Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« Nuclear Iran | Main | Betting on the Duke lacrosse DNA tests »

April 10, 2006

David Brooks on the Duke lacrosse gang rape

Don't look now, but David Brooks is trying to be Charles Krauthammer again. Prepare to cringe as Bobo addresses the heretofore unappreciated moral dimension of the gang rape a black stripper by Duke University lacrosse players:

If you wander through the thicket of commentary that already surrounds the Duke lacrosse scandal, the first thing you notice is how sociological it is. In almost every article and piece of commentary, the event is portrayed not as a crime between individuals but as a clash between classes, races and sexes.

Why might that be? Amanda hazards a guess:

That might be because the rapists were making jokes about slavery and picking cotton to the victim, which is to say reminding her of their racial privilege by referencing the history that created it.

According to Brooks, liberals are just hung up on the hate part the hate crime. It's part of our relativist permissivism, or something.

Sure, white college athletes attacked black strippers, but it could have gone either way! If only we understood that, Brooks maintains, we wouldn't fixate the sociological details. We'd blame raunch culture and move along...

You would say that the person who felt free to send this message to his buddies had crashed through several moral guardrails. You would surmise that his character had been corroded by shock jocks and raunch culture and that he’d entered a nihilistic moral universe where young men entertain each other with bravura displays of immoralism. A community so degraded, you might surmise, is not a long way from actual sexual assault.

You would then ask questions very different from the sociological ones: How have these young men slipped into depravity? Why have they not developed sufficient character to restrain their baser impulses?

I don't like to throw the word "stupid" around lightly, but Brooks is straining charity to its limits.

There is no conflict between the sociological descriptions and moral condemnation. Unchecked privilege destroys character. Power corrupts. The Duke lacrosse players somehow got the idea that their whims were more important than other people's human rights. Perhaps they weren't accustomed to being held accountable for their actions. Maybe these young men had already learned that society would be much more tolerant of their bullshit when they targeted the weak and the marginalized. Most likely they believed that rich white male athletes were God's gift to the universe and that the rules didn't apply to them. I wonder where they got that idea.

We have a moral duty to stop parents, teachers, coaches, school administrators, college students, editorial columnists and anyone else who promulgates these soul-destroying lies. Ultimately, that's why feminism, civil rights, and class-consciousness matter so much. Unfortunately, David Brooks isn't prepared to grapple with the moral implications of the sociological facts.

Update: Read Brooks' whole column with commentary from Jill. Brooklynite tackles David Brooks' muddled-headed nostalgia for the sexual mores of yore.

Read the Probable Cause Affidavit against the three Duke players.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference David Brooks on the Duke lacrosse gang rape:

» Semantic quibbles #2: Virtue Ethics from Geekery Today
I dont have much of anything useful to say about the Duke Lacrosse team rape case today. For news and commentary Id suggest Justice 4... [Read More]


This is what happens when you base your conception of human sexuality on Tom Wolfe novels...

Plenty of white men — athletes, even! — manage to get through their college years without gang-raping black women. So maybe there's something beyond "racial privilege" going on here. Something like the lack of character (to put it mildly) that Brooks describes.

Additionally, it seems to me that in our society, it's possible for black as well as white athletes to end up thinking they're "God's gift to the universe and that the rules didn't apply to them".

I note Brooks refers to the accuseds' 'baser instincts', apparently invoking the doctrine of original sin.

By describing the faternity members' actions as natural and instinctive, Brooks can excuse himself, people like him and the society they have constructed from any complicity in what happened that night at Duke and at the same time validate their Christian morality.


The doctrine of original sin can be very handy when it comes to washing your hands of responsibility for embarassing social faux-pas.

Would it not be wise to wait and see if there's any evidence of a crime? And if so, the specific criminals.

Too often when rape is cried people, especially liberals, always assume guilt on the accused. It's sort of like Nazi Hunters Wiesenthal and Wiesel who accused many low level German soldiers of war crimes that they were later shown never to have been a part of. Their whoops nevr made news like their baselesss accusations did.

Perhaps a more interesting sociologocal phenomenon would be the study of how many rape charges are never proved? While we all hear, in the media, that 'most rapes are never reported', this assertion is never backed up, just like the claims that the death penalty does not deter a future murderer, although, if the crime is never done, nor reported, how can any claim like this ever be made. There have been, however, many men released from prison when their accusers were shown to be wrong or liars, via DNA evidence.

The left is quick to tout death penalty inmates whose guilt is absolved, but even more wrongly accused rapists have been let go that wrongly accused murderers.

Again, wait for any evidence, and if Joe Blow and Steve Smiley are guilty, then analyze them, rather than a whole team made od individuals none of us know a whit about, except they like to run around with little nets on the ends of sticks.

--Prepare to cringe as Bobo addresses the heretofore unappreciated moral dimension of the gang rape a black stripper by Duke University lacrosse players--

Neither you nor I have the slightest idea whether a rape took place, or if it did take place, who it was that did it.

Posting the comment you did is 100% wrong. And its not liberal either.

It's not surprising that Brooks or anyone else doesn't want to face the corrosive effects of lionizing male athletes. In my view, racism was ancillary (though real, and very ugly) to the real problem of misogyny. The best thing I've read on this is from USAToday, yep, it's true:

And I'm not prejudging whether anybody let alone a specific individual is guilty. Clearly, this woman was threatened and humiliated. Why isn't that sufficient to make people angry?

Clearly, people are presuming guilt based upon zero evidence, on the day when the DNA evidence is supposedly to arrive.

That's libel in the part of Brooklyn I'm from. Why isn't that sufficient to make people angry?

And I'm not prejudging whether anybody let alone a specific individual is guilty. Clearly, this woman was threatened and humiliated. Why isn't that sufficient to make people angry?

Indeed, and there is also the troubling matter of the email in which one of the players (in a sick attempt at humor, one hopes) discussed plans to cut the skin off still other women. Even if the players are not found guilty of rape, that email still speaks volumes about his character.

Additionally, the resignation of the lacrosse coach does not bode well for the accused players' innocence. If I were a student athlete accused of a crime I didn't commit, I'd hope my coach would stick up for me and help me fight through the charges. Instead, the Duke coach has quit his job. What does he know that we don't?

"Clearly, people are presuming guilt based upon zero evidence, on the day when the DNA evidence is supposedly to arrive.

That's libel in the part of Brooklyn I'm from. Why isn't that sufficient to make people angry?"

I wouldn't call it "zero evidence". It is virtually certain that a rape took place. It is very likely that it was members of the Duke lacrosse team.

If the players want to sue for libel, they can go right ahead. Let's see how many open themselves up to the discovery process.

As I've said elsewhere, I've never liked frat boys and I've never trusted strippers.

Race, class, sex, alcohol, drugs. It's all pretty sordid, but before we each allow our prejudices to make the case, perhaps we should wait for the results of the DNA tests, no?

There is a difference between being a bunch of racist boobs and being rapists. A few years in prison, for starters.


This isn't about lawsuits. Lindsay refers to a " gang rape a black stripper by Duke University lacrosse players " when she does not have the slightest idea in the universe whether this is what happened.

That's wrong.

Does the name Tawana Brawley come to anyone's mind?

I have no problem saying that I don't know what happened here. Neither do any of you.

I wrote above that the lacrosse coach's resignation is a sign that the players actually did something wrong. But I should note that according to some people, the coach was basically forced out of his job in a "Quit, or we'll fire you" scenario.

I worked for years as a shop steward defending employees, so the idea of presuming innocence for the accused until proven otherwise is a basic part of my constitution.

The coach's resignation does not "prove" anything regarding the legal question of whether or not a rape or rapes were committed. Neither does their social status, their privilege or their racism.

I would guess that none of these guys comes from a fabulously wealthy or privileged background. I suspect they are imitating what they imagine wealthy privileged kids might do if there were no limits.

It's scary how many people are willing to say "gang rape" with so little evidence.

How about asking why, almost 4 weeks after the alleged gang rape took place, there's been no police lineup to give the woman a chance to pick out the individuals she says did it?

Usually police and DAs want to do that as soon as possible.

How about face-photo IDing of the alleged attackers? Photos of all the white players are available.

Has that happened. If yes, what were the results?

If its not been done, why not?

Innocent until proved guilty.

Let's see what the evidence shows.

BTW - Good comment thread. Differences civilly discussed.


During one of his nine lives, calvin investigated student misconduct. Some such conduct involved rape and abuse. It's never pretty. And, it's not easy to get to the "facts". In the instant case, the Duke President has done the things that he needed to do given the circumstances. He did not back down from doing what he thought was right and proper. And, he didn't go overboard, recognizing that defendants have rights too (The current administration notwithstanding).

While this case is getting very wide distribution, calvin would like to bring to the gentle readers' attention, the fact that young women are raped on a regular basis on campuses throughout the country and nothing is done. Most cases involve overconsumption of alcohol and the young women blame themselves for putting themselves in such position and do not report the incidents. Granted, this is an oversimplification, but it has been going on for years.

The Duke Situation is news precisely because it was reported. Readers should not rush to judgement of either party. We do not have enough facts as our disposal. However, a good clue as to which way the wind is blowing is for one of the parties to Swift Boat the other. Our Dear Leader's favorite tactic, afterall, is to blame the victim. Obfuscate. Blow Smoke. And, when your case might not do well in court, try it in the court of public opinion. After all, the jury needs only reasonable doubt.

Plain and simple - a major Bonehead move...

No matter what, these guys (rape or not) should pay in more ways then one.

A smear as this reflects more then just the sore eye given to Duke Lax –it blackens the student athlete as a whole.

Yet another time where collage athletes loose focus on the real reason of why and what they are attending school for.

Way to go...boneheads

"Does the name Tawana Brawley come to anyone's mind? "

Why should it? Brawley created a far-fetched story with no corroborating witnesses or physical evidence.

In this case, a witness puts the victim at the scene. She has physical evidence of sexual assault on her body and physical evidence found at the scene is consistent with her allegations. When questioned, members of the team said that everyone there was a member of the Duke lacrosse team.

If a woman is raped in the city of Durham, is it libelous to say that someone in the city of Durham at the time raped her? It is no more libelous to say that someone at that party raped that woman.

I suppose it is possible that she was so pissed at the lacrosse boys that she broke off 4 of her fingernails and planted them in the bathroom, then went out and got beaten up, choked and raped multiple times just to make it more convincing. Somehow though, I just don't think so.

Most crimes go unsolved. The idea that we should not consider them crimes until someone is found guilty of them is patently absurd. Calling this an alleged rape is ridiculous.

The lies of Tawana Brawley were believed by many people for a long time, were never denounced by the foul aider/abetter Al Sharpton, and were enough to cause immense damage to the life of a man, his family and his community.

There are plenty who " just knew " that Tawana was " speaking the truth ", including Spike Lee, etc. Only later was it proven that they knew absolutely nothing. They libeled and slandered an innocent man. Boy, good thing blogs were not around then.

I will repeat--we do not know what happened here. We know what some people said. We know the doctors report and the police report. But the facts are not in.

Since a great deal of highly relevant evidence is expected soon, would recommend that the accusing mob have the decency to hold fire for say a couple of days or maybe a week. That is hardly asking a lot.

Interesting that so many commenters are jumping on Lindsay in the name of the presumption of innocence--yet they seem to have no problem with David Brooks' pious bloviations about the exact same case in the pages of the New York Times.

Brooks' column is valuable and pointed commentary, even separate and apart from what happened or did not happen in Durham NC. There's nothing wrong with what he said.

Why is Lindsay's response not "valuable and pointed commentary" with value "separate and apart from what hapened or did not happen?" She's talking about the same issues as Brooks.

Calling this an alleged rape is ridiculous.

If it were any other crime, this whole discussion would be ridiculous. If someone says they were mugged, or that their house was broken into, would many people twist themselves into knots to talk about the "alleged mugging" or "alleged burglary"?

If the burglary victim showed you the place where his TV used to be, would any reasonable person speculate that maybe he gave the TV away?

Of course one can imagine some rare cases where a person would give away their TV and then report a burglary in some kind of insurance fraud or revenge scheme. But these exceptions aren't brought up every single time someone is robbed (except perhaps by insurance investigators!)

But rape is different, I guess, because some people would have us believe that women "cry rape" (i.e. falsely report rape) in far greater numbers than people in general falsely report other crimes.

"Brooks' column is valuable and pointed commentary, even separate and apart from what happened or did not happen in Durham NC. There's nothing wrong with what he said."

Please indicate anything of value in Brooks' essay. I found nothing. Maybe I didn't read it carefully enough.

There is something wrong with what he said because of what else he failed to say. He writes as if "raunch culture" is an infection that arises spontaneously in college dorm rooms, instead of being fed by an entire establishment that glorifies athletic prowess to the extent that it enables and indulges antisocial behavior until it escalates to a degree that cannot be overlooked (or more properly, shushed). Universities are not babysitters (not exclusively, anyway), and they aren't responsible for everything bad that the members of a sports team do, but when an indisputable pattern of antisocial behavior goes unchecked for years on end, one is more than justified in concluding that the University considers a prestigious lacrosse team to be more important than civic and other virtues. And that's an understatement.

The comments to this entry are closed.