Monday, September 03, 2007


I Write Letters


As interviewed by Scott Simon on Weekend Edition (1 Sept. 2007), Stuart Taylor, coauthor with K.C. Johnson of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, may be wont to blame “political correctness” run amok for the excesses of the Duke Lacrosse rape case. However, this misses the forest for the trees: what really distinguished the Duke lacrosse rape case was not the railroading of the accused nor the sensationalism surrounding the case, but that this railroading happened to light hued sons of privilege. Yet, those who condemn “politically correct” professors for eagerly rushing to judgment in this case themselves all too often have ignored the larger issues of how our legal system treats those accused of crimes, even though they may be innocent.

And, as to the media's role in this: how is it any different than the ever present sensationalism and constant fear mongering regarding urban crime? Or for that matter, how was the media's failure to verify the outrageous claims of D.A. Nifong, which no doubt will be used as “evidence” of the treachery of a “liberally biased” media, different than the media's failure to verify the claims of the Bush administration in the lead up to the war in Iraq? At least in the Duke lacrosse rape case, fortunately nobody even ended up getting wrongly convicted whereas in the case of the Iraq war, media sensationalism gave the Bush administration political cover to start a war that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of young men and women.

Were some professors, acutely aware of the injustices dealt to those born without privilege, all too happy to see the tables turned on children of privilege, and in being so, hypocritically engaging in the prejudicial rush to railroad those accused of crimes, which they so condemn in others? Absolutely. Did the media sensationalize this case and mistake stenography of official statements for reporting? Absolutely. But to frame what went wrong in the Duke lacrosse rape case as a specific injustice perpetrated due to political correctness run amok is to miss the larger flaws in both our criminal justice system and in media reportage on both crime and on the actions of our government.

To implicitly frame the issue as a problem of “liberal academics” and a media enthralled to that ideology moreover misses far greater abuses in government (including prosecutorial) power and the media coverage of such that usually occur under the guise of being “tough on crime” and being “tough on national security” -- causes usually identified with a conservative agenda rather than a liberal one.

One wonders then what is the agenda of those who so easily spot the injustices of the Duke lacrosse rape case but who then blame the problem on political correctness rather than seeing the bigger picture. And one wonders why Scott Simon, as an interviewer, rather than a stenographer continuing in the tradition of overly credulous reporting that brought us such miscarriages as the Duke lacrosse rape case coverage and the coverage of non-existent WMDs in Iraq, failed to question Mr. Taylor on his focus. Is NPR that keen to shed its liberal image that it fails to confront any counter-liberal agenda or anti-liberal bias in its coverage?


Meanwhile, today some (former) NPR China correspondent was on the Diane Rehm show (I think he's hocking a book?) and made a stupid statement to the effect of "Japan, unlike China, quickly flung open its doors to the West in the 1850s". Is this guy so dense as not to be aware of the fact that Japan was in contact with the West (and trading with the Dutch) since sometime, IIRC, in the 17th century?

The guy was trying to make some Friedman-esque type point about the need to be open to Western imperialism, er, trade and civilization. But the facts of the matter are the opposite of what he presented them to be: Japan, by accident or by design, was careful not to open itself up to full, "free" trade until it could do so as an equal -- it built itself up, e.g. behind protectionist walls, just as successful Western countries had done. OTOH, China didn't resist opening itself up on a protectionist lark -- the Western powers tried to pry it open (hasn't anyone heard of the Opium Wars anymore?) and it naturally resisted, not being ready to trade as an equal.

Perhaps China made a strategic mistake, perhaps not. But to compare China's situation with Japan ... and then get Japan's history vis-a-vis the West wrong, is exactly the sort of bizarre, lack of fact based, reporting, that aids and abets our administrations adventures that have, e.g., cost so many lives in Iraq ... as well as aids and abets our imposition of the neo-liberal economic consensus which is, pretty much, "why they hate us"(TM).

When will these dopes learn? And people think this is liberalism? No wonder Democrats don't do so well electorally!

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