Thursday, July 26, 2007

AJR Article Justice Delayed Dukes It Out

The article Justice Delayed written by Rachel Smolkin in the American Journalism Review made for interesting reading. It purported to provide an unbiased review of the news coverage of the Duke case. It seemed to deliver on that promise until I read this:

In the News & Observer, metro columnist Ruth Sheehan also produced an early conspiracy-of-silence rant. Her March 27, 2006, piece began: "Members of the Duke men's lacrosse team: You know. We know you know. Whatever happened in the bathroom at the stripper party gone terribly terribly bad, you know who was involved."

Unlike many columnists, however, Sheehan reassessed as evidence of the players' innocence deepened. Her April 13, 2006, piece, published three days after defense attorneys announced that DNA tests found no links between the accuser and the athletes, invoked the specter of Tawana Brawley, the black girl whose 1987 account of a gang rape by white law enforcement officers quickly unraveled. "There is no punishment on the books sufficient for a woman who would falsely accuse even the biggest jerks on campus of gang rape," wrote Sheehan, who then divulged that she had been raped 20 years ago that week. At the time, she told no one.

The problem with praising this reporter's change is that it celebrates a swing from one extreme to the other. The ethical solution to unsubstantiated accusations against the Duke players based on a visceral reaction isn't to make unsubstantiated accusations against the alleged victim or to make sensationalistic comparisons that "invoke the specter" of a previous case.

This article fails to mention those who compared the Duke lacrosse players to the Scottsboro boys who were black men convicted and sent to prison for the alleged rape of white women. Apparently, if the lacrosse players were innocent then the comparison was seen as valid journalism no matter how many major flaws there were in this comparison or how this comparison attempted to elevate this case to the biggest injustice since the 1930s. This omission sends the message that racist hyperbole is fine if directed at the right target.

The solution to the sensationalism attacked in the article isn't to switch who you say is wearing the black hats with who you say is wearing the white hats. The alleged victim has still not been charged with a crime, but this article puts forth the idea that it is good journalism to say "There is no punishment on the books sufficient ..."? I don't think so. That might or might not be a good punditry, but it isn't good journalism.

Many of those praised for good journalism made this same mistake and demonized this woman and Nifong. They are labeled as good journalists or as neutral observers only because they picked the "right" side in this case, not because their journalism was or is good.

Anyone who calls this case a hoax fails the good journalism test. This article quotes at least one person as an expert observer who does call this case a hoax, but that isn't mentioned. There has been no proof that the alleged victim perpetrated a hoax or made any intentionally false statements. There has been no proof that Nifong knew that the players were innocent and decided to frame them in order to win an election.

But hey, why wait for proof?

If it's wrong for people to make assumptions about the lacrosse players who attended the party based on one player's email which reveled in violent images of skinning women and which referenced the party where a crime was alleged, then of course it must be right to make assumptions about the DA Nifong based on the fact that he was facing an election that would decide whether or not he kept his job.

This second narrative still sells. And isn't that the bottom line?

This article makes it clear that prosecutors' public statements cannot be accepted as is, but AG Cooper's statements are accepted as is even though he faced enormous political pressure to not only investigate this case but to declare these men "innocent" if there wasn't enough evidence to prove their guilt. And he gave those applying the pressure exactly what they wanted. He mirrored Nifong yet he got praised for doing so. He got praise for making statements about someone not charged with any crime because he directed those statements at what the public considered an appropriate target.

Many of the so-called good journalists discredited the second dancer's credibility before she changed her story to support the lacrosse players but once she made that switch she magically became a credible witness rather than being someone who could have sensed the wind changing and who adapted perfectly to that change. Her revised story has been accepted without question, but core credibility doesn't work that way.

Now that the case has been dropped, accepting the statements of all the players and all defense attorneys without question is as dangerous as accepting the initial statements made by Nifong. They clearly want to do more than see the criminal case resolved, they want to control the narrative.

The current "Nappy Headed Hoax" narrative not mentioned once in this article is about selling books and boosting the pundits' celebrity status. What's journalistic standards got to do with it?

Absolutely nothing.

One paragraph of this long article mentions that not all the offensive comments were directed at the lacrosse team by citing 2 slurs used for the alleged victim, but the ratio of offensiveness which occurred doesn't begin to match that described in this article.

There was a strong narrative from the beginning that said basically, "She's a n****r 'ho and therefore the players are innocent." This narrative that denies the possibility of criminal sexual violence against strippers or 'hos isn't mentioned in this article a single time not even when referencing the offensive terms used to describe this woman.

The high interest in this case is mentioned, but this journalist fails to mention other journalists who used limited crime statistics to put forth the idea that white men don't rape black women or who used this case to attack all prosecutors who dare to prosecute those accused of committing sex crimes against slimy women like this one or who used this case to attack all victim advocates.

The author of this article attacks the New York Times for saying the evidence was ambiguous but uses a defense attorney as the expert "proving" this claim to be false. That's the same mistake journalists made when they relied on Nifong as their unchallenged expert.

This article makes the mistake of oversimplifying the evidence in this case and making it seem like every detail of what happened has been proven not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but period. Digital photographs -- which can be doctored -- are accepted as unquestionable proof with no need to explain how journalists know these specific pictures couldn't have been doctored or had their timestamps altered.

These are pictures which the alleged victim stated must have been altered, but apparently there is no need for any journalist to investigate this claim. We just know she's a liar, isn't that enough?

Good journalism needs to consider, "What if we are wrong, what if the system ultimately got it wrong?" when there is an exoneration or dropping of the charges as well as when there are criminal charges made.

Good journalism also needs to consider whether attempting to try the case in the media is a miscarriage of good journalistic principles that can and will be exploited by whoever provides material that makes good copy or good sound bites.

In the fight to control the narrative between the prosecution and the defense many real crime victims get trampled, but that isn't even worth mentioning a single time in this article.

The author of this article captures what I still see happening after this so-called correction:

Perhaps the most complex lessons about the media coverage of the Duke case involve issues of narrative. Unquestionably, the media too readily ran with a simplistic storyline, sacrificing a search for truth.

Unfortunately this article, like the stories it covers, ultimately settles for a simplistic storyline.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:37 AM   39 comments links to this post

39 Comments:

At July 26, 2007 1:50 PM, Blogger sailorman said...

Thank you for the link; that's a fascinating article.

If you didn't do so, be sure to read the "I'm sorry" column that Sheehan wrote. She notes (I assume in support of her apology) that she made the comparison to Tawana Bradley. You may want to reference her second column in your post, given what you wrote, even though the AJR article does not.

I do think part of what is happening here is that the media can't bring itself to say "sorry." But they CAN try to "fix" things, consciously or not, by spinning the story to the benefit of the defendants. So they're trying.

That means that they may be "spinning" in a manner that is biased towards the duke players. If they had done that without the months of spin biased against them, it would clearly be problematic.

But I think it's OK to try to reach some balance.. I just don't know where the balance really is.

Just like I thought that the NY Times deserved to lose its libel suit against the Los Alamos scientist who it accused (wrongly). Just like I think the Boston Globe was obligated, in the Stuart case, to make damn sure that everyone knew it wasn't Bennet or some other "black man with a raspy voice" who killed Carol Stuart.

Because this case is so utterly bizarre, it doesn't make a great example.

 
At July 27, 2007 11:19 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Sailorman: That means that they may be "spinning: in a manner that is biased toward the duke players. If they had done that without the months of spin biased against them, it would be clearly problematic.

If it would have been clearly problematic then, it is still clearly problematic. Balance isn't achieved by swerving wildly from one side to the other. That's nothing more than continued recklessness.

 
At July 28, 2007 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Registered Nurse. I know thousands of women. Until the Lax case, I never knew one woman who claimed she was raped. Since 3/14/06, they have been coming out of the wood work and of course, use this excuse for their bad judgement and behavior. I have no idea who has or has not been raped. I do think their are professional rape victimes - real or not. Like the Vietnam Vets - many say they were vets and who knows whether they were or not.
The evidence is clear - Innocent of all charges.
BTW, Ruthie Sheenam is a bad writer. Who cares about an apology from her? She should be out of a job.

 
At July 28, 2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 5:50 PM, Blogger lrbinfrisco said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 6:02 PM, Anonymous striker said...

Read this pitiful womens bio. She calls herself off center because of being raped at 15.

She grew up wanting to champion women's views no matter what evidence or rational thought might get in her way. She gains strength as the other side as overwhelming evidence seeing that as her call
to bring down the powerstructure, probably the white male powerstructure. She would be railing even if Crystal called herself a liar and whore. This women is insignificant to life. Her calling is to be there alone if she must, not to present the other side in some rational manner but to validate that there exists another side, right or wrong. What a pitiful women.

 
At July 28, 2007 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

striker, any chance this woman can be re-educated?

Is Marcella Chester a communist?

Floyd called, said check your inbox for un-qoutable email from Professor Ho over at UNC.

 
At July 28, 2007 6:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 28, 2007 7:16 PM, Blogger Michael said...

If you think that Mike Nifong didn't know that it was a hoax, I'd suggest watching Nifong's Bar Trial or reading the transcript.

Look especially for his now famous expletive to the police officers working on the case: We're f*****!

 
At July 28, 2007 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An investigation into the allegations in this case found that the charges were false and a rogue prosecutor was guilty of a tragic rush to accuse for whatever reason (this based on a 3 month into all of the facts of the case by the NC AG's office,2 prosecutors and the Durham Police).

The NC State Bar Discipline Hearing Commission found Nifong guilty of pursuing false charges for political gain (along with about 28 other ethical violations).

Mangum should be thankful she has not been charged with making false charges (while holding her breath as the civil suits roll out). I flipflop and whether she should/should not have been charged ... in the end, she's a sick woman (based only on the medical evidence that has been made public -- and acknowledging there is much more medical evidence that was not made public) a conviction for bringing false charges brings a max of a $500 fine... in the end, what's the point (I guess)...

one so woefully ignorant of the facts of this case and with such an obvious agenda should restrain themselves better... but they won't.

 
At July 28, 2007 9:03 PM, Blogger Gary Packwood said...

You said...

...This second narrative still sells. And isn't that the bottom line?
::
Actually no, that is not the bottom line for journalism but it is the bottom line for a new commercial product such a peanut butter wheat flakes!

Using the economic model of peanut butter wheat flakes sales and then applying that model to the search for truth is not valid.

Peanut Butter Wheat Flakes will not likely harm anyone but your words may harm terribly if you are not telling the truth in any of the narratives you choose to write about.
::
GP

 
At July 29, 2007 12:50 AM, Anonymous badbeta said...

Let us give the lady time to respond. I'm betting it will be the same response Ms Ho had for all you nasty people. :)

 
At July 29, 2007 12:55 AM, Anonymous badbeta said...

btw, that list I'm guessing compiled by probably tortmaster was very comprehensive but the ascii art was a nice touch.

 
At July 29, 2007 3:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It used to be that "incest survivor" was the badge of honor many female activitists wore to establish credibility in the movement. Now "rape survivor" seems to be the badge feminists wear to give validity to their rantings. It's amazing how a "date rape" at 15 can define some women and influence their every thought and action for the rest of their lives. Their world view becomes so narrow they can't see Ms. Magnum for what she really is. The sack cloth and ashes of victimhood has become the "in fashion". What a way to live!

 
At July 29, 2007 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How amusing, when everyone who knows that Mangum is a liar and wasn't raped, period, the owner of this blog is remarkably silent since she knows her position is indefensible. Please use logic, Marcela, the next time you open your piehole and spew bile and lies. What planet do you live on?

 
At July 29, 2007 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcela,
Huh? I've read your post now 3 times and I still don't know what you are saying. What is the point of your column?
Crystal Mangum is a street smart prostitute who knew just what to say to initially get the system to work for her. I work with people (both black and white)like her every day who will say anything to stay out of jail and take the focus off their actions and try to blame someone else.
After all the evidence that has come to light over the past year it amazes me there are still people like you with doubts about what happened. Truly amazing.

 
At July 29, 2007 7:39 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

For all of you who arrived here from Durham in Wonderland, what part of legal proof don't you understand?

From what I've seen you do cheerfully support false, unfounded and unsubstantiated claims since so many of you feel free to make them.

 
At July 29, 2007 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comment moderation- LOL forget it. you won't be seeing any comments that suit your wacky agenda. Might as well shut it down.

 
At July 29, 2007 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, Crystal Gail Mangum, Mike Nifong and the Group of 88 made false, unfounded and unsubstantiated claims. What planet are you from? Are you that incredibly stupid? Grow up. I doubt you were even raped.

 
At July 30, 2007 8:32 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To the latest anonymous, you only make yourself look like a ranting lunatic when you make your accusations.

Unlike you, I have made no false, unfounded or unsubstantiated claims. You clearly don't understand the difference between someone proceeding improperly on faulty evidence and someone proceeding with the full knowledge that someone is innocent. The first does not prove the second.

 
At July 30, 2007 8:57 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To the anonymous who is complaining about the return of comment moderation. My wacky agenda is something you clearly don't understand if you support people who make unfounded claims against alleged victims such as claiming that this woman made a prior false rape claim.

That is an unproven allegation and possibly a false one at that, but apparently you and many others are fine with spreading unproven allegations as long as they are made against those who report rape and those who investigate or prosecute rape cases.

I believe in something you don't seem to support or even understand. Justice and due process for all.

 
At July 30, 2007 10:32 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To the author of the post who called me a nappy headed feminist, using racist labels makes you look like a stupid racist.

 
At July 30, 2007 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcella:

I appreciate your bravery and honesty in leaving up the comments to your post. Not many people in this Hoax have shown that much backbone. I also disagree with any name-calling based upon anything other than a person's ideas.

In your position, I would be worried about two things:

1. People will start to question in their MINDS all rape claims because of the amount of support generated for obviously fraudulent claims, and

2. Once that question is raised in their minds about the truthfulness of any rape claim, they will take ACTION with greater vigor because they know the amount of force the "pro-rape" faction will bring to support any claim.

In other words, by propping up this obviously fake rape, other people will start to question legitimate rape claims and take stronger action against them because there is an apparent rape lobby to support them.

I do not question your claim of rape, as I have no evidence one way or the other.

On the other hand, I have reviewed 100s and 100s of pages of source material in the Duke Hoax, including witness statements (including many of Mangum's own statements), police reports, motions, and viewed sworn testimony in depositions and at hearings.

That is how I got the 81 "proofs" listed above. It was proof enough for the NC Attorney General and State Bar. Why is it not proof enough for you?

MOO! Gregory

P.S. There is a billion times more evidence of a Creedmoor rape than exists to support the Duke Hoax. Will you go after the Creedmoor "rapists" in your next blog?

 
At July 30, 2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Gregory,

From reasoning in your comment you must also support the public trashing of men who have been accused of rape but who have not been charged or convicted because it is obvious that they are guilty.

There is a clear difference between a case having no credible evidence and having a case that is a hoax. You and many other people continue to refuse to acknowledge this difference.

It isn't me or my positions -- which you are twisting either because you can't comprehend the points I'm making or because you refuse to comprehend them -- which makes people question all rape reports.

If you are trying to convince me that you didn't question all rape reports before the Duke case, I find you non-credible.

 
At July 30, 2007 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Marcella. I will try to respond in kind:

"From reasoning in your comment you must also support the public trashing of men who have been accused of rape but who have not been charged or convicted because it is obvious they are guilty."

I don't think my comments go from here to there. Let me try again:

1. The Creedmoor kids were NOT guilty of rape.

2. I tried to make that pretty clear when I used terms like "supposed rape" or referred to them as "rapists" (in quotes) or called what they did a "fake rape."

3. I don't agree that by implying that the Creedmoor kids were falsely accused I am "trashing" them.

4. My simple point is that if you are going to even begin to think about believing Mangum about the Duke Hoax, perhaps you should look into the Creedmoor Hoax first. There is a lot more evidence a rape occurred in Creedmoor than on Buchanan Street. You might also look for the 2 unidentified males who left DNA in Mangum's mouth.

"There is a clear difference between a case having no credible evidence and having a case that is a hoax. You and many other people continue to refuse to acknowledge this difference."

On the contrary, I believe the Duke case was a Hoax involving no credible evidence. When you use the term "credible evidence," then people might think there is still some kind of evidence of a rape. In the Duke Hoax, ALL of the evidence, except for the false, made up stuff, proved no rape could have possibly occurred. It is a "Hoax" because the motives of the various participants have become apparent. Mangum wanted to get out of detox (later to make some $), Nifong wanted to win an election and become Atticus Finch, Meehan wanted to get more lucrative government contracts, etc....

"It isn't me or my positions -- which you are twisting either because you can't comprehend the points I'm making or because you refuse to comprehend them -- which makes people question all rape reports."

I believe I understand your points, I just think you are wrong. As for other people questioning rape reports more vigorously in the future, think of the adage: "Fool me once, ..."

As another example, if I put my hand in a cookie jar (rape claim) thirty times in a row and pulled out a delicious cookie (true and just guilty verdict of rape), but then, the next time I put my hand in the jar, I had my fingers snapped by a mousetrap (demonstrably false accusation of rape), then I would think twice about that cookie jar (rape claims).

"If you are trying to convince me that you didn't question all rape reports before the Duke case, I find you non-credible."

You are right, I have always questioned such claims (my job). On the other hand, I am only an audience of one. There are others who might be affected by your blog. Cheers!

MOO! Gregory

 
At July 30, 2007 9:52 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

I wrote: "From reasoning in your comment you must also support the public trashing of men who have been accused of rape but who have not been charged or convicted because it is obvious they are guilty."

Gregory wrote: "I don't think my comments go from here to there. Let me try again: 1. The Creedmoor kids were NOT guilty of rape."

This statement of fact goes beyond what many people accused the so-called Duke 88 of doing: publicly trying and convicting someone and ignoring their legal right to be innocent until proven guilty. However, the Duke 88 did not make any explicit claims of guilt like you are doing against a woman who reported being raped.

Gregory wrote: "Mangum wanted to get out of detox (later to make some $), Nifong wanted to win an election and become Atticus Finch, Meehan wanted to get more lucrative government contracts, etc...."

These are all allegations based on speculation not proven facts and these indicate you are actually fine with the making of unsubstantiated allegations.

You talk about dipping into the cookie jar, but when it comes to those who call the Duke case a hoax the cookie jar contains people who use one case to rant against all those who actively work to fight rape, contains people who use this case to further their careers and to make money, contains people who make false accusations against rape survivors, contains people who openly wish rape and other acts of violence on those who don't agree with them, contains people whose fantasies regarding this woman are overtly sexual and overtly violent.

And I'm supposed to trust what comes anonymously out of that cookie jar? I'm not that stupid.

Yet my insistence on due process for those who report rape continues to be painted by many as evil.

 
At July 31, 2007 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marcella, this will be my last post here. So, you get the last word. I appreciate your bravery and honesty in being out-front with your name and your beliefs.

I do not believe you are evil at all. I think you are desperately wrong about the Duke Hoax.

I also think that by even mentioning the Duke Hoax, true rape prevention supporters will make people think about that "cookie jar with the mousetrap in it."

Best of luck with your work with true rape and domestic violence victims! MOO! Gregory/Tortmaster

 
At July 31, 2007 5:25 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Gregory, by positioning this case as a "hoax" and a grand conspiracy, you and many others are transforming people into monsters which is as unrealistic as those who turn all rapists and many alleged rapists into monsters.

Both make for nice melodrama, but treating melodrama as if it were reality can lead to changes which do nothing to improve the real problems.

Injustice can come through those who absolutely believe they are on the side of what's right and what's true. Someone who is convinced that innocent defendants are guilty can do serious harm as can those who are absolutely convinced that real rape victims are liars. Both happen whether you believe it or not.

To only fix the injustices on one side is shortsighted and can lead to substituting one injustice for another. That's why I talk about focusing on justice for all.

Your demand that I not mention this case because it will hurt victims is faulty. The backlash I get isn't from those genuinely opposed to all rapes. The backlash I get is frequently threatening and contains a level hatred that goes far deeper than anything I say can cause.

People like that are not doing anything to protect rape victims who are often seen as little more than collateral damage in their quest to protect men from women -- who according to many of these men -- are basically compulsive liars.

 
At August 01, 2007 8:53 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Admin: I have deleted anonymous comments that contain specific unproven claims about the woman in this case. If you wrote them and would like to see them returned, resubmit them with your legal name and phone number so I can verify your identity before approving them. If you aren't willing to be associated with your words and your accusations and you aren't willing to be accountable for what you write that is your choice.

For any new comments which make criminal accusations, this same requirement holds.

If you are tempted to respond by sending anonymous threats of violence, please don't unless you want them reported to the police.

 
At August 01, 2007 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you are removing statements which specify the facts and go against the propaganda you are spinning in this case. You are marginalized, and not very bright. You need to be more intelligent and dynamic to be a good propagandist and spread lies, as you have done and continue to do. You delusion knows no bounds. It is a certainty you never raped. Histrionic and obtusely stupid would best describe you.

 
At August 01, 2007 9:46 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To the latest anonymous, by making false claims against me you have just undermined any shred of crediblity you had regarding this case or any other case which I'm sure is why you commented anonymously.

If I deleted facts and you are willing to stand behind them, all you have to do is provide your legal name and phone number and once I verify that you are who you claim to be I will approve your comment.

 
At August 02, 2007 11:50 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To this morning's unapproved anonymous, what part legal name don't you understand?

 
At August 05, 2007 6:52 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To this afternoon's unapproved anonymous, comprehension doesn't seem to be your long suit. Unless you are willing to be associated with what "[you] can state unequivocally" for all to see, you are just yammering.

 
At August 05, 2007 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for proving yourself to be a misandrist, a racist and truly ignorant. It sucks to be you. You were never raped anyway.

 
At August 05, 2007 8:31 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, making a false allegation is no way to convince me or anyone else that you are a rational human being.

 

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