Monday, April 16, 2007

The Unexamined Life Of Academics

If you haven't read Michael Barone's latest it worth a quick trip to RCP: Of Victims and Virtues

"We believe these three individuals are innocent."

The words, soberly spoken by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, bring to an end the unjust prosecution of the three former Duke lacrosse players.

"We have no credible evidence that an attack occurred."

The motives of the "overreaching" prosecutor, as Cooper called him, are obvious: Prosecuting three white men on charges brought by a black accuser helped him win black votes he needed in an election. The motives of those who rushed to believe the charges -- and continued to believe them 366 days after DNA testing implicated none of the players -- are something else.

The "Group of 88" Duke professors, journalists for The New York Times and the Durham Herald-Sun, and heads of black and feminist organizations all seemed to have a powerful emotional need to believe. A need to believe that those they classify as victims must be virtuous and those they classify as oppressors must be villains. A need to believe that this is the way the world usually works.

Except it doesn't. Cases that fit this template don't come along very often. In this country, black-on-white crime is far more common than white-on-black crime (black-on-black crime is far more common still). You won't see the characters exercised by the Duke case looking at the recent case of three University of Minnesota players accused (whether justly or not) of rape -- they happen to be black.

This need to believe that the victim class is always virtuous and the oppressor class is guilty is widespread, and perhaps growing, in this country and abroad. It is particularly strong among those lucky enough to get paid to observe the way most people work and live -- academics, journalists, apparatchiks of advocacy organizations.

Truly the most scandalous aspect of the entire Duke case is not the behavior of prosecutor Nifong. His unethical grandstanding was despicable but in many ways par-for-the-course in the world of electoral politics. Had the Duke players actually been guilty of the rape nobody would have held Nifong's behavior against him even though his behavior would have been no less unethical.

No, the truly scandalous behavior belongs to the academics both at Duke and around the country who have shown such contempt for both their students and the basic principles of due process and common decency. Barone seems a little surprised that so many of these well educated folks continued to believe in the guilt of the lacrosse players despite all evidence to the contrary. If you think of it as the result of their warped political ideology the mystery falls away from it. Indeed, from their perspective none of this has anything to do with the actual guilt or innocence of these three individuals. Ideological purity demanded that they be guilty regardless of the facts because they were white and privileged and the accuser wasn't. To them actual evidence is an impediment to the "larger truth" they wish to impose. (Yes, for these folks "truth" is something imposed not discovered.) If a few innocent people have to have their lives destroyed in the name of their ideological vision SO BE IT!!! "All for the greater common good!!"

The "Group of 88" represent an almost perfect storm of intellectual vacuity combined with moral degradation. College students deserve better. Based upon the non-reaction of the academics to the fact they were disastrously wrong in this case, I think it is safe to say college students will wind up getting worse.

No comments: