Feminism, the Duke Rape Hoax, and Searching for Empathy

A reader reminds us that “looking at the other’s point of view” can be difficult even for those who call for it publicly.

EDITORS NOTE: This was sent to us by email. The sender agreed we could publish it, but asked to remain anonymous.

The post — and the variety of responses — gets at a lot of the issues we talk about here: 1) goodness and why it’s important, 2) men’s portrayal in the media 3) empathy and what it actually looks like in real life, 4) the difference between criticism and attacks, 5) what is “privilege” and what is the difference between male vs. female privilege. Is there an inherent, systematic approach to “protect” women over men and can that be seen as privilege? 6) The way in which intentions get misconstrued in the media.

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UPDATE: We have been in contact with Amanda Marcotte by email, and she asked us to put in the following statement: “I do not support Mike Nifong’s choices in this case and wish generally that rape cases could be handled with due process instead of tried by a public that has politicized what should be a matter for the criminal justice system. Any suggestion that I feel any way about this case outside of that is false.”

 

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Thomas,

The discussion you had on Twitter that was posted to the Good Men Project featured the following exchange:

TMatlack: WTF. So the only way to be a “good” man is to imagine how hard it is to be a woman? What a crock of shit.

AmandaMarcotte: Imagining the POV of someone you’re in conflict with is bare minimum of being a good person, yes.

I thought this exchange was darkly comical, at minimum, because of the acerbic tone Marcotte’s writing at Pandagon has always had. If compiling a list of pundits who were adept at imagining the point of view of their ideological opponents, Marcotte’s name wouldn’t leap to the top.

In particular, her coverage of the Duke Rape hoax was extreme, and led to her “resigning” from blogging officially for John Edwards’ presidential campaign. From Wikipedia:

Statements on Duke Lacrosse Case

Reason contributing editor Cathy Young has described Marcotte as a “leader of the cyber-lynch mob in the Duke University rape hoax“. In “Marcotte’s eyes, the real crime of the independent feminists is helping preserve the idea that the presumption of innocence applies even in cases of rape and sexual assault.”[25]

Marcotte declared on her blog that people who defended the accused Duke students were “rape-loving scum”.[26]Time reported that in “late January, more ethics charges were heaped on the District Attorney in the Duke University sexual-assault case, and Marcotte attacked the news with her usual swagger and sarcasm:”[27]

I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will—not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.[28][29]

The New York Times[30] and others[31][32][33][34][35][36] made so much “hay” over what she wrote that she ended up deleting the post entirely.[37] In an article that she wrote for Salon, she referred to this as the first in a series of “shitstorms” that caused her to resign from the John Edwards campaign

Brooklyn college history professor K.C. Johnson’s blog Durham in Wonderland is the most detailed record of the Duke Rape hoax, written as events unfolded and summarized afterwards. If you’re unfamiliar, the short of it is a district attorney named Mike Nifong who was seeking reelection exploited the racial tension in Durham to win the black vote and his reelection, and pushed ahead with the prosecution of a rape accusation that evidence did not support. The end result was Nifong’s disbarment and criminal conviction along with the Attorney General of North Carolina declaring the accused Duke Lacrosse players innocent of the charges against them (not not guilty, but actually innocent).

Some of the ethical violations by Nifong and the Durham police department were inexcusable. The alleged rape was said to have occurred at a party thrown by the Duke lacrosse team, at which both the accuser and nearly all of the lacrosse team were present. The line-ups used by Durham police featured only Duke lacrosse players, eliminating any realistic chance of a false positive when the accuser was asked to identify the particular Duke lacrosse players involved. Perhaps worse (certainly so in the eyes of the North Carolina State Bar) Nifong made pubic statements to the media that he had DNA evidence placing the specific lacrosse players accused at the scene of the crime, which not only was an outright lie, but Nifong delayed releasing the full results of the DNA testing performed by the Durham police that would have helped exonerate the defendants.

When Nifong asked the state attorney general’s office and the Administrative Office of the Courts to pay his legal fees and help defend him against the civil suit that followed, both offices refused on the grounds that Nifong’s actions involved “fraud, corruption (and) malice.”

In Marcotte’s eyes, and by her own words, anyone who took issue with the unethical and criminal actions of Nifong as the case unfolded and it became more and more apparent Nifong was a menace, was “rape-loving scum.” I and many others must live in a fantasy land where neither rape, removing the burden of proof from the state, convicting people of crimes they did not commit, nor police and prosecutor misconduct are considered acceptable. It’s a shame Marcotte seems incapable of “imagining this point of view” and can only frame people into one of two polarizing, opposing camps.

If you cross paths in the future, do me a favor and ask her if she believes herself to be a good person.

Best,

R.F.

 

photo by vance holmes

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Comments

  1. Good piece, but I don’t know whether it should’ve been an article.

    Not because it’s Anonymous or anything, but really because 1. it doesn’t say much that isn’t mostly common knowledge to anyone who knows anything about Amanda Marcotte and 2. it does seem to only have significane due to the Twitter spat, so looks slightly vendetta-ish. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the general thrust, and don’t think imagining the other person’s POV is something AM is good at.

    As far as it being Anonymous, meh. No more awful than Feminist snipe and snark pile-ons that regularly occur in cyberspace, usually when somebody says something that is JUST… OMG… SO AWFUL….WOW

  2. I have a post in moderation.
    Maybe because of links?

  3. Above It All says:

    I still like TGMP even though I’m banned. Keep up the good work.

  4. “UPDATE: We have been in contact with Amanda Marcotte by email, and she asked us to put in the following statement: “I do not support Mike Nifong’s choices in this case and wish generally that rape cases could be handled with due process instead of tried by a public that has politicized what should be a matter for the criminal justice system. Any suggestion that I feel any way about this case outside of that is false.””

    Hindsight is 20/20 Amanda you might believe that now but you didn’t then. And despite your insults against anyone who disagreed with you at the time you are still yet to apologise. For all your talk of civility or empathy it is clear that you are in no position to judge. Maybe if you apologised 4 years ago you would have some semblance of ethical standards. In reading your work that others have brought up it is clear you are still the same person you were then. I don’t know what you can argue that would justify a retraction.

    Amanda you wrote about tom from a position of ethical superiority, you demanded of tom what you don’t demand of your self. Here he is now simply showing that just as you claimed he wasn’t showing empathy it is clear that you don’t either. How is it possible to have a civil discussion when your side is demanding of tom and all participants to adhere to your own philosophic standpoint when it is clear that your side is not perfect yourself. Publishing this anonymous article may seem petty to you Amanda but if anything here is clear. tom simply learnt this from you.

  5. here is dee dennis and marcottes response to this article from twitter.
    “Dee Dennis
    @TMatlack @lisahickey You published attacks by @AmandaMarcotte @hugoschwyzer. Not anonymous emails. Understand the difference?”

    “Amanda Marcotte
    @DeeDennis Not even attacks. Criticisms, based in truth. Not childish revenge”

    Does anonymity mean this article is wrong or unfair?
    Is Amanda claiming this article isn’t true? Is she claiming that she herself is completely innocent of “attacking”?

    The lack of self awareness from Amanda marcotte is staggering. The amount of grandstanding and inability to take responsibility for ones own actions that she indulges in boggles my mind.

  6. Chuck Rudd says:

    Point blank, nuts and bolt: it would be nice if Marcotte explained her past statements pertaining to the Duke case and where she was coming from. If she can’t admit when shes wrong or take an introspective look, then why should anyone trust her as a writer or thinker? That she’s unwilling to do that is indicative of *something*.

    • Yeah. It’s indicative of the fact that like any other intelligent person, she avoids cowards and haters. If you think these sorts of anonymous attacks make you look good, you have another thing coming.

      • “Yeah. It’s indicative of the fact that like any other intelligent person, she avoids cowards and haters. If you think these sorts of anonymous attacks make you look good, you have another thing coming.”

        Nice ad hom. But i am afraid i have seen Amanda many times avoid the brave and intelligent. She isn’t the intellectual she likes to present herself as unfortunately.

    • DavidByron says:

      It’s indicative of something but it might just be indicative of her feeling embarrassed at getting such a high profile case so very badly wrong. That would be pretty normal human reaction I think. I mean if you screwed up so badly for so long and so publicly – and didn’t it cost her her job or something? would you really like to have it brought up again?

      OTOH I don’t think she ever did admit fault before. I guess in the feminist world there’s never any need to admit fault. So this brief comment by her is “new”.

  7. Congratulations, “Good Men Project”, on taking the phrase “Good Men”, and lowering its market value bit by bit! You’re proof that capitalism really works, or something like that.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      We have said since we started that “good” cannot really be defined. That all we can do is continue to have the conversation — collectively — about how moral decisions get made, and how those get perceived, and then individually form our own opinion about right and wrong and take actions.

      It is a conversation worth having. You can certainly choose not to be a part of it.

      • Anonymous hit pieces aren’t a conversation. They’re attempts at character assassination.

        • Like anonymous whistle blowers?
          It is character assassination if it were false.

          • Here you fail to distinguish between whistle-blowers, (people within an organization who make public information that the organization wishes to keep secret), and character assassins (people who make public information in order to attack a person’s character). This failure to distinguish between whistle-blowers, who may have good reasons for wishing to remain anonymous, and character assassins, makes your argument seem quite foolish and naive.

            • “(people who make public information in order to attack a person’s character). This failure to distinguish between whistle-blowers, who may have good reasons for wishing to remain anonymous, and character assassins, makes your argument seem quite foolish and naive.”

              If you mean holding amanda to the same standards she demands of tom “character assinantion” then sure. But there is a very good reason why this person would like to remain anonymous. If the person was a feminist on a notable site if she were to reveal herself she would likely get attacked by amandas supporters.

              Why though is someone providing evidence that she is hardly the paragon of virtue she presents herself character assignation? She made character a point in her argument with tom. If you hold yourself to a be person of high character as she did then its quite obvious someone will attempt to find evidence against it.

            • sterling defence leta, i completely agree with you

            • Please focus on the issue that Amanda Marcotte held the accused in Duke rape case guilty at many instances on her blog. Please refute it if you think whatever has been written is factually incorrect. Don’t hide behind the excuses like malicious intention of annonymous author or the facade of Miss Marcotte’s courage and intelligence.

        • If the article is wrong you are free to present evidence but you are tarnishing the name of atheists to argue that we should ignore evidence if its provided anonymously.

        • DavidByron says:

          Has Marcotte ever admitted fault on this case before?
          If she had not then this was actually a pretty useful article, don’t you think?

        • Michael Rowe says:

          In order for it to be “character assassination” it has to be untrue. If it’s true, then the “character” is on its own.

    • J.G. te Molder says:

      Congratulations Atheist, for taking the good name of Atheist and dragging it through the mud by exchanging one religion for another, and not even noticing you did.

  8. atheist,

    “Yeah. It’s indicative of the fact that like any other intelligent person, she avoids cowards and haters. If you think these sorts of anonymous attacks make you look good, you have another thing coming.”

    This is one of the most pointless, if not common, arguments I see made on the internet. It doesn’t matter if the author of this piece is anonymous. What matters is whether this account and the analysis is true. It could have been written by anyone – it doesn’t really matter if a name is attached to it or not.

    “This failure to distinguish between whistle-blowers, who may have good reasons for wishing to remain anonymous, and character assassins, makes your argument seem quite foolish and naive.”

    You want to talk character assination? We wouldn’t be having this conversation if Marcotte had not taken part in the character assination of the Duke lacrosse players in the first place.

  9. Wirbelwind says:

    It’s obvious that Amanda loves double standards and is so gynocentric that her hurt feelings are more important to her than lives of three men.

  10. I must admit, I’ve been skeptical and outright attacked the Good Men Project many times before, but this article is a big step in the right direction. It’s nice to finally see a semblance of balance here.

    I’ll note, however, that Marcotte was allowed to visibly dispute the article over the top of it, while in the case of the various anti-MRA hit pieces published here in the past no such opportunity was afforded.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Presumably because she asked.

    • DavidByron says:

      Yep. Lisa would have published MRA rebuttals I am sure.
      In fact why don’t you try to find an anti-MRA hit piece and see?

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        Absolutely DavidByron and forweg. DB, just so you know, forweg is referring to a series we ran last February. We had other editors in charge of the series (no excuse, just explaining), and we ran MRA articles and Feminist articles at the same time — but didn’t tell the MRA’s there was going to be a feminist counter-attack. It was wrong, and if I hadn’t publicly apologized for it, I am doing so now. We did take a lot of heat for it at the time, and I got called a “lying feminist scum” in the process. (Google my name and that phrase and see what pops up). I don’t actually care about the name-calling, as much as the reason for the name calling — that is, perhaps there are valid underlying reasons for that perception. So I honestly needed time to regroup, think through the issues and — a big part of what we’re doing here is saying — can we really look at the issues of men from all sides, in a way that is respectful to all sides. Perhaps not, but I’m damn well going to try.

        Forweg, feel free to contact me at any time. lisa at goodmenproject dot com. I’m already in contact with j.g. molder about writing for us.

        • I appreciate the offer, Lisa. However, my words are so filled with an unavoidable degree of anti-feminist vitriol that TGMP may not be the best venue for them. Still, it is something to consider down the road.

  11. Peter Houlihan says:

    Why do I get the feeling that Marcott’s comment should be preceeded with “My attorney has advised me to say that…”

    What she owes is an apology. The statement she made directly contradicts her blog entries that she deleted, but she hasn’t retracted them, or actually stated that they were a mistake. Calling any suggestion that she meant what she wrote “false” doesn’t cut it. If she wants to distance herself from her misandry she needs to come out, publicly, admit that she was wrong and apologise to the people she hurt. Memory holes only work in totalitarian states.

    • Michael Rowe says:

      Sorry, confused–did she, or did she not, help to help fan the fury “the public” she mentions above, as though she wasn’t part of it, with incendiary excoriations like labelling anyone who dared either support for Duke lacrosse players, or question the facts of the case as “rape-loving scum,” thereby “politiciz[ing] what should be a matter for the criminal justice system?” And did she, or did she not, use those three young men to polish her “brand” and curry favour among her rabid fan-base?

      • Michael

        If you are worried about her opinions and blogging around Duke – you won’t believe what she has to say on Capital Punishment in Texas! The language is just “SO” shocking…..

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/13/rick-perry-execution-texas

        • Michael Rowe says:

          Ms. Marcotte is 100% right in this piece on Rick Perry and the death penalty in the Guardian. I wouldn’t have changed one word, and I would have been proud to author it myself.

          • I was just struck by the difference in language and tone when compared top other pieces by the author. !

            It’s a shocking contrast with other pieces she has written. She even identifies herself with being “non-barbaric” and concerned for innocent people subject to improper Justice and Blood Lust and all due to political corruption and pandering to the masses!

            It was so striking I had to check many times before I could believe it was the same person!

            • Michael Rowe says:

              I agree. The Guardian is a reputable site associated with a serious newspaper, not some ranting personal blog. She isn’t going to get away with editorializing that anyone who doesn’t share her view is “rape loving scum” on the Guardian.

            • “I agree. The Guardian is a reputable site associated with a serious newspaper, not some ranting personal blog. She isn’t going to get away with editorializing that anyone who doesn’t share her view is “rape loving scum” on the Guardian.”

              I almost choked when a read that… in general I suppose its true but there is a fair amount of crap that gets through.

  12. This outright denigration of feminists as a group is wrong in that its not productive. I disagree with a lot of what feminists say and do but its much more important to focus on the ideas and beliefs that individual feminists hold rather trying to paint them all as a united front. There are reasonable and rational people who call themselves feminists, in any debate its best to at least try and appeal to these feminists. In the long run being rational and reasonable works and arguing in the way amanda marcotte does, will not work.

    • Feminists as a united group push bills that discriminate against male victims of domestic violence, divorced fathers and men falsely accused of crimes against women.

      In this respect, from a legal advocacy standpoint they are a “united front”, a front for legal and political activities that discriminate against men and boys.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    For a good source on the Duke lax hoax, see K. C. Johnson’s Durham-in-Wonderland. He covers the legal aspects, the media attention, the morons of the Group of 88, the following lawsuits.
    It was also amusing to read the feminist sites as the case went along. I did, with some effort. Never found one that said, “Thank God she wasn’t raped.” Crystal Mangum was cannon fodder for the feminists.
    But few of the feminist sites, bloggers as well as commenters, were willing to let the thing die. No matter how clear the issues were, the guys were all assholes. But, as I said earlier, Katie Rouse was a “Who?”

    I quit dealing with feminist sites when I had one too many instances of having what I said twisted into something stupid and then the commenters acting as if I had actually said it. Meanspirited doesn’t begin to describe it.

  14. Wirbelwind says:

    Rebecca Watson, Elevator Guy and Richard Dawkin’s reponse (and following it feminist man-bashing, twisting his and EG’s intentions) is a good example of bad will on some feminists’ side. As far as I can tell it’s quite often in feminist spaces.

  15. I’ve read someone describe this type of imbroglio as the “anesthetic of familiarity”. When it appears that there exists a larger overriding purpose to a held belief system, and one continues to surrounds themselves with those of similar belief, that belief bath acts as an anesthetic towards peripheral concerns of justice and morality. The only antidote I know of is a continuous self-checking against held premises. A very difficult/costly and consuming thing to be sure – which is why we all fall prey from time to time.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    elissa. Bless you for your charity. My view is that concerns of justice and morality are useful when the one side can be made to abide by them. The other side never had the slightest intention of being inconvienced by them. See Alinsky.
    The other side doesn’t need anesthesia. Never did.

  17. Aldebaran says:

    I understand taking exception with the words of an individual based on other statements they have made on the public record, but this anonymous post does very little to illuminate whether being able to make reference with “the others” point of view is an essential characteristic of a good person or man.

    It seems to me that it is.

    There is no doubt that relationships between men and women on this earth are going to be emotionally charged (which is not a bad thing, strictly speaking), but sometimes when the atmosphere is charged, there can be an appearance that going after the record of a person instead of the statement they made is actually a way of dismissing (or at least blunting the force of) the statement itself.

    Because while this is interesting, I find it wholly unsurprising that people are both complex and contradictory (especially those who have been on the public record for any given period of time). What is more uncommon, however, are examples of people who suggest that while they don’t like a particular person, or think highly of them, that they appreciated a particular statement that particular person made and found it instructive.

    • Aldebaran what was happening to tom was a dynamic of people telling him he was privileged he made generalizations and assumption and lacked empathy. They were talking to him as if he was a child.

      “AmandaMarcotte: Imagining the POV of someone you’re in conflict with is bare minimum of being a good person, yes.”

      With the context of the article it is clear that amanda is not perfect and she often lacks empathy. For her to lecture tom about how the bare minimum of being a good person is to see others pov is silly. If she had said something like:
      “i have been caught out on ocasions lacking empathy with people i was in conflict with and i didn’t notice it was happening until it was too late. ” .

      She didn’t though. If we were to take minimum of empathy being required to be a good person it is clear amanda isn’t a good person. It is clear that she was lacking empathy for tom. She saw him make a mistake that is similar to the mistakes she had made. Instead of seeing the point of view of tom she saw it as a chance to lecture tom and take the high moral ground.

      What this article demonstrates is that we all make mistakes. It shows amanda doesn’t have the high moral ground. If we only hold the other side to a standard and refuse to hold ourselves to that standard like amanda did here, empathy gets lost. Communication becomes impossible. We end up arguing past each other instead of listening. You can’t have rational debate without integrity. You can’t learn anything if you believe you are never wrong. Tom is willing to admit he made mistakes that can’t be said about amanda. This article is a chance to change that dynamic for both sides to see each other as human.

  18. “wish generally that rape cases could be handled with due process instead of tried by a public”

    Oh, this is just effin’ ironic, after her blog posts about the Duke case! How dare she now come out in favor of people NOT being tried on the internet, when that is exactly what she did!?

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      I think she means she wishes accusers didn’t have to face so much media scrutiny.

      • J.G. te Molder says:

        Even less?

        They should have a lot more scrutiny, media or otherwise.

        The only times accusers get media scrutiny, is when the police, prosecution, or defense have either proven they are lying, or shown their trustworthiness to be so low it’s a safe bet they are lying.

  19. For the people who are Flipping The Fuck Out over this being submitted by an anonymous person.

    How much difference would it make if it were from a named source?

    • Wirbelwind says:

      Well, Amanda’s friends would be able to send hate mail easily and start with shaming the author, claiming he is privileged etc.

  20. UPDATE: We have been in contact with Amanda Marcotte by email, and she asked us to put in the following statement: “I do not support Mike Nifong’s choices in this case and wish generally that rape cases could be handled with due process instead of tried by a public that has politicized what should be a matter for the criminal justice system. Any suggestion that I feel any way about this case outside of that is false.”
    Oh don’t get this twisted. Nifong was an overly ambitious attorney that was trying to make a name for himself with a big rape conviction (which says a lot about race and gender relations that such a case can be used this way). That doesn’t make his actions okay of course but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that he distancing herself from him makes her smell like roses again.

    If Amanda was all about the due process instead of public opinion then why in the world did she call for blood but then go total silent when Mangum’s story fell apart (and from what I hear she even deleted all her postings on the story that predate her finding out the truth)? Someone that’s all about due process would have at least given those guys a fair shot to defend themselves against the charges instead of calling guilty as soon as the story broke.

  21. just for the record- “Crystal Mangum, 34, was sentenced to between 14 years and 18 years in prison after a jury reached a verdict after six hours of deliberations.” for murdering her boyfriend…
    http://tracking.si.com/2013/11/22/duke-lacrosse-accuser-found-guilty-of-murder/

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