Friday, February 16, 2007

Duke lacrosse: “Totalitarian whiff”

KC Johnson:

In recent months, there’s been a totalitarian whiff to events in Durham, as we witness attempts to rewrite history.
His post demonstrates just how blatantly the Durham Herald Sun is trying to airbrush its history as it scrambles to remain relevant on this case. Regrettably, that is not the only example of totalitarian thinking that has skulked in the shadows of this matter.

From the beginning, the lacrosse players were presumed guilty because of who they were: white, male, rich, athletic. Early on, the vocal faction at Duke and Durham sought to transform this from a simple criminal case into a show trial. Impartial justice took a backseat to political agendas.

The Herald-Sun is not the only one trying to rewrite history. Ruth Sheehan has done it. The Gang of 88 has done it. Relentless revisionism has become a full-time preoccupation with the Duke administration.

The memory hole has been used nonstop since the last fall. Journalists like John Saunders are quick to attack Nifong or bemoan the “tragic rush to judgment”. They piously worry about the pain inflicted on the falsely accused players. They hope that no one will remember what they wrote and said back in the spring.

The party-liners have twisted themselves into pretzels to explain away inconvenient facts. They go to absurd lengths to justify the continuation of the hoax when the DNA evidence screams innocence. They happily minimize Nifong’s misdeeds while trotting out red-herrings about underage drinking and bigoted insults. They are adamant that “something happened” but are evasive about what happened and when. They accept the accuser’s credibility no matter how often her story changes. The more she prevaricates, the louder the party-liners proclaim that she is a brave and honest witness. In April they recounted the terrible injuries she suffered; in December they were outraged that anyone would dare bring up the lack of injuries as evidence in a rape case.

Perhaps worse than those who try to fit the facts into convoluted theories are those who simply dismiss inconvenient facts altogether. Hannah Arendt noted that totalitarians are quick to turn statements of fact into questions of motive. This mode of “debate” has been on constant display during the lacrosse case. Wendy Murphy dismissed the DNA evidence as “defense spin” when even Nifong conceded that there was no lacrosse DNA on the accuser or her clothes. Georgia Goslee played the race card to marginalize anyone who complained about the DA’s tactics in this case. Bloggers who raised questions about due process and the presumption of innocence were branded as racists, misogynists, and rape apologists by the pot banging blogs. When Dan Abrams looked at the discovery and reported that the evidence was weak, the apparatchiks were quick to point out that he was a Duke alum.

Murphy and Goslee also fell back on the classic totalitarian tactic of the Big Lie. Murphy told fantastic stories about the injuries suffered by the accuser. We now know that these were the product of her fevered and twisted imagination. Goslee retails dark rumors of a $2 million payoff offered to the victim months after the accuser denied any such offer took place.

All in all, it has been a sad spectacle.

UPDATE: 2/18/07 DIW gives us another example in this post. The party-liners do not allow for the possibility of honest disagreement. There are only enemies and conspiracies. Marcotte knows nothing about the facts of the lacrosse case, but she is certain that anyone who disagrees with her is "anti-feminist" and part of "the right-wing noise machine".

UPDATE 2 2/18/07 Speaking of enemies and conspiracies, here's a classic example:

Duke Sexual Assault Allegations Astroturf

A blogger gets a bunch of critical comments after posting on a high-profile subject. Is it because what she wrote was debatable? No. Could her facts be wrong? Absolutely not! The only acceptable explanation is that there is an orchestrated astro turfing campaign underway on behalf of the lacrosse players.

No comments: