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Sunday, June 11, 2006

# Posted 10:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SYMPATHY FOR THE (ALLEGED) RAPISTS? I haven't followed the Duke lacrosse controversy very closely, but I was very surprised to see just how positive some of the coverage of the defendants has become. My case in point is a front-page story in Saturday morning's WaPo entitled "Lacrosse Players' Case a Trial for Parents".

The story is written almost entirely from the parents' perspective and contains passages such as this one:
In Chevy Chase [Maryland], Sally Fogarty and her husband, parents of Gibbs Fogarty, hunkered down, avoiding social settings where the Duke case was the topic of discussion. "I could not risk hearing my friends express doubt over my son, because I was afraid the friendships would be ruined," Fogarty said.
And this one:
Over the months, tensions erupted over legal strategies and fears of which son might be handcuffed next. The less-affluent parents have worried about how to pay legal bills. The wealthy ones swore they would spend every last penny clearing the names of the indicted.

The hardest part has been remaining silent as their sons were cast as thuggish, racist, elite jocks.
Theatrical language, such as being "cast" or "fashion[ing]...a persona", is often one of the best tip-offs about a correspondent's personal judgment. If the Duke players had to be "cast" as "thuggish, racist, elite jocks", that is basically they same as saying that they are not those things. If they were, then they wouldn't have to be cast.

Naturally, such an interpretation is open to the objection that it reads too much into a correspondent's choice of words. Given how fast journalists have to work to meet their deadlines, can they really pack so much intention into every one of their phrases?

My answer to that question is 'yes'. Journalists may work on tight schedules, but they develop habits that allow them to meet those schedules day after day after day. In other words, they develop conventions for the journalistic genre.

If you aren't persuaded, I just ask that you keep my hypothesis in mind and call it back into service next time you come across some evidence. For my part, I will try to point out additional instances of this phenomenon, so you don't have to put any faith in a generalization based on one or two cases.

Anyhow, I think it's remarkable how coverage of the lacrosse story has changed since it first broke.
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Comments:
I think it is because the case has gotten so weak that journalists are not afraid to paint the story in what they believe are its' true colors.

Read the latest from JustOneMinute:
http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2006/06/its_a_crock.html

I don't think it has anything to do with tight schedules or rushed reporting. The parents are treated sympathitically because, based on what is now publicly known, the boys are almost certainly innocent.
 
"For my part, I will try to point out additional instances of this phenomenon..."

Would not a fair test of your hypothesis require you to search for non-confirming cases as well?
 
It's not at all "remarkable how coverage of the lacrosse story has changed..." The initial media response was the typical, race-baiting, PC bullshit that always dominates these kind of stories. The "Reverends" Jessie and Al then showed up to stir the pot and the press dutifully responded.
It is only that the actual case against these guys now seems so absurdly weak and trumped up that even journalists are unwilling to embarrass themselves by flogging it the same way.
 
I think there is a major media backtrack after the 'guilty guilty guilty' stories that initially came out, and the 'what else do you expect from spoiled white males' kind of attitude of most journalists. Now that it is looking more and more like Tawana Brawley II, the media is backpeddling hard for fear of losing the 'fair and balanced' angle.
 
Good point, Zachary. I think it was Karl Popper who once said that if you want to test the hypothesis that swans are white, you shouldn't go looking for more white swans, but for the single black swan that might disprove your case.

However, journalism isn't a scientific matter, so the issue here is the preponderance of the evidence. You are correct, however, that every investigator should search for contrary evidence.
 
I think the parents are treated sypathetically because they are white. I am a Black male with children. When I was growing up I had a friend accused of raping a white girl who was totally innocent. His parents had no money, did not spend any money trying to tan or get darker and did not have rich friends to call on. He was charged and convicted only later to be revealed that he was innocent. Eighteen years later. I am now 50 years old and I am still surprised and shocked as I know some of you are that this white judicial system would allow white kids to be charged with rape to a Black victim. Thank God that Nifong has the courage and conviction to do what any parent would want if their daughter said someone raped her.
 
Have a look at this article in today's NYT and you'll discover what everyone who's been following this case closely already knows: Tawana Brawley II.

A more detailed archive can be found here.

In brief, she got herself loaded on beer & muscle relaxants before she arrived. She told all of the these stories: nobody raped her, 20 people raped her, 3 or 4 people raped her, and that the other stripper helped them rape her and then robbed her. The medical exam revealed no indication that she'd been raped, although it did find some semen. All of the above was known by the DA, but not revealed to the judge from whom he requested a warrant for the players' DNA. Nor was it revealed to the Grand Jury when he requested indictments.

Upon being questioned whose semen it was (since it didn't match the DNA from any of the lacrosse players) she gave them the names of at least three clients/friends whom she'd had sex with in the past few days to test. It turned out to belong to one of them.

In the meantime, the lacrosse players have produced alibis, taken a lie detector, and passed the DNA test. Actually a tiny amount of DNA which might be consistent with one player was found stuck to the adhesive on one of her fake fingernails which she threw in the trash, but it was a guy who lived there and threw tissues and stuff away in that same trash.

Furthermore, the ID process was rigged so that she HAD to pick lacross players. And finally, it turns out she has a history of both making felony accusations, and hospitalization for a mental disorder.

T A W A N A B R A W L E Y II:
Electric Duke-a-loo...

P.S. Never forget: it's not the news reader's job to tell an unbiased story. It's the news reader's job to tell a HOT story which grabs viewers' attention and helps sell ad time.
 
P.P.S. And WHY would the DA be interested in getting indictments against people he can't possibly convict? Maybe it's because he's not seriously interested in convicting people he knows to be innocent! It turns out he just wanted to fool the 40% black community with his "dedication" to the black "raped" stripper. And it worked. He split their vote in the hotly contested May election (which featured a black candidate) enough to keep his job - for now.
 
If you want to see why he thought that would work, and why it did, look at Bernardo's comments, above. He's intimately familiar with the power of a rape accusation, true or not, yet he evidently can't see past the racial politics involved.

Bernardo, I realize that you may feel "tit for tat", but, please, rethink your position. Guilt and innocence DO count.
 
Bernardo:

This is the same situation your friend was in. Only this time there are enough lawyers keeping an eye on the prosecution.

Forget the lawyers rhetoric. Just read the sworn statements. The police and prosecuter did not provide a factual picture to either the search warrant judge or the grand jury.

You should be just as angry as you were when your freind was arrested, found guilty and jailed.
 
It's pretty obvious that those players (and anybody else who might get railroaded) are innocent. Unless you count their underage drinking, (and the prostitution which the stripper engaged in before arriving) there wasn't even a crime.

Luckily for the lacrosse guys, their families have lots of money and the attention of the national press! Anyone in Durham who gets on the DA's bad side and whose family DOESN'T have a lot of money can look forward to being completely screwed. After all if being innocent isn't enough, and it still takes a few spare million just to get the attention of the press, and then on top of that you have to spend a million or two to defend yourself at trial? Well, that's an old fashioned recipe for getting lynched.

And when it comes to a (white) DA who believes his own agenda to be more important than justice? What segment of the Durham population do YOU think is going to get hurt the most?!
 
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