Monday, June 11, 2007

INNOCENT: Three "Great Paragraphs"

The late historian Barbara Tuchman, whose works include The Proud Tower and The Guns of August, was an admirer of what she called “great paragraphs.” Standing alone and apart from their original context, "great paragraphs" nevertheless could interest and inform readers because of how skillfully they combined facts and narrative flow within the small compass of a single paragraph.

I want to offer you three paragraphs I think meet Tuchman’s “great paragraphs” standards. I came upon them while reading about the Duke Hoax.

Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, published a letter from G. Holman King, “a proud lacrosse grandparent,” which contained this paragraph:

Brodhead has defended those actions on the flawed premise that he was "forced to act upon radically imperfect information" or that "action has been required in the face of deep uncertainty." In fact, once he had justifiably suspended part of the lacrosse season, there was no immediate compelling need for further action. He could have, and should have, deliberately preserved his options until there was more certainty. A safe haven was readily available to him-the presumption-of-innocence principle.
Momtothree at Liestoppers recently posted, "How the Duke Rape Hoax Became the Duke Racial Epithets Crime-of-the-Century Hoax (and Remains So Today)," which contains this paragraph:
Let it be said up front that racial epithets are deeply reprehensible, and concede that probably one or more of the party attendees did utter something racial. That the AG has concluded this occurred as a response to racial taunting from Kim Roberts gives context, but not justification for these words. Yet what has been made of them, and the way these utterances have been used to condemn an entire team and smear the reputations of the three indicted players (whom no one has ever seriously claimed uttered any epithet) is far more disgraceful and blameworthy.
And in Professor William (Bill) Anderson’s just published open letter to Duke lacrosse parents we find:
It was so bad that many of your boys, after Duke cancelled the lacrosse team’s season, could not go onto campus in fear of their own safety, and some of them even lived in their cars. Duke University broke contract with you – but still demanded your tuition and fees in return. Your sons were falsely accused; they knew they were falsely accused, but few at Duke, save the heroic women’s lacrosse coach Kerstin Kimmel and her players, would support you. It was that sense of being all alone, or to paraphrase the former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, there were 50 people who knew the truth, and 50 million who thought they knew it – or really did not want to know the truth if it got in the way of a good story.
I hope you agree you’ve just read three great paragraphs. And I hope that tempts you to read Holman’s and Anderson’s letters and Momtothree’s post.


Anonymous said...


I took your advice and wrote a letter to the Editor of the Herald Sun yesterday in response to the letter they printed from David Addison.

I was happily surprised to get a response asking me to verify my identity. Then I received this:

Thanks much. We should be fine for publication within a day or two.

Ron Landfried
Editorial page editor

Hopefully Editor Landfried is true to his word and publishes my letter in the next day or two. In case you're interested, here it is in advance:

"I read with amazement the letter you printed from DPD Corporal David Addison. Put in the kindest light, during the Duke lacrosse case Addison made written and verbal statements that have now proven to be false. If I had acted as Addison did, I would want to write and speak to anyone who my words and writings harmed, to apologize. Instead Addison has claimed victimhood and asks for readers' sympathy. I don't think many others see things the way Addison does. His letter clouds the situation and he compares it to a fight with Mike Tyson.

I would think by now the people of Durham would be tired of their public officials mincing words. Roy Cooper didn't. When the Attorney General made his statement declaring the players innocent he restored some much needed confidence in the North Carolina justice system. Cooper was direct, clear, and easy to understand. I respected his statement and I think others did too. Unfortunately Addison doesn't seem to have learned from Cooper's example.

If Addison wants to continue what Cooper began there are only two words the public is interested in hearing him say, wrong and sorry."

Thanks for all your great work John.


Mike Lausten

JWM said...

Dear Mike,

You wrote an excellent letter.

I'm very glad it will appear in the H-S.

When it does, I'll post it on the main page.

Let's keep on keeping on.



Shouting Thomas said...

"Let it be said up front that racial epithets are deeply reprehensible..."

Well, sometimes and sometimes not.

I think that the old "sticks and stones" tradition has something to say for it too.

I'm curious as to why we are supposed to get so excited about racial epithets. The tender sensibilities of those administrators and professors who've carried on so much about those racial epithets make me wonder whether they aren't putting on an act.

Racial epithets are a great source of humor, and there are times when it is the right thing to use them in anger. It is instructive that blacks so often use them to taunt whites who cannot use them. The sissified straight jacket into which whites have been thrust is laughable. Why are whites supposed to be such pansies? The same leftist faculty members who decry racial epithets encourage anger and hatred in support of causes they believe in.