Saturday, November 17, 2007

What "lynch mob" at Duke?

The Johnsville News does another fine aggregation job: This time it concerns a recent Chronicle column written by last year’s Duke Student Government President Elliott Wolf, in which he was highly critical of Duke Students for an Ethical Duke (DSED)and its public spokesperson, Ken Larrey.

TJN links to excerpts and, in a few cases “the fulls” of the most important documents, including Wolf’s column, Larrey's and DSED’s initial replies to Wolf, their request for “equal time” from The Chronicle (TC), and a post from Duke Professor Michael Gustafson in which he seeks to clarify and place in context a statement Wolf attributed to him in which Wolf quoted Gustafson as saying he told DSED: "I told them that I will not be part of this lynch mob."

You can access all the documents at The Johnsville News here. Be sure to read the thread on Wolf’s column.

I'm sorry for the DSED, Wolf, Gustafson, TC matters and confess I don’t adequately understand all of them.

So right now, I’ll confine my comments to the “lynch mob” reference and see how the discussion develops.

I was shocked when I read Wolf's column, particularly by the "lynch mob" reference.

I'd never before thought of DSED as anything like a lynch mob.

DSED has never rallied under a "CASTRATE" banner; circulated "Vigilante" posters on campus, or thanked those who did.

It wasn't DSED who shouted death threats at Reade Seligmann down at the courthouse.

The Chronicle editorial board has never said anything critical of the members of the Duke community who waved the CASTRATE” banner; or of the New Black Panthers when they threatened Seligmann.

So I hope you understand my shock when I turned to TC’s editorial page and read that DSED is “this lynch mob?”

Gustafson is now saying he was misquoted but he can understand how Wolf would have misunderstood him.

Gustafson says even small words matter (agreed!) and that he was talking about “a” lynch mob, not “this” lynch mob.


Did TC column editor get a 100% sure from Wolf that Gustafson had said what Wolf was quoting?

If TC didn’t get a 100% sure from Wolf, out of fairness to DSED and Gustafson, it should’ve eliminated any lynch mob reference to DSED.

Absent a 100% sure, shouldn’t TC also have scraped the lynch mob reference in consideration of its own reputation, now suffering because of a widely-held perception TC is on “a mission” to ignore and/or denigrate critics of its “Stay, Dick, Stay” policy and its obvious intent to “move on” with the Group of 88 and others?

If TC column editor did get a 100% sure from Wolf, wasn’t the next step to fact check with Gustafson?

If that had happened, it’s reasonable to conclude, based on what Gustafson says now, he would have told TC something different from what he was quoted as saying.

The public needs the answers to these questions to help it understand why a Duke professor was quoted in The Chronicle as calling DSED “this lynch mob.”

And it’s just simple decency for The Chronicle, Wolf and Gustafson to provide DSED those answers.

What do you folks think?


Anonymous said...


It was a simple mistake.

Gustafson was actually refering to the potbangers and the 88 Dule professors. Elliott Wolfe appears to have a undiagnosed case of dyslexia. He inadvertently got the parties mixed up.

It could happen to anyone.


Anonymous said...

Its pretty obvious to me...the chronicle has turned into the MSM.

Anonymous said...

You ask great questions.

Now here's one for you: What would make Gustafson say he didn't want to be part of a lynch mob?

It wasn't like he was being invited to join the Group of 88.

Off point but your comment to Sheehan was absolutely superb.

As long as I'm off point I love the Churchill series.

Go, John, go.

wayne fontes said...

Anon 3:50 said:

You ask great questions.

Now here's one for you: What would make Gustafson say he didn't want to be part of a lynch mob?

Could I suggest that Gustafson did not want to be associated with a group that engaged in a smear campaign. My reading of Gustafson's comment was that he made it before he had any interaction DSED. In other words it was a precondition to him participating. He didn't call them a lynch mob. He simply wanted to set the expectations for the group before he became involved. His further comments indicate he didn't stop participating with DSED because he "thought they were a lynch mob" but because he had other demands on his time.

What do others think? Are you ready to Gustafson to the enemies list?

Google blogger accounts are cheap (free actually) and plentiful. I would hope all of the Anons would make use of this resource to make the conversation easier to follow.

Anonymous said...

Clearly there was a misunderstanding which Elliott Wolf exploited to advance his own agenda. I am very disappointed. Elliott is smart guy, and he should have known better. I hope he finds it in his heart next week to do the right thing and apologize.

DukeEgr93 said...

John - I appreciate the heads-up regarding this posting. I believe I have given the answers to the questions as they pertain to me - specifically that I wrongly communicated the timing and meaning of the "lynch mob" quote to Elliott Wolf. I do not think I was misquoted - I take responsibility for the lack of clarity and added to my blog post to more clearly distinguish that point. I have fortunately now also had the opportunity to apologize in person for it.

To 3:50 - "What would make Gustafson say he didn't want to be part of a lynch mob?" - basically, the existence of such elements on all sides of this case; those that John notes with respect to going after the players, as well as those who have made threats against signatories of the listening ads and others. As Wayne correctly notes - it was a "preconditional" statement rather than any kind of assessment.