Two great reviews are out today concerning William Cohan’s re-revisionist account of the Duke lacrosse rape fabrications of eight years ago. See the great Peter Berkowitz here and the great Stuart Taylor here.
Both pieces are entirely convincing and we can stipulate that the bum-rush of Duke professors and administration to vilify the Duke players was, as Jackie Childs might put it, pernicious, outrageous, contagious. The conduct of district attorney Mike Nifong was even worse–not merely criminal, but the type of abusive use of state power that ought to scare the bejeezus out of every American and, when uncovered, be punished in the severest possible manner. (Anyone sympathetic in the least to Nifong ought to consider how exactly analogous his conduct was to the behavior of police who plant evidence, trump up charges, or unlawfully detain citizens–the type of thing the left normally abhors.)
That said, I’ve never quite been able to shake the sense that the Duke lacrosse players themselves were/are deeply unappealing as a cause. Here’s Berkowitz:
Even in Cohan’s unfriendly account — and in sharp contrast to their accusers and condemners — the lacrosse players and their dismissed coach comported themselves throughout the ordeal with honor and dignity.
Well, maybe. They may have comported themselves with honor and dignity in every moment after they were falsely accused of rape and pursued by the state. Which is to say, after they were placed under constant adult supervision and had an army of lawyers and supporters rally to their sides expending large amounts of money to protect them. That’s not nothing–but you can’t really imagine a situation in which they wouldn’t have been on their very best behavior. The prospect of hanging concentrating the mind and all that.
But before they were falsely accused of rape? They were at a bacchanal where they got stupid drunk. They hired strippers to come and
degrade themselves perform for their amusement. When the strippers got surly, they responded with the sort of uncouth behavior which suggests that they were supremely aware of the social gulf between them and the women they had hired.
Look, as Gene says in a somewhat similar context in the movie Layercake, boys will boys. I get that. I went to college, too. But a university setting in which students can indulge in this sort of behavior without either (a) thinking it’s outside the norm or (b) worrying that they have to get to class, do some problem sets, you know, not fail out seems to be pretty messed up. If you can party like the Duke guys at college, then your college has clearly given you way too much free time. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, there’s an easy way to put all of this stuff to a stop: it’s called the C-curve.
But that criticism of the university project is separate from the observation that, when confronted with this scandalous amount of free time, the Duke players did not behave with an ounce of charity, respect, grace, or gratitude–either toward their fellow man or for the luxuries which had been gifted them. Nobody deserves to be falsely accused of rape. But not every man falsely accused of rape is a good guy.
It would be nice if, in the course of prosecuting a dangerous figure such as Mike Nifong, we could refrain from romanticizing his victims.