Too smart by half

January 19, 2007|By Kathleen Parker

When Woody Allen said, "The brain is the most overrated organ," he must have had in mind North Carolina's Research Triangle, home both to the scandalous Duke lacrosse team "rape" fiasco - and to more Ph.D.s per capita than just about anywhere else in America.

Rarely have so many smart people behaved so dumbly.

Last week, the case took yet a new turn when discredited District Attorney Michael B. Nifong, under pressure from the state prosecutors association, relinquished the case to the state attorney general.

In another development, the stripper who initially claimed she was beaten, raped and sodomized by three Duke University lacrosse team players has changed her story.

Again.

This time, she says one of the players, Reade Seligmann, didn't participate in the alleged assault after all, though she still insists he was there when the others did. She also changed the time of the alleged assault so that it no longer coincides with time-stamped receipts Mr. Seligmann produced months ago indicating that he wasn't at the party house when the incident supposedly took place.

Mr. Nifong dropped the rape charges but intended to pursue the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. And so it has gone for almost a year now. A new day, a new story.

Of all the questions still unanswered in this shameful saga, among the most perplexing is: How did so many smart people allow things to reach the level of hysteria we've witnessed in the past several months?

The answer is implicit in the question. University communities are fertile breeding grounds for the totalitarian mindset known as political correctness.

Between a perverse form of liberation feminism that sanctifies strippers, prostitutes and porn stars, and a dogma of victimology that places blame for all things at the feet of the white patriarchy, the players were instantaneously presumed guilty by virtue of their being white males and privileged jocks.

By the same reasoning, the dancer was ensured victimhood by her status as a black single mother/student, reduced by centuries of white-male oppression to stripping for food and tuition.

The past year has not been exemplary for the keepers of the flame. Before any charges were brought against the three players, students produced a "wanted" poster with photos of team members and demonstrated with signs reading, "It's Sunday morning, time to confess."

Higher up the food chain, Duke faculty formed the "Group of 88" - a coalition of 88 faculty members representing 13 departments - and ran an ad demanding that the lacrosse players confess.

It's been quite a spectacle. It also has been a damning indictment of an intellectually dishonest culture that pretends to the virtue of enlightened tolerance, but only for a select few.

In a March 2006 letter to the Duke administration just days after the alleged rape, English professor Houston A. Baker Jr. brought clarity to the anti-white-male, anti-jock bias that is today entrenched on many college campuses. It reads in part: "How many more people of color must fall victim to violent, white, male, athletic privilege before coaches who make Chevrolet and American Express commercials, athletic directors who engage in Miss Ophelia-styled `perfectly horrible' rhetoric, higher administrators who are salaried at least in part to keep us safe, and publicists who are supposed not to praise Caesar but to damn the unconscionable ... how many?"

To Duke's credit, Provost Peter Lange responded to Mr. Houston with an eloquent reprimand against prejudgment.

Under pressure from feminist groups, college administrators long have sponsored lectures about date rape and sexual harassment, directed at young males, all of whom are presumed to be potential predators. In light of events at Duke, they might consider adding a new seminar to the roster: one to review the rules of due process, the evil of mob rule, and the art of apology.

They might invite their faculties to attend.

Kathleen Parker's syndicated column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Sun. Her e-mail address is kparker@kparker.com.

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