Why the Duke Hoax Continues Part II: Durham and the Politics of Entitlement

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The "60 Minutes" broadcast has come and gone. Millions of people have seen the video of the accuser doing a pole dance at a strip club at the same time she and the police were claiming she was too injured even to sit upright. The second stripper at the infamous lacrosse party now claims that the accuser told her to hit her in order to inflict bruises in hopes of being able to frame the players on criminal assault and rape charges.

One bombshell after another hits this case, yet the prosecutor, Michael Nifong, continues to push it to trial, and no one with authority will do anything to stop him. Furthermore, the demand for trial and criminal convictions not only echoes from the black community in Durham, North Carolina, but also from vocal segments of the Duke University faculty. There may not be evidence that anyone committed rape, but a large and influential portion of the population at Durham wants these young men in prison for the rest of their lives.

In most situations, one would expect that the existence and publication of information that obliterates a criminal case would be taken seriously by the authorities, but we do not see that happening here. Thus, we ask ourselves why this case is different, and why much of Durham and the Duke University faculty have rushed well beyond judgment to a point at which they demand that no one confuse them with facts.

The short version of the answer is this: the politics of race and sex trump justice and even logic. The longer version reaches the same conclusion, but demonstrates the path that is taken — and why that is so. As I explain why this case still is alive, I must begin with the thought that also is at the end of this analysis, that being that I doubt I ever will be involved in or even see this level of hypocrisy and cynicism on behalf of people who claim to care about things like justice.

But while this state of affairs brims with hypocrisy and cynicism, these things are not the causes of the larger problem. Instead, the Duke case forces us to examine that thing we call "justice," and to ask ourselves whether or not government even is capable of dispensing justice on a consistent basis. The situation involving the accused lacrosse players is serious in itself, but the thing that has made it worse has been government, and especially government in the hands of people who believe that criminal prosecutions should be determined solely on the basis of political considerations.

Conservatives are fond of saying that a "limited" government should have the application of a system of justice as its most important duty. Yet, conservatives also forget — or, perhaps, deny — that if government agents operate according to the laws of economics, then we should not be shocked when individuals in the employ of government use the "justice" system to promote injustice. Like the broken clock that correctly tells the time twice a day, government entities of "justice" may create outcomes that bolster just outcomes, but when that happens, it is only by mere happenstance and not on a regular basis. It is not that government justice never promotes just outcomes, but rather that government justice is not likely to deliver those outcomes on a consistent basis because people who are part of the government "justice" apparatus are interested in "politically correct" results.

As I explain why this case still lives and breathes, I need to go to the beginning. While I start with the team party from where the false accusations originated, the issue began long before the party and is rooted firmly in the identity politics that now dominates the elite universities like Duke.

The Fateful Party

When the Duke University lacrosse team had its annual party during spring break last March, there was little reason to think that the aftermath would escalate into a vast criminal case. While the Duke faculty and administration insists that just the act of hiring strippers to perform was a singularly bad act, they are conveniently leaving out the fact that other parties involving Duke students — more than 20 in all — had including performances by strippers (or "exotic dancers," as the media continues to call them).

As one source very close to the situation has told me, Duke’s vaunted basketball team had hosted a party just two weeks earlier — with strippers helping to provide the "entertainment." Yet, there were no rallies on campus protesting this breach of conduct, and Duke President Richard Brodhead did not publicly condemn the team, nor did he order the resignation of Duke’s famed basketball coach Michael Krzyzewski.

One can counter that no basketball players were accused of raping the strippers — but it also is obvious that no lacrosse player raped anyone, either. Still, Brodhead told "60 Minutes" that the players on the team were guilty of "outrageous behavior." That may be true, but the behavior Brodhead defines as "outrageous" is common at Duke, yet he has not laid down a blanket condemnation of the basketball team, let alone most of the Duke student body.

However, one might answer, the act of hiring strippers proved that the lacrosse players wished to "denigrate women." I don’t know their motives, but if feminists at Duke wish to use that as a reason for demanding the conviction and imprisonment of the Duke Three, then perhaps they should look at the feminists of Bucknell University.

Earlier this year, feminists from the Bucknell faculty and student body, including Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Center for the Study of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity, and the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Awareness hosted a strip show on campus featuring both male and female strippers. There were no protest marches to condemn this behavior, nor did Bucknell’s president (and leftists on the faculty) say anything in public about the show. Like Duke’s Brodhead, who apparently had no problem with the basketball team’s hiring of strippers (and those Duke students who hosted the approximately 20 other local parties featuring strippers), the people at Bucknell (and I would say leftist academics in general) support the flaunting of sex as long as it fits within the bounds of what they consider to be the Holy Sexual Revolution.

In other words, it was not the hiring of strippers that led to the outrage by Brodhead, his administrators, and a large portion of the arts and sciences faculty. Instead, it was the fact that the lacrosse players hired the strippers, because the Duke lacrosse players do not fit the politically correct mold of what people like Brodhead and many Duke faculty members wish to impose upon Duke.

The Duke Lacrosse Team

All universities have social pecking orders, whether those orders exist among students or faculty. Not surprisingly, the social pecking order among students is not what the faculty — and especially the leftist faculty — would prefer, but there is not much those people can do to control their students.

At the top of the student social order at Duke are the lacrosse players. Most are white, and most are prep school educated (lacrosse generally is not played at public schools), most are respectful to adults, and most are good students who go on to high-paying jobs after graduation. In other words, they are the kinds of students that leftist faculty members despise, but for the most part cannot do anything about them except to stew in rage and hatred. In writing about the lacrosse players, Janet Reitman in Rolling Stone writes:

”Laxers,” as lacrosse players are universally known, tend to be the most desired and most confident guys on campus. They’re fun. And they’re hot. It’s something that frustrates and often baffles other young men, particularly those who’ve had girlfriends stolen by these guys. But women understand. ”It’s a BMOC thing,” Sarah says. She’s undecided about the rape charges but is much more certain about the boys. ”They have it all — you want a part of that,” she says.

The "laxers" also are young men who not only are sexually active, but find plenty of coeds willing to hook up with them for an evening’s dalliance. Yet, while the gratuitous sex that is part of their lives may have been accelerated by the Sexual Revolution, it clearly goes back to an earlier time when jocks ruled and were the BMOCs, something the Sexual Revolution was supposed to eliminate.

Yes, the "laxers" engage in the gratuitous sex that the Prophets of the Sexual Revolution so demanded as the entryway to Real Freedom, but generally they have sex with good-looking young women — not with each other. Homosexuality is quite rare among lacrosse players. In other words, the players are partakers in sex itself, but not in the Sexual Revolution, and that, according to much of the arts and sciences faculty, is unforgivable. The sexual activity that surrounds the lacrosse players is that of young men with raging hormones, not politically-oriented sex. After all, the Sexual Revolution is not just about having more sex; it is about having more sex while pontificating on the revolutionary slogans of Marx and Lenin.

To gain a sense of just how much these young men are hated by many Duke faculty members, I present a recent op-ed written by Grant Farred, a black Duke University associate professor of literature, entitled "Secret Racism Underlying Lacrosse Case":

The pervasive sense of unease about the Duke lacrosse affair remains. If only initially, the players and the university’s administration wanted the entire event to remain a secret That was impossible because it is the very nature of secrets to reveal themselves.

And the lacrosse affair came burdened with a public history. A history that includes the sexual past of the alleged victim as well as the criminal record of the Duke players — from the arrest and prosecution of lacrosse players from Washington D.C., to Durham to the lacrosse team’s reputed tendency toward arrogant sexual prowess. These proclivities are complicated by the neglected issue, that of ongoing racism in the not-so-New South.

The racist taunts by the lacrosse players on that infamous March night were nothing historically new. The vulnerability of black bodies now assumes a different guise, but its political realities remain unchanged, especially in this instance, as it applies to black and minority women. That is only a public secret, but an ongoing shame.

Why have the racial slurs and a player’s e-mail "promise" about killing and skinning "strippers bu2014s" been forgotten, and transgressions against Durhamites made victim to the relentless commitment to exonerating the three players? In casting the players as the aggrieved "victims," as CBS’ "60 Minutes" did and the players, their attorneys and the PR machines continue to insist, what has been eliminated from discussion is a more serious issue. How is the lacrosse affair symptomatic of the political culture at Duke?

Why is there not a more urgent sense on the university campus about March 2006? Why has it not precipitated a more profound educational, political, and intellectual crisis? If the gravity of the situation did register, how is it possible that the team could be reinstated despite its criminal history? How could an athletic director’s response to the affair suggest that this was simply a matter of "boys being boys," by which he really means that historic white privilege should go unimpeded, and perhaps even punished?

This tendency is made all the more troubling by a recent political campaign on the Duke campus. Mobilized through the proliferation of Blue Devil blue armbands, too visible on campus early in the fall semester, inscribed with the numbers of the three indicted players and the defiant proclamation, "Innocent" (in bold white), Duke University students are now said to be registering to vote in Durham in unprecedented numbers.

By transferring their registration from other places, by enfranchising themselves in Durham, these students’ only intention is to oust District Attorney Mike Nifong. This selective intervention amounts to nothing so much as the deliberate act of closing ranks against Durham. What Duke students becoming Durham citizens does is displace the problem of racism from the lacrosse team and the university to Durham’s political system.

This is a historically ironic move, this drive to register "locally," because Duke students are notorious in their disconnect from the "black" city of Durham. They are here exercising their right to the franchise without any other sense of civic responsibility. The plan here is to not act in Durham or for the general good of Durham, but to act against the non-Duke Durham community. Can this intervention be motivated by anything other than naked self-interest?

The goal of these new, expedient and transient members of Durham’s political community is to repair the damage done to historic white male privilege by voting against a DA vigorous, perhaps even questionable, in his efforts to prosecute the "innocent."

The "Innocent" campaign may be motivated by a keenly felt opposition to Nifong’s handling of the case, but it does little more than obscure what is really at stake. Why is the effort to remove Nifong from office not accompanied by a similar vigorous interrogation of those who spewed racial epithets? Why not a "No Racism" or "No Violence Against Women" armband?

All of which, of course, begs the crucial question: What is it precisely that that these three players, and the lacrosse team in general, are "innocent" of? Racism? Underage drinking? Hiring sex workers under a false name? Homophobia? The abdication of a collective team — what happened was not a "mistake" but part of an older and widely known pattern of lacrosse behavior — and larger institutional responsibility for declaring public what precisely it is that Duke University represents?

The question needs to be answered. What does Duke stand against? At this moment, Duke university’s precise mission as a renowned institution of higher learning, one that touts its elevated international rankings, is the best kept secret in town.

It is difficult to know where to begin in critiquing this screed, but let it be noted that the lacrosse players did not have a history of doing any of the things of which Farred accuses them, except for underage drinking, which hardly places them in a unique category on college campuses, Duke included. For that matter, Farred seems to condemn only the lacrosse team’s hiring of party strippers, conveniently leaving out the basketball players and assorted groups which Farred may consider to be more "politically correct."

What is more significant here is that Farred clearly wants Colin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann, and David Evans convicted of rape charges, even though he knows that no evidence of rape exists, save the accusation of a woman whose credibility long ago was suspect. And anyone who believes otherwise also is deemed an Enemy of the People.

Were the lacrosse players basically Ku Klux Klan members with helmets, as Farred suggests? The only black Duke lacrosse player, Devon Sherwood, has said differently:

Sherwood said he found it “impossible” to believe that the rape allegations are true.

“I’m 100 percent confident,” he said. “I know nothing indeed happened that night at all.”

Asked how he could be so sure if he wasn’t present when the alleged attack took place, Sherwood said he knew the defendants well enough.

“I don’t hesitate,” he said. “I believe in the character of my teammates. I believe in the character of specifically [the three defendants]. I would never ever … doubt them or think, ‘Well, are they lying?’ I would never do that, because I believe in them.”

No, Grant Farred and many of his faculty colleagues want the three young men to be convicted and sent to prison because they do not like them and believe them to be "symbols" of political incorrectness." That is the only reason. Moreover, they need no evidence that a rape even occurred; the very presence of those young men on the Duke campus is in itself a crime, and it is a crime for which they must be punished severely, even with their own lives (and I have no doubt that most of those faculty members like Farred would not mind at all if someone were to murder Finnerty, Seligmann, and Evans).

It is difficult to imagine the hatred that so many Duke faculty members have for their students. I could not imagine hating the young people in my classroom the way that Farred and faculty members like Houston Baker, Karla Holloway, and Peter Wood must hate students who do not fit the political, sexual, or ethnic profile that these people demand must be the standard for everyone. These students are the ones who pay the very high salaries of these faculty members — and in turn, they are despised by many faculty for coming from families that are able to pay Duke’s near-$50K a year tuition, fees, and other expenses.

At this time, the Farreds and Bakers and Woods have won. The Duke administration has turned its collective back completely upon the lacrosse players and their families, even resorting to public insults. (Lacrosse family members personally have told me a number of tales that I cannot repeat, but that I have no doubt are true.) The state conviction and imprisonment machine continues to roll forward, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that the entire thing is a hoax. Yet, as Farred has so well put it in his screed, these young men already are "guilty" of being politically incorrect. What other evidence does a prosecutor and jury need to lock them up for the rest of their lives?

Unfortunately, these are the people who rule the Duke faculty and administration. Those who dissent are shouted down, as Chemistry Professor Steven Baldwin recently found out when he publicly was accused of racism for defending the lacrosse players. One can also be assured that others who question the dominant orthodoxy at Duke can expect to face public denunciation and reprisals, all blessed by a cowardly president and his underlings.

Part II will deal with the Durham community, and how activists and ministers there have worked to promote the hoax.

November 2, 2006

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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