As a rule I'm unmoved by the cultural conservative argument that the media celebrates evil and despises good. Now and then, though, the constellation of publishers, production companies, and other promoters coughs up something vile enough to make me reconsider.
Such is the case with Crystal Gail Mangum's new book.
You remember Crystal. She's the accuser in the infamous Duke Lacrosse case, in which — as best and most thoroughly documented at the essential Durham in Wonderland — an ambitious and amoral prosecutor, indifferent police, and a college community driven by Orwellian truth and the rank fatuities of academia hounded innocent college students through the course of an unjust and Kafkaeque rape prosecution, culminating in the defendants' complete vindication and the disbarment of the prosecutor. The Durham in Wonderland summary of the whole case is here.
Yes, that Crystal Gail Mangum. Now she's got a book out: "Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story." So she'll make a few bucks off of making accusations that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper later found to be false in declaring the defendants innocent victims and dismissing all charges.
KC Johnson of Durham in Wonderland has some thoughts.
I don't view Mangum as a figure of great evil herself. The evidence suggests that she suffers from mental illness, and that she was manipulated by police, prosecutors, and political groups eager to believe that three white lacrosse players must be racist rapists. Sorting out the false accusations of the mentally ill is one of the duties of a minimally competent and ethical government.
But I do view the people who profited from her — and who will profit from her now through this book — as evil. Mangum, like Tawana Brawley, is a hero to the devotees of Orwellian Truth — the notion that the actual truth of a particular accusation is not as important as whether the accusation conveys a larger social truth. Supporters and believers felt that Mangum, like Brawley, conveyed a larger truth that men rape, that racism is endemic, and that some white men view women and general and black women in particular as objects to be used. All of that may be true. But free and decent people should have nothing but contempt for the totalitarian concept that broader social truths make it irrelevant whether a particular person did what they are accused of doing. That's why I despise the apologists for the Duke Lacrosse prosecution — the Amanda Marcottes and fellow-travelers who scorned the defendants and their defenders because of what they represented to her, not because of any actual evidence against them.
Though Orwellian truth is associated with liberals in this instance, it is articulated just as frequently by conservatives — for instance, in justifying the detention of people in Gitmo whether or not there is individualized evidence of their guilt, based on the larger social truth of OMG 9/11!!! Thugs are thugs, whether physical or pseudo-intellectual, liberal or conservative.
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