Phi Beta Cons

Noxious Theorizing

One of the worst aspects of the Duke horror is how it has brought out all these academic experts wielding their “theories” of race, gender, and class, and acting as if they have some deep-rooted understanding of the case unavailable to the average citizen.  Not only are these analyses spurious but they take the focus off the specifics of the situation into some meta-reality where these forces operate independent of facts.  So it was in the Tawana Brawley hoax years ago, when some experts excused the dreadful ordeal of the man she falsely accused because the mistreatment she claimed she had received from him was supposedly typical of how black women have suffered at the hands of white men in the past.  Likewise now, the imagined scenario of privileged white boys humiliating and assaulting a poor young black woman has taken on a life of its own, a life that stands to survive even the likely exoneration of the three defendants.  In addition, some students and other onlookers are relishing the whole thing as a form of racial revenge, a blameworthy attitude to which they would probably not admit in the absence of the kind of popularized academic theorizing that has encouraged it, explicitly or implicitly.   
The main way the modern theories of “race, gender, and class” figured in the case is that Nifong saw an opportunity to take meretricious advantage of politically correct sensitivities on those issues and to forego the demands of justice and the rule of law.  The faculty and their insinuating ads, blowing up the situation into a generalized experience of discimination, exploitation, and inequality before the facts were in, force us to see how elemental aspects of our civic culture, like the presumption of innocence, are being displaced by generalized theories based on politicized group analysis.  It’s ironic too, because it used to be liberals, in such plays and films as Twelve Angry Men, who were eager to expose how bias and cultural prejudices interfered with the proper handling of legal cases.  Perhaps one day someone can make an instructive play about this case, and make people not only see but feel the noxiousness of theories divorced from life. 

The Latest