March 10, 2014
A major theme of my Duke lacrosse blog has been the almost complete lack of accountability for statements and judgments on the case made by academics and journalists. Duke’s trustees awarded the institution’s feckless president, Richard Brodhead, another five-year term. No fewer than four members of the Group of 88–the faculty who rushed to judgment in a guilt-presuming ad–left Duke for more prestigious positions at other schools. (The most recent such announcement came a mere two weeks ago.) Imagine the fate of professors in the politically correct academy who had rushed to judgment against more favored groups on campus.
The media experience was similar. Selena Roberts, the sports columnist who drove much of the Times‘ guilt-presuming message, was hired away by Sports Illustrated. (Roberts, for those with short memories, compared members of the lacrosse team–“a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings”–to “drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.”) And Duff Wilson, the chief reporter for the Times’ hilariously one-sided news coverage, went on to become associate editor for Reuters’ global enterprise unit–and, almost incredibly, an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of Journalism, where he’ll have the opportunity to influence the next generation of journalists.
But a lack of accountability for politically correct campus-related reporting is hardly confined to the Duke lacrosse case. Take, for instance, the case of Katie Baker. A few months ago, I critiqued Baker’s odd Newsweek reporting about one of the earliest California legislative efforts to weaken campus due process. In her article (a hard-news piece, not an op-ed), Baker repeatedly described accusers as “sexual assault survivors” or the “victim”–suggesting that she believes that the mere filing of a complaint indicates that a rape occurred. She also passed along, without critical comment, a highly controversial Justice Department claim that college women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the rest of the population. Skepticism about what the government says doesn’t appear to be Baker’s forte.
It turns out that the presentation in the Newsweek piece reflected Baker’s basic beliefs about due process and sexual assault. She had come to Newsweek from Jezebel, where she labeled the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto as a “prolific woman-hating troll.” (Those in the reality-based community on this issue know Taranto as author of perhaps the single best exposé of the effects of a lack of due process on campus, in his column about Auburn.) For good measure, Baker described Taranto as a “cockroach,” and added–in all caps–“HE IS THE WORST.”
Reflecting her commitment to open intellectual exchange, Baker announced that she was “not interested in engaging with Taranto.”
Despite (or, perhaps, because of?) this record, Baker has just been hired by BuzzFeed. Her task will be “to cover criminal justice and other legal and social issues related to college campuses,” and assisting another reporter in the publication’s “rape culture coverage.”
Due process, it seems, be damned.