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Stupid conservative tricks

Back in 2004 the Duke Conservative Union (DCU) looked up the political party affiliation of 178 Duke faculty members in the humanities and then took out an ad in the Duke Chronicle announcing that the vast majority were registered Democrats. Only 8 were registered Republicans. A day later the paper ran a lengthy piece with the reactions of faculty and administrators. Reporter Cindy Yee sampled a fair range of opinions and wove them into a solid, informative article. But it was the quote from philosophy department chair Robert Brandon that people really noticed.

“We try to hire the best, smartest people available,” Brandon said of his philosophy hires. “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.

“Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too.”

From the comments posted after the article you can get a pretty good sense of how that went over, or google “Robert Brandon” Duke stupid for a broader sample. Reflecting on the remark after “two days of venomous, hate filled e-mails from self-described ‘conservatives,’” Brandon said, “In my response to The Chronicle reporter I gave a quote from John Stuart Mill that I thought was quite funny. I now see that the humor is not much appreciated in this context.” In writing, at least, the remark strikes me as arrogant and not very funny, and I’m not sure that even sympathetic readers picked up much humor. But as a smoking gun in the crime of liberal bias the remark was very much appreciated—the Google search above calls up a little feeding frenzy of critics who were, on the whole, remarkably uncritical and opportunistic in their approach to such a useful quote. Recently it’s cropped up again as part of a minor farce.

[Here’s more about Mill’s theory of conservatives.]

It seems pretty obvious (to me, at least) that Brandon’s comment is just a pretentious version of the kind of reflexive, snarky put-down that each side of the political spectrum is constant throwing at the other. It takes a pretty shallow or self-serving perspective to assume that it’s deeply revealing of how he approaches decisions or interactions involving conservative students or faculty. That’s the sort of spin you’d expect from a partisan rag, and sure enough Rachel Zabarkes Friedman, writing for the National Review, put Brandon’s remark on her list of “five of the most outrageous campus incidents of the last academic year.” Her paragraph about it ends with a little idle speculation: “So why aren’t there more Republicans in academia? Maybe it’s because even the capable ones have been kept out, by the likes of Robert Brandon.” Unless she did a whole lot more investigating than it seems, she’s in no position to make generalizations about “the likes of Robert Brandon.” She has an uppity liberal-professor sock puppet who can mouth the words, though, and that suits the National Review just fine. But here’s one from a professor, Erin O’Connor, and she doesn’t do much better: “It says something about a department—if not the university as a whole—when its leader will come right out and say that the reason there aren’t more conservatives teaching college is that conservatives are stupid.” The claim about his department is especially empty. Other than the emphasis on philosophy of biology it looks like a pretty traditional philosophy department. It’s not clear how you’d find out if the chair’s comment about stupid conservatives really says something about them. It would definitely take some work, so why not just say it?

It’s a tedious and often disingenuous habit to treat attempts at humor, even those that bomb, as revelations of the real beliefs that the joker would otherwise deny or keep under wraps. All the conservative tut-tutting about Brandon’s remarks suggests that feminists aren’t the only ones who can’t take a joke (I’ll hand that off to the fabulous Nellie McKay at the end of the post). Joke or not, a quote relayed by a reporter is not the same as a first-person written statement. If Brandon had written the bit about Mill and stupid conservatives in an op-ed, presumably he would have made sure that his meaning came across in print, and it would make sense to treat it as a serious opinion. He may well be arrogantly clubby about the predominance of liberals in the humanities faculty, or he may be inclined to bullshit when he gets a question that he hasn’t thought much about, or he may have been blowing off steam after reading the ravings of some fringe professor pushing “Intelligent Design” as science. There are plenty more possibilities—I don’t know Prof. Brandon so I’m not suggesting any particular interpretation. My point is that the quote got the play that it did because it was useful—it’s actual significance is uncertain but was probably vastly overstated by his critics. It doesn’t say much for the seriousness of the cause of “intellectual diversity” that a glib remark to a campus newspaper has to be overinterpreted and oversold to make the case for it.

When it comes to using quotes for impact, with little regard for either their significance or their context, KC Johnson is hard to beat. About a year and a half after Brandon made his infamous comment, Johnson used it in an editorial for the Chronicle of Higher Education, a critical look at the explanations and justifications given by the “academic Establishment” for its leftwards imbalance. In retrospect it reads like a warmup for the anti-academic crusade he piggybacked on the lacrosse case—the narrowly-framed issues and boilerplate rhetoric were ready and waiting for the “listening” statement to come along. The editorial is a mix-and-match of quotes framed as evidence of bias but otherwise largely unanalyzed—The Cigarette Smoking Blog (!) has a handy list of some of them. I haven’t checked to see whether there’s any of the misrepresentation that he indulged in while writing about the lacrosse case. But even without digging through his sources it’s clear that he makes no meaningful distinction between George Lakoff speaking to the New York Times, Brandon joking to a student reporter, and some random professor blogging about who’s “f-ing smarter.” They’re treated as equally significant and representative—a fair sign, I think, that Johnson’s main interest is in what sounds good and makes points for his side.

Brandon’s quip about conservatives being stupid is circulating again because of a little farce that Inside Higher Ed recounts in a recent article—“In Culture Wars or Duke-Bashing, Do Facts Matter?” They didn’t to Edward Bernard Glick, an emeritus professor of political science at Temple University, when he wrote an editorial that ran in the Jerusalem Post and, with a somewhat different ending, on the website American Thinker. It’s an especially cranky and slapdash version of the formulaic rant about how everything’s going to hell (aka the academic declensionist narrative). Evil Bender goes into the gory details of Glick’s “logical fallacies, lack of evidence, lack of proper attribution, and… burning desire to pin all of society’s ills on the academy.” What I find interesting is that what drives the reasoning (such as it is) is assumptions about the people responsible for the decline.

He brings the anonymous bad guys on stage as protesters at the ‘68 Democratic national convention in Chicago. “[W]hat did these Marxist demonstrators and their cohorts elsewhere do next? They stayed in college. They sought out the easiest professors and the easiest courses.” Safe from the draft, they whiled away the Vietnam war lowering academic standards, and when the war was over they had nothing better to do than get tenure and transform the university into “the most postmodernist, know-nothing, anti-American, anti-military, anti-capitalist, Marxist institution in our society.”

Thanks to this takeover by ignorants, college graduates these days are “well trained, but badly educated”—they’ve been trained “to feel sad, angry or guilty about their country and its past” in an intolerant atmosphere in which “politically-correct feelings are now more important than knowledge,… logic, and critical thinking.” When it comes to Darfur, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Muslim hatred,” gas prices and the energy supply, they have everything completely wrong. The professors responsible for all this miseducating don’t make much money but they get “huge psychological incomes in the form of power.” They “shape the minds of their students” and control hiring, promotion, tenure, etc., so naturally they pack the faculty with like-minded comrades. (Facetiously, I think, John K. Wilson flips the point about income on its head—it’s the liberals who are stupid for going into such a low-paying profession).

Duke University is a case in point. Some time ago, a department chairman* was asked in an interview on NPR if his department hired Republicans. He answered (I paraphrase from memory): “No. We don’t knowingly hire them because they are stupid and we are not.”

If I were a in his field, Duke would never hire me, for I am a Republican, and a Jewish one at that. Moreover, when I was an active academic during and after the Vietnam War, I audaciously taught politically-incorrect courses: civil-military relations and the politics of national defense.

*Correction: The author initially identified the speaker as the chairman of Duke’s psychology department. This was an error of memory. The author and American Thinker apologize to the chairman in question and to readers for this error.

That’s the end of the article, and he really outdoes himself—not only casually misremembering Brandon’s remark but also slipping in a gratuitous suggestion of anti-semitism, a pat on his own back for bravely carrying the torch for some very conventional subjects, and a wonderfully inadequate correction. If that’s any indication of the quality of his work, it wouldn’t be his politics that kept Duke from hiring him.

[July 18: I pulled the above quote about a week ago—between July 11 and 14, I’m guessing. As of a day or two ago, American Thinker had lopped off the ending and expanded the correction. Today it’s reverted to what I quoted. Gotta wonder what’s up with that.]

Glick’s editorial reads like a feeble parody of Alan Kors’ much more articulate meditation “On the sadness of higher education” from a couple of months ago. Kors gives an especially eloquent account of the academic values he first encountered as an undergraduate, while Glick honors what’s been lost only in strident negatives. But both of them pin the decline on a bunch of ideologues who apparently have nothing to say for themselves that’s worth listening to. For Glick, it’s wild-eyed, wooly-headed “Marxists.” For Kors, it’s “careerist” administrators who have “given over the humanities, the soft social sciences and the entire university in loco parentis to the zealots of oppression studies and coercive identity politics.” In both cases it’s an intellectual cop-out—dismissive characterization in place of an argument. Johnson has given himself the space to take a more creative approach—misrepresenting, exaggerating, and “perfecting” the “race/class/gender extremists” on the Duke faculty to suit his self-righteous crusade. It’s as if, after playing the same video game for two years, he’s still perfectly content on level one, where he can effortlessly mow down the gangs of slow-moving evildoers.

I don’t dismiss concerns about intellectual diversity on campus (“ideological diversity” would be a more accurate term, though). The self-appointed conservative advocates of it—the ones I’ve been coming across—seem to be much more intent on discrediting and denouncing the left/liberal Establishment than on making a case that they represent valuable diversity. They suggest the opposite, in fact, with their willingness to cut corners intellectually. But I know of two professors who, by example, make good cases for the conservative contribution to intellectual diversity. The first is Michael Gustafson, an engineering professor at Duke who, during the lacrosse scandal, managed to be a voice of moderation while also speaking up for the lacrosse players and questioning the judgment of some of his colleagues. He seems to have been among the first to notice Glick’s sloppiness, and there’s a series of posts on his blog that traces his investigation. When he calls it “another unfortunate case of distortion being touted as fact in order to oversell a point…,” I’m guessing he’s looking back to the self-serving distortions that have been a staple of lacrosse-case debate (it’s all too easy to find the same thing elsewhere, of course).

Farther from home, there’s Matthew Woessner, an assistant professor of public policy at Penn State and the subject, along with his wife and professional collaborator, April Kelly-Woessner, of an engaging profile published in The Chronicle of Higher Education early this year. With respect to the debates about intellectual diversity, what sets both conservative husband and liberal wife apart is their committed empiricism—they don’t just debate their disagreements, they go out and do a study. One of their studies documented an effect, generally negative, of professors’ overt politics on students’ engagement and appreciation. Another found that differences in interests and personal values seemed to go a long ways towards explaining why liberals are more likely to pursue PhD studies than conservatives. That doesn’t settle the issue, but it’s a refreshing change from dogma and tribalistic rhetoric.

Woessner also defies the conventional wisdom from the Right that surfaces, for instance, in most any comment thread where academic political bias is in play. For instance: “I was a university faculty member for 14 years and I can absolutely confirm what happens to faculty when they have a difference of opinion with the prevailing groupthink.” I don’t doubt that some people are effectively drummed out of academia for not toeing the liberal line. It’s sure not Woessner’s experience, though—he says “he never confronted intolerance in the classroom. Even some of his most liberal professors went out of their way to solicit his views.” That may not be typical or even common—I really don’t know. I do know that some of us are thrilled to have students who are willing and able to articulate a perspective that contrasts or conflicts with our own.

Gustafson and Woessner show in practice how valuable conservative voices can be to a left-leaning university faculty. But what they bring to the table is more than a party affiliation. There’s a willingness to engage with and respect the other side, and a real commitment to honest, constructive debate. To some extent it probably comes down to personality, and I don’t want to suggest that the only good conservative academics are the ones who make nice. Looking at the opposite extreme, though, Glick’s article is neither constructive nor very honest. If that’s what conservatives have to offer—more right-wing noise trying to drown out the prevailing left-wing noise—it’s not much use as diversity (I should note that it’s not an issue Glick takes up). It seems to me that many of the advocates of intellectual diversity are much closer to Glick than Gustafson, too ready to engage in all-out rhetorical warfare, letting the ends justify the means. A little more leading by example might be nice.

~   ~   ~

Speaking of people who can’t take a joke, Nellie McKay has something to say…

{ 25 } Comments

  1. Nick | July 19, 2008 at 17:21 | Permalink

    Professor Zimmerman, you should read (and react) to Professor Munger’s (I don’t know if you know him, but he was the chair of poli sci and maybe econ when I was at Duke and is running for governor for the Libertarian party) three part contribution to DCU’s magazine New Sense about 3 years back…it’s called Pilgrim’s Egress and is about bias/groupthink issues

    Here is installment 1 (and you can find the others in links)

    I remember the segments being really engaging and sharp on point to my experiences in Duke’s History Department.


    ~   ~   ~

    Hey Nick, nice to hear from you again. I just skimmed the piece you linked to, and it does look pretty interesting. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never met Munger, but from what I’ve seen he approaches academic and political issues with a lot of insight and integrity. I think of Steven Horwitz, a Libertarian who was a moderating voice in some lacrosse-case discussions, in much the same way.

    Incidentally, after the DCU ad and all the noise about Brandon’s joke there was a panel discussion at Duke, and Munger was one of the panelists.

    Update: I’ve read more closely and really enjoyed Munger’s little memoir. The first installment is the strongest and most focused, I think, but there’s good stuff all the way through. There are several things that would be fun to take up in a post, so I’ll try to do that sometime in the next few weeks. The link to the second part is broken—apparently the journal that originally published it, New Sense, isn’t online anymore. So, to save y’all the trouble of searching, here’s “Pilgrim’s Egress,” part 1, part 2, and part 3.

  2. wayne fontes | July 20, 2008 at 12:25 | Permalink

    I just discovered TED and would encourage people to explore it a bit. The site has hundreds of informative and witty speakers.

    By what standard is Gustafson a conservative voice? I doubt his party affiliation is Republican. I’m wondering what you perceived to be conservative about Gustafson.

    ~   ~   ~

    Gus described himself to me as a center Right (I’m not sure he used exactly that phrase, but that’s the message I got). I don’t know what his party affiliation is.

  3. Michael Gustafson | July 20, 2008 at 13:55 | Permalink

    “I doubt his party affiliation is Republican.” - I suppose the question could also be asked why you’d doubt that I am a Republican :) There’s also the notion that “conservative” and “Republican” are not identical - just ask Bill Anderson or Mike Munger. As it happens, I have chosen not to affiliate with either party. I self-describe as center right; conservative on many things except on some social issues where I think issues of faith have intruded weirdly on issues of law… Maybe “Center-right Smörgåsbord Catholic”?

    I would imagine anyone reading my posts on Lie Stoppers (when I used to post there) might assume I’m Left but that was only in relation to (or perhaps as a reaction to) other posters. On the internet I tend to take on the role of Devil’s (or Devils’) Advocate. Hopefully, people realize that who one is on the internet may not be the whole story of who one is in reality.

    Part of what disturbed me so much about the Glick article was that he made assertions about Duke as an academic institution which he then backed up with distortion and innuendo - his implication that Duke is anti-Semitic, for instance. Those distortions make it easier for the actual criticisms he might have to be swept away.

    The same thing keeps happening - the imagined crimes of the lacrosse team being touted as fact by the DA, the media, some faculty and fellow students. The issues were presented with such volume, such lack of regard for facts, and in many cases, such malice that now any conversation about what actually did happen is impossible. And by what actually did happen, I simply mean the party. To that end, I think the men involved in the planning of it have more than sufficiently considered whether it was, overall, a good idea and have apologized sincerely for elements of it that were perhaps not the best. However, there is no way rational people should keep beating the guys over the head for the aftermath - responsibility for all of that should be placed firmly where it belongs, starting with the woman who lied about the assault, the man who squeezed every bit of blood out of the turnip that became the Duke Lacrosse Hoax, and the various supporters they were able to bring in throughout the process.

    Now, too, the imagined crimes of other faculty and students are being touted as fact by team “supporters” - folks who are now using the lacrosse case as a vehicle for points of view in sometimes utterly unrelated issues (“supporters” is in quotes here to differentiate them from the many, very real supporters of the team, the three declared-innocent players in particular, and of due process, such as Jason Trumpbour, the folks at FODU, Ethical Durham, etc who really did and do support them. If you are not listed here, please don’t assume it means I think any less of you…)

    Part of the problem is that the stagnation of the current processes - the lack of daily or weekly “updates” - has left a great deal of energy with no outlet. So, for example, when a local blogger who had specifically not discussed the lacrosse case was picked by a local newspaper as the subject of a story, a 39-post thread cropped up which included pictures of her, comments about her appearance and sexuality, and even assertions that perhaps she was involved in the lacrosse case by leaking e-mails. Going after her did not so much help any of the team members with currently pending lawsuits, but it did suit the need to expend energy somewhere. And in so doing, reduced the legitimacy of those who participated. Or at least my respect for them, as much as that may be worth to them.

    Part of why I’ve stopped blogging (much) on the original case or any of the cases that follow is there’s much more work to be done and certain aspects of public participation, I’ve found, have had a negative effect on the possibility of making real change.

    Well…that went longer than expected :)

    ~   ~   ~

    Many thanks for going on that long. I’m relieved that “center-right” is what I heard when we talked—I don’t have the best memory. Anyone who’s unclear about the difference between conservative and Republican just has to look at Gus’s statements and positions over the past few years—I’m not saying that to diss Republicans, but it’s an important difference.

    I’m very much in agreement about how the discourse around the case seems to churn away with a life of its own, and a lot of what’s said is hard to connect to any practical concern for the well-being of team members and their families. I hope that real and positive change is possible from quieter work offstage.

  4. Ralph K. DuBose | July 20, 2008 at 17:40 | Permalink

    If feminists like the lady in the YouTube clip are sincerely interested in improving the lot of actual rape-victims they should be more than eager to distance themselves from bogus rape claims because of the immense harm that many of these high profile BS cases tend to inflict on the credibility of a traumatized woman in an Emergency Room. With a few exceptions, there was deafening silence from “womens advocates” from the beginning to the end of the LAX case.
    When a figure in Academia spouts off about how he and his colleagues think “conservatives” are simply less intelligent than his sort - this is a gold plated opportunity for others in Academia to publically dispute such notions. That is, if there are any who feel like they could do so in an honest way. The silence after those notorious remarks was notable.
    Barack Obama might well be the next President because he absolutely would not pass over a chance to distance himself from toxic leftism - if his own ideas really were otherwise. But then again, he is not an academician.

    ~   ~   ~

    It’s my opinion that the loudest voices claiming to advocate for the accuser in the lacrosse case and also for sexual assault survivors in general ended up harming their own cause and undermining if not mocking past and future victims. In fact, the inability or unwillingness to differentiate between the accuser of the moment and survivors in general is symptomatic. I’m not in a position to lecture “feminists” or anyone else about what they should do instead. The most useful thing I can do, I think, is to point out as clearly as I can how self-defeating some of the unbending, ideologically-driven conventional wisdom was in this case.

    “Deafening silence,” though, has to be one of the most excellent pretenses there is for nursing resentment and antagonism. I think at this point you’ve been pretty well deafened.

  5. RedMountain | July 21, 2008 at 06:43 | Permalink

    I think the reaction to Brandon’s quote mirrors much of the reaction to the New Yorker’s ‘Obama’ cover. Some see it as satire or irony, some see it as a cheap shot, and some embrace it to fit their own agenda and beliefs.

    ~   ~   ~

    Yeah, it does seem like that—it’s a scenario that I guess we’re doomed to replay endlessly, especially with vastly increased scale of reaction and debate that’s come with the internet. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. What Brandon stirred up was very small-scale and one-sided compared to the Obama cover controversy.

    Here, by the way, is the cover, and a nice little article: Media Response to ‘Terrorist Obama’ New Yorker Cover: Funny, or Not So Much?

  6. Michael Gustafson | July 21, 2008 at 08:52 | Permalink

    Ralph - when you say, “When a figure in Academia spouts off about how he and his colleagues think “conservatives” are simply less intelligent than his sort - this is a gold plated opportunity for others in Academia to publically dispute such notions… The silence after those notorious remarks was notable.” I think you are flipping Brandon’s quotation of Mill. The statement was not that conservatives are stupid or that Brandon and his colleagues believe conservatives are stupid. Using it that way is like taking the phrase, “Generally, squirrels are brown” and then complaining that someone would be so bold as to say all brown things are squirrels.

    Part of the “silence” after Brandon’s interview is likely based as much on what he didn’t say as what he did say. And although I am pretty sure I would have refrained from making the statement he did - even in jest - I still think it is important to focus the discussion on what he actually said rather than Glick’s complete mangling of it or any other redirection.

    ~   ~   ~

    Yes, Brandon’s remark could have been a golden opportunity for academically-minded conservatives to show that they were smarter and better intellectuals than the liberals taking pot-shots at them. A good way not to do that is to misconstrue the logic, in the way Gus points out. It’s not that the conservative reaction was notably stupid—I think it was very typical of the partisan analysis and rhetoric from anywhere on the political spectrum.

    I’m confused about the “silence after those notorious remarks.” I guess that must mean silence from the Left, because there was anything but silence overall, especially considering that it was a remark published in a campus newspaper, not a New Yorker cover or even a News & Observer editorial. Realistically, it’s the folks who get their toes stepped on who’ll make the noise. Again I’d expect the same thing if it was a conservative’s bad joke that got the liberals riled up.

  7. Ralph DuBose | July 21, 2008 at 19:55 | Permalink

    I should have put my thoughts this way: Groups of people who spend a lot of time talking among themselves often seem to lose a grip on how their normal discourse will play in a public arena. For sure the Brandon quote was an echo of J.S. Mill. But it was simply dumb of him to imagine that the wider world would see the intended humor. Politically savy academic liberals would have assumed that the general public was not laughing at this little joke and would have taken the opportunity to publicly distance themselves and their cause so to speak from this display of failed humor. Because a truly smart person would know better than to think that such private humor translates well into sound bites. As I said, B. Obama would no doubt have coped with this kind of challenge.
    When the vast majority of womens /rape victims advocates passed on the chance to distance their cause from the actions of a deranged crack-whore they likewise displayed a lot of dumbness. As I see it, they missed a chance to gain credibility at no real cost to themselves. Unless there would have been a cost to themselves in their world for dealing in the truth. In which case they must live in a deeply corrupt world.
    The worst, most extreme example of this failure to understand ones impact on the wider world attaches imho to academicians who spoke in public on the Lax case as if there were two sides to it (like there are to everything, I suppose). But the two sides were in fact the innocent (of sex crimes) vs. a reptilian prosecutor and his many knowing henchmen. Real lives were at stake. Baby Jessica was in the well. Sometimes there is no ” on the other hand.”

    ~   ~   ~

    I can’t think of any good reason for a philosophy professor talking to a student reporter to be worrying about what the “wider world” would make of what he’s saying. I would much rather have professors speaking openly and frankly and sometimes foolishly when talking to a student (reporter or not) about on-campus matters (political or not). As to Obama, even his detractors acknowledge that he’s an exceptional politician, so I don’t think he sets the relevant standard.

  8. A reader | July 21, 2008 at 21:47 | Permalink

    There was once a quaility called integrity that required something other than “team spirit”…that had at its base a common decency, a level of truth and accountibility….that was respected and required by all sides. It required one to challenge one’s friends when their language , deportment, or actions were clearly wrong…not to cower in silence because this guy otherwise holds your views.

    It required asking oneself to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.

    Duke facuLty failed this test of integrity miserably in the Lacrosse Hoax…this moral requirement that there is SOME point when you MUST stand up to your friends and colleagues because SOMETHING in you matters more.

    It is THAT kind of silence (on the Left in this discussion) that refusal TO CALL OUT OUR OWN…that fuels so much animosity. Nothing is too vile anymore…not even the railroading of innocent kids…to demand of oneself the decency and integrity to go contrary to “your side.”

    To some of us…this noxious Team Spirit is a point of real despair. Why are there decent folks on ALL sides who CALL OUT THEIR OWN?

    By the way, Professr Gustafson, some of us DID challenge the thread on LS that you reference here…

    Probably on a percentage…a higher number than Duke faculty who found the voice to challenge what was occuring in their midst.

    ~   ~   ~

    I love the once-upon-a-time-there-was-integrity bit. Add some imitation Copland and a home-spun husky voice and you’ve got yourself a political commercial. I was glad to see that there was some resistance in the Liestoppers thread Gus mentioned, though.

  9. Ralph DuBose | July 22, 2008 at 01:18 | Permalink

    On one side there was a gang of criminals determined to end the lives of 3 kids they knew to be innocent. Lots of the kids own teachers actively and consciously aided the attempted crime because doing so would enhance their careers.
    On the other side were the ad hoc gang of rescuers and truth tellers. Every now and then some of them succumbed to the temptation of rough humor at the expense of PC values.
    Apparently this scenario equates to Moral Equivalence, in your world. FWIW, when firemen or EMTs or ER Docs get thru an extreme touch and go situation do you know what happens next??? Really bad jokes. Really, really incorrect humor. Ask combat survivors what kinds of things they say after being shot at.’ It is normal human nature. You would react the same way in the extremely off-chance that you ever went into harms way.
    You would say, “See, they are not PC!!!!” They must be wrong about everything!!! Forget the fact that they might have just saved The World as We Know It. That is trivial compared to the possibility that they might have made forbidden humor.
    Only hyper-secure, hyper-entitled, hyper deluded folks would listen to a millisecond of this kind of nonsense.

    ~   ~   ~

    Please try to get a grip.

  10. Michael Gustafson | July 22, 2008 at 09:34 | Permalink

    “By the way, Professr Gustafson, some of us DID challenge the thread on LS that you reference here…” Indeed - one of the newest members commented on it, and that refrain was picked up by some. You’ll note at no time did I say every post in that thread was negative. But its existence and expansion did not do anything to support the players nor the team and did nothing to bolster the respectability of several of its contributors. Do you disagree?

    “Probably on a percentage…a higher number than Duke faculty who found the voice to challenge what was occuring in their midst.” Well, if your standard is going to end up being how “well” people behaved during the lacrosse hoax than I have a feeling you are going to be able to “legitimize” quite a lot of things. And if you are going to use such relativism to defend that thread, I’d frankly be very surprised. You, more than many, have been able to get to know members of the families - is that thread or anything like it what they’d want?

  11. Michael Gustafson | July 22, 2008 at 09:38 | Permalink

    “Ask combat survivors what kinds of things they say after being shot at.’ It is normal human nature. “

    Please tell me you are not equating the posters at LieStoppers with combat survivors.

  12. A reader | July 22, 2008 at 10:52 | Permalink

    I am not defending that thread. When I came to the Board and read it, I posted in defense of someone I called ” a new friend who has done us a great favor” by calling the Board to task. In fact, I agree with you entirely, every word. It does the “cause” no assistance, indeed just the opposite.

    My point is that I think it was once almost a requirement people of good will IMPOSED ON THEMSELVES to challenge when friends or colleagues went too far. I think partisanship and “isms” and team spirit has negated all that. The silence of the Duke faculty in this fiasco makes my point. I think the world would be a better place if we returned to “calling out our own.”

    You, Professor Gustavson, are one of the few at Duke who felt that old requirement… I’m calling integrity here…to speak up. If some of us disappoint you now…you are one of the VERY few who have every right to call us on it.

  13. A reader | July 22, 2008 at 11:01 | Permalink

    What do you think a group of strangers who came together to form a blog to try to be of any small help to kids who pretty much were universally condemned…who met to write , edit, research , oversee a discussion board every day and then head out t their own jobs….what do we need to legitimize to you about our effort?

  14. Michael Gustafson | July 22, 2008 at 17:42 | Permalink

    “what do we need to legitimize to you about our effort?” - Nothing. Those efforts were incredible. The LieStoppers blog entries and threads that kept the faces of the students and families in front instead of the caricatures and stereotypes that were being presented; the profiles “Joan Collins” wrote that really humanized what was happening to the people at the heart of the storm; the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of discoveries made possible only because a group of previously unconnected folks saw something happening that was both wrong and ignored -
    those efforts certainly don’t need me to speak to their legitimacy, nor have I questioned them.

  15. Ralph DuBose | July 24, 2008 at 00:14 | Permalink

    Posters on Liestoppers do not have much in common with combat survivors (unless I suppose they are themselves combat survivors) except in the sense that they got an up-close look at extreme evil. And so they deserve a large break in regards to what they might joke about afterwards.
    I was never involved with Liestoppers but I feel that I have a decent sense of what it all felt like for them. I mentioned a few times the event in the 80s when a little girl fell down a narrow well-shaft and nearly died before an ad hoc gang of good ole boys dug her out. For a lot of people watching it, the idea that the kid might die at the bottom of a 14inch pipe became emotionally unbearable and so a tremendous charge of concern built up. The LAX case became a similar thing for the boys defenders. The serious difference however was that the danger to the LAX guys was deliberately created and maintained by some extraordinarily amoral individuals. What is happening with the lawsuits is fun. Folks like Brodhead will get to choose between confessing under oath to felonies or committing transparent perjury. At least that is what it looks like to me. I am open to any counter theory. But the record is quite damning imho.

  16. Nick | July 25, 2008 at 16:12 | Permalink


    I remember the panel discussion about faculty bias (the audio used to be available online): the discussion went pretty well (and was very civil). Anyway, I pretty much am done with the Duke case, as other pressing causes require energy. But I will keep reading your blog posts!


    ~   ~   ~

    Yes, there is definitely a time to be done with the lacrosse scandal. If I had any sense I would have moved on a while ago—a couple more posts and I think I’ll be redirecting some energy as well. Always good to hear from you, and I hope the law school or post-law school thing is going well.

  17. A reader | July 25, 2008 at 22:13 | Permalink

    The time to be done is when there has been accountibility.

    Duke claims they did nothing wrong.They claim Nurse Tara did nothing wrong. Would you have a “Nurse Tara” who sees “blunt force trauma” in a non-rape and knows no woman who ever lies about the topic…., AS THE PROFESSIONAL WHO STANDS BETWEEN TRUTH AND A FALSE CHARGE… absolved and affirmed and sent forth to inspire others? Would you?

    Do you see grade retaliation and classroom humiliation and wanted posters on campus and room searches and conveyance of personal student information as so trifling that it should just tut-tutted aside as only a itty bitty deviance from the status quo?

    Do you approve of a morality at the top that thinks three kids should stand trial (“it will be sorted out on appeal”) because that is “best for DUKE?” Do you want leadership like that to be able to quietly BUY “closure.”

    Do you want the Durham PD to continue to operate as it did in this case, use the tactics it did in this case, be a model for how FAR other departments can go and receive a big YAWN from folks like you, who are just so easily bored because really …it’s just time to move on?So why does there need to be any CHANGE when interest is so fickle it demands none?

    How tedious to continue to care about young men we didn’t really much care about or get involved with at the time.

    But some of us think not just the boys, not just the families, but something more is in the balance here.

    (Feel free to mock me as writing another political commercial or whatever you posted above. It sincerely happens to be what I feel and why I’m still here.)

    ~   ~   ~

    I’m certainly not telling you or anyone else that it’s time to move on. As always, I’m speaking for myself, and I try to avoid telling other people what they should do or care about.

  18. RedMountain | July 26, 2008 at 08:29 | Permalink

    “The time to be done is when there has been accountability.”

    Who determines who is accountable and for how much? I guess the various lawsuits will decide this. However, I don’t believe that you will be ready to ‘move on’ until you are satisfied with the ‘who is accountable and for how much?’ answer. Do you think you will be satisfied with the results of these lawsuits?

    In the meantime, there is just not enough going on with the cases to limit a discussion board to just that topic. Politics, race relations, other cases, and the housing crisis seem to be some of the issues that are being discussed now on boards that were primarily a forum for the Duke case in the past. It is interesting to see some real stretches being made in comparing these other cases or politics or race issues to the events of the Duke case. Despite some of the totally unrelated news there is much made of the us vs them camps in the Duke case and where the supporters or detractors stand on these unrelated issues.

    My opinion, it will never be completely over because neither side is going to be completely happy with the answers regarding accountability. But the discussion will continue to turn to other issues.

    ~   ~   ~

    Talk does tend to become an end in itself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but over time it naturally drifts away from the original concerns as people look for this and that to keep the conversation going. There are lots of reasons to decide that it’s time to check out. Of the ones I’ve heard, I find Gus’s to be the most interesting and significant.

  19. A Reader | July 27, 2008 at 07:26 | Permalink

    Mark has complained… with some validity… that LS has become a “gated community” wherein only folks with similar views talk “amongst themselves.” But, visiting here, I am frustrated by being in the presence of intelligent, articulate folks with different or varying viewpoints from my own…but no direct question is ever answered.


    My last post was intended to ask specific questions about YOUR opinions on the specific actions of the parties in each paragraph. SO-o-o what are your opinions? Aren’t we posting here to share? Do you each think …. that there need be NO more accountability or explanation or revelation from ANY of these parties?

    Are you of the opinion that Levicy’s actions and pronouncement (if as alleged) of declaring “blunt force trauma” to police authorities WHEN THERE WAS NONE…and altering medical data later to fit “new details” to assist Nifong’s false prosecution …requires no further debate/action/ reaction/ consequences or EXPOSURE? Does publicizing that this CAN happen and allegedly DID happen…not serve to inform the general public..alert and alarm them a bit so…in the future, we will be aware? Is there not merit in just THAT? The media wants us to be aware of bad tomatoes and jalapeño peppers…even if only small numbers are affected…how about Agenda-istas who have the power to say “Rape/ NO RAPE” and ruin lives?

    Do you want the pay-off to the Three indicted boys to buy a cover-up in this? Remember the silence of Levicy’s superiors as well? Is there not a warning to the general public here as worthy as a bad jalapeño? I hope the civil suits and “discovery” will cause MORE coverage everywhere about this. How about you? Time to fold up and send $50 to the Innocence Foundation and tell the rest of us you’ve found a more noble way?

    What about the Durham DPD? What about the intimidation of the second dancer after she declared this a “Crock”, the trial of Elmo, the no-lose line up? There has been no clean-up at the DPD, no admission of wrong doing. Are you content to allow them to contend they “MADE NO MISTAKES”, and that the practices WE ALL SAW were how a good police department DOES IT’S JOB? If we allow that impression to stand…why should those tactics EVER change? Will we know when it happens in Durham next time..if no one is watching? How much wrong doing do we need to see from those we entrust WITH THE POWER OF AUTHORITY over ourselves and our children…before we decide we have to try to MAKE them admit these tactics are wrong and change? Shouldn’t we try? Will silence make change happen?

    I believe Brodhead and Steele are beneath contempt. They should GO. I would like Brodhead to stand naked this January in Times Square before a 20’ by 20’ blow-up of Houston Baker’s email to Patricia Dowd …and read every email, op-ed, letter to the Editor and television transcript from every bigoted, “Rush-to-Judgement” Duke faculty member that devastated the families. This would be a fitting symbolic “exposure” of his shivering impotence in the face if that faculty SLANDER. I would perhaps permit him a “fig-leaf” of a multi-million dollar DUKE check which is how, of course, the man DOES try to cover himself.

    I won’t push our Host about Duke faculty or Brodhead. That’s our Host’s livelihood and I understand his position. Enough harm has been done. I respect that he has said as much as he has. But, tell me… WHAT EXACTLY are you all suggesting would be a better use of our time? Having seen the things I did, I feel a commitment to keep trying for accountability and change. In your eyes, that makes me a bit tiresome I can tell..but then, give some specifics as to the “OTHER WAYS” and perhaps you convince me to redirect my emotional energy too.

    I am well aware of my own limitations and the decreasing possibility that anything WILL CHANGE. I am well aware that most folks will never know the extent of the ugliness that happened here. Suppressing the story is the real success of the big bucks Duke paid out …I’m just hoping discovery will dent the economic arrogance.

    Boredom and lack of interest by people one would hope desperately WOULD be interested…is the other victory for the Hoaxers. And, of course, those who were not moved enough to even write a letter to the Editor when three boys lives were on the line…well, what can we expect of THEM now? But as long as the civil suits continue, I will have hope for some accountability, some exposure, some warning to the general public of what CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE these days.I will bang my little pot.

    I think exposing the egregious evidence of harm, bias and illegal wrongdoing in this case is important to protect others. But I realize it will never draw the interest or the heavy media coverage of a few bad jalapeño peppers.

    Do you think differently?

    (I wonder if any of you will answer in specifics? Will this be derided by our Host as a “political commercial” or some other witty one-liner so he can dodge what makes him uncomfortable? Will Mark decide to defend the jalapeño industry ? Or will anyone say what they really think about Levicy, the DPD, etc? Let’s be honest..unless we open up about our differences ON POINT… there’s no “better” discussion here than at any “gated community.)

    ~   ~   ~

    I’m not sure if the “you” of the previous comment and the “YOUR” of this one is specifically me or whoever’s reading and might respond or, in this comment, Mark. As far as I’m concerned, many of those questions call for either a very short answer (yes or no) or a longer answer and much more time-consuming answer. But a lot of what keeps me from answering is the attitude. For instance, should “grade retaliation and classroom humiliation and wanted posters on campus,” etc. be “just tut-tutted aside as only a itty bitty deviance from the status quo?” No they shouldn’t. Have I “tut-tutted them aside”? I don’t think so—they’re not matters that I treat dismissively.

    As far as Levicy, the Durham Police, etc., like Mark (I think) I’m mystified by the idea that all these things are being swept under the rug given how central they are to several ongoing lawsuits. And on the whole it seems like most everyone involved in furthering Mangum’s rape charge has been thoroughly and publicly discredited. With Nifong and the DPD, it seems to me that the discredit and the lawsuits that have come with it are, on the whole, richly deserved. It’s not clear to me how well deserved it is in the Duke administration and medical center. It would be nice if the lawsuits shed some light on that, and even nicer if they resulted in some real, public accountability. I guess that’s a point we agree on. I don’t see how throwing more speculation and rhetorical condemnation in their direction is going to help, though.

    In any case, I don’t think the comments made here about the current state of the LieStoppers forums have reached the point where anyone needs to tell you what a better use of your time would be. It seems like some points have been raised that are worth considering. This one from Michael Gustafson most of all:

    Part of why I’ve stopped blogging (much) on the original case or any of the cases that follow is there’s much more work to be done and certain aspects of public participation, I’ve found, have had a negative effect on the possibility of making real change.

    It’s your choice to consider or dismiss such opinions, right? Or are you proposing to tell us what a better use of our time would be?

    This site is just my blog. On the whole I don’t want it to be a general lacrosse-case discussion forum, and at times I’ve been pretty hard-nosed about that. Lately it’s worked out well to open up the comment threads. I’m all for a frank and substantive exchange of opinions, but on the whole this is my little soapbox, not an alternative to forums like LieStoppers. Among other things I just don’t get enough traffic to support active and diverse conversations.

  20. Boxy | July 27, 2008 at 11:40 | Permalink

    “Who determines who is accountable and for how much? ”

    The City of Durham at one point appeared to recognize the need for accountability by formation of a commission to review the actions of the City and Police Department. That commission was put on hold by the threat of loss of insurance coverage. Why can a city abdicate its governmental duty to its citizen to be accountable?

    Any fair assessment of the publicly available information would conclude that it wasn’t only Nifong who created the frame. The Attorney General said as much and the Bar hearing implicated many others. When the attorney general of a state concludes that others are culpable, I think it is safe for reasonable people to conclude that accountability has not occurred.

    The how much is secondary. Primary is accepting responsibility and instituting changes to prevent future occurrences, one that might affect you more directly.

  21. A Reader | July 28, 2008 at 06:28 | Permalink

    Here’s my point: why are civil suits necessary for these entities to be forced to take corrective measures? Don’t they want change THEMSELVES? Don’t they WANT to improve, correct, prevent?

    Levicy (if charges are true) made deliberate decisions in her professional capacity that threatened the “lifetimes” if not the lives of three young men. Her superiors did not challenge her or correct the record during the long months of the case. As to being “discredited”, she is still employed as a nurse. What professional penalty has she paid? What professional price has Arico paid for supporting those lies?

    I question why Duke as her employer, after the AG released his report…never held her or Arico professionally accountable. Why were measures not taken to make clear Duke found her false declaration of “blunt force trauma” in a criminal case beyond the pale for THEIR OWN professional standards. Why will it take lawsuits to attempt to have this done. Why does not Duke care to uphold the highest standards for itself without being forced by legal action?

    In regard to the Durham PD, Gottlieb et al were never even reprimanded. Not one thing has changed. Why, in light of the AG’s findings did the DPD not recognize and clean its own house? Why do they not want the highest standard for the taxpayers they serve?

    Why do we need lawsuits to get some remedy to the outrageous tactics in this case?

    This is a variation on the same question that has puzzled and outraged me from the start. Why does it take bloggers to speak out for these kids on a campus filled with gifted and extraordinary thinkers and writers and law school profs and students? Why does it take lawsuits to correct egregious behavior that is so blatantly obvious?

    ~   ~   ~

    Those are all good question. Unfortunately, there’s nothing unprecedented about the irresponsible, hostile and self-serving behavior of various bad actors involved in the lacrosse case, so it seems to me that your big questions, like why does it take a lawsuit, are ultimately not about the case but about human nature. And I don’t have any special insight into the specific questions about Levicy and the DPD. That’s why I don’t write about those things. It’s not that I don’t care or that I think they’re trivial or excusable—the bad judgment and outright vindictiveness of the DPD, in particular, is shocking. And I am one of the taxpayers they’re supposed to serve, so it’s not an abstract issue. If I had anything to say about it beyond just venting, I would. But for me the first step towards being able to put together a good answer to your questions would be to get a realistic sense of how good police detectives, SANE nurses, college administrators, etc., go about their business—what are the challenges and compromises, etc. And then get as clear an idea as I could of the circumstances and constraints that set up whatever happened in the lacrosse case.

  22. RedMountain | July 28, 2008 at 19:32 | Permalink

    “In regard to the Durham PD, Gottlieb et al were never even reprimanded. Not one thing has changed.”

    A lot has changed in the Durham PD. Gottlieb is gone, Himan has moved on to another job, Linwood was fired, and you have a new Police Chief. I guess it would be nice if there was some admission that all or most of these changes were the result of the lacrosse case, but that did not happen because of the possibility of lawsuits and that is not likely to happen if nothing else than because of the current lawsuits.

    As far as my opinion goes, those four along with the ex-DA share the most blame for this mess of a case. As to Levicy, you preface your question with (if charges are true) and I know that they are pretty much assumed to be true in certain quarters. I would prefer to wait and see what information comes out in the civil case. My opinion is that she was an inexperienced SANE nurse and that her opinion of CGM’s condition is close to worthless. If this had gone to court, I doubt that her opinion would be given much weight. The AG did not accuse her of altering or manufacturing evidence, simply stated that in their opinion, she was wrong in her opinion, because it was not based on the facts.

    Arico jumped to her defense and made some pretty dumb statements just as Duke officials made some stupid mistakes with the key card info and giving bad legal advice to the players.

    Your last question: “Why does it take lawsuits to correct egregious behavior that is so blatantly obvious?” My opinion is that some or even most of the folks named in these lawsuits did not engage in blatantly obvious egregious behavior. And I don’t believe that correcting this so-called egregious behavior is the only purpose or even the primary purpose of the lawsuits.

    ~   ~   ~

    I completely agree that the current lacrosse-case lawsuits aren’t aimed at reforming the institutions that are being sued. On the other hand, it often takes a lawsuit or at least the threat of one to get such institutions to pay attention and make changes that need to be made. Whether in this case they’re the only way or the best way to bring about change and reform, I don’t know.

  23. A Reader | July 30, 2008 at 07:42 | Permalink

    “I completely agree that the current lacrosse-case lawsuits aren’t aimed at reforming the institutions that are being sued. “

    Neither of you, to my knowledge, have any personal knowledge of these families, have ever discussed with them their feelings, motivations, or the toll this fiasco took on them in so many individual ways. So you have no REAL idea of how each of them sees the “purpose” of the lawsuits.

    After everything these families have been through , after a year of having their sons branded as the most vile offspring of white privilege, as “hooligans”, as racists, as rapists or part of a “blue wall of silence” supporting racists….by their professors, by media EVERY NIGHT, by a consensus of SILENCE from many…how do any of us know what these suits mean to them? None of us have walked in their shoes…but I’ve heard a few , first hand, describe the painful journey.

    Have you heard them describe living with the hell of Rita Cosby parked with tens of media trucks on their front lawns, banging on their front doors…or tell of thousands of hate calls IN ONE WEEK after Duke refused to take down their personal information from the Lacrosse website, or relate the REAL FEAR for even their extended family? “You’re a dead man walking” “Rapist, you will pay.” “Castrate them.” Have you felt any of this, even momentarily, for them?

    Mark, on what do you base your opinions on the motivations behind these suits? On personal knowledge of these families? Or these TYPES of families? Or people who LOOK LIKE these families? On what?

    We live in a world where a lack of sensitivity to another’s race or culture can cost you your job , where hanging a noose alone may become a crime, yet these families should, in your opinion just suck it up and go away? What’s the cut-off for you to be able to feel compassion? Were these families any less “terrorized” ?

    In this case, Two-Time False Accuser Crystal Magnum, too impaired to be held accountable, is now a “magna cum laude” grad in LAW ENFORCEMENT. Gottlieb retired with honor. Himan has a new job in another police force. Levicy is nursing. Arico is still at Duke.

    Mark, those “dumb statements” and “stupid mistakes” and PERSISTANCE of an inexperienced nurse almost sent three innocent kids to prison for life and certainly permantly defamed the entire team. (“Something Happened” will forever endure) I am stunned how you can belittle the magnitude of what happened here with such casual words!

    Your dismissive attitude underscores one problem the suits hope to solve.

    We WANT the detailed story told. Discovery is key. Let’s hear ALL of it. Who did what and when. These kids bore the burden of the party for over a year. Let’s see how moral and noble and upright and law-abiding and truthful …the behavior of Duke and Durham leadership was in that long year as well. Let’s talk about THEIR choices….folks in positions of power and authority, not teenagers at a party! Let’s see the morality of their decisions! Come on. let’s see it all!

    After what they endured, is that too much for these families to ask…that there is a permanent LEGAL RECORD of the magnitude and the minutae of the Hoax?

    * * *

    Robert Steel has been quoted by Jason Trumpbour as dismissing his concerns about false prosecution by stating… that if the kids were convicted..”This would all be sorted out on appeal.”

    Thank God , there were no convictions. But now when the spotlight shifts to Duke and Durham, why shouldn’t the families want it all “sorted out” in a court of law as well. Why should they be even indirectly criticized for that?

    ~   ~   ~

    (I’ve merged two back-to-back into one by tacking a short one onto the end of a longer one.)

    You’re right, I don’t know what purpose the families bringing the suits have in mind. If I was in their situation I’m sure that I’d want to find a way to keep the same thing from happening again. It seems to me that if that’s the goal, a lawsuit is a very blunt instrument, especially such a complex one involving many parties who were involved in very different ways. Nonetheless it may be the best or only option for them—certainly it could give them real leverage that couldn’t be had any other way.

    Anyway, I was making a smaller and more literal claim and I should have been clearer about it. I looked at the lawsuits and in both cases the remedies sought are compensatory and punitive damages plus expenses. Whether they could or should have put language in their “prayer for relief” having to do with reform, I don’t know.

    It seems to me that you’re far too ready to judge the comments of others by their tone (“I am stunned how you can belittle the magnitude of what happened here with such casual words!”). Obviously I can’t speak for Mark, but I don’t get the impression that he’s belittling anyone. A few days ago you complained that your direct questions don’t get answered. He came back with some straightforward and direct answers. So it seems that you don’t just want answers, you want answers with a tone that proves to you that the big issues have been taken seriously enough, or something like that.

    You’re also quick magnify any perceived slight to the families (“Why should they be even indirectly criticized for that?”). It’s one thing to be an advocate—it’s a fine thing to do for the players’ families, as far as I’m concerned. But for you the debate seems to hinge on the suffering of one side and the appropriate compassion (or lack of it) in response. As I said before, that’s effectively a trump card, at least for me—when my words and even my tone are read as implicitly denying or disparaging the suffering of some third parties that I have no reason or basis or interest in judging, the best response is no response.

  24. A Reader | July 30, 2008 at 14:40 | Permalink

    I think you’ve correctly nailed me on a few things.

    I seem to have developed a reflexive sense of outrage on this topic. Since that’s not a part of my real life persona, I suspect it’s borne of the frustration of discussing this for so long with folks who would give no ground or see no wrong or suffering on the Players side.When I started commenting on this case, I had a naive general assumption that there were misunderstandings to be cleared up and then most folks of good will would find common ground.

    I expected , say, in regard to the “Listening Ad”…an apology by some of these profs…coupled with a call for understanding as to how and why many might have staked out the position they did.

    Fair enough.

    I expected to concede that there was much to be learned on both sides. I DID NOT expect, op-eds claiming the Players were receiving such campus wide FABULOUS support in the early weeks that Prof Davidson had to reach out to her OTHER students (who were the ones truly being abused.) and Burness sneering to a N.Y. journalist…”Apologise? For what?” I did not expect the slick rewriting of history and arrogant denials.

    I thought this would be a racial “Aha!” moment that would bring vividly home to “us” what the poor and minorities suffer in far greater proportion than white Lacrosse players. I thought the blatant misdeeds here would JOIN us toward common goals. I thought it would be a teaching moment that would lead to reform. I did not expect the NCNAACP “case description” and the reverse racism of so many in Durham.

    I just had such a naive high opinion based on the mix of folks in my own life and how we interact and how we treat and respect each other…I am still stunned at the animosity and bias and lack of empathy for what these families endured.

    These families need their story told. They need to know how this happened and why. They need the stubborn and arrogant to know too. Nifong could not have done this alone. Others had to violate laws and moral boundaries to help him. Nifong could not make all these people betray their legal, professional and moral responsibilities. He just couldn’t.

    And every one of these “defendants” was like a brick layer doing his part to build this Frame…some small, some large, but all contributed. Now, they say, “Hey…I just gave the drunk the car keys…”

    We need to understand how each contributed and SO DO THEY! Levicy, for example, has to get a grasp on how a SANE nurse has an obligation to report only medical fact , no embellishment, because a rogue in her profession can ruin innocent lives. Telling her she’s A-OK will not achieve this. On some level the leadership of Duke and Durham, unrepentant as they are, need their misdeeds all laid out and exposed. Only in that way, can each understand how his small compromise with truth or law or common decency was a vital building block of a FRAME.

    To your other point, what remedy is there other than dollars? It seems very few reputations in Duke and Durham were harmed in the making of this Frame. (see last post) Except the reputations of these innocent kids. To a man like Steel, who thought what was most important was not their sons but what was “best for Duke”…what else might even resonate with such a mindset?

    Many of my comments are not directed at you..though your entrance into the fray to (of all things) critique KC puzzles me…and I think I’ve done a poor job of making that clear. I apologize for that.

    Mark and I (and his friends) have another history. I remember well…much that has been written from that quarter about the boys and their families. As Mark judges me by my friends, I confess I judge him by his. Their animosity, even now, toward the families is well documented. The pleasure they seemed to draw from their pain is memorable. When Mark comments on the cases not being about reform…echoes of other comments from other Boards he frequents…resonate.

    But I am wrong to bring that negative energy here. My tone is usually a resonse to YOUR tone…I believe you answered a sincere post of mine with a comment that I was writing a political commercial.

    Look, I am just a Mom who thought she could feel one small part of the anquish and fear these families felt…just a tiny portion of it. Before I made my first blog post..I thought how great it would be IF ONLY a few of the brilliant and eloquent faculty of Duke would speak up for these families. Or some big name journalists. I once wrote how we little bloggers were like guys with lawn mowers trying to cut down a huge field of lies. HOW EASY it might have been for the guys with the “Big Tractors” , I wrote.

    But they wouldn’t come. Or couldn’t. Some came eventually. Some (Duke faculty) just never found reason to care at all.

    Some of us will still push our little mowers till the families decide it’s time to stow them in the barn. We think untangling the Hoax matters. We think THEY matter.

    ~   ~   ~

    Thinking about reputations, it’s interesting that you brought up Levicy. Offhand, my guess is that the message she’s gotten, after being publicly discredited, vilified, and named in a couple of sprawling lawsuits, is not that she’s “A-OK.” Whether she’s experienced the appropriate professional consequences, I really don’t know, but I think it’s ludicrous to imagine she hasn’t experienced some very serious consequences.

    It does seem to be the case that those of us involved in this debate on the internet carry around a taint based on the company we keep (or the company others imagine us to keep)—you with LieStoppers, me with the “Group of 88,” Mark with the batcave, etc. It’s a bad habit. One thing that makes it hard to avoid is the feeling, when, say, a new comment appears on a blog, of having heard it all before. That’s what tends to turn me sarcastic. My guess is that others have a similar feeling of hearing the same old thing from what seem to be the same old people.

    I do understand your disappointment with the faculty at Duke. I’ve described my own disappointment with them several times—once again in the entry I posted last night. One thing many of them seem to have been naive about is how completely messages can backfire. If you’re sure that what you’re doing is what the families want and in their best interests, then I guess you should keep pushing the little mower.

    For what it’s worth, though, that reflexive sense of outrage you mentioned, broadly directed at everyone associated with the “Frame,” doesn’t make me feel more sympathy or understanding towards the players or their families. Not that I feel unsympathetic or antagonistic—I don’t think of them as the enemy or anything like that, but I do have to distance them from what you’re saying on their behalf. This was especially true after your comments about KC Johnson in our earlier thread. If you look at what I’ve written about him, you’ll see that I think he’s approached the lacrosse case as an intellectual charlatan and a demagogue. You have nothing to say about that, except that it seems that I’m trying to “diminish KC Johnson or his contribution to these innocent kids.” And it’s not that you disagree with the criticisms I’ve made of him—what I actually criticize him for is apparently not important enough for you to mention or form an opinion about. It’s not at all news to me when you say you’re confused about my “entrance into the fray to (of all things) critique KC.”

    Taking what you care about (what a loyal friend he’s been to the players and their families) and adding it to what you don’t seem to care about (my actual objections to what Johnson has written), and it looks like you don’t care whether your friends are honest as long as they’re loyal. Is that what you mean to say? And should I take it as the families’ opinion as well?

  25. a reader | August 6, 2008 at 17:41 | Permalink

    I have only ever posted my own opinions. I do not “know” the families opinions. Let’s be clear on that.

    ~   ~   ~

    OK. That’s a good thing to be clear on.