Friday, April 13, 2007

Joan Foster & Cash Michaels

Joan Foster was one of the first “citizen journalists” to speak out at the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors’ Blog on behalf of the Duke lacrosse players and honest journalism.

Joan has never wavered in her commitment to the players’ cause and to honest journalism.

But to borrow a phrase from the N&O’s Ruth (“You know you know”) Sheehan, something must have “gone horribly wrong” for Joan, because the next thing any of her many admirers knew, she’d become a blogger.

I don’t know about you, but my parents raised me not to say to people things like: “Geez, Joan, you were a citizen journalist. Now you’re a blogger. What happened? Do you need help getting your life back together?”

So I can't tell you how she fell from being a citizen journalist to blogging.

Cash Michaels is a columnist for The Wilmington Journal. He and I have had a few email exchanges concerning racially tinged incidents associated with the Duke Hoax. Our exchanges have been civil and productive.

While not a regular reader of Michaels, when I read his columns I'm impressed with his writing skills. He has a fine command of vocabulary; his sentences “move” and convey meaning.

As much as I admire Michaels’ written language skills, the content of what he writes is another matter.

I had hoped when the Hoax first drew national attention that Michaels would emerge as one of the “voices” I’d pay attention to. I hoped many others would as well.

But I no longer pay much attention to Michaels. It’s because he uses his columns to pass on to his readers things like the following:

With the exception of the three team co-captains that lived at the house – Matt Zash, Dan Flannery and Dave Evans - authorities maintain that none of the other team members present ever spoke to the police, though 46 players (excluding the lone black team member) were compelled to submit DNA samples to Durham police.
And this:
“A week and a half after the incident, police obtained a court order that 46 of the 47 men on the team be required to give DNA samples,” reported Newsweek Magazine in its April 10 edition. “By now the parents were hearing about the incident, and they began hiring lawyers, who told the young men to remain silent.”
And even this:
“We’re not saying that all 46 were involved,” Durham Police Cpl. David Addison, a department spokesman, told ABC News. “But we do know that some of the players inside that house on that evening knew what transpired and we need them to come forward.”
Now, that was all standard framing last March and April when the Raleigh News & Observer led a vicious and racially inflammatory attack by most of media on a group of white Duke students.

If Michaels’ writings above were written last April, I’d say he was nothing so much as just like many others in media.

But all of the above appeared in Michaels’ January 27, 2007 column!

Can you believe that!

January 27, 2007 was more than six weeks after DNA expert Meehan admitted he and Nifong had conspired to withhold exculpatory evidence; and after the NC State Bar had brought one set of ethics charges; and after the Bar had brought a second set of ethics charges against Nifong; and after public pressure had forced Nifong to recuse himself from the case.

By late January 2007 even Cpl. David Addison was no longer shilling the false “we need them to come forward” line. By that time, if Addison has any sense, he was talking to an attorney about what he could do to save himself from what will surely happen to DPD Sgt. Gottlieb and Inv. Himan.

But Michaels ran that stuff without any qualification or information to his readers about how discredited it now is.

Michaels could've stood out for helping unravel the Hoax and seeking justice. Instead, he's earned himself a place alongside such Hoax luminaries as Nancy Grace, Bob Ashley, and Dick Brodhead.

Joan Foster has just written a wonderful poem concerning some of those who might have emerged from the Hoax with their reputations enhanced but instead acted in ways that left them scorned figures in the eyes of many. Michaels is one of them. Joan’s poem begins:
Late last night, in the Know Bookstore, I noticed a small band.
They sat like mourners from the gravesite, their hankies in their hands.
I motioned to a regular, who were these people, so bereaved?
"Why that's "The Nifong-Must-Have-Something Club"... still struggling to believe."…

"Cash Michaels is the pensive guy...he almost got it right.
He might have been The Hero now, but he "caved" and left the fight.
From truth to trolling message boards, Sister Survivor's web defender.
He moans aloud, 'I had my chance! I could have been a real Contender!'..."
Cash Michaels had the gifts and skills to get it right.

Reading what I have of Michaels’ Hoax coverage has been painful. As Joan makes clear,with the passing of time he sank lower and lower.

Michaels, like Nifong, seemed determined to do things sensible people knew would hurt him in the end. Reading Michaels on the Hoax has been like watching one big Cash trashes Cash transaction.



Anonymous said...

The moving hand, having writ, moves on.

Hoping that nobody actually has google, one presumes. :-)


Anonymous said...

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union and its client states, there were pockets of true believers in the theory of Marxism-Leninism. Where? In MSM newsrooms and on college and university campuses across the United States. That tells us the caliber of people who were Nifong's enablers.

AMac said...

1. A gracious post-Cooper-announcement post from Mr. Michaels here.

2. Earlier, I had an exchange with Mr. Michaels that was somewhat useful, here. I didn't pursue all the points he raised because of what the following question and answer said about his view of journalistic ethics.

AMaccc (4/2/07 9:29 pm)

Cash Michaels wrote that [KC] Johnson claims he's racially alright just because he is reportedly supporting a black candidate for president. Could Michaels provide a hyperlink to where Johnson has made that claim?

Michaels' response:
Nope! Johnson never said it. So I did the next best thing. I followed the "Professor K.C. Johnson proven method of deducing facts not in evidence" to make that determination, abased on the available circumstantial evidence regarding Johnson's widely reported support for Obama's campaign, Johnson's widely reported distain for tradition Black leadership in relation to the Duke Three case, and Johnson's widely reported criticism of Durham's Black voters in the aftermath of Nifong's election. Now, if you venture to conclude, "Cash, so you're admitting that you don't have a solid statement from K.C. proving what you alleged he stated," I'd say, "That's right, but that never stopped Prof. johnson from doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING, which is my point.

In my view, Michaels is saying that he feels free to jumble together statements that are true, words that might be true, and charges that are misleading. Because Michaels thinks that certain of his adversaries do so.

While Michaels is a good wordsmith in his way, this is not a useful standard for a reader interested in truthful accounts.

In line with his description of his practices, when I looked at specifics of the first few of Michaels' charges against KC Johnson (at the beginning of the linked thread), I found a mix of the correct, the misleading, and the false.

It's unfortunate, because passions run high, and adversarial fact-checking should be a useful corrective to matters that anti-hoax bloggers (and mainstream journalists) have gotten wrong. Even if true, none of Michaels' charges are central to the narrative of the hoax--but even "small" details should be accounted for correctly.

Past the point where I stopped checking, Michaels' post contained four slams by Michaels against KC Johnson that are plausible (to me) and might have some merit:

1. Maybe Johnson was unfair to Durham Mayor Bell because of Bell's record of contributions to Nifong.

2. Maybe the spring 2006 activities of anti-hoax lawyers James Butch Williams and Kerry Sutton put others’ contemporaneous support for Nifong in a better light.

3. Maybe Johnson elided discussion of D.A. candidate Keith Bishop’s past ethical problems.

4. Maybe Johnson misstated an aspect of Michael's reporting on John Burness.

A fifth claim concerns the context of NCCU student leader Chan Hall's notorious remark about wanting to see the Duke students prosecuted "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past." Michaels and his allies argue (with supporting hyperlinks) that Hall did not make this statement publically at the April 11 NCCU forum (link).

Given Michaels' stated views and his record on the assertions that I did check, I lack the patience and inclination to chase down these claims.

A piece of advice to readers inclined to carry on a discussion at the site I have linked: think hard before making the effort. Many of the frequent posters at that board are passionate believers in "something happened" and seemingly unreachable by evidence or logic. Some are given to obscenity-laced rants. Listening to Monty Python's Argument Sketch accomplishes much the same purpose, and is considerably more enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

Must read apology

AMac said...

Gee whiz, annon.
Please stop re-pasting that list.
Our host will put it up as a post, if he wants to.

Joe Bingham said...

As I said before in response to this anonymous creep: The 88/87 ain't cool. They're bigoted creeps, most of whom refuse to apologize for horrible behavior.

But someone who keeps anonymously posting their names is also a creep, and a coward. Wank off.

Anonymous said...

John-- Did you catch Samiha Khanna's article in the N&O where she finally revealed what Crystal told her in the first interview? I've been waiting for you to blog on it. I think Samiha knew this was a hoax from the beginning.

Joe T. said...

Just a note on another subject: Dopey TR (that wesleyan professor) has covered her butt against lawsuits by adding in her profile that what she writes in her blog is fiction. (LOL, no kidding, TR). But since she added that after previously making the statement about rape at Duke parties, I hope there's still a civil suit against her. Not to be mean or malicious, but bloggers have to learn they must remain truthful.

a-anon said...

Interesting, someone posts the 88 and you take it down. Why? Are you afraid of them? ....pathetic

AMac said...

Joe T. (2:45pm) --

My cache shows that T.R.'s profile hasn't changed between 4/11/07 at 10am and a few minutes ago. With rare exceptions, the threat of lawsuits isn't the best answer to bad speech--more and better speech is.

a-anon (3:40pm) --

J-in-C a fraidy cat? Doubt that. Joe Bingham and I complained because the lengthy list clutters up the comments. The commenter needs to learn to link to where the names can be found (like this), instead.

curious said...

I am seeing what is happening here with some interest and frankly I don't get this. Are you bloggers extreme liberals? ...with all due respect. Shouldn't the 88 via their names be forever linked to their malice in their intent to put 3 innocent boys in jail for 30 years? I'd, for one, would like to see any search of their names be connected to their evil deeds. Having the list repeated everywhere and anywhere will draw search engines to this post/thread and others so they can learn the truth about what these individuals stand for. So for a little inconvenience and clutter you want to protect these radical professors, talk about priorities.

AMac said...

Curious --

I'm just a guest here. It's for J-in-C to read this thread when he returns, and decide.

My own answer to your query is that the analysis and detective work that John has presented on this blog is much more important than the repetition of a list. If this was my blog (it's not), I would be most concerned with gaining and spreading correct insights into what happened last spring, and since then.

Part of sharing what one knows is presenting material in readily comprehensible form, and lengthy lists detract from that.

Search engines don't rank by static counts anyway, so I doubt your Google-bombing idea would be particularly effective (and they do count hyperlinks).

As to my politics: centrist, with a side of civility (when possible). Thanks for asking.

a-anon said...

I think curious and anon are trying to help... I believe seach engines do keep track of names, I might be wrong though...

straightarrow said...

Having their names linked on the internet with their reprehensible behaviors and statements is probably the only punishment these unprincipled people will ever face.

So I can understand the rationale behind the posting of their names everywhere possible as often as possible. That way when any of them are candidates for other higher positions at other institutions they will have a much higher hill to climb and less opportunity to poison other universities..

Just my $.02.

straightarrow said...

About Joan Foster: Thank God there are still people with such a grasp on rationality, justice, morality, and the courage to declare and defend publicly.

This is the only blog I read about this issue. I came here before "Nifong's Fraud on the Court", for the other content. John is one of the better commentators on the American scene, though there has been little of that in the last year due to the intensity of the injustice of the problems in Durham and at Duke.

It is and was a worthy cause. I stayed because here I enjoy the company of truly intelligent people with high ideals. The bloggers and commenters here are of such a high caliber, that I am sometimes embarrassed by my intrusion.

So I guess this a Joan and John post. It is just so heartening to find such people still exist. There are many such here. I thank you all for what I have come away with.

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of affection for Cash, than the white clown writers who are furious the boys are Innocent. Cash was never mean, nasty or meanspirited. If there is any justice, they will be on the unemployment line tomorrow.