Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tortmaster, Hero of the Hoax

A long, long, loooooong time ago, the only reason to visit talkleft became the opportunity to read the consistently excellent analyses of a single voice of reason among many, many vapid blowhards.


His utter vaporization of the "Listening Statement" Revisionists in today's Chronicle warrants re-publication in full, in as many fora as possible, as the student athletes' attorneys hone their Bowie knives for jungle conflict. Tortmaster's painstakingly thorough evisceration of the ad, which exemplifies the "critical thinking" of 88 lucky coffee house poets and assistant librarians, begins shortly past mid-scroll through the comments page accessed by the above link, at "2:31 AM EST." It continues uninterrupted through six consecutive posts, the last timed in at "3:30 AM EST."

It reads, in its entirety, as follows:

Let's look at the Listening Ad, but first let's look at it in context. It was drafted mere days after the alleged rape became public knowledge. Was it rash to jump on a bandwagon that was only 12 days old?

Keep in mind that even eventually disbarred attorney Mike Nifong would not indict anyone for the alleged crime until 12 days AFTER the Listening ad was published. Any conclusions about a "social disaster" did not even have enough time to become properly gossip-based yet.

There were the protests, including the "castrate" banner, the potbangers marching up Buchanan Boulevard, and, of course, the wanted posters depicting the faces of the lax players. Not pictures of the eventually-indicted players, but pictures of all the players.

The context includes the fact that local media had begun to focus on the Lacrosse team. A week before the Listening ad came out in the student newspaper, the News&Observer ran an editorial by Ruth Sheehan presuming guilt and presuming a lacrosse "wall of silence," with her "we know you know" piece.

The context also includes the fact that the Listening ad's author, Wahneema Lubiano, chose to publish it in the school's newspaper. What better way to cause harm to students than publish something about them in the student's own newspaper? Who better to publish it than gobs of faculty and whole university departments and programs?

The context also includes other editorials written by the Gang of 88, including the infamous one by Professor Chafe with the Emmett Till comparison. He wrote the following in the Duke Chronicle a week before the Listening Ad:

"Sex and race have been intertwined since the beginning of American history. They remain so today, throughout America and here at Duke. The events that occurred on Buchanan Boulevard two weeks ago are part of a deep and troubling history."

But Lubiano also had an editorial published in the News&Observer in which she wrote in May 2006:

"An anger is surfacing against aspects of everyday life at Duke, an anger that is playing out in the aftermath of the accusations against the lacrosse team and responses to those accusations. The changes at Duke that critics want to see are coming more sharply into view as a result of struggle in this moment of spectacle."

The Listening ad author wrote that "[a]n anger is surfacing ... in the aftermath of the ... accusations against the lacrosse team ...." She wrote this in a paper with a printing of 167,891 copies each weekday in the Raleigh-Durham area.

The context also includes what the author of the Listening ad thought of the ad herself. As reported by ESPN, "Lubiano knew some would see the ad as a stake through the collective heart of the lacrosse team."

The context of the "Listening ad" included some lacrosse students sleeping in cars to avoid public consternation or worse, staying over at the homes of anonymous friends or even leaving the state.

On March 30, 2006, a few days before the publication of the Listening ad, the News&Observer printed a story which included the following subheading and copy:


The case, which erupted last week when police took DNA from all but one member of the team, heightened tensions between the city and Duke, a private university sometimes accused of walling itself off from a community with blue-collar roots.

The incident has sparked outrage on and off campus about classism, racism and sexual violence. The woman, an N.C. Central University student and employee of an escort service hired for the party, is black; she told authorities that her attackers were white....

Frustration over Duke's response continued Wednesday.

Wednesday's Take Back the Night rally, planned months ago, drew nearly a thousand people. Students and residents walked nearly a mile from East Campus to the landmark chapel on West Campus, chanting, 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, all rape has got to go.'

Ignacio Adriasola, an art history graduate student, had a sign taped to his shirt: 'It isn't what Duke has, but what it lax,' using the shorthand word for lacrosse.

Jean Leonard, Duke's sexual assault support services coordinator, welcomed rally participants from Duke, NCCU and Durham Technical Community College. TV trucks from national media outlets rumbled nearby. 'Tonight is about more than a great media story that the nation has great interest in,' Leonard said. 'Tonight is more about healing.' "

(capitalization of subheading added).

As you can see, the context included an atmosphere of heightened worry; Duke administrative staff and students alike were on the record presuming guilt. Tension was building. The national media had arrived at last! This was all BEFORE Lubiano published the "Listening ad."

Approximately a week prior to the Listening ad, the students' lawyers were already concerned about prejudicial pretrial publicity. A March 30, 2006 News&Observer article had the following headline: "Lacrosse players' lawyers object."

Eventually, Mike Nifong is disbarred, in part, for his prejudicial pretrial public statements, and the defense lawyers cite Duke faculty in their Motion to Change Venue. Of course, such a motion is filed when a party believes that it cannot receive a fair trial in that particular venue.

On the "Diverse" Education website, it is posted:

"The [Listening] advertisement gained additional prominence when, in the fall, the defense attorney for the lacrosse players requested a change of venue, citing the advertisement as evidence of Duke faculty bias against the players."

About a week before the publication of the "Listening ad," every literate person in Durham (and some who just watched television news) knew that the BIG DAY was approaching. Mike Nifong had publicly said that DNA results for the case would be available on or about April 10, 2006. On April 1, 2006, the N&O printed an article proclaiming:

"District Attorney Mike Nifong said Friday that no charges will be filed in the investigation of a report of rape at a Duke University lacrosse party until at least the WEEK OF APRIL 10. He also said he won't release DNA results that had been expected next week.

The tests, which are comparing the DNA of 46 lacrosse players with samples taken from the accuser as well as from towels, rags and rugs in the house where the party was held, COULD BE COMPLETED NEXT WEEK, Nifong said."

(emphasis added)

Now, anybody riding the backs of presumptively innocent students for his or her political agenda would know that APRIL 10 was an important day. If the DNA came back negative, the sane response would be a dismissal of claims (especially given the alleged 30-minute violent gangrape by 3 Division I athletes).

In other words, if hay were to be made, it had better be harvested fast. In a mass e-mail to other professors, Lubiano directed her colleagues to review the Listening ad quickly, sign on and hurry up: "We're trying for Thursday (04/05) if we can do it; if not, then next Monday (04/10)."

Thus, not only does it appear that Lubiano whipped up the "Listening ad" in record time, she did so as quickly as possible in case the boys were ACTUALLY FOUND TO BE INNOCENT.

The best context of all, of course, is the author's interpretation of her own handiwork. In this case, Lubiano unequivocally stated in her e-mail to colleagues that,

"African & African-American Studies is placing an ad in The Chronicle ABOUT THE LACROSSE TEAM INCIDENT." (emphasis added).

So, it seems that Lubiano's admission against interest proves that the Listening ad was about "the lacrosse team incident." But she went further and signed up not just 87 other colleagues, but also whole university programs and departments, including the following:

Duke University's African-American Studies
Duke University's Romance Studies
Duke University's Social & Health Sciences
Duke University's Franklin Humanities Institute
Duke University's Critical Studies Program
Duke University's Art Department
Duke University's Art History Department
Duke University's Latin American Studies
Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies
Duke University's Women's Studies Program
Duke University's Program in Education
Duke University's European Studies Program

The "Listening ad," taken in context, heightened tensions on campus, aligned a huge number of professors, departments and programs against the lacrosse players, was raised in a Motion to Change Venue to protect the students and joined such other recent disparaging editorials as Sheehan's and Chafe's.

To say the ad was not about the lax hoax is to ignore the ad's author, the timing of its publication, and even the first line of the ad. For those who have not seen the "Listening ad," it can be found at

At the top of this "PAID ADVERTISEMENT," it provides: "Regardless of the results of the police investigation ...." This is stated without previous mention of any event deserving of a "police investigation." The author was obviously referring to the Duke hoax investigation.

In the same paragraph, Lubiano describes "this moment's extraorinary spotlight." Again, an obvious reference to the Duke rape hoax.

The next paragraph, which is just one sentence, claims that "[I]t is a disaster nonetheless." The author appears to be describing BOTH what happened at 610 Buchanan and other perceived acts of racism at Duke (and elsewhere).

The next one-sentence paragraph states that "[t]hese students are shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman and to themselves."

THAT is a prejudgment. The words used were "WHAT HAPPENED to this young woman ...." The author could have used words such as "what was alleged to have happened." Lubiano mentioned in her e-mail that she had made drafts of the piece, so she had time to edit the language. It is also instructive to note that the Listening ad sets an early emphasis on "shouting."

The next paragraph appears to be a quote, but there are no quotation marks or attribution. This is a continuing problem in the advertisement. "We want the absence of terror.... Terror robs you of language and you need language for the healing to begin." As stated previously, the author was obviously discussing the hoaxed rape allegations and generic perceived racism. Which would the reader perceive as more likely deserving of actual "terror"?

The next paragraph again appears to be a quotation mark-less quote, but this is attributed to the Independent (but no particular speaker). Significantly, this quote appeared approximately 3 days after the Duke rape hoax became public knowledge: "This is not a different experience for us here at Duke University. We go to class with racist classmates, we go to gym with people who are racists ... It's part of the experience." (ellipses in original).

The author is apparently conveying that rape (or is it just the generic perceived racism) is as abundant as ipods about campus. Since I am an American, I read the ad left to right and top to bottom, the context leads me to believe that rape may be as prevalent as fast food at Duke.

After three unattributed apparent quotes, there is this: "... I am only comfortable talking about THIS EVENT in my room with close friends. I am actually afraid to even bring it up in public. But worse, I wonder now about everything.... If SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS TO ME ...." (emphasis added).

What do you think "this event" means? The Duke hoax, of course. No other specific event is alluded to in the least. Also, consider what the apparent quotation implies: The speaker has nothing to fear if there is just an investigation of students who are presumed innocent, but she does have something to fear "if something like this happens" to her. Something like what? A rape, of course, a prejudged, juried and executed rape.

After another unattributed quote, there is, in the center of the Listening ad, in giant eye-catching print, "WHAT DOES A SOCIAL DISASTER SOUND LIKE?"

After two quotes attributed only to the Independent (and not a person), the ad goes on to provide: "... no one is really talking about how to keep the YOUNG WOMAN herself central to this conversation, how to keep her humanity before us ... she doesn't seem to be visible in this. Not for the university, not for us." (emphasis added).

It seems strange to me that everyone quoted by Lubiano was a poet. In a poetic way, the author inserted this "quote" in the ad to apparently get the university to support the "invisible" woman and not the university's students.

The next unattributed "quote" also seems to be egging on the University and the community to strive to achieve greater success in arresting someone. Consider how this "quote" attempts to elicit action while it, at the same time, prejudges the case and prejudices the lacrosse players:

"I can't help but think about the different attention given to WHAT HAS HAPPENED from what it would have been if the guys had been not just black but participating in a different sport, like football, something that's not SO UPSCALE." (emphasis added).

"What has happened" refers to the Duke lacrosse hoax, and the author appears to be saying, that he or she wants arrests now! The "different attention" is the lock-up of the offenders. Finally, the use of the "so upscale" language prejudices the boys in a classist way.

The next unattributed "quote" again appears to egg on the university to take action about the Duke rape hoax. The "quote" provides:

"And this is what I'm thinking right now - Duke isn't really responding to THIS. Not really. And THIS, what HAS HAPPENED, IS A DISASTER. THIS IS A SOCIAL DISASTER." (emphasis mine except last sentence).

Use of the word "this," of course, refers to the Duke rape hoax. So do the words "what has happened." Even a feeble-minded person would conclude that an investigation is not a disaster, but a rape would be. "This" rape "happened." That is a prejudgment.

The remaining substantive portions of the "Listening ad" provide additional clues as to the motivation behind it, including use of the date "March 13th," which could only reference the date of the fake gangrape.

Lubiano notes at the bottom that "[t]his ad, printed in the most easily seen venue on campus, is just one way for us to say that we're hearing what our students are saying."

This raises a couple of issues in my mind: (1) it is a "Paid Advertisement," which means that faculty felt it was so important that they spent their own money on it; and (2) the implication is that entire departments and programs at Duke University also paid for the advertisement, which as described above prejudged the students as guilty of "this" and "what happened."

Then, Lubiano goes on to write the following: "We're turning up the volume in a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait."

- "[T]urning up the volume" is akin to the "shouting" described earlier in the ad. In context, this is at a time when the local and national media have already turned up the volume, when potbangers and 1,000-person domestic violence protest marches were roaming Durham.

- "[T]urning up the volume" and "shouting" do not seem to be the best way for university professors to achieve a measured response or dialogue.

- "[I]n a moment" again refers to the fake rape and its warm afterglow.

- "[I]n a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait" refers to waiting on due process and court hearings. Lubiano and the Gang of 88 are telling their students NOT to wait for due process. Join a lynch mob, see the world.

Next, the Gang of 88 compliment the potbangers and protesters, leaflet spammers, wanted poster hangers, castrate banner holders (one for each side of that HUGE banner) with this: "To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for NOT WAITING and for making yourselves heard." (emphasis added).

- Lubiano and the Gang of 88 are lucky some crackpot did not take "individual[]" action.

-"[T]hank you for NOT WAITING" is positive reinforcement for judgment rushing and the perceived university-sanctioned elimination of due process.

Finally, the "Listening ad" concludes with a list of all the university departments and programs aligned against the lacrosse students. I can just imagine a lacrosse player reading the ad and thinking, "We didn't do it, but the African & African-American Studies Program, the Psychology Department and even the Franklin Humanities Institute believe we did, and they want us arrested."

A website address is given because of "space limitations" in listing all of the faculty signatories, which lends weight (in numbers) to the charges and instructions contained in the ad.

My problems with the "Listening ad," which are many and varied, do not include the allegation that the ad's author is dumb. Far from that, I think the ad was well-crafted to tacitly, yet obviously, refer to the rape as basically well-established fact.

It was also surgically designed to extract as much marrow as possible from the bones of Duke University. The Gang of 88 chose that moment to press an advantage and "negotiate" their demands with the university. Some of my problems with the "Listening ad" include the following:

A. Using what was essentially gossip (triple hearsay at best) to stir up an already tense situation.

B. Using this gossip to extract demands from the University.

C. Providing negative pre-trial publicity against their own students.

D. Failing to reflect, soberly, on the ramifications of their actions (lynching their own students)(ignoring due process)(the propriety of basing demands on gossip).

E. Implying, in a crafty way, that it was the institutional belief of a large faction in the University that rushing to judgment was condoned.

F. Implying, in a careful way, that it was the institutional belief of a large faction in the University that a rational approach to days-old gossip was "making collective noise" rather than waiting to allow due process protections to attach.

G. The shoddy scholarship involved.

H. Attacking and attempting to alienate 46 of their own students.

I. Painting themselves into such a corner that they could not later apologize and acknowledge their misdeeds.

J. Providing intellectual support to a false prosecution.

K. Prejudging and convicting their innocent students.

L. Compounding their error with a subsequent "Clarifying Statement," editorials, letters to the editor, articles, "Shut Up and Teach" forums, etc.

M. Bringing the University into disrepute.


Based upon their power play, the Gang of 88 were able to extract a number of concessions from Duke, including, among other things, the elevation of the African & African-American Studies Department, the appointment of a Diversity & Equity Officer, numerous committee investigations, including the infamous Campus Culture Initiative, various benefits for faculty and students involved in the protests or "Listening ad" and, most significantly, a chilling of speech on campus, causing other professors and administrators to refrain from denouncing the obvious hoax (and the actions of the 88).

These are my opinions only. MOO! Gregory

The End.

Blog Hooligan


Tenured Dook "Professors"

Too funny.

And John Burness responds, "For what?", when asked if the University would apologize to the indicted players, post-exoneration.

Keep gearing for trial, Duke, as the 88 begin simultaneously stitching the world's largest wallet while singing, "We Shall Overcome."