July 12, 2007

Shallow Hal*

Ah, embarrassed southern apologist! How I've missed your rantings, your declarations that even though ignorance and racism are everywhere, it's all the fault of the south! Poor, backward south! If not for embarrassed southern apologists bravely toiling in the mills of local indepent rags, we'd still be feckless layabouts sippin' shine on the shanty porches when we weren't donning hoods to make sure that darkies knew their place...

But fortunately for me, you've moved up in the world, and are now imposing yourself upon my eyeballs via the latest issue of the Oxford American, where you spend three pages reminding everyone that the south is still hopelessly backward, in large part because of the lacrosse case at Duke.

Ya know, I'd be a bit more inclined to pay attention to your other points if the center of your "omg rich white people in the south are evil racist bastards" argument wasn't quite so, shall we say, factually challenged:

"The DA was virtually lynched, an unprecedented martyrdom that seems to have crushed his career and any hope of future happiness. The black stripper who pressed the charges was merely impeached, ostracized, and forgotten. The exonerated lacrosse players, according to my local paper, were “greeted like heroes” wherever Duke students gathered. Innocent was the word in general use, though all the Attorney General had actually determined was that they couldn’t be convicted—and shouldn’t have been indicted—on these charges brought by this witness (doesn’t that make them less innocent, technically, than, say, O.J. Simpson, who was actually acquitted?)."

Point of fact: The AG declared the defendants "Innocent." On TV. Live. Saw it myself. And then there's the whole preponderance of evidence supporting this fact, handily compiled by a historian and easy to find both on the web and on media sites. But ol' Hal's never been one to let reality get in the way of a good rant. Oh, and nice job dragging OJ into this, btw. Seriously. Because the two cases are so similar. You know, because black people and white people are involved. Which makes them identical. Well, if you're Hal.

"Their innocence was asserted so aggressively by the media that we were left with the impression that they had actually been studying in the library when the incident in question occurred, or perhaps that the whole episode with the strippers had been a sociology project in community outreach. “What actually happened?” has become a question that no one gets to ask. I experienced extreme nausea when one local columnist apologized abjectly to these newly purified paragons, though neither she nor any pundits in their right minds had ever claimed to know that they were guilty—only that they were behaving like over-entitled little pigs with atrocious judgment, behavior that many Duke observers claimed was chronic and that we all fervently hoped had not culminated in sexual assault."

Here Hal is referring to Ruth Sheehan, who apologized in a column for rushing to judgement in her first couple of columns on the case. So a columnist admits a mistake - I find that refreshing. Not so our brave Hal, who is nauseated by this, because, dammit! Athletes! White athletes! At an elite school! IN THE SOUTH!!! SO...YEAH! Pigs! Never mind that one of the kids who was being threatened with up to 30 years in prison for a crime that didn't occur wasn't even present at the evil bacchanal when the alleged crime (that didn't happen) allegedly occurred, AND the cab driver (who happens to be, gasp, black) who came forward to tell the truth about this fact was harrassed by this same sainted DA--PIGS! Because, WHITE! And, RICH! And, DURHAM! Yeah, I follow that logic. Oh, and no one gets to ask what actually happened? Except for EVERYONE IN AMERICA FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR?! Jesus.

"If injustice was avoided, everyone should be relieved. But the smell of whitewash—accent on white—was hard to escape. Blacks and whites didn’t view this case through the same lens. A columnist for the student newspaper at North Carolina Central University, where the dancer had been enrolled, called for violent resistance to white justice, under the headline DEATH TO ALL RAPISTS. Certain white people I regarded as enlightened and well-meaning appeared to be rooting for Duke’s dubious bruisers—one of them had a rap sheet for gay-bashing—long before any of the facts were clear. Professors who used the lacrosse case to make a statement about over-privileged and under-restrained athletes are still receiving threatening e-mails from bullies with racial agendas. A lot of race stuff that had been half-buried came to the surface, and none of it was very pretty."

Yeah. None of it is pretty, is it, Hal? Especially when reality doesn't fit your agenda. Gotta hate it when that happens. Again, you can see what the professors considered "making a statement." And what they consider "threatening emails." But that would require research. So much easier to just swoop in, smear some college kids in the service of saving us from ourselves, and then swoop out again, safe and secure in your self-righteousness. Golly, thanks, Hal!

*post title suggested by the fabulous Hublet.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 12, 2007 10:28 AM | TrackBack

I love how his criticisms regarding the South seem to be based solely on the notion that there are bunches of people that live there who don't think just like him. Indeed, the only *good* Southerners, in his argument, are the ones who do. And he has the balls to subtitle the article "Excuse me, but some of us are trying to have a civilization here." Yeah, like the kind of civilization that doesn't throw a bunch of kids in prison for something they didn't do. For a guy who claims to find certain stereotypes about the South abhorrent, he sure does seem to be upset that those boys weren't lifelong victims of a lynch mob mentality.

"Certain white people I regarded as enlightened and well-meaning appeared to be rooting for Duke’s dubious bruisers—one of them had a rap sheet for gay-bashing—long before any of the facts were clear."

Uh-huh. And nobody rushed to judgement on the guilt of the players before the facts were clear, right? That whole article is just absurd.

Posted by: Emily at July 12, 2007 11:02 AM

I know. And you know that he's patting himself on the back for speaking "truth to power" and demonstrating his "progressive and tolerant bona fides" while everything he writes is a bunch of close-minded tripe based on stereotypes from Mississippi Burning.

Gah. The man practically gives me an aneurysm.

Posted by: BAW at July 12, 2007 12:23 PM

Considering the fact that the lacrosse players have been declared innocent, can't they sue this guy for slander or libel or whatever it is?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 12, 2007 10:27 PM

Just for the record, all the accused lax players were Yankees. So that means they can't be racists because that's exclusively a problem of Southerners.

One true southerner was Mike Nifong a product of Wilmington, NC and UNC law school.

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at July 12, 2007 11:04 PM

Their innocence was asserted so aggressively by the media...

Somewhere, there is a gateway to another dimension, a dimension not of sight or of sound, but of mind...OK, scratch that last. Point is, somewhere there's a portal to another universe, and these people crawl through it long enough to write jaw-dropping columns, and then slither off again.

I want to know where that gateway is, so I can dynamite it.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at July 13, 2007 12:46 AM

Shallow Hal has bugged me ever since the 90's when he wrote a vapid article following the suicide of Kurt Cobain arguing in essence that Nirvana fans were just stupid pale imitations of the REAL 60's rock fans had lost REAL icons like Jimi Hendrix. Also, for Chrissake, since Hal is unquestionably going to approach the case from a left of center worldview, why not use this Godawful situation as an opportunity to illustrate why our country cherishes certain seemingly abstract concepts like the need for criminal defendants to receive fair and due legal process and for prosecutors to make decisions based upon a fair and dispassionate look at the evidence?

Posted by: poppleton at July 13, 2007 10:07 AM

It's no surprise that ideologues like Hal are impervious to facts--what's unfortunate is that people like him and the infamous 88 seized upon this issue to make their utterly illogical stand. If only the lefty nuts had busied themselves with hand-wringing over global warming, or the latest piece of Michael Moore detritus, three college kids could have been spared this ordeal.

Posted by: Nathan Tabor at July 14, 2007 02:43 AM

Just say no.

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