Archive for December, 2007

Wahneema Lubiano Replies to Taylor and Johnson

December 22, 2007

Wahneema Lubiano

Some Corrections (expanded) to Stuart Taylor’s and KC Johnson’s Lies, Mistakes, Distortions, Omissions, and Innuendo in Their Co-authored Until Proven Innocent

Listed here is everything that I could see (guided by the book’s index) that doesn’t simply constitute the authors’ evaluation of my productivity or their characterizations, interpretations, or analyses of my scholarship, field, or teaching. I don’t address those things or most of the authors’ attributions of motives to me; they are certainly entitled to their opinions. Nor do I address the more numerous lies and/or instances of distortions, omissions, and innuendo that circulate in KC Johnson’s blog and in his responses to particular comments on his blog. And I don’t address what is written about any other faculty. That is work for another decade and multiple workers.

[Note: The numbers within parentheses are page numbers from Until Proven Innocent]:

To begin, two smaller mistakes, lies, or distortions:

(112) The book states that Professor Karla Holloway and I converted a student gathering on black masculinity to a discussion of the lacrosse case. Actually, we didn’t convert anything; the event was organized and changed by Professor Mark Neal. He decided to change the topic given students’ interest in the on-going discussions on campus.  

[Professor Mark Neal in African & African American Studies can be contacted about this.]

(115) The book mistakenly states that I “celebrated the Ebonics movement.” This language is, I suppose, a reference to an essay I wrote that is actually about the use of black American vernacular (which is not at all the same thing as Ebonics or the Ebonics movement) in one of Toni Morrison’s novels and which draws on the work of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It does not address the “Ebonics movement” at all; it was written and published, in fact, before that term and movement began to circulate as such in national discussions. 

[See Wahneema Lubiano, “The Postmodernist Rag: Political Identity and the Vernacular in Song of Solomon in Valerie Smith’s New Essays on Song of Solomon.]

* * * * * * * * * * *

The bulk of what the authors write in reference to me are larger lies, distortions, innuendo, incomplete references, or references stripped of the context that made them quite different from what they report–and often those things are, in fact, the opposite of what is implied or described. Of course, some of those things could simply be mistakes. Given the context and the tenor of the writing about me and other faculty, the reader can decide. 

[I’m adding citations to my own writing referred to in these comments; the book does not provide those sources.  For some of these events for which the book offers an authoritative account that I dispute, there is no official documentation one way or the other, and I so indicate.  For some such events I’m offering my own first person account of meetings that I attended and at which I spoke.] 

(112) The book asserts, in its description of the student gathering from which the quotes in the listening ad were drawn, that the “overwhelmingly African-American audience spoke of the rape as an established fact.” (Note, please, that in writing this sentence, their own words of description of the event, the authors forgot to put the word “accusation” after the word “rape.” I’m sure that this was a mistake on their part.) No, the audience did not, as a collectivity, speak of the alleged rape as an established fact.  Different speakers spoke in different ways about the rape accusation; most of the speakers present, including the students quoted, addressed larger, complex, and long-standing issues of racism, classism, and sexual violence at Duke.    

[There is no newspaper account of the meeting that matches the authors’ description.  And since the authors were not themselves present, they must necessarily be relying on whatever someone has said to them.  That someone is not identified in the book.  This is my account.]

The book further asserts that I never produced my notes of speakers’ (the students that I quoted) words from that gathering and later used in the ad, and that I did not state how I determined that the speakers were Duke undergraduates. The truth is that The Chronicle, as a condition of publication, made us document every student quote. The respective students had to email the newspaper from their Duke email accounts and indicate that he or she was the author of those particular words and was quoted correctly. The Chronicle stated that they would respect the students’ anonymity but required the documentation for their own legal protection. Mr. Johnson emailed the chair of African & African American Studies (AAAS) and queried him specifically about the process by which the student quotes were obtained and verified. The chair responded to that query and gave him the correct information. If Mr. Johnson was unconvinced by the chair’s response to his email query, then I don’t know why Mr. Johnson chose not to follow up with the newspaper’s ad office itself–others have done so. He did have, however, well in advance of the book’s publication, information that countered what is implied in the book and what is continually returned to in his blog posts and comments about the ad. He chose not to correct the record.   

[Feel free to contact the Chronicle ad office for information about their guidelines for ads with anonymous quoted material.  Contact the chair of AAAS if you are interested in ascertaining whether or not he responded to an email from KC Johnson about the ad and the students’ quotes.]

Further, when the book asserts that I never stated how I determined that the speakers were Duke undergraduates, it is implying that the ad identified all the quoted the speakers as undergraduates when, in fact, the ad refers to “our students” more generally. Some of those students were undergraduates, some were graduate students; most of the students’ quotes were indeed from undergraduates. And, by virtue of the required documentation demanded by the newspaper, I did “determine” that the speakers were students by asking the speakers themselves (some of whom I knew, some I did not).    

[Since the book asserts (on page 112) that I never stated how I made such a determination, I am now so stating.  And again, the newspaper’s ad office can verify its guidelines for quoted material attributed to students.  As to the means by which I “determined” that they were students, anyone is free to disbelieve that I spoke to the students.  There might be other ways that such information could have been ascertained.  For the record, I did not read their minds.  And the fact remains that the students’ quotes and the students’ statuses as students were documented as such to the satisfaction of the newspaper.]

(114) The book states that I am “active in gay and lesbian causes.” I don’t know what being active in gay and lesbian causes is supposed to mean in the larger context of the book, and I’m not sure what such activity has to do with writing or signing the listening ad. I suppose that for homophobes, at least, it could be seen as part of the larger general denigration of my work, teaching, and the other things that the book states makes me an ideal candidate for “diversity hires.” I’m not sure what work that reference to my activity around gay and lesbian causes does for other readers of the book.   

[I do not have any idea of the source for the authors’ determination that I am active on behalf of gay and lesbian issues.  They don’t provide one.  And I don’t pretend to read their minds in order to ascertain, as I am at pains to indicate above, what such activity might mean.]

(135) The book asserts that three professors dominated the Academic Council meeting with President Brodhead and includes me among them. No. I addressed the president one time with two brief comments in that one encounter. Some professors spoke more than once and many spoke at much greater length.   

[Now, this is one of those instances where the authors have an opinion about what happened in a meeting that they didn’t attend, and I am asserting something quite different.  Because transcripts of Academic Council meetings are not made public, there is no official documentation of the meeting that is available for public persual.  Yep, this is a classic case of they said/she said.]

The book states that in that council meeting with President Brodhead I demanded a statement from the president denouncing the players. I did not. I asked the president to consider, given what many people were expressing–their anger with a sub-culture of racism, sexual violence, and class entitlement (since many people had already spoken at the point that I raised my hand), a different rhetorical strategy rather than continuing simply to repeat what he was saying already. I suggested that he think about a rhetorical approach that would address what would happen if the charges turned out to be true since he was already addressing, quite clearly and consistently, the other possibility. I said that doing so would be a way to speak to the larger social issues with which people were concerned instead of simply continuing what he was doing in the face of what some faculty were trying to get him to address.   [Please see my note at the end of the paragraph above about the inaccessible official documentation of the meeting.  Again, I am offering my account of a meeting that I attended against the book’s unsourced account of the same meeting.]

(145) The book states: “In Lubiano’s mind, the players could never be cleared, no matter what the evidence.” I never said any such thing. The authors are not able to read my mind, therefore, this statement is as groundless as the claim that “she expressed pleasure ‘ that the Duke administration is getting the point.’” My actual quoted words, “that the Duke administration is getting the point,” are taken completely out of context from a piece that I wrote for the News and Observer that addressed what I thought that people were asking for in the wake of the on-going discussion. I was referring in that newspaper article to Duke administration’s understanding that people were upset about many things that were evoked by the incident. The language, “she expressed pleasure,” is a product of the authors’ imaginations.  

 [The book does not offer a source for its understanding of my mind.  I offer here a different reading of my mind.  And I also offer a link to the News and Observer article from which my out-of-context language is quoted:]

(145) The book distorts what the ad actually says. It leaves out, for example, the language that ad uses to make it clear that we’re listening to what the students are talking about. It refers to eleven quotes “purporting to come from students” thereby repeating the lie that is implied on page 112 about the students’ quotes. 

 [Feel free to Google the ad online or email me and request a pdf of the ad.]

(145) The book asserts that I gave colleagues a deadline of 48 hours to decide whether to sign the statement and that some had only six hours.

In fact, people had at least a week to get some suggestions to me about the ad language; they had many days to actually sign on as individuals because my emails told everyone that in order to sign individually they were to send their names to AAAS to be posted on the website and could even do so for a short period of time after the ad was printed in the newspaper. Some faculty who signed actually didn’t send their names until after the ad ran. Departments had a few days prior to publication to decide whether or not to endorse. What the authors have done is mix up, inaccurately, a few things that I said in response to a question at the “Shut Up and Teach?” event based on what someone reported to one or both of them.   

 [I am contending here that the book’s source(s), which are not named in the book, are incorrect; however, I am not going to provide copies of my emails to dispute this.  So, you are, of course, free to be unconvinced.  In this instance neither the book nor I are naming sources.  However, if you are part of the Duke community and have a research project, please contact the chair of AAAS about viewing the videotape.]

(p. 145) The book uses some sentences taken from a piece that I wrote on spectacularity and the idea of “perfect offenders” and a “perfect victim,” and then prints those sentences out of context, distorts their meanings, and excludes my attempt in the essay to interrupt that quest for perfection. Then, a few sentences later, the authors report that I only suggested an alternate reading many months later. Nonsense: the essay itself provides that “reading.”  

In fact, in the piece from which the book quotes, I make the argument that supporters of the alleged victim needed to see the players as “perfect offenders” to affirm their support for her and that supporters of the players needed to see a “perfect victim” before they could imagine that a crime had even occurred. I was not arguing for myself, I was trying to describe a dynamic that over-simplified every possible element of the discussion. The book ends its reference to that language by saying that my “crusade” to transform Duke would continue “regardless of the ‘truth’ established . . . about the incident” and “whatever happens with the court case.” The authors omit the context in which I was describing what Duke needed to consider apart from the court case because the issues that people were raising in various fora were not tied to the incident but were illuminated in the spotlight on the incident.   

 [Here is a link to the original essay as it appears on Professor Neal’s blogspot:]

167) The book asserts that in a blog posting three days after the DNA revelations, I dismissed the news as part of a “demand for perfect evidence on the part of the defenders of the team.” I did no such thing. I never wrote any blog posting about the DNA, and I never referred to the DNA in the essay on “perfect offenders” that is referred to earlier and which here is being mistakenly called my blog posting. It is the same essay that the book references ealier (and which Professor Mark Neal posted on his blog). By referring to it as a blog post by me written three days after the DNA revelations, the authors imply that it is a separate piece in which I speak to the DNA. It isn’t a separate piece, and it makes no reference to the DNA because in that essay I was speaking about the rhetorical structure of “perfection” with regard to debates about alleged offenders and the alleged victim.    [Please see the essay at the Mark Neal blogspot link that I post in the paragraph immediately above.]

The book is consistently sloppy in its references to me, but it isn’t simply sloppiness. It mixes up things in such a fashion that I am characterized consistently in vituperative fashion.

( 336) The book refers to our event title–Shut Up and Teach?”–and omits the question mark after the word “Teach” that was printed on the flyer for the event, a question mark about which I spoke at the event. This punctuation omission might seem to be a small mistake, but the question mark is something that I actually referred to and addressed at the event because we wanted to address whether that was what many of the people emailing and writing to and about us wanted us to do. And if that was indeed what we were being asked to do, we wondered what that shutting up might mean for the relation of critical scholarship and teaching to larger social issues.    

[For a comment regarding a source for this, please see the note that follows the paragraphs addressing page 337.]

(337) The book states that “Lubiano, looking forward to the day when ‘we’ll all get together after the revolution’s over,’ promised to run to the barricades–to save her job, at least–if the university adopted policies that she opposed.” That isn’t what I actually said and, as is often the case in this book, both the quoted language and the paraphrased additional language is stripped of the larger context (including humor) in which I spoke to a question from a student about the necessity and difficulties of having conversations around social issues before we could all be completely comfortable.

Here the book purports to be quoting (it places actual quotation marks around the language) from an event that AAAS did not allow to be videotaped, photographed, or recorded by anyone other than the department itself or the representative of the student newspaper. And it does so after the authors’ earlier admonishment to the department and the faculty present for not allowing video and audio taping. That prohibition prevented people from having documentation of the event except for the limited reportage from the Chronicle’s account of the event, reportage that didn’t report on my language. That lack of documentation means that the book can’t quote what was said there with any accuracy; therefore, whatever they say is unsupported rumor. (The chair of AAAS has responded to anyone asking to see the video that any member of the Duke community doing research was welcome to look at the video in our offices but that the department would not make that videotape available to the general public.)

Here, then, I am being accused of having said something of which the book has no proof. If the authors are relying on an audio tape made surreptitiously by some audience member (something that could well be the case), given the room’s acoustics and uneven microphone placement, the bad quality of such a bootleg tape might well account for mistakes in the book’s account of the event and of what I was purported to have said.  But even that explanation would not explain the book’s omission of the question mark at the end of “Shut Up and Teach?” printed on the paper flyers and electronic flyers (widely circulated beforehand and available at the event), and even spoken about in my introduction to the event, an introduction which was posted in its entirety at the AAAS website (for the entirety of spring semester 2007), a website that Mr. Johnson has referred to in his blog posts and which discussed what we meant by our title.    

[The book’s sources are not indicated, and I’ve just discussed why there is no documentation for the book’s claims.  However, I am happy to send a flyer and a copy of my introduction to the event to anyone who requests them.  Please contact me through the offices of AAAS.]

Why am I dwelling on these things? Because such lies, distortions, mistakes, innuendo, and omissions are part of the book’s continual building of momentum for continued denunciations of me. They are part of the bad faith of this account.

(342) Finally, the end, at long last, for me. And here the book asserts, one last time, that I called the lacrosse players “perfect offenders.” I did not. See above notes for my correction of this and for a link to the essay.


Racist Hate Mail and Death Threats

December 17, 2007

Subject: Are You a Black Person or Are You a Nigger?

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 11:36:16 EDT

From: ***


You are hereby awarded the first annual Algonquin J. Calhoun Award For Rational Discourse from the University of Lightnin’ for being a lying, racist, affirmative action nigger who has no place on any college campus. Black people belong on campus, but not irrational, worthless niggers like you.



——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Where are all the apologies?

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 19:49:51 -0400

From: ***>


You have been sent the following article from deb as a courtesy of

Where are all the apologies?


where r the apologies you nigger bitch!!!


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Read this you ugly nigger cunt!!!!

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 18:14:16 -0500

From: ****


The following article appears at

Duke: Sensible Settlements or Sellouts?


June 21, 2007 01:47 PM EST

The full article can be read at:


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: A Chicago Sun-Times article from: ****

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 19:48:34 -0500 (CDT)

From: ***


The following article from the Chicago Sun-Times has been forwarded to you by ***

If you wish to stop receiving these articles, please contact the sender.

Comments from the sender:

you would fit in well with this bunch of genocidal nigger murderers!!!

To read the full story, click here:,juneteenth062007.article

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Thanks for your message of hope.

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 02:45:59 -0600

From: ****>

To: <>

You want to Move on? You should be fired you racist nigger bitch!!!

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Duke…

Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 15:36:43 -0800 (PST)

rom: ****


…racists like yourself are going to be RIDICULED when the rape case against those INNOCENT boys is dropped.

You stupid, bitter black bitch. What a fool you made jumping on the “guilty” bandwagon only as a pathetic attempt to appease your own anger for growing up ugly.

Should every white boy/girl suffer now, and is it okay for prosecutors to abuse the justice system, as a way to vindicate your ignorant anger?

As soon as all charges are dropped, I am going to write a blog that BLASTS you publicly…even more than has already begun. People will know your agenda disguised as “Miss Humanities.”

Loser. Ignorant fool. And everything else that describes a frustrated, lame black woman.

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: your son

Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 06:14:43 -0800 (PST)

From: ***



* *

*Did you apologize to the victim’s families for raising an animal for a son? Had you been a better parent would your adoptive son not have been a disgusting rapist and murderer. Thankfully he was gunned down like the rabid dog he was. *

* *

* *

* *

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Thank you

Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 18:40:13 -0500

From: ****>


First, Karla a question. Crystal had the DNA of one man in her vagina, two in her panties, and three in her butt.

Does that be about average for you people?

And thanks for quitting the leadership position on the Academic Council.

But still, Karla, you have shown you are weak. If you were really adamant, you’d quit your faculty post. Kenan Professor of Bullshit.

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: me loves afarmatiff akshun

Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 12:57:52 -0700 (PDT)

From: ****>


gives me a check honky

i’s got a lowe iq and me’s a full profssah


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: phone call

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 18:54:15 -0400

From: Karla Holloway <>

To: ****

Hi Bob,

I thought I should let you know I’ve received a phone call in my office (on 4.12 at 3.05 pm), saved to voice mail, that said “you nazi nigger bitch..[some garbled something]” and then repeated “you nazi nigger bitch.”

I’ve saved the telephone number, it is****.

Some things never change.


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Hock-Tooey

Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 06:52:58 -0400

From: ***>


Hock-tooey! Hock-tooey! That’s me expectorating in your scuzzydirty racemonger face at point-blank range. Feel my warm, viscuous spittle strike your cowardly bloodshot eyes and rabid hate-screeching mouth as you slaver hysterically to take the scalps of decent, clean, honest Americans because they’re white and YOU’RE NOT. God, how you must loathe yourself, knowing you’ll always be no better than a smelly, bastard-born, low-IQ subhuman!

——– Original Message ——–


Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 09:10:48 -0700

From: ***>

To: undisclosed-recipients:;


A am Very sorry for YOU, is a pity that may end this way but I will like to give you some chance to help yourself if you will like to.

As you can see there is no need of introducing myself to you because

I don’t have any business with you, My work as I am talking to you now

is just to elliminate you and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that.

Some one that I will not like to tell you the name now came to us and told me that he want you dead and he provided us with your name, picture and other information about you and I sent my boys to track you down and carry out invastigation on you and they have done that but I told them not to kill you that I will like to contact you and see if your life is Important to you or not. I called my

As I am writing to you now my men are monitoring you and they are giving me every information i need about you. So I will like to know if you will Like to live or die as some one has paid for us to kill you. I am given you just two days to get back to me if you are ready to pay $30,000 or I will carry on with my <> not supossed to do this, but i had pity on you so do not take it for granted.




——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Holloway gets me horny

Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2007 15:48:04 -0700

From: ****>


That’s the good news; the bad news is that your listening statement is the beginning of the end for Caucasian subsidies for a discipline that has no Tier 1 geniuses.

See ya–don’t wanna be ya,

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Wow are you getting slammed on the Blogs

Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 20:03:39 EDT

From: ***


This was posted today, do you really deserve this? Where is your apology?

Agree, Buckeye.

My wish is that the ‘ho has a big target on her back and that any law enforcement or medical personnel don’t give her the time of day on any complaint, let her rant in drug withdrawl about racism in oxycontin prescriptions, blow off any race cards the ‘ho has yet to play.

If ‘ho Mangum dies in a ditch somewhere, well, too bad…Her bottomfeeder lifestyle is to blame in that case. Maybe then Carla Holloway would adopt some young parasite again, and hope that the product of Crystal Gayle Mangum and an anonymous John turns out better than your son..

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: when do you apologize to the lacrosse players you stupid, racist bitch!!!!!

Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 23:18:15 -0600

From: ****>

To: ****>

see subject cunt!!!!

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: kala—face it you will always be a racist cotton picking aunt jamaima nigger!

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 00:36:49 -0600

From: ***>

To: <>

——– Original Message ——–

From: ***>

Reply-To: ***>



Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 06:51:37 +0100 (CET)

still pickin’ cotton? i say to ‘dem, can you read? or rite? or just

hang out wit dem 88?

——– Original Message ——–


Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 06:54:01 +0100 (CET)

From: ***>

Reply-To: ****>


he done said, y’all still pickin’ dat dere cotton? or ya just ‘riten dem ads protectin’ dem sluts. i remember when dey usta lynch ’em for less. get wit it jemima.

——– Original Message ——-

From: ***]

Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 6:09 PM

To: ‘’

Subject: your letter

Prof. Haynie,

I’m not a violent guy; very peaceable in fact. And as enraged as I am at the likes of you, I have a family to take care of and a business to run. I can’t take justice into my own hands, no matter how much I’d love to. But if someone pops a cap into your ass, say tomorrow or the next day, or whenever, for that matter, I will rejoice and sing praises to the Lord our God. Pure fantasy of course, but one can dream.

Just so you know.



——– Original Message ——–


Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2007 00:21 -0500


From: ***>

To all the racist lesbians in the women’s studies program:

After reading steve baldwin’s comments suggesting you all, the gang of

88, several others members of the faculty and assorted other racists

ought to be “lynched”, it is looking like a reasonable idea. I would

suggest they all be put on the third rail and turn up the juice.

Barring that they should be fired from Duke before its reputation gets

so low in the academic community that there is no return.

Shame on you lesbians, blacks, rapists and racists. It is a sad day

for America and for caring minorities and majorities. No wonder

commentators suggest “one more cunt”.


In the aftermath of a social disaster

December 17, 2007

Raleigh News and Observer, January 5, 2007

In the aftermath of a social disaster

Cathy N. Davidson

DURHAM – Last April I added my name to an ad published in the Duke Chronicle. The ad said that we faculty were listening to the anguish of students who felt demeaned by racist and sexist remarks swirling around in the media and on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house.

The insults, at that time, were rampant. It was as if defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women. Many black students at Duke disappeared into humiliation and rage as the lacrosse players were being elevated to the status of martyrs, innocent victims of reverse racism.

As it turned out, 87 other faculty members were alarmed at this distressing side-effect of the lacrosse incident and signed the ad. I am positive I am not the only professor who was and continues to be adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade while also being dismayed by the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13.

A team of distinguished athletes at an elite and highly respected university hired two local women to strip at a house filled with men (including those underage) who had been drinking too much. That’s sleazy, to say the least. That those women were women of color underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation.

As a professor at Duke, I felt shame when the media’s account of the behavior in the lacrosse house came to stand for all Duke students and the institution itself. So many students, faculty and administrators here work hard to live down our unflattering old segregation nickname, “the Plantation.” Yet after March 13, Duke again came to symbolize (seemingly for the entire world) the most lurid and sexualized form of race privilege.

The ad we signed explicitly was not addressed to the police investigation or the rape allegations. The ad focused on racial and gender attitudes all too evident in the weeks after March 13. It decried prejudice and inequality in the society at large. “It isn’t just Duke, it isn’t everybody, and it isn’t just individuals making this disaster,” the ad insisted.

The lacrosse incident is a textbook example of what Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson calls “social disaster” (a phrase used in the ad). “Social disaster” refers to complex power arrangements that underpin even minor events and give those events symbolic (and disturbing) meaning for society as a whole.

The lacrosse incident became one of the top news stories of 2006 because Americans saw the case as symbolic of many of their deepest social concerns. Race, gender, sexuality, class, athletics, the South, poverty, privilege, the younger generation: those are some features of the brew that captured the world’s attention and fed its moral voyeurism.

Like the other faculty members who signed the ad, I constantly receive e-mails asking me to rescind my signature. Some people write out of real misery for their children, Duke students who are distraught that their friends may have been falsely accused and unfairly treated. They believe professors have sided against the lacrosse players, and they are outraged. If we had written what they suppose, we would deserve their anger. But we didn’t.

I empathize deeply with these parents and friends. I regret the additional pain they felt when they heard about this ad. However, when I send them the actual ad, they are often surprised that it does not condemn the lacrosse players but focuses on larger campus and national concerns. I was touched, recently, when one mother concluded our thoughtful exchange by noting that she still didn’t like the ad, but hoped that her daughter would have the opportunity to take a class with me someday.

On the other hand, most of my e-mail comes from right-wing “blog hooligans.” These hateful, ranting and sometimes even threatening folks don’t care about Duke or the lacrosse players. Their aim is to make academics and liberals look ridiculous and uncaring. They deliberately misrepresent the faculty and manipulate the feelings of those who care about the lacrosse players in order to foster their own demagogic political agenda. They contribute to the problem, not to the solution.

We are in the midst of a social disaster where 18 percent of the American population lives below the poverty line and a disproportionate number of those are African-American. We live in the midst of a social disaster where 30 percent of our students do not graduate from high school (making the U.S. No. 17 in the world). We live in the midst of a social disaster where women’s salaries for similar jobs are substantially less than men’s (and, as of this year, starting to go down again, not up). We live in the midst of a social disaster where we do not have national health care or affordable childcare. And we live in a situation where a group of white athletes at a prominent university can get drunk and call out for a stripper the way they would a pizza.

Who is that exotic dancer? A single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished historically black college. Of course the lacrosse story makes Americans of conscience cringe.

There is also a different kind of social disaster in this incident, one that we didn’t know about in April. I refer to a prosecutor who may well have acted unprofessionally, irresponsibly and unethically, possibly from the most cynical political motives. If it turns out that Mike Nifong has no evidence (as he insisted he did back in the spring), he will have betrayed the trust of an entire community and caused torment to these young men and their families. He will have added greater skepticism at every imaginable level to an already shaky legal system.

Nor is it only the lacrosse players who will be marked forever by this case. Will future rape victims dare to step forward after such a spectacle? Will African-Americans with legitimate grievances be willing to demand justice in the wake of this public debacle? On every level, this has been a social disaster.

That is why I signed the ad. It is an educator’s job to bring the lessons of history to bear as we try to understand the full and on-going social implications of what happened long before March 13, 2006, and will continue long after. Studying this social disaster must be on the lesson plan for our future, no matter what happens next in this miserable incident.

(Cathy N. Davidson is Ruth F. DeVarney professor of English and interim director and professor )

Fast, Loose and Mean in the Blogosphere

December 17, 2007

Durham Herald-Sun

January 18, 2007

By Orin Starn


I don’t think “Jezebelle” likes me.

“Starn is a consummate a-hole” is the exact assessment of this anonymous message-board poster.

Welcome to Blog World!

The Duke lacrosse saga has played itself out as much on the Internet as in the courtroom, newspapers, or university halls.

I like youtubing Ronaldinho’s greatest goals and e-mailing bad golf jokes to my friends as much as the next guy. But the lacrosse mess has put on display the more squalid, sometimes vicious side of the Internet. Only a click away lies a whole ugly galaxy of insults, misrepresentations, and, at worst, sick racist hate.

The virtual lacrosse world is Mad Max’s Thunderdome in gigabytes and bandwidth: no rules apply, or at least not any involving those horse-and-buggy, oh-so-yesterday ink age values of civility, accuracy, or accountability.

The Duke lacrosse accuser?

A “whore.” A “tramp.” A “slut.” And those are the only printable names you’ll find for her on the message boards.

At least the blog rage is spread around.

Duke President Richard H. Brodhead may not have always pleased everyone in his extremely unenviable task of responding to the crisis.

Does that make him a “coward,” “bitch,” and “shill POS”?

Those “stupid clowns” who signed a controversial faculty ad expressing concern about Duke’s campus climate have “blood all over (their) hands,” according to “”

The greatest, most adolescent intoxication of the Internet is, of course, the anonymity. You can be nasty, spiteful, and crude with the delicious, untouchable impunity of a high school crank caller.

One “djones” has been flooding the mailboxes of everyone at Duke from Brodhead and Provost Peter Lange to the cafeteria clerk with his outraged, sometimes would-be funny or clever lacrosse hate messages.

Memo to “djones”: Master Po says it’s bad for your chi to make an obsessive habit of sending anonymous poison e-mails.

Another quaint newspaper custom is the requirement of accuracy. But, Bill Gates be praised, you don’t have to worry about pesky fact-checkers or editors in the wonderful, self-published world of the blogs.

The most prolific lacrosse blogger is K.C. Johnson, a Brooklyn College history professor with plenty of spare time and a worshipful following among those who think that Mike Nifong will go down as one of world history’s most evil men.

Johnson is a good storyteller who emplots the lacrosse controversy as a great moral parable of reason and civilization threatened by the dark forces of racial pandering, blind ambition, and the sinister machinations of tenured radicals and university political correctness run amok.

But Johnson’s Edward Gibbon-length postings are shot through with factual errors.

Just one of many examples: Duke’s African and African American Studies Program has five full-time faculty. Johnson reports it has fifteen, a number that better serves his Tolkienesque yarn-spinner’s desire to paint the program as a menacing Orthanc of grim radical power and intolerance

The magic of the blogs is tapping into what historian Richard Hofstadter famously called the “paranoid style” of American politics. Blog readers find the promise of revealed truth supposedly censored by the “liberal” mainstream media and other jack-booted forces.

In truth, the newspapers – and every tv news program from Sixty Minutes to your Cousin Ed’s cable show — have extensively chronicled Nifong’s apparent prosecutorial incompetence and misconduct, not to mention the accuser’s seemingly ever-changing stories about what happened that miserable night.

Now that Nifong has stepped aside, we can hope for a speedy resolution to the case. The Durham District Attorney may soon himself be facing disbarment proceedings and lacrosse supporter lawsuits and, if the charges prove false as what we now know about the evidence suggests, the whole prosecution will go down as a sorry misadventure of the justice system gone awry.

And the blog rage?

Those sending vile racist messages like ones received by prominent English professor Karla Holloway show just how far we have yet to go towards ending racial hatred and encouraging common human decency in this society.

As for the rest, it’s a free country. I’m glad K.C. Johnson and his Sunshine Band of Duke lacrosse bloggers have found a way to keep busy over the long winter.When the books close here in Durham, they’ll doubtless find some new cause to embrace with the same strident, self-righteous, and loose-with-the facts crusading fervor.

Blog on, dudes.

The real beauty of the blogs, after all, is that you don’t have to read them.

My New Year’s resolution was to stop following the Duke lacrosse blogs. It’s been a pleasure to keep.

And those e-mails from “djones”?

Our computers come with a delete button for a reason.