ad Hoc Review Committee’s report. Of course, he doesn’t reveal on the blog what motivated his attack on me. Has he ever denied to you that his posting was intended as retribution?

    In the hit job piece, KC prints lies and misrepresentations. For example, he says I criticized UPI. At the time, I did no such thing (I have since, I will in the future for sure). I criticized the misrepresentations about our committee report that he and Taylor had printed in a op-ed in a newspaper. I expressly said that I had not read the book, but that I had seen comments by them in newspapers. Also I have never had or maintained a web page. The page to which he refers was created and is maintained by a staff person. To this day, I don’t know the last time that page was updated, or by whom.

    Johnson suggests that I misled Duke about my record when I was hired. This is an empirical claim that can be substantiated or not. Can KC, the great researcher, substantiate this claim? Did he ask my department chair, with whom he has corresponded about LAX matters? Did ask my dean or the provost? This is a bold statement. We’ll see how bold he is in defending it.

    Kerry L. Haynie

    ~   ~   ~

    In their sourcenotes, Johnson and Taylor do identify the source of their statement on p. 284—“Kerry Haynie to Steve Baldwin, 24 Oct. 2006, e-mail.” I was hoping that Johnson would confirm that the message they referenced in the book was the same as the one Haynie posted on the web, and then point out the “implicit call for violence” that’s supposedly in there somewhere. And yes, it’s not a trick question and there’s absolutely no reason that Johnson can’t give a straight answer. I’ve never asked why he devoted a whole post to attacking Haynie’s publication record, but it’s a good question, too.

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for Johnson to defend himself on any of these points. When I posted about him a few months ago he was quick with his responses. Now that I’m pointing out clear and specific misrepresentations, I think he’s decided it’s better to ignore it and hope it goes away.

  3. Mike | April 11, 2008 at 01:48 | Permalink

    Moved to extra comments.

  4. wayne fontes | April 11, 2008 at 13:35 | Permalink

    I think you over looked one important link in your blog post which is KC’s October 10th post which printed Haynie’s entire comment on the Chronicle thread. Here is the meat:

    [I (RZ) edited out the quote from DIW—see below for details]

    While he did incorrectly state that Haynie was responding to UPI two days later since the content of UPI, DIW and any other newspaper article is the same it’s a distinction without a difference.

    Haynie’s claim that Johnson and Taylor “mischaracterized our committee’s report. I have not read the Taylor and Johnson book . . . Our report cannot and should not be seen as a commentary on anything that happened on that now infamous and tragic evening” is a straw man argument.

    In his email to Baldwin Haynie makes another you seem to have overlooked:

    And you even had the nerve to include a thinly veiled threat of legal action in response to some alleged slander. Steven, it is you who should be ashamed.

    Here is Baldwin’s reference to lawsuits:

    They should be tarred and feathered, ridden out of town on a rail and removed from the academy. Their comments were despicable. I suspect they were also slanderous, but we’ll hear more about that later.

    Baldwin was obviously referring to the players filing lawsuits since he had no standing to file a suit. Time has proven him correct since Duke has already settled two (with two more pending) laws suites including one that provided protection to the faculty for anything they said prior to the settlement date.

    Thank you for clarifying that your question to Johnson was not about the source of the Baldwin email (more straw from Haynie) but his assertion that it contained an implicit call for violence. That is exactly the way I read it. I’m reminded of the Richard Pryor line “who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes”.

    ~   ~   ~

    I’m afraid I don’t quite follow this comment. I’m not sure, first of all, what these two points I supposedly missed about Haynie have to do with anything. Is it that you think I’m saying Haynie did everything right and Johnson did everything wrong, so you want to point out what you think Haynie did wrong? Or these two things are so bad that they justify Johnson saying whatever he wants about Haynie?

    The first point relates to the little episode in October 2007 that was kicked up by Coleman’s and Kasibhatla’s letter to the Chronicle criticizing Johnson and Taylor. For convenience I made a page with the key passages from Coleman-Kasibhatla, Haynie, and Johnson-Taylor, including the passage I took out of the comment. Since it happened a year after Haynie sent his email to Baldwin, and after UPI was published, none of it has much to do with my main point. But Johnson did not, as you claim, reproduce Haynie’s entire comment from the Chronicle, and the nearly four sentences that were left out make Haynie’s objection both clearer and more reasonable. So I suppose you’re more or less right about the “straw man argument,” but it’s Johnson who spun the straw. I don’t know why he felt he had to do that, since it seems to me that he could have answered Haynie’s actual criticism. In DIW, at least, he makes it clear that the report speaks to the character of the lacrosse players and not to what did or didn’t happen at the party.

    As to the second point, sure Haynie might miss the mark with his comment about Baldwin’s “thinly veiled threat of legal action.” It’s an angry email written in response to an angry editorial and so not the most careful critique. But it was meant as a private communication—it’s only public because of the misuse Johnson and Taylor made of it. Baldwin was free to dispute or clarify whatever points he wanted to. The email raises some interesting questions, but unless you know what context Haynie and Baldwin brought to the interaction, from their previous contacts (if there were any) and/or general immersion in faculty politics, the only conclusions you can draw are weak and self-indulgent ones.

    I’m not in a position to press Johnson about how he got the email, or if he ever read it, though I’m curious about those things. But it seems to me that Haynie has every right to raise the questions, and raise them forcefully. You can interpret his email any way you want—it’s one thing to have an opinion and an entirely different thing to claim in print, without consulting Haynie and without indicating how debatable the interpretation is, that Haynie wanted to settle his disagreement with Baldwin with physical violence.

  5. Kerry L. haynie | April 12, 2008 at 19:50 | Permalink

    The post by Wayne Fontes (I assume this is a real name) is remarkable. He claims that KC Johnson prints the comments I made in the Chronicle on 10/10/07 in their entirety. As your commentary and your “page with the key passages” make perfectly clear, this is wrong, wrong, wrong! By my count, 170 words of my comments are missing from the post on Johnson’s blog. And are these just any 170 words? Since above you have included a link to my complete statement, readers of this blog can answer this question for themselves [for convenience, here’s that link]. I will say, however, that Johnson and many of the posters on his blog have routinely used ellipses and have selectively quoted others in order to paint self-serving, misleading, and inaccurate portraits of the LAX incident and related events.

    Earlier this year, KC Johnson reported that there had been 923,723 words posted on the blog. Questions:

    1. Does this total include the 170 words he left out of my comments he posted on 10/10/07? How about the missing words of numerous others that he “quoted” on his blog?
    2. With more than 920,000 words posted, it would appear that not having enough space is not a problem for his blog. So, why does KC routinely use ellipses when he quotes those with whom he disagrees? Is the use of the ellipsis in this manner standard methodology and practice for academic historians?

    Fontes writes, “While he [KC Johnson] did incorrectly state that Haynie was responding to UPI two days later since the content of UPI, DIW and any other newspaper article is the same it’s a distinction without a difference.” Wow! This is another attempt to distort the facts. I invite Mr. Fontes and all others to read my 10/10/07 comments in their entirety to see if this is simply a distinction without a difference. I’ll give you all a hint. There is a difference. KC Johnson lied in that post. Above, there is a link to the comments in question (“page with the key passages”). You be the judge.

    Kerry L. Haynie

    ~   ~   ~

    I’m pretty sure that “Wayne Fontes” is an alias, and that he’s not the famous football coach or a namesake. But for my part I read his comment as part of an honest effort to understand and not just dismiss, and appreciate that it raises some points that are worth addressing.

    I was confused by his remark about the “distinction without a difference,” though. Johnson seems to think there’s a difference. The cuts he makes in Haynie’s comment do double duty. Not only do they wipe out Haynie’s real complaint, they also facilitate the hollow but obnoxious claim that he’s too close-minded to read the text he’s criticizing. As Fontes points out, you don’t have to read UPI to get pretty good idea of what Johnson has made of the Coleman committee report.

    The strategically pared-down version of Haynie’s comment is not the only example of that sort of handiwork I’ve found in DIW. Johnson’s misrepresentation of a few key lines of Holloway’s article is the worst case I know of, and it plays a longer and more central role in DIW. It’s always been my belief that ellipsis can be used to weed out inessential parts of a quote if it’s done with care. I’m not aware of any formal guidelines about that—guess I better look into it if I teach another class that involves essay writing. But one of the big ironies of DIW—funny or depressing, depending on how you look at it—is how many fine examples it offers of writing practices that are completely unacceptible in decent academic criticism and analysis.

  6. Debrah | April 24, 2008 at 10:03 | Permalink

    “What is The Truth about KC Johnson?”

    That he is simply one of the most resilient and brilliant minds in the academy.

    Capable of producing outstanding scholarship while entertaining and dissecting unwashed commentary from lesser minds with a sensual, biting wit.

    KC Johnson is a force who shows that perfection is not always to be denied.

    ~   ~   ~

    I think we’d better just agree to disagree about this.

  7. MarkRougemont | April 25, 2008 at 08:12 | Permalink

    At the risk of offending both parties in this I will give you my opinion on this.

    First of all the Duke Lacrosses case was used by the so-called “Group of 88’ to highlight legitimate issues of sexual assault, racism, and social standing on campus. The listening ad was the result of that mindset. Good causes, wrong case. It is clear to me that the opinion of the authors of this ad were pretty sure ‘something happened’ at that party that would justify that ad. The case was used to promote a just cause. At some point it became very clear that the case was a sham and this group should have admitted they used the case to fit an agenda, that the players were innocent of the charges against them, and they should have apologized to the players and the families for that. Instead they provided a weak (in my opinion) defense of the just causes and issues raised while at the same time professed denial that they felt that the charges would turn out to be true. They were right in being concerned about the fears and complaints of students, and very wrong to use an unproven accusation against other students to highlight those concerns.

    KC Johnson, on the other hand, used this groups reaction to the case to highlight an issue he is passionate and concerned about, that of the problems with certain members of the faculty and specifically certain departments like African-American studies and Women’s studies on college campuses. I will grant him the fact that there may be some problems here and it is an issue worthy of discussion. As far as the Duke Lacrosse case goes, it is certainly a minor issue to the main issues of prosecutorial misconduct and possible law enforcement misconduct. Yet he gives it such a major role in the case and paints the motives and thinking of certain faculty members with such a broad brush of hate and bigotry, that the agenda he promotes becomes lost in the rhetoric.

    The reactions and emotions of both parties have been overplayed and stereotyped to show such a wide disparity of opinion to fit an ‘us against them’ approach to the case that have many backed into corners from which it is difficult if not impossible to emerge from. The many civil suits against Duke do not help this mindset. Frankly, I see it as a fact that the administration of Duke handled this case poorly and made many mistakes that do appear to have put the Lacrosse players at risk. I don’t for a minute believe that these mistakes were part of some conspiracy to frame innocent kids. I hope our court system can come up with a fair result, and sort some of this mess out. Some in Duke’s administration should be held accountable for the mistakes that were made and a better policy needs to be in place when (not if) a situation like this happens again.

    ~   ~   ~

    I would phrase a few things differently, but on the whole this seems pretty reasonable to me. So yes, it’s bound to offend. I’ll just point out, with regard to this particular post, that Haynie isn’t one of the 88.

  8. Kerry L Haynie | April 25, 2008 at 13:54 | Permalink

    Let me point out that the so-called “Group of 88” is a creation of bloggers and Duke outsiders. This entity does not exist at Duke, nor has it ever. KC Johnson and 2 or 3 Duke faculty manufactured a “political correctness hoax” that has suffered the same fate as Nifong’s “case.”

    As for Debrah’s comments, she clearly has little familiarity with the academy (at least with the one to which I belong). Serious, honest, and ethical scholars don’t intentionally and or maliciously misrepresent, misquote, and lie in their analyses and commentaries, not even in blogs.

    ~   ~   ~

    The so-called “Group of 88” has indeed been a great polemical tool—that it’s essentially a fabrication seems to make in more rather than less durable. I’ve written in some detail about that.

  9. Mike Hubbel | April 25, 2008 at 22:06 | Permalink

    Kerry L. Haynie is incorrect. Of course the “Group of 88” exists. Just as surely as the “two strippers” or “three accused lacrosse players” exist, so do the 88 signatories of the listening ad. They don’t need a group charter or a secret handshake to be known as a group. They only need something in common with each other.

    Your characterization of the label, “Group of 88,” as a polemical tool sheds more light on your own politics than on the intentions of those who created or use the phrase as a shorthand notation for the group of Duke professors who signed the ad. No reasonable person would consider the term, group, to be a derogatory, controversial, or pejorative use of language.

    I’ve read much of what KC has written in his blog. I’ve seen him make mistakes and correct them promptly and publicly, demonstrating his commitment that getting it right is more important than face-saving rhetoric. That, combined with the extensive sourcing of his data, is what gives him the vast credibility he has received regarding the Duke lacrosse case. It’s also what sets him apart from most of his critics.

    ~   ~   ~

    No sensible person would think that either Haynie or I is objecting to the word “group” because it’s “derogatory, controversial, or pejorative.” The label “Group of 88” is a polemical tool because Johnson uses it to make points in a partisan critique (in fact I think he coined it in the first place). Feel free to read my complaints about the label and tell me what I got wrong.

    While you’re at it, check out all the errors and misrepresentations I’ve found in just a few entries on DIW. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for him to either correct them or correct me.

  10. Mike Hubbel | April 26, 2008 at 02:10 | Permalink

    I’ll begin with your first point complaining about the “Group of 88” label. You claim that KC Johnson doesn’t know what message the 88 endorsers sent when they signed the ad. For someone who teaches in the field of arts, you don’t have a very clear understanding of communication. It is the receiver of a message who is in the best position to know what message has been sent. That’s not an intuitive concept so I’ll give you an example as it was given to me.

    Ask a married man (or woman and reverse the roles in the rest of this example) who is in a better position to know how much he loves his wife, he or his wife? Almost instinctively, the man will be sure that he is the the one who knows what’s truly inside his heart and, therefore, he is in the best position to know how much he loves his wife. He would be wrong. His wife is in the best position to know. If his wife doesn’t feel like he loves her very much, it doesn’t matter a bit what he thinks. He can argue all day that in his heart he truly loves her but if she receives a different message through his actions, his tone, his touch, or any of the myriad of communication paths, it doesn’t matter what he thinks.

    Alice Kaplan can claim that “the statement was about the climate on campus…. ” or the lack of life on Mars. It doesn’t matter what she thinks it was about. Everyone who read the ad received their very own message through the words, the tone, the font, the medium, and even the list of signatories. Just like the husband in the example above, the senders can argue all day long they meant something else but if they actually want to be convincing, they need to do so in a way that causes the receiver of the message to believe they really did intend it in a different way.

    I’ve seen blustering, excuses, and alternative explanations from some of the signatories (which, by the way, is the term Wahneema Lubiano used in her email asking for support for the ad) but I haven’t seen any real effort to communicate a different message than the one received by many.

    ~   ~   ~

    Communication between spouses is a poor analogy for communication between an ad-hoc group and a community through a newspaper ad. But you hit on a pretty good point. Nobody is in a position to tell me what the “listening” statement communicates to me, and vice-versa. And it’s an undeniable fact that I get an entirely different message from it than Johnson does. Your complaint should be with him, not me, since he’s far more inclined to claim that his interpretations are absolute and objective. If you’re interested, though, you can read my criticisms of the ad.

    This started with Haynie’s comment that the “Group of 88” is not an entity that exists at Duke. It’s definitely not a formal organization like Senior Women in Science or the Black Faculty Caucus. Is it nonetheless a cohesive collective with shared opinions pressing a common agenda, so that it’s legitimately the focal point of an analysis of Duke faculty and the lacrosse case? In my opinion it’s not, and I think Haynie is making more or less the same point. As a Duke professor who was deeply involved in deliberations about the lacrosse case, he’s in a much better position than you or me or KC Johnson to say what the meaningful groupings within the faculty are. That doesn’t mean he’s automatically right, but to make any kind of case that he’s wrong you’ll have to dig a lot deeper.

  11. Debrah | April 26, 2008 at 10:29 | Permalink

    “As for Debrah’s comments, she clearly has little familiarity with the academy (at least with the one to which I belong).”

    Mercifully, I can agree with the quote I have highlighted in bold relief.

    Fortunately, I can say that I have been around those from the academy most of my life.

    Those who place the highest value on scholarship…….first.

    ~   ~   ~

    Great. We’re all in agreement. Nobody who places the highest value on scholarship would “intentionally and or maliciously misrepresent, misquote, and lie in their analyses and commentaries.”

  12. Ralph K. DuBose | April 28, 2008 at 21:38 | Permalink

    The saga of the Lax-rape hoax did not end with the formal exoneration of the players slightly more than a year ago. The civil lawsuits are going forward. They are all on-line and make interesting reading. I will wager a bet that a big part of the final public perception of the meaning of this case, the one that will be solidified in the history books, is that the Leadership of Duke University knew that the charges against their students were false almost from the beginning - yet cooperated in various ways to help push the DA’s case to a trial in Durham.
    This happened more or less in plain sight, at least if someone’s eyes were open. Hardly anyone in Academia - much less at Duke - spoke out against this crime against 3 innocent players. K. C. Johnson did and it should be noted that his take on this matter has been vindicated by events about as thoroughly as one gets to experience in this life.
    So, what are you on about?

    ~   ~   ~

    I should move this to the extras page, since it’s just a mindless rehash of liestopper conventional wisdom, but this thread has probably run its course. Not that the conventional wisdom is necessarily wrong—take out the Capital-Lettered Paranoia and there’s some points here that I’ve acknowledged in one form or another. But since I’m not writing anything this person cares to read I’m not sure why he’s wasting his time here.