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May 24, 2007

LaShawn Barber Reports From Duke Rape-of-the-Lax Panel

A lot of good stuff.

[Stuart] Taylor, columnist and co-author of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, realized very early on that prosecutor Mike Nifong didn’t have much of a case. He rushed a column to print in April 2006, worried that his column might be old news and others would beat him to the punch with this revelation. Taylor assumed many other journalists had reached similar conclusions, and he wanted to get his piece in. He was wrong. His was the only opinion piece from a member of the mainstream media (MSM) who was skeptical about the case.


[N&O investigative reporter Joseph] Neff said that his editor had a “gut feeling” in the beginning that something wasn’t right about Crystal Mangum’s story and that his paper has a strict policy against using anonymous sources.

How should reporters cover cases like Duke? As long as reporters cover crime stories as routine court cases instead of as “metanarratives” of race, class, and such, they should be OK. The problem arises when reporters go beyond news gathering and rely on stereotypes rather than on facts. The narrative is quickly set, and other coverage reinforces it. In the Duke case, the narrative was that a group of racist, drunken, rich, white frat boys had raped a poor, oppressed black woman who went to school and worked to feed her children.

Even after more facts about Mangum came out, the narrative was set. What did we find out about her? That she was a “prostitute,” a word Taylor used, wasn’t much of a student and had a history of mental problems.

Even after “second stripper” Kim Roberts admitted on “60 Minutes” — national TV — that she threw the first punch, so to speak, by calling one of the players “small dick white boy,” the narrative was that she and Mangum were called niggers by the players. One player — one player — said something about thanking her grandfather for picking the cotton that made his shirt after her conjecture about his private parts.

Even after the “60 Minutes” airing, said Taylor, the NYT still was reporting that neighbors (fact: only one neighbor) heard players (fact: only one player) call Roberts a nigger (unverified).

The MSM is still getting a lot of mileage out of that unverified* "nigger" slur.

The MSM is not not so big on mentioning the slur that prompted the "nigger" slur -- "small dick white boys!" (or "short dick," I've heard before), admitted by Kim Roberts.

The former's a slur for which one should be punished for rape, even if one actually committed no rape, or any other trespass, at all.

The latter is, I guess, just a little bit of "ribald banter."

It's what we call "pillow talk" in the future, baby.

LaShawn also reports on the panel's charge (or admission) that the MSM strongly prefers to bury its mistakes and confess no error, as they've by and large done through this case. Taylor notes that even at this late date the NYT is still misreporting the case, always to the detriment of the Duke lacrosse team.

Oh... I hardly think Kim Roberts should be raked over the coals for her own provocation, either. The lax players were pissed off at the strippers, and the strippers were pissed off back. (Well, Crystal Gail Mangum was just pissed, period, stumbling drunk and probably loaded up on goofballs.) Harsh things are sometimes said.

So Kim Roberts taunted the lax players "small dick white boys" as she left. Big deal. But I hardly think it's the crime of the century if someone then calls her "nigger" in return fire.

It's not a pleasant exchange. But it's no reason to continue insisting "something must have happened" to Crystal Gail Mangum.

If "something must have happened" due to use of the word "nigger," then at least three strippers were raped in the writing of this post, and one or two more in LaShawn's.

* Though, actually, I do believe it was said -- Kim Roberts has seemed pretty straight-shooting through all of this, and even admits she slurred/taunted the players first -- if someone's copping to bad behavior, I'm inclined to believe most of what they say. Pretty much everything she says accords with the record. Indeed, she was pretty much the first to really scorch Nifong's frame-job. Which was rather brave, given that a cabbie who came forward to cast doubt on the case had an old arrest warrant suddenly revived.

Childishness: It occurs to me that in order to claim the "nigger" slur was truly a godawful crime against humanity, the MSM would have to engage in a somewhat childish cross-comparison with Kim Roberts' initial taunt.

What she said is a little less forbidden than what the unidentified lax player said. Still, I think I speak on behalf of "short dick white boys" in saying while we don't have an n-word of our own, that's hate speech that scars us sometimes for life.

Then the MSM would have to also note that, while the return fire of the n-word was an escalation, Kim Roberts had started the name-calling. And then they'd have to argue that even though Roberts started the racial taunting, the unidentified Duke player (not one of the three accused of rape, by the way) failed to properly calibrate his retaliatory slur so as to achieve a "proportionate response," and therefore is blameworthy for taking it up to 10 whereas Roberts merely took it to seven.

But then we'd have to get into a discussion as to whether someone retaliating to a Category 7 racial taunt is required to only respond at Category 7, or is permitted to escalate up to Category 8 or 9, given that the party "started it."

Since this all a very childish and absurd discussion, and yet required if the MSM is going to continue calling the Duke Lacrosse team racists based on the n-word slur if it were the case that they were to accurately report Kim Roberts' opening remarks, as it were, they decide that that's just too much trouble to go through, and simply refuse to report Kim Roberts' remark at all.

That way, they don't have to be bothered with this "she started it but a player over-escalated it" analysis. To mention Kim Roberts' taunt at all compromises the metarnarrative. The metanarrative cannot be explained cleanly and with the full desired teachable-moment impact if the Roberts taunt is mentioned. The metanarrative is most powerful when it's the simplest. This additional complexity -- nuance, if you will -- hurts the metanarrative, and the metanarrative must be protected.

So they just spike that bit of "context" which "surrounds... the story."

Of course that means they're mispreporting and misrepresenting the actual circumstances surrounding this, and they know it.

But they don't mind doing that. They do it all the time. It's what their jobs have become. And they've gotten rather good at it.

How Childish, Exactly? This childish. I was thinking about comparing this whole absurd discussion -- which the media wisely avoids, but at the sacrfice of accurately reporting relevant information -- to the accepted norms of the Playground Taunt Progression. CUS suggested this example:

Since the MSM obviously doesn't want to get into the fine points of double-dog-dares, they ought to stop reporting that the lax players used a racial slur, and instead report, more accurately, that "racial slurs where exchanged between the strippers and one player."

Either report it accurately or, if that's too "complex," don't report it at all. Do not simplify it if that means unfairly maligning one party.

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posted by Ace at 08:32 AM

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