April 12, 2007

A LOOK AT THE DUKE CASE AND THE POSTMODERN NARRATIVE: “With the final outcome of the Duke rape idiocy, it is finally and fully apparent that the Duke faculty and administration have made fools of themselves. . . . It was obvious to normal people without an agenda a year ago that there was something fishy about the Duke story.”

UPDATE: A good point from Howard Kurtz:

As long as we’re talking about how the Rutgers women were unfairly disparaged as “ho’s,” consider the nightmare that the three Duke lacrosse players have lived through.

But in all the coverage you read and see about the clearing of these young men, very little of it will be devoted to the media’s role in ruining their lives. I didn’t hear a single television analyst mention it yesterday, even though two of the players’ lawyers took shots at the press.

It was an awful performance, no question about it. News organizations took one woman’s shaky allegations and turned them into a national soap opera, pillorying the reputations of the players. Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty and David Evans were presumed innocent in a legal sense, but not in the court of media opinion.

We will now read 100 stories about how an obsessive prosecutor overreached in bringing the indictments in the first place, and that’s fine. But keep in mind that the Duke case was all over the network newscasts, the morning shows, the cable channels and the front pages. Newsweek put two of the defendants’ mug shots on the cover. “I’m so glad they didn’t miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape,” Nancy Grace said on Headline News.

Nancy Grace’s behavior was particularly bad — and justly parodied on Saturday Night Live — but she was merely one of a miserable herd. And, as noted above, the story was obviously weak.

Kurtz continues:

What made this a case of aggravated media assault is that news outlets weren’t content to focus on the three defendants. Attorney General Roy Cooper said there was a “rush to condemn a community and a state.” Remember all the “trend” stories about “pampered” and “privileged” student athletes being “out of control”? Remember how the lacrosse players’ homes were shown on TV? How the coach lost his job? How this case was depicted as being about the contrast between a white elite institution and a poor black community? All of that was built on what turned out to be lies.

Once discrepancies surfaced in the account of the accuser–who has still not been identified by the MSM, even though she’s now been exposed as a liar–some news organizations did a good job of pursuing them. But just about everyone joined in the original frenzy over race and sports. And given the media’s track record going back to Richard Jewell, I have zero confidence that this won’t happen again.

Imus will probably lose his show. Nancy Grace won’t.

MORE: A lefty blogger wonders why people care. Aside from the obvious — it’s a manifest injustice in a case that got loads of publicity — I think it underscores that the political/media system isn’t living up to the standards of fairness it sets. In the conventional imagination, it used to be — see To Kill a Mockingbird or reports of the Scottsboro rape trial — that it was the noble fairness-obsessed lefties who supported due process against the ignorant right-wing hicks who tried to lynch people out of a mixture of racism, political opportunism borne of racism, journalistic sensationalism, and sheer meanness. Now the hats have switched. That’s worth noting.

STILL MORE: Radley Balko:

But the reason why the narrative for most of the last century has been that of noble, left-wing ACLU and NAACP lawyers coming to the aid of black people wrongly accused by racist white people is because for most of the last century, that’s the way it has actually happened. Over and over and over. . . . The right-wingers just happened to be right this time.

He’s right about the history — but I’m not sure this incident is as isolated as he suggests. And Jonathan Gewirtz comments: “My hunch, and this relates to my original point, is that while abuses of police and prosecutorial power probably happen everywhere, they are more likely to go unremedied in entrenched, one-party political cultures like those that exist in some of the so-called blue states.”

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