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Duke’s perfect storm–too much bullshit, too few bullshit detectors

I wonder how many people at Duke read KC Johnson’s editorial about campus reactions to the allegations against the lacrosse team, posted on Inside Higher Ed on May 1, 2006 (probably at least one—in the comments there’s a brief clarification signed “Mark Anthony Neal”). It’s an editorial that deserved more attention than I suspect it got. It voiced concerns that needed to be heard and held an unflattering mirror up to the contingent of Duke faculty who approached the lacrosse case as a platform for big institutional and ideological issues, ignoring or perhaps even supporting the shoddy investigation and the thoughtless, shrill protests. The editorial is clear and to the point, and it’s relatively free of the tiresome, judgmental rhetoric that clutters Johnson’s blog, Durham-in-Wonderland (DIW). The sympathetic observations about athletics and athletes are especially good. All in all it does exactly what an editorial should do—it articulates a point of view in a way that encourages reconsideration and debate. This one, it seems to me, presented an opportunity for the people targeted by Johnson to think about what they really wanted to stand for.

Focussing on that editorial makes a great deal of Johnson’s subsequent blogging seem redundant. Probably that has more to do with 20-20 hindsight and my poor opinion of DIW than anything else. The blog went on and on, though, accumulating a lot of detail but very little depth. I might feel differently if the editorial had been about the criminal investigation. In the three posts Johnson wrote for Cliopatria in April 2006—the start of what would become Durham-in-Wonderland—he touched on Reade Seligmann’s convincing alibi, the flawed line-ups, and Nifong’s political opportunism and the pandering that went with it. Those turned out to be good indicators of how the prosecution would go (how it would crash and burn, that is), and Johnson read the signs more accurately than many of the rest of us. The stakes were high, and there was every reason to keep a close eye on what Nifong was doing. But as the title says, the editorial is about “Duke’s Poisoned Campus Culture,” and the problems with the investigation are only mentioned to show how clouded and agenda-driven the judgment of many professors at Duke had been. Based on DIW, Johnson seems to have been as prescient about those professors as he was about Nifong. But within the frame of such a sprawling narrative, prescience and tunnel vision can be hard to tell apart, and when it comes to Duke’s campus culture, it’s tunnel vision that dominates in DIW.

Johnson was already blogging and editorializing about academic culture issues when the charges against the lacrosse team hit the news. The ideological skew of Duke’s faculty figured in a piece he wrote for Inside Higher Ed the previous summer. From it he recycles a bad joke about stupid conservatives told by the chairman of Duke’s philosophy department, giving it vastly overblown significance as stage-setting for the lacrosse case. His glaring evidence of poison, though—the foundation of his ongoing critique of Duke faculty—is the “listening” statement, which he’d written about for the first time about a week earlier. Along with the statement came the so-called “Group of 88” (his term, I believe) who endorsed it, professors he found so transparent that he casually extrapolates their collective thinking to its “logical, if absurd, extreme”—some lacrosse players should be convicted for rape just because of who they are, no matter what they did or didn’t do.

After the editorial, the only significant change I see in Johnson’s picture of Duke’s campus culture is his assessment of Brodhead and of the lacrosse players, which quickly becomes morally simplistic. In fact a key passage is different in the version of the editorial posted on DIW (overstruck words are on Inside Higher Ed and the italicized word is in the blog):

Few would deny that several players on Duke’s lacrosse team have behaved repulsively badlly [sic]. Two team captains hired exotic dancers, supplied alcohol to underage team members, and concluded a public argument with one of the dancers with racial epithets. Brodhead appropriately cancelled the team’s season and demanded the coach’s resignation.

As far as his trumped-up “Group” goes, things remain the same without even changing much. In the editorial, Johnson writes, “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, for [Houston] Baker and many others who signed the faculty statement, the race, class, and gender of the men’s lacrosse team produced a guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality.” It was hard for him to escape the conclusion, that’s for sure. Fast-forward to “Legacies,” his final post before putting DIW on hiatus in December 2007, and he highlights the “race/class/gender extremists” who jerked the administration’s chain and were “only too willing to advance their personal, pedagogical, or ideological agendas on the backs of their own students.” Another major legacy he chooses to reinforce is “the pernicious effects of academic groupthink,” a theme that he first brought up in DIW in late May 2006 (the legacy he doesn’t mention is DIW’s remarkable success at fostering its own little groupthink community, part of a gossiping network of like-minded sites).

On the face of it, it’s hard for me to see how a historian could spend a year and a half analyzing an ongoing controversy and find nothing that poses a significant challenge to his earliest firm impressions of it. It’s a record that suggests that the project isn’t really analysis, and in fact it turns out to be more like prosecution. There’s no denying that the most prominent and vocal of the faculty he criticizes did nothing overt to break the mold—they stuck close to their issues or were silent, so Johnson is fully justified in sticking to his guns as well. Still, there’s a lot of filtering out of things he apparently doesn’t want the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to be thinking about. And filtering alone isn’t enough to support the one-sided case he seems determined to make. It also requires quite a bit of what I’ve described as misrepresentation, manipulation, distortion, etc. Now I realize there’s a better word for all that, one that really captures the spirit of Johnson’s anti-academic crusade—bullshit.

It was a reader’s comment that got me thinking about how useful the word is (I’ll get back to the comment later), and then I remembered a little book I bought a few years ago called On Bullshit, written by Princeton philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. One of my favorite lines from it—part of a discussion of whether bullshit is analogous to “carelessly made, shoddy goods”—brings out the book’s quietly surreal juxtaposition of subject and style.

Excrement is not designed or crafted at all; it is merely emitted, or dumped. It may have a more or less coherent shape, or it may not, but it is in any case certainly not wrought.

The “essence of bullshit,” according to Frankfurt, is a “lack of connection to a concern with truth—[an] indifference to how things really are.” That sets it apart not only from truth-telling but also from lying, because you have to consider the truth before you can tell a lie. In a helpful review of the book in Slate, Timothy Noah gives as an example the claim the famously surfaced in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, about Saddam Hussein’s efforts to buy nuclear material from Niger. The possible basis for that claim is murky enough that it might not be the best example, but assuming for the sake of argument that it was as bogus as Bush’s critics believe, it does seem more like indifference to the truth than like a conscious decision to peddle outright falsehood.

Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person’s normal habit of attending to the way things are may become attenuated or lost.

Noah’s example brings out a limitation of Frankfurt’s schematic analysis, though. In many real-world situations even the most honest person can’t be sure about “the way things are.” What I think stands for “the truth” in those situations is honest, dispassionate analysis, even though it might lead different people to different truths. With respect to national security matters like the yellowcake from Niger, the uncertainty and inaccessibility of the evidence seems to be a standing invitation to bullshit—one that’s frequently accepted by politicians of all stripes. The Bush administration seems to find it especially irresistible, and even compared to other political machines they’re way out of the “normal habit of attending to the way things are.”

It isn’t just a matter of “what it suits one to say,” though. First of all, bullshit isn’t likely to work if it isn’t plausible and/or appealing to the intended audience. And it usually serves some purpose or furthers some agenda—justifying a war, for instance. Johnson treats the lacrosse case as a battlefront in the culture war, so even though he approaches the fight more like a prosecutor than a general his purpose isn’t so different from Bush’s. His analysis is thoroughly agenda-driven—scratch the surface, and you’re likely to find some bullshit. And it can be pretty easy to identify. He’s covered the scandal from a distance, drawing on essays, interviews, news reports, and the like. Often in DIW all you have to do is follow the helpful link to the original text. There’s a fair chance that it’s been manipulated to show that the person who said or wrote it has exactly the values and beliefs that you’d expect from a race/class/gender extremist, or else it’s been fudged to bring out the topsy-turvy irrationality of Wonderland, where the crazies and cowards are running the show. Some of Johnson’s bullshit is generated in other ways, but the end it serves is pretty consistent.

I made a list of some of the more obvious bullshit I’ve come across in DIW, but it’s gotten so long enough that I’ll post it separately, within a day or two. [Here it is.] Much of it comes from earlier entries, though: What Mark Anthony Neal supposedly hears students mutter at the beginning of the new semester, the persecution of Steven Baldwin, and just about everything Johnson wrote about Karla Holloway’s article “Coda: Body of Evidence.”

~   ~   ~

It’s one thing for a self-appointed pundit to churn out bullshit—it’s practically the job description. Even a moderate amount of bullshit from someone backed by the power of law enforcement is a much more serious thing. Nifong seems to have been a copious, shameless bullshitter, and the consequences were disastrous for the people who ended up under his thumb. The silver lining is that in the end it all came back to haunt him. In the first flush of news coverage he spent hours and hours feeding the beast what it wanted to hear. Speaking to N&O reporter Joe Neff, James Coleman starts off sounding a bit like Frankfurt:

“Either he knew what the facts were and misstated them, or he was making them up,” said James Coleman, a Duke law professor who has publicly requested that Nifong remove himself from the case. “Whether he acted knowing they were false, or if he was reckless, it doesn’t matter in the long run. This is the kind of stuff that causes the public to lose confidence in the justice system.”

A line of bullshit that was all too effective in rallying the Duke community and neighbors against the lacrosse team was the bit about how they were stonewalling. It seems to have been largely the work of Durham Police Cpl. David Addison. Among his deceptive statements was this one, to the Durham Herald-Sun: “Addison said police approached the lacrosse team with the five-page search warrant on March 16, but that all of the members refused to cooperate with the investigation.” In fact after the search warrant was executed co-captains David Evans, Dan Flannery and Matt Zash volunteered to be interviewed by the police at length and without counsel present.

In late April 2006, a headline in USA Today announced “A perfect storm: Explosive convergence helps lacrosse scandal resonate.” Behind the storm, according to the article, was the “national flash points of race, class, gender, violence, money and privilege.” (James Coleman’s pithy reply a year later: sure it was a perfect storm, “but we know now it was based on this false notion a crime had been committed…. That generated everything.”). Duke is a sprawling institution that tries to be a great many things to a great many people, and it’s my sense that the lacrosse team became a vessel not only for the reflexive shock and disgust tied to those “national flash points” but also for various smoldering frustrations with the university. From where I sit now the collective reaction of much of the community looks like a body ejecting diseased cells that had been circulating undetected. It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.

It was not only irresponsible but a remarkable lapse of common sense if, as alleged in one of the ongoing civil suits, the message from the Duke administration to the players was “you don’t need a lawyer,” and “don’t tell anyone this is happening, not even your parents” (McFayden et al v. Duke University et al, p. 129). And it’s true, as Tim Tyson recently noted, that folks around campus were reacting to information that came from people who were in a unique position to know—the police and the prosecutor. In different circumstances, though, if the accused had looked more like the people who are typical charged with violent crimes, the word of the authorities would likely have been taken with healthy skepticism if not disdain. It seems like that skepticism should cut both ways. All in all it was fertile ground for Addison’s misinformation. Some people, including a number of professors who really should have known better, took it as an excuse to indulge in a little high-handed vigilantism, for example by singling the players out in class or in private communications and exhorting them to fess up.

No one took up the invitation to vigilantism and ran further with it than the potbangers. It took some bullshitting to fit real-life events and people to their metanarrative—another dimension to the mirror-image parallelism between the potbangers and KC Johnson that I pointed out in my first post about the case. For both, “perfecting” and bullshitting seem to go hand in hand (that’s using—maybe abusing—a term that I continue to find very apt, introduced into the debate by Wahneema Lubiano). For the potbangers, the need to embroider went beyond just “perfecting” the offenders and the “survivor.” What stands out to me is the bizarre reasoning that took a form of protest from tight-knit but underpoliced third-world communities and dropped it into the middle of a first-world media feeding frenzy.

This is a good place to bring up the comment that got me thinking about bullshit in the first place, since it puts the potbangers into sharp relief. It’s from RRH, an attorney and also a mainstay of the DIW commentariat, part of an interesting exchange we had about how and why our perspectives on the case are so profoundly different.

Attorneys have heard—or heard from other attorneys—nearly every cockamamie story there is. Thus, we have developed internal “bullshit-detectors” that are so finely tuned that they are probably exceeded by only those of cops. Thus, when I heard the first reports about lacrosse case in 2006 (on ESPN), I was skeptical to the point just short of disbelief. The story is that several Alpha-male college students were going to risk reputations, diseases, paternity lawsuits, future careers, and family shame to put their most precious body parts into a party stripper? As we say in the legal business, that story already “strained credulity”.

And that’s even without the added allegation that the sex was involuntary. A party stripper with such fastidious morals and high standards of sex partners that she was going to turn down a chance for mating with such Alpha-males? Again, the bullshit-detector is sounding like an air raid siren.

I don’t understand how the “allegation that the sex was involuntary” could be in addition to the first reports, and the pop sociobiology doesn’t do much for me. But I don’t at all dismiss the bullshit detector he’s talking about, and it seems to me that there’s more behind it than just stories. “Perfecting” clients would surely be a great way to be a lousy lawyer. To be effective in the nitty-gritty of a criminal proceeding, it seems to me you’d have to be firmly in touch with the unvarnished and sometimes unpalatable humanity of everyone involved. That realization has helped me to clarify the nature and ethics of the choice that was made by protesters who felt they needed to shout slogans as if there was no question a rape occurred. Their perspective on the accuser—at the time not really “Crystal Mangum” but the heavily filtered impressions of her from the media and police—may be more palatable than RRH’s, but those protesters could and in my opinion did get things wildly wrong without experiencing any significant consequences.

It doesn’t take RRH’s crude realism to rein in the bullshit. It seems to me, anyway, that enough mental discipline to keep the accuser in the realm of everyday, imperfect human beings should be sufficient. I understand and respect the desire to resist dismissive and demeaning efforts to put rape accusers on trial in the court of public opinion and undercut them in the court of law. There is a big temptation to put a positive spin on the accuser, but it seems to be hard to do without getting into some euphemistic bullshit, even when it’s not nearly as idealizing as the potbanger’s rhetoric. For instance, Cathy Davidson, a professor of English at Duke, asks, “Who is that exotic dancer? A single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished historically black college.” Her main point is socioeconomic—in different circumstances she could have replaced “takes off her clothes” with “cleans toilets seven nights a week” or “serves as a guinea pig for grueling pharmaceutical trials”—so it may not be entirely fair to single her out. But I feel like I’ve seen a number of variations on the theme of student mom reduced to stripping to get an education, and they have a sanitized feel that calls to mind noxious Hollywood fairy tales like “Pretty Woman.” The rhetoric kicked up by recent news that Mangum graduated from North Carolina Central showed that she’s still little more than a rhetorical football for both sides. It was a starkly symbolic and ironic event that could have provoked some sharp analysis but didn’t.

My feeling is that one purpose of the critical analysis and writing we assign to our undergraduates is building up their resistance to bullshit. Whether or not that’s a common opinion, it seems like professors, of all people, should be bullshit detectors and not bullshit producers. And not just detectors pointed at the other side—as I’ve shown by example many times, that’s the easy part. I can think of only two at Duke who’ve stood out for their non-partisan bullshit detecting—James Coleman and Michael Gustafson. It’s a discredit to the professors on the Left—especially but not only at Duke—that they had nothing to say about the poor judgment and poor reasoning of the potbangers and like-minded protesters. (The one exception I’m aware of is Wahneema Lubiano, of all people. I wish her reservations about “perfecting” had been less equivocal and more forthright, but those aren’t the main reasons her critics were so insistent about misconstruing her.)

The main problem on the Duke side of the lacrosse case wasn’t bullshit, it was a callous and opportunistic attitude towards the students who were facing drastic legal consequences. But the Duke faculty definitely contributed some bullshit, too. Houston Baker’s histrionic letter is probably the standout. Parts of it—“And when will the others assaulted by racist epithets while passing 610 Buchanan ever forget that dark moment brought on them by a group of drunken Duke boys?,” etc.—are not only bullshit, they’re pretentious bullshit. It’s my impression that many liestoppers would put Cathy Davidson’s January 2007 editorial high on the bullshit scale. Taken as a whole I don’t see why it’s so offensive—a lot of it strikes me as honest and conciliatory—but she does start out with a whopper, claiming that in the rhetorical climate that motivated the “listening” statement, “defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women.” Not only had those three not been indicted when the “listening” statement was published, they hadn’t even been singled out from the rest of the team as likely suspects. For someone writing an editorial that purports to explain key events of the first few intense weeks of the scandal, this suggests great indifference to “the way things are” and a serious failure to “pay[] attention to anything except what it suits one to say.”

I imagine that the line that serves as Karla Holloway’s motto on DIW—“White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt”—would also be ranked as prime bullshit by her critics. Understood in context, I think that’s debatable. It seems to me that it’s not with any particular statement that she most clearly lapses into bullshit, it’s her general failure to own up to her role in stirring up the bitter discourse that she found so onerous, and her tendency to place herself outside and on the receiving end of the university’s power structure. And then there’s the “listening” statement. For me it’s the first line—“We are listening to our students”—that stands out as obvious bullshit. They were listening to some of their students. It’s too much like the vacuous cliché about listening to the “will of the American people” that’s endlessly falling out of the mouths of politicians.

It’s a pretty good measure of the real purpose and integrity of DIW that, leaving aside Baker’s letter, which is pretty much a sitting duck, Johnson responds to most of this stuff from the Duke side with bullshit of his own. The DIW impression of Holloway’s infamous line is largely an artifact of Johnson’s bullshit. And after pointing out the factual silliness of Davidson’s mention of the three indicted players, he turns to the statement she surely meant to make, about rhetoric in defense of the lacrosse players generally.

In late March, when the idea for the Group of 88’s statement originated, who—either on Duke’s campus or in the media—was elevating the lacrosse players “to the status of martyrs, innocent victims of reverse racism”? Certainly not the protesters to whom Davidson and the other Group members said “thank you”…. Between March 29 and the issuance of the Group’s statement on April 6, were members of the media or cable news network talking heads elevating the lacrosse players “to the status of martyrs, innocent victims of reverse racism”?

He starts by asking exactly the right question, then gives a non-answer that’s really just an excuse to slip in one of his boilerplate formulas for denouncing the “Group,” and finally comes to rest on “media or cable news network talking heads.” It may be bullshit to claim that there was backlash against black students, and “[t]he insults, at that time, were rampant.” I can’t say for sure either way. But I’m confident that a great deal was said and felt by students walking across campus at night, say, or down a dorm hallway, that wasn’t picked up by any “talking heads” or even in the campus paper. No doubt it suits Johnson to believe that he was getting a complete and accurate impression of events at Duke as he was following the news from several states away. It’s self-serving bullshit, though, especially coming from a historian dabbling in journalism—people in both fields are supposed to have some sophistication about the way their evidence is mediated. He could have gleaned at least a hint of what black students experienced at the time from the comments quoted in the “listening” statement. But he never treats those students as if they’re worth listening to (he does suggest in an obnoxious reference to them as “alleged students [who] can testify as to what they said” that they’d be good subjects for an inquisition).

At least two Duke professors picked up echos in the lacrosse incident of institutionalized, open, and often violent racism of the old South. For both there’s a close connection to their scholarly work. Both allude to the unproven nature of the rape allegations and claim to be setting them aside while they consider other aspects of the students’ behavior that evening, but it seems to me that the impression of the brutality of the alleged crime still filters into their judgment (see James Coleman’s comment above about the perfect storm). Tim Tyson saw the “spirit of the lynch mob” in the crowd of young men at the party. William Chafe saw a continuation of the “poisonous linkage of race and sex as instruments of power and control” that’s integral to southern history. I know that for me and many others, the impression of a gang of young white men clustered drunkenly around a couple of half-naked black women had some very ugly resonances. But that’s a gut response, and it seems like neither Chase or Tyson gave it the critical consideration they should have before they said their piece. I’ve already described my reservations with Tyson’s lynch mob analogy. Turning to Chafe, how much context, really, does Emmett Till—brutally beaten and then shot, eye gouged out, barbed wire strung around his neck—provide for that party? In both cases, there is a bullshit gap, I guess you could call it. In fact the gap seems so obvious, especially in Chafe’s case, that I have to believe that, for better or worse, the point is sincere.

Mark Anthony Neal’s comments about “racialized sexual violence” pull the same general issues into a more contemporary context—relating the lacrosse incident not to old-fashioned lynching and brutality but to the present-day media-driven discourse that holds that “black women and their bodies have little value, little protection and are accessible to anyone who feels entitled to them.” It seems to me that this makes some contact with the spirit of the party. There was, for instance, the infamous parting shot: “Hey bitch, thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt.” (According to KC Johnson it’s “a tasteless rip-off of a Chris Rock joke”—a widely held opinion that I find entirely plausible, but it’s typical of the mountain of self-perpetuating verbiage that’s been left by this scandal that I can’t find a source pinning the joke to any particular Chris Rock show. I did find a thread on the TalkLeft forums initiated by someone wanting to know the same thing—after 200+ comments there’s no definitive conclusion.) Being more plugged into the here and now turns out to have its dangers—it leads Neal into some speculation about how the lacrosse team may have been “hoping to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed.” That would be blatant bullshit if it wasn’t framed as speculation—perhaps it still counts, but it’s most problematic for other reasons.

Neal is capable of writing with style and insight about the “fo’ real,” as he calls it, but in this case the elision he makes between rhetorical violence and brutal physical assault lands him in bullshit territory. RRH’s caustic perspective is again an antidote, a reminder of how animalistic the alleged acts would have been, and the deeply ingrained barriers that would have had to be overcome. It seems to me that a more incisive point of reference is the typical scenarios for alcohol- and entitlement-fueled assaults involving college students, which usually involve some mutual socializing and perhaps mixed signals as well. It’s not hard to see how the inhibition is overcome in those circumstances, and it’s not far-fetched that there could be some acting out of the kind of rhetoric Neal highlighted.

The final step in RRH’s bullshit detecting is statistical—“Single-offender white on black rapes are so infrequent that they show up usually as asterisks in crime statistics, and white multiple offender rapes of black women are barely more frequent than carjackings by Amish farmers.” It’s grounds for skepticism, for sure, but it’s just a mindless number that could be hiding who knows what biases or artifacts. There’s little if any insight in it.

{ 9 } Comments

  1. Bill Anderson | August 21, 2008 at 22:17 | Permalink

    Well, IMMY, I find it curious to see that you are protesting that you are innocent of hacking the original Liestoppers board. Yet, you and your friends had absolutely no problem at all in helping to further false accusations of rape against three young men who never even touched Crystal Mangum.

    So, please, spare me the protestations. If you really are that sensitive to false accusations, then perhaps you and your friends should stop accusing Reade Seligmann, David Evans, and Collin Finnerty of rape and other crimes.

  2. BeMused | August 21, 2008 at 23:40 | Permalink

    a reader posted:

    I am not the owner or moderator of the LS blog or Board. I know that people that I trust, who have never lied to me [that I know of]….have told me what they ardently believe happened.

    To me, my position is similar to those who knew the integrity of Pressler and the Team. I know the integrity of these folks. I have no reason to doubt their word over the word of others who have done little to demonstrate their credibility over the past many months as they’ve strained to maintain that “something happened.

    Is it so terribly important to be right?

    Has it ever occurred to you that people may fervently want to believe something (happened), yet they are mistaken in their beliefs?

    Again I ask, have you seen the evidence which supports these publicly posted declarations that a REAL PERSON has committed the crime of hacking?

    What is the expression, “doveryai, no proveryai”?

    I also know that I received a PM from a banned IP just before the crash that linked to the Cave. I know I m a favorite target of yours…though I have had only one, fairly pleasant exchange with you, Immy.

    If you believe that I am ‘Immy’, well, that’s twice in one post that you would be mistaken in your beliefs. However, I’m not done counting.

    But I will ask you this: if you have been falsely accused, has it given you any empathy for the great sport and delight you have taken in the pain of others falsely accused? Has it moved you to use your own frustration to assess the hate and mockery you directed at these kids and families? Can you now step back and say…if it bothers me THIS MUCH to have my real name besmirched on an insignificant blog read by a small group of people…why did I want to continue to add to the pain of those besmirched in every form of media nationwide?

    To my knowledge, the only thing I have been falsely accused of, is being ‘Immy’.

    That’s the best I can do in answering your comment, Immy.I cannot comment further on the “crash” of LS because I understand the matter is far from over.

    Again, I am not Immy.

    And yes, I also understand that the repeated, publicly posted declarations that a REAL PERSON committed the crime of hacking the LS forum is FAR from over. As a matter of fact, I understand that the REAL PERSON who has been repeatedly DEFAMED by the LIES posted on the LS blogspot & forum has several more months to decide whether or not to take legal action.

    That you choose involve yourself in the rhetoric and antics of the Cave stands as a contributing fact about you… as does my participation in LS. We are defined in part by the company we keep. With all the causes to give our time to…the Cave is one of the ones you chose.

    I would be interested in the real “WHY?” of that from you. As well as one from Immy. But I don’t see that happening. So I’m tired of the game of asking.

    I’m pretty comfortable with the company I keep, but thanks for your concern. If you are interested in any “whys” as they pertain to Immy…well, you know where to find her and ask her yourself.

    FYI, my comments are my comments. No one has requested nor encouraged me to comment here.

    Believe it…

    or not.

  3. BeMused | August 22, 2008 at 00:48 | Permalink

    Bill Anderson wrote:

    Well, IMMY, I find it curious to see that you are protesting that you are innocent of hacking the original Liestoppers board. Yet, you and your friends had absolutely no problem at all in helping to further false accusations of rape against three young men who never even touched Crystal Mangum.

    So, please, spare me the protestations. If you really are that sensitive to false accusations, then perhaps you and your friends should stop accusing Reade Seligmann, David Evans, and Collin Finnerty of rape and other crimes.

    Perhaps you find it curious, because I am not Immy. And I have never accused Reade Seligman, David Evans or Collin Finnerty of rape or other crimes.

    Perhaps you and joan should both take a few deep breaths before continuing your “rush to judgment” about me.

  4. a reader | August 22, 2008 at 07:26 | Permalink

    BeMused writes….”Has it ever occurred to you that people may fervently want to believe something (happened), yet they are mistaken in their beliefs?

    How silly.

    With one line, you undermine your entire post. Your sentence attempting to exonerate the behavior at the Cave because they were “fervent, yet mistaken” would also apply if, for discussion’s sake, posters at LS were “fervent but mistaken” about the hacking.

    What “free pass” you now extend to one…you must extend to the other.

    So, your “point” nullifies your reason for posting. You must ask YOUR question …TO YOURSELF.

    Your second point seems to be….that you are not another Internet “personality” named IMHO?

    Who YOU are is of no consequence. Like the non-racist member of a club that racially excludes….all we need to know about you is…you are part of a collective effort that has a long history of defaming innocent kids and their families.

    I asked about empathy. If after over a year, of mocking and defaming three real young men and their families whose real faces and personal information were worldwide, if IMHO has any new perspectives on false accusation now that she “claims” to have suffered the same? There is never any attempt from you Bats to apply the same standard to YOURSELVES …ever. Your post reaffirms it.

    We are not here, however, to talk about your Internet personality, or mine, IMHO’s or Bill’s. They don’t matter.

    Liestoppers and the Cave do not matter.

    We don’t matter.

    Direct your posts, energy, and mind to what does matter.

    We should be discussing issues larger than this juvenile prattle. We have to have a goal of better understanding the “tribal” positions this case excoriated. What happened here, what it says about our justice system, our racial interaction, campus culture, electing D.A.’s, media rush-to-judgment, false rape accusation…so many important issues. Not WHO you are. Your whole second post wastes bandwidth all about you.

    Do you think our indulgent host or any of his readers care about “blog wars” or Internet personalities? Or if we know who YOU are? Or if LS was hacked or not hacked? If that is going to court, so be it.

    WE are at THIS blog to discuss the issues of the Lacrosse case and all its larger implications. We have a host who has offered some excellently sourced and brilliantly argued new takes on the case. I come here because even when I disagree, I find what he writes fascinating. Let’s drop the team spirit and leave it for our home bases. Engage the issues.

    One thing I have learned at this Blog is an awareness that often our “agendas” were as real as those we criticized in the 88. My concern has always been that we never lose sight of those to whom this was about ONLY THIS…their child. We must always keep their realness in front of us.

    Getting back to the real issues, the real discussion must begin with me. My participation in “As the Blogs Turn” ends now

  5. RedMountain | August 22, 2008 at 08:00 | Permalink

    Joan said: “That you choose involve yourself in the rhetoric and antics of the Cave stands as a contributing fact about you… as does my participation in LS. We are defined in part by the company we keep. With all the causes to give our time to…the Cave is one of the ones you chose.

    I would be interested in the real “WHY?” of that from you”

    Asked and answered on many occasions Joan. You normally ask me this at the end of a discussion that you are not entirely satisfied with. You ask not because you are interested in my answer but rather to try and paint our previous discussions as disingenuous on my part. You frame your questions in a way that insults me Joan, and you never miss a chance to show me in a negative light. I still have tried to be polite and reasonable despite your tactics. I have been stupid, I suppose, because I didn’t realize you considered this a “game of asking”. That is the one truth I get from your post. You are not interested in the ‘WHY?’ and you do not want to believe my answer in any case. So be it.

  6. BeMused | August 22, 2008 at 20:37 | Permalink

    a reader wrote:

    BeMused writes….”Has it ever occurred to you that people may fervently want to believe something (happened), yet they are mistaken in their beliefs?”

    How silly.

    With one line, you undermine your entire post. Your sentence attempting to exonerate the behavior at the Cave because they were “fervent, yet mistaken” would also apply if, for discussion’s sake, posters at LS were “fervent but mistaken” about the hacking.

    What “free pass” you now extend to one…you must extend to the other.

    And here I was wondering if you might have missed the double-entendre, Joan. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

    a reader wrote:

    Your second point seems to be….that you are not another Internet “personality” named IMHO?

    Who YOU are is of no consequence. Like the non-racist member of a club that racially excludes….all we need to know about you is…you are part of a collective effort that has a long history of defaming innocent kids and their families.

    If who “I” am is of no consequence, then why did you devote a 689 word post, addressing me repeatedly as “immy”? Nope. No tribalism present in that portion of your comment, Joan. (That’s me being facetious, Joan…in case you were confused. )

    a reader wrote:

    I asked about empathy. If after over a year, of mocking and defaming three real young men and their families whose real faces and personal information were worldwide, if IMHO has any new perspectives on false accusation now that she “claims” to have suffered the same? There is never any attempt from you Bats to apply the same standard to YOURSELVES …ever. Your post reaffirms it.

    I don’t believe that I have ever defamed three real young men or their families, but thanks for accusing me. (There’s that pesky tribalism thing rearing it’s ugly head, Joan. Tsk. Tsk.)

    As for imho…well, again, you’ll have to ask her your pressing questions yourself. You know where to find her.

    a reader wrote:

    There is never any attempt from you Bats to apply the same standard to YOURSELVES …ever.

    Followed almost immediately with this gem:

    We have to have a goal of better understanding the “tribal” positions this case excoriated.

    Why yes Joan, why don’t we discuss tribalism and the fact that you certainly seem to be fond of lumping people into one “tribe” or another, even when you know NOTHING about an individual, other than guessing (and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here) that their opinion differs from yours.

    a reader wrote:

    Direct your posts, energy, and mind to what does matter.

    It’s always special when the thought police show up, directing people on what to do with their energy and their minds!

    a reader wrote:

    Do you think our indulgent host or any of his readers care about “blog wars” or Internet personalities? Or if we know who YOU are? Or if LS was hacked or not hacked? If that is going to court, so be it.

    I don’t know if our indulgent host or his readers care about “blog wars” or internet personalities, but you just added another 502 words to his blog about both.

    a reader wrote:

    I have been stupid, I suppose, because I didn’t realize you considered this a “game of asking”.

    Well, I wasn’t going to go there, but since you brought it up…I’d have to say I think you’ve been stupid because as far as I can tell, ‘you’ have never once seemed to be able to distance yourself from YOUR “tribalism” and actually tried to digest — with some attempt at objectivity — what those whom may have a different opinion than yours, are actually saying. As far as I can tell, you have no interest in “listening” to what those varying opinions might be, because you already “know” all you need to know in order to dismiss what someone is trying to say — they’re not a member of YOUR tribe.

    I apologize for this lengthy 697 word post…282 words of which were quoting Joan, of course. I am more than happy to donate to Mr. Zimmerman’s blog to help pay for any excessive bandwidth usage resulting from my 5 comments.

    ~   ~   ~

    Given all the history behind this exchange, I’d be crazy to weigh in on one side or another. But since I’ve gone a number of rounds with Joan at this point, I have to say that I think that in our exchanges she has tried to digest my opinion.

  7. a reader | August 22, 2008 at 22:58 | Permalink

    Will Mark ever forgive Joan?

    Will Baldo sue IMHO?

    Will IMHO sue Tony Soprano?

    Will Newport return from his captivity on Hitler’s yacht in time to testify?

    Will these star-crossed blog personalities ever find true happiness?

    To those breathless readers… hanging out there on the edge of your chair…I exhort you….don’t miss the next thrilling installment ….as the suspense ever builds on Professor Zimmerman’s increasingly hijacked blog.

  8. RRH | October 25, 2008 at 00:38 | Permalink

    My bullshit detector working again: A woman falsely claimed a black man robbed her and then, because he noticed a “McCain” sticker on her car, beat and mutilated her.

    Here’s how my bullshit detector worked: First, I always have doubts about a story of a type that I’ve never known (not merely “heard”) to have happened before.

    Here are the facts as the woman presented them:

    1. She says she was robbed at an ATM. Ok, I’ve known of that to happen, so the story is plausible.
    2. She says the robber, after noticing a “McCain” sticker on her car, then beat and mutilated her. Hmmm, sounds doubtful, but there was a recent story about a NYC man who attacked a number of old ladies who were carrying McCain signs. So now I think the story is more likely than not to be false.
    3. She says the robber used a knife to carve the letter “B” (supposedly for “Barack”) into her face. Ok, now the bullshit detector is officially screaming. Besides the fact that I’ve never heard — much less known — of a similar politically-motivated mutilation, there’s the problem of how the robber could carve any recognizable letter while the victim was conscious and therefore no doubt struggling mightily. At this point I was as convinced of the falsity of the woman’s story as I had been 2 1/2 years ago of the falsity of the Lacrosse story.
    4. Then I saw a picture of her and all doubt was removed because the “B” was drawn backward, as though she did it to herself in a mirror.

    Now she has confessed. I hope she’s charged with a false police report. I can think of some fitting punishments, but that’s because I’m so “politically-incorrect”.

    Speaking of politically-incorrect, I never expected that I would report on this blog on a comment of mine that KC censored, but here it is:

    KC has recently reported on the book by Crystal Mangum, employing the scathing style that we in the DiW commentariat have all come to love. As a comment to this blog entry, just to rib him, I wrote “Can’t we all get along?” and suggested that perhaps he and Crystal should get together to co-host a rally for Obama.

    To my surprise, he refused to publish my little comment. He may have lost his sense of humor. Now that I think of it, I haven’t met many professors with the gift of self-deprecating irony.

    RRH

    ~   ~   ~

    This doesn’t strike me as a case that required any special knack for bullshit detecting. It seems like the kind of thing that any sensible person would reserve judgment on for a few news cycles, at least, especially in the middle of all the election craziness. It’s not the lack of a bs detector as much as the opposite—a desire to believe—that would lead people (like these) to buy this story right away. Though I guess the habit of carefully thinking through the specifics could balance out that desire.

    As to the comment, I guess it might count as off-topic, but lots of off-topic humor gets through (and as I learned a while ago, some on-topic replies don’t get published). I don’t think he has much of a gift for irony even if it isn’t self-deprecating.

  9. RRH | October 26, 2008 at 14:46 | Permalink

    Regarding the Ashley Todd story, I was thinking back to my days as a newspaper editor — I was a section editor for the “National and International News Pages” (pages 2 and 3 of the daily, section B of the Sunday). Newspapers, as you may know, have daily “news budget” meetings where the editors and sometimes some of the top reporters get together and decide what stories will go into the next day’s edition. If it had been suggested to me to run with the first reports of the Ashley Todd story, I would’ve said that I believed the story would turn out to be a hoax and that we should, as you say, “wait a few news cycles”. As I recall my fellow journalists’ personalities, however, I think I would have been overruled. “It’s news!” Yeah, right it’s news; it is now.

    I’m sorry to see that the potbangers at Liestoppers bought into the story, but maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve never commented (and hardly ever visited) over there.