Skip to content

Durham in Wonderland as a rumor mill

As I’ve watched things appear on Durham-in-Wonderland lately I’ve been thinking that KC Johnson must finally be running out of material. Tonight’s post seemed to be more of the same, another episode in his recent fixation with Wahneema Lubiano, apropos of nothing. But then he totally outdoes himself by tacking on an impressive bit of third-hand scurrilous gossip.

It comes by way of Bill Anderson, based on “a conversation with a prominent Duke faculty member the other day.” According to Anderson this source heard Karla Holloway express a continued belief in the guilt of the three indicted lacrosse players, and she supposedly followed the claim up with some nonsense about “guilt as a social construct.” A long time ago I wrote that criticism flowed in and out of DIW like gossip, but this is ridiculous.

[Update: I’ve just received an email from Karla Holloway. In it, she says that Anderson’s claim is “an absolute and patent falsehood,” that he’s “reporting a conversation that could never have taken place” and that it “misrepresents [her] views.”]

It isn’t the first time that Anderson has claimed to be privy to the inside scoop on Holloway, either. He floated a rumor a couple of years ago (more recently, I’m sorry to say, he slipped it into my blog, too) that she “fixed” a sexual assault charge against a colleague. The two rumors are quite a combo—they make Holloway out to be an ultra dogmatic leftist feminist who’s also an utter hypocrite. Stranger things have happened, so I won’t claim it’s impossible. I don’t find either the new or the old claim to be credible. Even if I did, I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would circulate such a story as hearsay.

I’ve had some long go-rounds with Bill Anderson. He can seem like a reasonably intelligent, thoughtful, and even gracious person at times. He’s also capable of passing wild judgments on the people he sees as ideological enemies, and of convincing himself that they’ve thought or said things that he’s in no position to know. The most jaw-dropping example I know of is a wild post on the Liestoppers forum last July, asserting, based on his understanding of the way those kind of people think, that local African American leaders had a supremely callous attitude towards the murder of Eve Carson.

Let us be honest here. There is a portion of Durham—and that includes Irving Joyner—that has an underlying approval for what was done to Eve Carson. I am not saying that Joyner approved of her murder, but he has said nothing that goes to the heart of the situation. He sees himself as a guardian of African-Americans in Durham, and I would not be surprised if he was hoping for an act of jury nullification so Atwater and Lovette could be set free.

Let us not forget that Joyner, McSurely, and the NAACP held that the biggest threat to Durham was the Duke lacrosse team. They desperately wanted these young men railroaded to prison, and in their minds, if Lovette and Atwater are acquitted despite the evidence against them, it will be a “fair trade” to the AA community for the lacrosse players not going to prison. Don’t kid yourself; this is how people like Joyner, Barber, and others think.

With respect to the latest claim about Holloway, Anderson assures us that his source “was not exaggerating, and he is an accomplished academic and not given to loose talk.” I don’t find that very reassuring.

~   ~   ~


There’s an update on KC Johnson’s post that registers the message I got from Karla Holloway. He also left a comment here, proving himself yet again to be a petty demogogue whose answer to any question or criticism is to point at someone else.

He starts the comment with a classic of sleazeball journalism à la O’Reilly—the “invitation” given out to someone whose been trashed, kindly allowing them to explain their side and get trashed some more. Then he takes up two questions I recently posed in a comment on the Duke Chronicle. True to form, he has no real answer to the first one except packages his denial with the non sequitur suggestion that the “Group of 88” did worse things. On the second question, he points to the other guy (formerly the “towering figure”)—it’s his fault.

Q: Did Johnson end our exchange of comments on DIW with a moderator’s veto? A: He doesn’t know He didn’t, “to the best of [his] knowledge,” but never mind that—the Group of 88 hasn’t defended anything they did, and Zimmerman is a public apologist for them.

Q: Why didn’t Johnson engage any critical reflection after Jim Coleman criticized him? A: It was up to Coleman, apparently, to translate the criticism into chapter and verse in DIW or UPI. Since he didn’t “corroborate his claims,” Johnson can do nothing but wonder why on earth would say such things.

Finally, he adds a paragraph about me, the messenger. In the lacrosse case, he says, the DA was trying to “railroad three innocent students at Prof. Zimmerman’s own institution. During the time those students were in harm’s way, Prof. Zimmerman… was silent about their fate, while 88 of his colleagues signed a public statement which… thanked protesters who had presumed the students’ guilt.” A year and a half ago I pointed out his habit of responding to challenges by pulling out that the formulaic indictment of the 88. He’s still at it. In this case it’s pure ad hominem—a lazy and cowardly response that discredits the messenger in order to deflect the message. And it’s especially effective with the thoughtless and bigoted.

Speaking of cowardly, his first order of business in the update on DIW is to pigeonhole me (“Group apologist Robert Zimmerman reports that he has received an email from Karla Holloway….”), but then he doesn’t have the guts to link to my post. It certainly calls for a link, and there’s even some bullshit in his comment here about public service I’m doing by revealing the (fictional) Group’s thinking. It won’t do them any good if they can’t find me.

The comment is down here. [Further comment/clarification from Johnson is here and here. My reply to the last of those sums up this incident of an uncleared comment, as I see it.]

{ 5 } Comments

  1. RedMountain | June 1, 2009 at 07:08 | Permalink

    Bill Anderson said:

    “So, Justice58 admits that prosecuting someone on the basis of racial and sexual politics is just fine. Who cares about evidence when prosecutors can lie and get away with it?”

    I believe that was the quote where I asked Bill for a link and justice58 accused Bill of “making things up”. The fact that justice58 believes that the accused were guilty of the charges is not exactly a news flash.

    It is my opinion that Bill has a history of questionable ‘mind reading’ when it comes to making statements like this.

  2. Michael Gustafson | June 2, 2009 at 19:19 | Permalink

    Also, none of you who have been defending Durham have explained to me why the Democratic Party — which DOES represent the political mainstream of Durham — recently made Victoria Peterson an officer in that party.

    That’s been one of the most bizarre things I have seen around here. How someone who is - or at least was - SO anti-gay and SO pro-life gets a leadership position in the Democratic Party defies imagination. Interesting that she calls herself one of the “prodigal daughters” - I guess that indicates that she doesn’t know the meaning of the word: “characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure.”

    Which, hey, describes Nifong’s abuse of funds for the lacrosse case. Maybe she was right after all…

    ~   ~   ~

    I used to live another Democratic party stronghold, the city of Chigago. My impression from the politics there is that an extra wide range of scoundrels all shoehorn themselves into the one party that can get them elected. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Durham politics, but maybe the situation is similar — the single-party big-tent effect, I guess you could call it.

  3. Michael Gustafson | June 6, 2009 at 23:20 | Permalink

    I figure as a Durham resident I’ll take a shot at Joan’s questions, too:

    Consider that although almost every comment and deed on record from the Durham and Duke communities in 2006-2007 can be labeled anti- LAX team, or at best pro-Mangum, we are now told by you that this was not an indication of the dominant sentiment in those communities. Indeed we are told that this existed in opposition to the prevailing sentiment of the community which was supposedly eager for the boys and families to endure the stress and expense of a trial, so that Durham might acquit! Is it your position that this dominant, prevailing, and Pro-Lax community sentiment was believed to be best articulated and most effectively utilized by each member of this community by SILENCE?

    Because either we had a community of apathetic Lax supporters doing nothing to stop Nifong (even with their vote) or we had a community caught up in a maelstrom of vindictiveness demanding trial on just an allegation with no evidence. Do you see a third possibility? Please explain.

    I think we had a community that contained both, and more. If “the community” had been a single entity, then your question could be an either-or proposition. Durham, however, is more than that.

    In reflecting on the history of all this, I often look at how Wahneema Lubiano’s construction of perfecting offenders and victims comes into play when applied to different players from her original blog post. I feel like some are trying to turn all the citizens of Durham into a “perfect offender” in this case. I believe that leads to two major problems. The first is this - it so simplifies the case that easy counterarguments can be made, and with those, the rest of a thesis tacked on to a “perfect offender” argument is diminished.

    The second is, I believe, more important. That a case like this could get the traction it did, and last as long as it did, and be pursued the way it was with such small resistance in the real, complex, and diverse Durham community is much, much more troubling to me than if it had happened in the simplified one perfectly aligned to accept and support Nifong’s creation.

    I also do not believe the men on the team need to be turned into “perfect victims” for the crimes committed against them to be any more obvious, damaging, or, for lack of a better word, criminal. I, personally, think the party was a bad idea. I also, personally, think that in no way, shape, or form legitimizes, excuses, or diminishes either the criminal negligence or criminal activities that came into play to try those guys in the court of public opinion; to manufacture indictments, to (allegedly…) break state and federal law; to promote the sensation at the expense of the factual; or to play on the deepest and darkest fears and history of a community to gain personal wealth, satisfaction, or standing.

    KrdDURHAM, in your opinion, was the silence at Duke and in Durham of all these LAX supporters….sufficient in its moral obligation to the innocent Collin, Reade and Dave? Did it meet your ethical requirement of what we owe each other when we are witness to a great moral, political, and judicial outrage occurring? Doesn’t it “take a village” and all that?

    In my opinion, the lacrosse team writ large and Collin, Reade, and Dave specifically did not get nearly the appropriate support. Naturally, it is easy to say that now - given that their innocence is so remarkably clear, obviously they deserved everyone’s support. Looking back, it is clear that many felt like this case was the goose that laid the golden egg. Time has shown instead an empty, sulphurous shell.

    Apologies to those eating breakfast.

    Consider that Nifong was elected by overwhelming support from the Black community and with recommendation by the most powerful Black community political action group…

    One of my favorite Nifong quotes came after the Democratic Primary (from

    “It was obvious to me early on that we did really well in the predominantly black precincts,” Nifong said. “As I would go through the black community before the election, people would stop me and say, ‘Keep your head up. We’re with you.’… But it [the Duke lacrosse case] cut both ways. It hurt me among conservative white voters. I expect if this issue had never come up we would have ended up with the same outcome.”

    Erm. Mr. Nifong? Wouldn’t conservative voters, regardless of race/color/anything else, be voting in the, um, other primary? That same story had this gem, too:

    “The Duke lacrosse case was the overwhelming issue,” said Philip Cousin, a longtime Durham Committee member who is also a Durham County commissioner and the minister at St. Joseph’s AME Church. “I think a lot of people thought there wouldn’t be any arrests. When Nifong came through with the indictments, that indicated to the black community he would be fair.”

    I had never before heard the notion of indictments as necessary and sufficient proof of fairness.

    In that election, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People had actually endorsed Keith Bishop. And the election results for the primary showed approximately equal voting percentages for Nifong among black and white voters. My guess - and it truly is one - is that without his “pep rally,” Nifong would have lost a significant portion of the black vote – though most likely to Bishop and not to Freda Black, unless she or her supporters had chosen to use the lacrosse in her favor at that point. Would it have been near the 900 votes needed to change the election? That’s hard to know. Certainly, if Nifong had publicly stated that he would not pursue the case, I think we would have lost a tremendous number of votes. And if Black’s supporters had started a whisper campaign?

    The comment you cite from LS about terrorist attacks was said once…

    I’ll abstain on this one, except to say that Victoria Peterson is an active, vocal member of the Durham community with whom many, many people disagree about a whole host of subjects.

    Can you cite to me any other case in Durham where the City Manager felt he had to lie to reporters to prop up a criminal case? Why did Baker feel it necessary to state Mangum only
    told one story?

    I’ll take a wild guess again that, in its history, Durham has seen some lies come forth from just about every office in the administration, though certainly having a City Manager involve himself in a criminal case not involving the City directly is peculiar, at best. Whatever his motivations for making false statements, he diminished himself and his office by doing so. That he now holds the position he does makes me mourn for what Durham could and should be.

    Why did the NCNAACP carry that outrageous “case description” for months after exoneration? Why did Joyner… the case monitor… continue to demand a trial? Was this in defiance of the community belief in innocence that was so prevalent at the time, as you describe it?

    I actually did (try to) ask both or Rev. Barber and of the NCNAACP. As you might imagine, I received no reply. Upon reflection – even with admitted bias - I believe that my inquiries were respectful, specific, and non-accusatory. They were also, ultimately, fruitless. The damage the NCNAACP did to itself in my eyes is both significant and tragic.

    And yes, Justice, the citizens of Durham had a choice…

    Well…in the actual election…kind of. Macroscopically they did. In the context of the election, they had a “choice” but it was among an empty chair, a tardy and unofficial spoiler who couldn’t even get himself on the ballot, and…Nifong. Admittedly, the empty chair had stronger ethics and would have served Durham better.

    As a final aside – I still enjoy the fact that my spell-checker wants to convert Nifong into “Knifing.” Fortunately, the stroke he thought he’d so perfectly aimed got deflected onto his own misspelled law license.

    ~   ~   ~

    Thanks for chiming in, Gus. Philip Cousins’ very coarse measure of Nifong’s “fairness” is a remarkable artifict of the time. A few months ago I reread parts of The Best of Enemies. If Cousins is old enough to have experienced Durham as it was then, his remark makes some sense (which doesn’t mean it was cogent). It’s a great book, anyway. It says something about how Durham ended up with a political culture that’s highly reactive and poised to polarize on issues of race.

  4. RedMountain | June 7, 2009 at 07:16 | Permalink

    There was at least one attempt to speak as a community in relation to the case early on. That was the Community of One ad issued and signed by Bell, Ammons, and Brodhead. The irony of this ad is it is now being used in one of the civil suits as ‘evidence’ of a conspiracy.

    For the past few weeks, Durham has been shaken by allegations arising from the incident of March 13. While feelings of pain, anger, and confusion are understandable in times like these, let us remember that justice is served in the courtroom, not in the media or at the hands of individuals.

    We are proud of the response of students at North Carolina Central University and Duke University who are organizing events to educate each other about sexual violence, racism, and why our system of law presumes innocence until guilt is established. We are grateful for the work of clergy and other leaders who are using this time to urge healing, peace, and truth.

    The three of us are engaged in regular dialogue with people throughout Durham. We are providing updates on our progress and seeking counsel, with the goal of overcoming the tensions that have arisen.

    Durham has so much more to offer than what recent events or simplistic national media portrayals of our community have shown. Our universities and our city have worked together over the years to build a community that is known for tolerance, education, business opportunity, and medical and technological excellence.

    We pledge to all of our fellow citizens that we will continue to work together to strengthen the bonds that unite us. We all must work to be a community of one.




    ~   ~   ~

    Not a bad little statement. Here’s the question it raises for me, though: What was the event on “why our system of law presumes innocence until guilt is established”?

  5. A reader | June 7, 2009 at 17:26 | Permalink

    I just wrote a post somewhere else that I might paraphrase a bit in answering some of the thoughtful points made here. I’m thinking a lot about “loyalty” these days and, yes, our Host’s concept of Tribalism. Anyway, this self-reflection is unexpectedly answering some of my long-held questions and also requiring I make some admissions.

    First… it is time that I modify my own rhetoric, and stop saying “Durham this” and “Durham that.” KrdDurham is right to chide me that I am standing far off, assessing his town from reports and quotes in media outlets…. that I regularly declare (when it suits me) to be utterly biased and unreliable in everything else. He is absolutely right in his assessment of my swaying standard in citing the MSM. I can’t have it both ways.

    And Gus (if I may call him that) is correct to point out that it was not “DURHAM’ as one collective culprit… but instead certain subgroups of Durham …each working within its own motives and mindsets…that knit together loosely to construct the offensive WHOLE… that is so disturbing to many of us. And he makes an excellent point that we who try to deny “the real, complex, and diverse Durham community” essentially weaken our own argument as to the enormity of what happened.

    True again.

    However, not all of us tried to “perfect” the Lacrosse Team or their actions that night…not even in the throes of our fear while Collin, Reade and Dave were under indictment. I will admit though, that the element of “overkill” that existed in many places regarding these kids… made it difficult for those of us who supported their innocence… to articulate any objections to their “party activities” that night. I did try to address the topic in an essay here on LS in Feb, 2007:

    Someone asked me recently to consider why each of us REALLY got involved in this case. Of course, I would like to take off my Clark Kent glasses and proclaim I only cared about Truth, Justice and the American Way…but really, the short answer is…I could see my son doing the dumb thing and going to that party. And he would NOT have been there to demean women, or to impose his sense of “white privilege on Black strippers” or “to play out scenes from the book American Psycho” (as suggested by the NCNAACP) or to represent the values and opinions of his Father or me on any or all of the former issues. At 19 years old, he would not be planning his evening’s entertainment based on re-enacting historical outrages or representing perverse socio-political agendas. He doesn’t buy a can of Coke recalling “Coke can history” and therefore signaling support of overseas American military intervention.

    He would have been there, as most of these kids were…because he was a team member and the Captains called the party. So, originally… I spoke up because I could see my son at that party. I could imagine his fear, my fear, the helplessness, the hopelessness. I empathized. I wanted to help. I wanted to articulate that empathy. I was “Thinking About the Moms.”

    Today…I can accept that some who signed the “Listening Statement” may have pictured… among the minority students that article described…someone similar to… someone THEY loved. Maybe a bridge to understanding what happened here…could start with recognition of each other’s empathy and an acknowledgement of how we each tried..each in our own way…to act on it. Surely, that’s something …at least some of us..have in common, even if our empathy was lavished in different directions.

    But, any bridge cannot be paved over (as Davidson tried to do) in The Big Lie…that the Listening Statement was not about the Lacrosse case…nor can it deny the harm, though it may not have been intentional, that The Statement did to the three kids under indictment at their most vulnerable time. But, at this juncture, the goal should not be about browbeating the signatories but getting to a place where our empathy on both sides can be less exclusive and more..inclusive… and spill over in such a way that all these kids come under a joint umbrella held by “Listeners” and Liestoppers alike.

    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if Jesse Jackson had traveled to Durham to forcibly speak in support of three kids (Skin hue not in question) arrested on an allegation and no evidence…and while Brodhead spoke of the need to have empathy and compassion for Mangum…equal time at the podium would have given to Ammons …speaking on behalf of Collin, Reade and Dave…and the presumption of innocence …not just a sentence or phrase but a compelling address on the rights of the Team.

    As to my other question…why so many stayed silent..I think I’m beginning to understand more about that every day. As difficult as it is to speak “truth to power”…speaking truth to our friends and heroes is even more daunting. And it has, like it or not, a very personal price tag. I believe one Duke Professor was quoted as saying any negative quote from her regarding the Listening Statement would mean “my word would not count for much around here.”

    Someone quoted Churchill on another blog…addressing a friend who had called him out in public: “Brendan, we are so few. We must stick together. Your words, justified or not, will be used against me and against our cause by those who would oppose us”.

    I answered this way (sort of): “These are beautiful words…but they imply that some “solidarity” is more important than our personal integrity. I must respectfully disagree. I think it’s that kind of thinking that has generated much of the lack of outrage and moral inertia that allowed this terrible Frame to move forward.

    Over and over in this case, we saw that so few people were willing to “call out their own.” I’m sure they felt they had many good “reasons” and they wrapped themselves in their own cherished “causes” to comfort themselves. There were so many “excuses” for silence, weren’t there? Certainly, there must have been some ADAs who disapproved of Nifong’s tactics, but no doubt they felt they owed “The Boss” their loyalty or owed the “office” their loyalty. Someone at DUMC must have realized Levicy was off the tracks, but perhaps the larger goal of “wanting victims to be believed” shut them up. Some prominent members of Durham’s Black community did indeed know the truth…but opted for the comforting excuse of essential racial solidarity and sympathy with Sister Survivor. And certainly some of Duke’s faculty were appalled at the Listening Statement and the public denunciation of their own students by their fellow faculty members…but elected to be “collegial” with fellow faculty members with whom they work and socialize regularly.”

    We see this Silent Loyalty mindset everywhere today. We let others represent us, speak for us, carry the ball for us. But if we see our Hero is out of bounds, we turn our eyes, because he is so important to our larger cause. Before we look at someone’s actions..we look at the tee shirt he’s wearing…. if it’s the same as ours…because THAT alone will decide how we react.

    One good discussion to arise from this case might be ….does this kind of “Silent Loyalty” truly serve the best interests of either our respective cause or our errant hero or friend? Did Levicy’s role in this…help more women who cry rape…to be believed? Did the bizarro actions of the NC NAACP enhance the common groundwork their once and future issues with our justice system will require? Did the legitimate gripes of the Trinity Park homeowners advance now that the “Targeting Dukies” issue is linked with them in every airing? And, anyone want to ask Nifong how winning that election played out down the line …personally…for him?

    So often our “best friends” are not those who cosset us, but those who confront us. And our best service to the ideas and issues we care about is not loyal silence but a loud and negative shout-out to our own. Where might we be today if, instead of loyal silence… one person might have emailed to Lubiano..”Don’t print this.”…might have advised “Meehan”..”Don’t go along with this.” …might have chastened Levicy, “This is not how a Sane nurse conducts herself.” ….or one LAX captain might have told another ….”Forget the strippers.”

    ~   ~   ~

    I could pick up a few points in this to agree or disagree or clarify or whatever, and maybe I will at some point. But for now I’ll just say that I very much appreciate the thought that went into this comment, as well as the ones leading up to it.