Monday, November 27, 2006

Speaking of Hot Air...

In a recent blog post, retired Duke University professor Stuart Rojstaczer criticizes the blogs that have focused on the Duke hoax for advantaging themselves by promoting their own political agendas. While Rojstaczer fails to identify the particular blogs he targets, and declines to cite a single example to support his accusations, he describes those unnamed blogs as severely slanted and loopily right wing.
“Lately, I’ve read blogs about the Duke lacrosse scandal that have a severe right-wing slant.”

“If you’re a loopy right-winger, you try to use any wedge you can to move universities to the right.”
To our knowledge there are only three blogs that accurately fit the description of being “about the Duke lacrosse scandal,” none of which can fairly be described as right wing by even the widest definition of that term. While there are several blogs that have posted extensively on the Duke hoax, only Professor KC Johnson’s Durham in Wonderland, attorney Michael McCusker’s Crystal Mess, and this blog have been exclusively “about the Duke lacrosse scandal.” Although John in Carolina, The Johnsville News, William Anderson, LaShawn Barber, and others have blogged at length on the Hoax, describing their blogs as “about the Duke lacrosse scandal” cannot be considered either accurate or fair. With the exception of Durham in Wonderland, Crystal Mess, and LieStoppers, there does not appear to be another blog that has been created in response to the Hoax, which has posted at length on the Hoax.

In response to Rojstaczer’s false characterization of these blogs having a “severe right wing slant,” Professor Johnson notes:

“For the record, I am a centrist, quite partisan, Democrat, a strong supporter of the wall between church and state, abortion rights, and gay marriage. So if my perspective is "right wing," then I wonder what we'd characterize the 50% of the electorate who voted for George W. Bush.”

With content that would make Larry Flynt and Bob Guccione proud, McCusker’s blog used as an example of a right wing slant would make Jerry Falwell cuss. For our part, the only political ideology that we have expressed is an aversion to electioneering by District Attorney Mike Nifong. With the exception of promoting Anybody But Nifong, endorsing Democrat Lewis Cheek as the ABN candidate in opposition to Nifong, applauding the heroic efforts of Beth Brewer and her RN-VC campaign, and chastising Durham GOP chairman Steve Monks for his siphoning of votes to help Nifong’s election, we have been decidedly apolitical. It’s difficult to imagine how the body of work that we have constructed to date could be construed as having a severe right wing bent. In fact, the participants in this blog share no group-wide commonalities in political viewpoint. Rather, our political ideologies stretch from liberal through moderate to conservative, with a fair amount of indifference in between. With the exception of one member who appears determined to launch a Borat For President campaign, it would be fair to assess our political agenda as non-existent upon the conclusion of the local District Attorney’s race.

Specifically, Rojstaczer takes exception to these imagined loopy right wing Hoax blogs’ criticism of the Group of 88’s listening ad. Rojstaczer mistakenly implies that unnamed right wing blogs have been the only critics of the Group of 88’s statements, which it must be noted have not been limited to the one collective advertisement. Rojstaczer may be surprised to learn that criticism of the infamous listening ad has not come exclusively from those with a real, or imagined, severe right wing slant.

Professor KC Johnson presents the same point using himself as an example:
“My blog has probably been the most critical of the Group of 88, though it's unclear if it is among the "right wing blogs" criticized in this post.”
“I have been critical of the Group of 88 almost from the day they made their statement. At the time, I considered the statement a betrayal of the signatories’ duties as professors; I feel even more strongly on the issue now. These professors--as Wahneema Lubiano, the coordinator of the statement, admitted in an interview with ESPN--promoted their own personal and pedagogical agenda in such a way that they knew would harm their own institution's students.”
“I have continued to criticize the Group of 88 not because I wish to see them dismissed, but because Pres. Brodhead has consistently deferred to their demands. That two of the four Campus Culture Initiative subgroups are chaired by Group of 88 members and a third by a vitriolic critic of the team suggests to me a campus that has lost its way.”
For our part, criticism of the Group of 88, their listening ad, and their continued individual public statements has been limited primarily to exposing the group’s collective and singular efforts to advantage themselves, and promote their agendas at the expense of three demonstrably innocent young men. Ironically, this is the same accusation that Rojstaczer levels at his fictional loopy right wing targets, while absolving the 88 of the same offense he takes exception to. For Rojstaczer, the 88 are merely freely expressing their opinions. Yet critics, who factually refute Group of 88 statements and their opportunistic use of the plight of three wrongfully prosecuted Duke Three, are advancing agendas, according to Rojstaczer.

Compounding our frustration with Rojstaczer’s approval of the listening ad, he acknowledges his disagreement with the arguments made within the ad, but condones it despite the fact that arguments made within the ad, and again expressed by many of the signatories repeatedly from the date the ad appeared until today, are similar to those being used by Nifong apologists and the District Attorney himself to justify the continuation the Hoax. Rojstaczer argues that because the ad, in his opinion, does not express a presumption of guilt, it is acceptable.
“The right-wing bloggers may claim that the advertisement signed by the 88 faculty members and several departments assumes the lacrosse players are guilty of rape, but it doesn’t wash. The ad doesn’t presume guilt. Read the ad. The ad decries racism on campus. I don’t agree with the ad; Duke is a place where racism is not pervasive. I think the ad is loopy. But that ad does not presume guilt of any crime.
"Why obsess over the signatories to a loopy ad that is a sideshow in a scandal? If you’re a loopy right-winger, you try to use any wedge you can to move universities to the right. It’s not enough to argue for the innocence of three people; you have to use those three people to further your political objective. I note that most people who are supportive of the lacrosse players have been sensible enough to stay focused on the issue of their guilt or innocence. It’s only those on the fringe that are trying to demonize faculty for expressing their opinion. I don’t agree with that opinion. But I think those faculty members have every right to state it.

Flash forward many months, and you read some blogs from right-wingers decrying an ad signed by 88 faculty members. You finally get around to reading the ad. You think this ad paints a picture of a racist campus that just doesn’t bear any relation to reality. There are serious problems with Duke student culture, but this isn’t one of them. The ad does not presume guilt of any crime. It’s just a silly thing. You wonder what the fuss is about. And you realize that just as there is no substance to the ads claims of pervasive racism, there is no substance to the right wing blogs attack on the 88 faculty members. It’s hot air versus hot air.”
What Rojstaczer fails to note, and perhaps to understand, is how clearly the “sideshows,” such as the “loopy” listening ad, have contributed to, and enabled, the Hoax. Previously, Rojstaczer has noted:

“If these students are innocent, it's a tragedy that this happened to them and Duke owes them an apology.” an apology

It’s difficult to understand how Rojstaczer can recognize the tragedy that has befallen the Duke Three, suggest that Duke owes them an apology, and yet approve of the listening ad that contributed greatly to the false impression that the defendants were guilty of contributing to the racial divide that has been used as an excuse to promote, enable and justify their false prosecution.
Read More From the "Loopy Right Wingers" on the Group of 88:


Anonymous said...


The Democratic Party supported Nifong in his election, after all the problems and seeming illegalities were well known. Prior to that, Nifong was appointed by the Democratic Governor.

I think the Media had an agenda when they convicted these players immediately and portrayed them as identical, interchangable units - rather than 47 individuals with varied opinions and tendencies.

Did Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers, and the NAACP have an agenda?

How about the Group of 88? The professors that seemed to be harboring much ill will towards the players and were oh-so comfortable with sterotyping them - did they have an agenda?

How about the protesters and Pot-bangers and their never ending Midnight Vigils and sexual assault
awareness protests as they handed out pictures of an entire team to an angry mob and professed the certain guilt of these students.
When they were stoking the flames of hate - did they have an agenda?

I see it's all the Right winger's fault.

It beyond petty and irresponsible for Stuart Rojstaczer to put his pet political causes ahead of truth and justice. Frankly, it's scary that some people like Rojstaczer are so commited to his politics that he's willing to imprison innocent men for the rest of the natural born lives.

Anonymous said...


Is it any surprise that the people that stereotyped these players are now stereotyping their supporters?


Anonymous said...

It amazes me how anyone who speaks out about the Hoax is a right-winger. In most cases, that could not be further from the truth.

Cattily, I have to wonder about a former college professor who uses the word "loopy" that many times in one sitting.

Anonymous said...

This thing has nothing to do with left or right to me. It has everything to do with right and wrong. It is wrong to try people for crimes you know they didn't commit. And since this professor wants to make this into a political issue, he should go over to FreeRepublic and ask those right wingers who they supported in the election against Nifong. It wasn't Monk's. They want people to vote for Cheek, another democrat.

Anonymous said...

88 Duke profs signed a silly, loopy ad, and still stand behind it?



Anonymous said...

I am female, a Democrat, and could probably best be described as a "liberal" on most social issues. (I am pro-choice, and voted against a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in my state's last election.) I am also an experienced attorney. I have supported the Duke defendants, and been appalled by the slanderous statement of the "88," since I first reviewed the available evidence in this case. It was immediately apparent that there is no credible evidence that the Accuser was ever assaulted at the lacrosse party, either by the 3 defendants, or by anyone else. There is also no credible evidence that any of the 3 defendants ever engaged in racist behavior. The infamous "listening ad," with its reference to "what happened to this young woman" clearly presumed the lacrosse players' guilt. I am not a "loopy right-winger," nor am I "obsessed" with the "listening ad." However, I agree wholeheartedly with those who argue that the ad contributed to creating the lynch-mob mentality that characterized the public's early reaction to the Accuser's claims of rape. The Duke professors who signed that deplorable ad should be held accountable for their behavior, just as Nifong, and all the others who have played a role in creating this terrible miscarriage of justice, must be held accountable for their behavior.

Anonymous said...

This is classic cash michaels technique. He makes his points about the the absurdity of the 88 ad with his inside voice, but uses his bullhorn to rip the 88 attackers as right wing.

Sound familiar? This allows him to walk on the fence and when challenged, defend both positions so he gives the false impression of being fair.


kbp said...

The cloudy methods used to convey the message, as he interprets it, was hazey to any readers not in agreement with the Group's agenda when this stormy ad was published

"These students are shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman..."
What was the majority "shouting and whispering" at that time?

"If it turns out that these students are guilty..."
Why was that comment and how the word "guilty" applies here even included in the ad?

"Everything seems up for grabs--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 . . . What would be used against me--my clothing? Where I was?"
What was the "event" and what is the "something like this" that could happen to this person? A racial judgment based on the clothing worn maybe or was it how other would judge her if she was RAPED?

". . . 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."
Were they telling us that a victim, not enrolled at Duke, is the subject of their message?

"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."
What "has happened"? The "upscale" (now facing charges) getting away with rape?

"Duke isn’t really responding to this. Not really. And this, what has happened, is a disaster. This is a social disaster."
Same questions as above.

Was the text applying to possible guilt included merely to push their agenda in with the case? Possibly help draw support from ALL that thought the 3 were guilty also?

Considering what all of the media was reporting at the time this ad was published, how else could it have been taken?

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear! To the 9:46 poster.
Texas Mom
(mostly fiscally conservative/socially liberal and evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates)

Anonymous said...

On the site,, I have a blog "about the Duke Lacrosse case." Your blog seems to exclude me from your list of blogs which addresses the case. I am not sure whether this is oversight or whether you had a specific reason for excluding me in your analysis. Just wondering why I was excluded.

fortyquestions said...

I’m going to assume that I get my two cents since I am the subject of this blog. No, I didn't identify any particular blog as having a severe right-wing slant. The author of this blog does mention a few other blogs that have dwelled "at length on the Hoax" but considers it neither "accurate or fair" to identify them as being "about the Lacrosse scandal" (my quotes on the last phrase). This is semantics. I understand why he would want to distance himself from some of those blogs. I would too. Life is all about the company you keep. I'll make a change to my language and say: I've read blogs that have dwelled on the Duke lacrosse scandal that have a severe right-wing slant. Now we should be on the same page.

Now let's get back to real matters. The statement of this blog that, "because the ad, in his opinion, does not express a presumption of guilt, it is acceptable," is correct. It is more than acceptable. It is called free speech. You don't like the contents of the ad, fine. Neither do I. But it is not "faculty misconduct" to state an opinion.

The ad makes no presumption of guilt. It just doesn't. And the professors have every right to state their opinion.

There are many villains in this tragedy. The role of the ad in this tragedy is so minor that at best, those that dwell on it and its signatories are simply making a mountain out of a molehill.

For example, it has been stated here concerning Brodhead, “the gang of 88 saw his weakness and emasculated him.” No professors at Duke possess that kind of power, much less the “gang of 88.” The influence of those 88 professors on Brodhead and any of his substantive decisions has been non-existent. Brodhead’s decision making has been motivated by one thing and one thing only: cool, calculated self-interest. In a nutshell his actions have been to: do anything possible to get the story off the front page; cut your ties to anything that might keep it there. Ad or no ad, he was going to shove the lacrosse players under the bus.

Similarly, the ad had no influence with the DA’s office. Ad or no ad, Nifong was going to prosecute.

So what was the impact of this ad? Not much. It was just hot air.

If you fervently believe that the lacrosse players are innocent it's commendable to support their cause. If you want to identify real villains in this tragedy, please make sure they are people that matter that have behaved without integrity, not simply people with whom you don't agree. To its credit, this blog has in my view identified quite a few villains correctly. I don’t usually agree with the back-story as to why they are villains, but I agree with their identities. Its obsession with 88 professors is, however, off the mark.

If you disagree, that's fine. I'll agree to disagree. I've said my peace. I am grateful that at least so far this discussion has been civil.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of free speech, perhaps you can enlighten us on which blogs we should avoid. You know,"company we keep" and what not.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's badmouth blogs without naming them. How Nifongian.

The idea that the 88 ad does not presume guilt is laughable, and can only be explained by not reading the ad, imo.

Anonymous said...

4:00 poster. how do you feel about a professor that gives Reade Seligmann and (A) for his Philosophy course, then cuts him down in a Newsweek story. I will say that Mr. Rosenberg has no integrity.

Anonymous said...


Why are "right-wingers" who are trying to using this case to advance a politcal agenda "loopy"? While the gang of 88 whom you admit in your blog are left-wingers, teaching at a university you admit is left-wing elist, simply exercising their first amendment rights.

Are right wingers not afforded the same liberties to pursue agendas as left wingers without being loopy?

It seems that there are sufficient numbers of agenda pursuers on both sides muddying the water of the Duke 3 case. Why either would be more or less loopy from a centrist perspective is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

any which way you spin this, the facts do not lie:

The group of 88 acted without regard to the truth or facts to help crucify three young men...the bottom line is tha they did in fact BEHAVE WITHOUT INTEGRITY.

Anonymous said...

I learn a lot of information about this case from the blogs. I learn little from the MSM. I also read and it's good, but not limited to just the LAX case.

Anonymous said...

Yelling "Racist Rapist!" in Durham is about as dangerous as yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. I'm not sure that either is covered by Freedom of Speech.

LieStoppers said...


Your two cents are indeed welcome here and I'm pleased to see you make your deposit. I do not at all mind, agreeing to disagree either. I believe, however, that we need to expand that disagreement agreement beyond the opinion that opposition to the listening is solely motivated by a right wing agenda and the suggestion that the ad does not imply guilt while doing no harm to the accused.

Specifically, I'm having some difficulty understanding your characterization of this blog as being obsessed with the listening ad. Prior to this post, even casual reference to the Group of 88 appears in only 8 out of 266 posts, one of which was a guest submission. In fact, with the exception of our parody of the listening ad, we have yet to address the ad directly and in full. As far as my obsessions go, the listening ad and the Group of 88 hardly rates as a mild fixation.

Secondly, we have not, and will not, make any efforts to distance ourselves from the other blogs that have dwelled at length on the hoax. This blogs existence, and sole purpose, fits nicely with the blogs mentioned above. We are grateful for the time and effort that they have invested in chasing the same villains we hound. We're quite comfortable including each of them in the company we keep. I’m disappointed that you have chosen to misconstrue the distinction noted above in order to get your jabs in.

In any event, thank you for your kind words, the civil discourse, and, most importantly, for sharing your thoughts with all of us here.

Philip Wood

fortyquestions said...

Thank you Philip. Just a note that you need to fix whatever you’re using to do your arithmetic. Your attention to the awful 88 rates at least a mild obsession. I don’t want to do the gotcha thing. It’s probably just an honest mistake. Just recount the number of posts this blog mentioned those awful 88 from August until now, thank you. Cheers, Stuart

Anonymous said...

forty??s and other defenders of the group of 88,

Speaking as a Duke grad and as a father of a potential Duke matriculant I have to say the "wanted ad" was one of the most despicable aspects of this hoax. It was a cowardly act that I hardly think represents what campus free speech should be about. I have no problem with anyone criticizing campus life, campus culture, white male hegemony, or any other cause whether it is real or a simply a figment of one's imagination. I have a huge problem with faculty singling out a group of students for scorn without bothering to establishing the nexus to a violent crime that at the time was not even an established fact.

Anonymous said...


You are quite the moralist, you pontificate that the Duke student culture is steeped in debauchery, and then you follow that up with "Life is all about the company you keep."

I wonder how often you've taken moral stands and encouraged the University to make moral judgements - and the same goes for "the company that you keep." I'm sure your fellow professors support the University making value judgements in all areas. Have you taken a stance on Pornography or the Music videos of the Popular culture?
Have you ever voiced criticism of the debauchery of drunken, naked men at Gay Pride Parades?

I suspect the Duke case is the first time you've ever used the word debauchery in your life.

As far as "the company that you keep," have you stopped to think there's value in letting people express themselves freely - even when they don't agree with you? Especially when they don't agree with you?
It sounds like you are advocating a forum of discussion where only card carrying approved members can speak. Members who happen to think exactly like you.
Sounds like some haughty good ol' boys in pressed clothes to me. Someone who believes "life is all about the company that you keep," rather than someone that accepts other people and doesn't pressure them to only associate with those up to snuff. After all, that was the message and pressure your were sending Phil's way wasn't it?


Anonymous said...

Just for the record, as I look at colleges for my children, one of whom is a senior this year, the behavior of the faculty and administration at Duke is of paramount importance in assessing our interest in the college. It is more important than the rankings, educational opportunities, matriculation numbers to respected professional and graduate schools, school spirit, beauty of the campus, variety and taste of the food, recreational facilities, array of extracurricular activities, choices of majors, curriculum requirements, success of the sports teams, weather, proximity to home, proximity to the beach, study abroad programs, tuition costs, scholarship opportunities, comfort of dormitories, roomate selection process I making myself clear? The ad may be nothing but hot air to some; to me it defines the characters of those who signed it despite limited understanding of the facts and who have refused to retract its obvious and ugly implications now that much more is known.

Anonymous said...

40Q- instead of worring about your fellow professors over at Duke that you left, why don't you tell us about all the evidence that would lead you or any right thinking person to conclude that a rape happened at 610 on the night in question. Don't be so upset that loony liberal professors are being outed at Duke, it's just a bonus of the Hoax.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AMac said...

I find that the most valuable opinion pieces are those that start from premises I disagree with--and that fairly present the strongest arguments that the author is writing against.

In that regard, Dr. Rojstaczer's Hot Air vs. Hot Air blog post was a disappointment.

For example, Rojstaczer characterized the infamous lacrosse party in a gratuitously incorrect way, recounting that "A broom is used to threaten rape." 60 Minutes addressed this issue; exotic dancer Roberts specifically denied this interpretation.

Like many commenters and bloggers (notably including KC Johnson), my interest in the Duke Lacrosse Rape case does not stem from a mission of portraying the players as saints--the motive that Prof. Rojstaczer cavils against. I have no connection to either Duke or lacrosse. For that matter, I linked and quoted Rojstaczer's unflattering portrait of Duke's student culture in a 2004 Herald-Sun Op-Ed in the comments of Womens Studies Does Lacrosse, a recent D-i-W post (he offers an interesting perspective).

This hoax is unusual because of the clarity with which outsiders can assess the relevant facts. It also illuminates the behavior of many representatives of well-respected groups in a very harsh light. The Group of 88 and their allies among the Duke liberal arts faculty are prominent in that regard.

In his defense of the "Listening " ad, Dr. Rojstaczer repeatedly defends the signatories' Free Speech rights. This seems to be a straw man: beyond a handful of knuckleheaded anonymous commenters, who is proposing to restrict speech rights? If the remedy for bad speech is more speech, why would reasoned critiques of the 88's screed and their continued subscription to its indefensible smears fail to be equally deserving of a free-speech defense?