Sunday, May 25, 2008

More concerning the N&O's Tim Tyson profile

Readers Note: On May 22 I posted N&O ignores Duke’s Tyson’s framing role.

J. Peder Zane, a talented and, in the past, a reliable N&O writer was bylined on a two-page profile of Duke professor Tim Tyson whose book about a racially-motivated killing, Blood Done Sign My Name, is being made into a movie.

When news of Crystal Mangum’s lies about being gang-raped at a party hosted by members of the Duke lacrosse team broke, Tyson was one of those who took the lead in provoking racial animosity and inflaming community sentiment against the lacrosse team.

He also supported the now disbarred Mike Nifong’s and others’ travesties which were part of an attempt to frame three innocent young men.

But the N&O’s flattering profile made no mention of any of that.

Instead, it went on at great length describing Tyson as someone who strives for racial harmony and equality.

I was critical of Zane and the N&O for failing to mention Tyson’s hoax and frame-up attempt involvement.

I sent Zane an email which you’ll find in the post. He responded promptly.

Zane acknowledged he should have mentioned Tyson’s hoax/frame connection, but said he didn't see that Tyson’s role in them was as defining of him as I’d said or as consequential as I’d suggested.

What follows is my attempt to convince Zane that my assessment of Tyson and his contribution to the harsh hysteria, travesties and injustices that flowed from Mangum’s lies is correct.

I’ll keep you posted on what I hear back.


Dear Peder:

Yesterday historian and blogger KC Johnson posted Tyson Reinvents History.

It concerns Tim Tyson’s very public and racially inflammatory endorsement of the Duke Hoax as well as his statements supportive of an “investigation” which was a transparent travesty from the start, and which intelligent, fair-minded people soon realized was a frame-up attempt.

Johnson documents Tyson's conduct for which he should long ago have publicly apologized: first, to those most victimized by it – the lacrosse players, their families, Coach Pressler and his family - and then to the Duke and Durham communities which had a right to expect better of a man who presents himself as knowledgeable and sensitive regarding the history of race-based crime in North Carolina.

At a time of maximum danger to the players and the rest of us who could’ve been unintended victims of violence meant for the players, Tyson made false and malicious public accusations concerning them, including telling N&O readers “the spirit of the lynch mob lived” at their party.

There was “a spirit of the lynch mob” at Duke and in Durham in March and April, 2006. But to say it was at the players’ party is a slander.

The “spirit of the lynch mob” lived within those who made the CASTRATE and GIVE THEM EQUAL MEASURE banners; those who rallied to them; those who circulated the Vigilante and Wanted posters; and those who, in the face of evidence to the contrary, promoted the “wall of silence” lie.

Tyson’s statements both stirred and justified the “spirit of the lynch mob.”

He helped make a bad situation much worse and much more dangerous than it had to be.

If I understand you correctly, you feel Tyson’s hoax and framing actions and inactions are in contrast to the rest of his life and don’t define him in any significant way.

I disagree.

Tyson’s actions then and his subsequent refusal to repudiate them and apologize tell us a great deal about a man whose “gospel” includes preaching to others they must acknowledge their errors and make amends.

Let’s agree on the following:

On Mar. 27, 2006 Tyson stated on WUNC:

"One of the really terrible things about this is that these young men are banding together and refusing to cooperate with the police investigation.”
At the time he said that, Tyson may not have known it was false.

But the next day the Durham Police acknowledged the extensive and voluntary cooperation the lacrosse captains had provided them on the evening of Mar. 16 and in the early morning hours of Mar. 17; that cooperation including answering without attorneys present all questions the police asked, signing statements, turning over their computers, helping police locate others who were at the party and going to DUMC where they submitted to DNA testing.

There was plenty of time between the Mar. 28 acknowledgment of the captains’ cooperation and Tyson’s Apr. 2 N&O op-ed for him to include in it an acknowledgment of his false Mar. 27 statement broadcast by WUNC and apologize for it.

But Tyson didn’t do that, even as he knew his false statement on WUNC was adding to the danger the players faced from unstable and hate-filled people inflamed by the “wall of silence” lie.

Instead, Tyson told readers, referring to the party for which the players have rightly and repeatedly apologized:
The ghastly spectacle takes its place in a history where African- American men were burned at the stake for "reckless eyeballing" -- that is, looking at a white woman -- and white men kept black concubines and mistresses and raped black women at will.
Not in his op-ed or at any time proximate to his false “wall of silence” statement on WUNC did Tyson take the simple, decent step of saying something like:
“I made an error and I’m sorry. Players did cooperate and their attorneys say they’re all willing to come in with them and tell the DA what they know. I’m cooling my hot language. I hope others do, too.”
If we agree to the foregoing, Peder, we have to ask ourselves what sort of person fails to say something like that in the terrible circumstances Tyson himself had helped create?

And when the person goes for more than two years without ever apologizing, and instead excuses his behavior and lashes out at reasonable, fact-based critics as Tyson has just done at your blog post here and on its thread at 5/25/08 @ 00:27, isn’t that person telling us a great deal about himself – about what’s really at his core?

I certainly think so.

In light of your criticism of my earlier post, I’ve reread it as well as your May 18 profile of Tyson and your May 23 post which includes his answers to questions you asked him in response to criticism of your failure to mention in your profile Tyson’s actions and inactions in connection with the Duke Hoax and frame-up attempt.

Having done all that, I stand by everything I said in my earlier post.

In your most recent email you say:
The Duke lacrosse case was outrageous. But so was the Darryl Hunt case - and the many other miscarriages of justice that Tyson has addressed. What have you had to say about that? Travesty,that it was, why is Duke lacrosse seemingly the only case that so many people are angry about?
I want to respond to that here on the main page, but this post is already long and the day is flying by.

So I’ll respond tomorrow.

I remain open to publishing on the main page anything you wish to say by way of response. If you prefer to respond at your blog, I’ll be happy to highlight and link to what you say.


John in Carolina


Ryan.Paige said...

The Darryl Hunt case does provoke outrage. It was so outrageous that it provoked the state of North Carolina to make some changes including open discovery laws the like.

As the Duke case went on, many people who supported the prosecution flat-out ignored the facts of the case that didn't fit their worldview but also often excused the actions of the police and prosecution even when it was obvious that the police and prosecution were not playing by the rules (some of which were put into place to prevent another Darryl Hunt situation from happening).

And once the case was over, those who were on the wrong side have steadfastly refused to look at their opinions and their actions and try and determine how they could've gone so wrong. Instead, they cover up, they excuse, they attempt to change history or they continue to blame the true victims in this case.

Despite concrete evidence that there are some things that need to change (the way Grand Juries operate for one) and on-the-record testimony and even confessions from some involved in the case that they broke the law, there is no effort to make changes to make sure such things never happen again.

While Nifong received punishment, the police officers who admittedly fabricated evidence will get off scot-free. The nurse who fabricated evidence will get off scot-free. There's no attempt to change the way Grand Juries operate, so they will continue to be a haven for police officers and the like to lie, etc. to get what they want. Despite the obviously flawed "line-up", there's no effort to codify into law the best practices that the Durham police were supposed to follow.

And even though the open discovery law that was passed to prevent another Darryl Hunt was key in the Duke case falling apart, there were attempts to repeal the law in the aftermath of the Duke case.

The Duke case is so infuriating because the travesty is still ongoing. If someone writes a flattering profile of one of the original prosecutors of the Hunt case and fails to mention the withholding of evidence, etc., I imagine there would be a few angry letters, too.

Anonymous said...

One has to remember that Darryl Hunt spoke at the Duke law school freshman orientation in 2004 (to the 'class of 2007'). He himself was freed through DNA testing.He told the students :

“For 19 years I sat in prison for a crime I didn’t commit because people wanted to win, not because they wanted justice and for the truth to come out.”

In her keynote address in that same orientation, Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, the Director of Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics,said :

“Don’t let your conscience go on autopilot. . ." She cautioned against “confusing winning with justice. Victory within the justice system does not always equal justice.”

One would have thought that Darryl Hunt, being a North Carolinian and heading an organization, "The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice", would have spoken up about the wrongful attempt to convict three Duke students who had been cleared by DNA.

One would have thought that law students who heard Darryl Hunt speak would have themselves spoken up on behalf of three Duke students who had been cleared by DNA.

You would have been wrong on both points.

Anonymous said...


Great post!

You have a small typo I'd like to bring to your attention. You wrote"But the next day the Durham Police acknowledged the extensive and voluntary cooperation the lacrosse captains had provided them on the evening of Mar. 16 and in the early morning hours of May 17; that cooperation including answering without attorneys present all questions the police asked, signing statements, turning over their computers, helping police locate others who were at the party and going to DUMC where they submitted to DNA testing"

May 17 should be March 17.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that professors withhold their bias when teaching?