"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
Recently the Durham Herald Sun published a letter you’ll find in this post: "INNOCENT:A Zany & Dangerous Letter."
The post fisks a good part of the letter. On its thread at least one commenter took issue with what I’d done, and there were a few who took issue with the H-S for publishing the letter in the first place. There was a lot more commentary, too. And all of the comments were civil and serious.
I responded on the thread and also in a separate post dealing with the issue of whether the H-S should have published the letter in the first place. You can read that post and comment thread here: "INNOCENT: H-S Not Wrong In This Case."
As with the first post, the comments were civil and informed.
I wanted to say more but was traveling. So now I’ll add a few thoughts and folks familiar with the two posts and threads can respond.
On the matter of whether a community should publish letters expressing dangerous and zany ideas, in most circumstances I’ve no problem with that so long as the newspaper provides counter letters and, with its editorials and solid news reporting, provides its own counter.
On the matter of whether a community newspaper should publish statements that are extreme and false (nothing wrong with being extreme and right. Once those who argued there were things called germs that caused disease were extreme), again I’d hold to let the extreme and false statements appear in community newspapers so long as there are the counters I mentioned about.
(Anticipating the troll who’ll show up saying, “In that case, why do you delete comments?” we must remember that blogs are private affairs and don’t seek extra protections and financial subsidies from the government in exchange for what they do. And BTW – I’ll delete that troll comment when it appears.)
Now two final points:
First, here are two sentences from the letter:
”I do think this case should have gone to trial so all the facts could come out.”The first sentence is manifestly false. Actual evidence is often suppressed at trials while Nifong-type “manufactured evidence” often becomes part of the record.
“Our legal system must protect those who are falsely accused, but not by quickly dismissing the claims of women.”
The second sentence is zany because in the case the letter writer is talking about, we know the woman’s manifestly bogus claims were taken so seriously, they were used to indict three obviously innocent young men who only escaped long jail terms because they were able to mount a defense that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Those sentences and other like them in that letter should scare us; and not just because of their falseness and zaniness. They should scare us because so many people believe them!
I’d love to think only an extreme element of Durham’s population believes everything would have come out at the trial. But that’s not the case. Many thousands of people here believe that.
The letter writer was no more extreme than the professional journalists KC Johnson cites today in his post here.
We have a lot of work to do in our communities and in this country to help people learn that the justice system is not supposed to be about enforcing their prejudices but securing fair treatment for all, even when that means questioning what a woman says or standing up for white males.
My last point is a repeat: Those first two threads were terrific. I’m looking forward to reading this one.