The media frenzy around the gang-rape allegations at Duke just keeps on raging, and various pundits across the land have been letting the case reinforce their preconceptions about American powder-keg issues like race, class, gender and sexuality. (Don't miss this "Daily Show" via Video Dog roundup of Fox's tone-deaf coverage of the incident.)
Tucker Carlson -- rakishly sans bow tie -- has been sounding off on the sex and gender issues, saying that "it's OK to have a bias against strippers in this case," because the plaintiff's "testimony about matters of sex is to be taken by ordinary commonsense people a little differently than the testimony of someone who isn't a crypto-hooker." (If you read the whole transcript, he comes off as even more slimy and offensive than this snippet conveys, while his guest, adjunct law professor Wendy Murphy, endears herself to me forever by snarking back, "When you say things out loud like that, do you hear yourself? Do you go home and -- like, do you just bang your head on the wall?")
Over at the Huffington Post on Thursday, RJ Eskow rather brilliantly gave Carlson's comments the Colbert treatment, in the form of an open letter addressed to T.C. "Awesome point!" Eskow applauded. "Could you please write me back and tell me what other jobs make a woman's testimony easy to ignore? ... I'm a little confused about this Duke thing: Is this chick's word useless because she 'dances naked' in front of strangers, or because she 'sleeps with strangers,' or both? (I hadn't heard that she actually sleeps with them, but you're on TV so you must know.) I mean, if a lap dancer and I have a little, um, scuffle, will I be able to beat the charges because it's my word against hers -- or does she have to screw around a lot too? ... How about that girl at Starbucks who wears a lot of eye shadow?" Eskow's spoof is a little queasy-making, but it gets us to the logical conclusion of Carlson's argument: Any woman's conduct may obviate her right to refuse sex.
Meanwhile, in today's New York Times, Harvey Araton brings (subscription required) a somewhat subtler style of inquiry to the class problem. I'm not sold on his argument that calling the lacrosse team members privileged preppies is as simplistic and misplaced as accusing African-American males of crimes based on their skin color. More persuasive, though, is Araton's suggestion that the problem isn't wealth but the overindulgence of athletes: "If growing up privileged (read: pampered to the point of being poisoned) explains what set the wheels of this sad story in motion," he wonders, "what, then, is the social genesis when the perpetrators are basketball and football players from poor or working-class homes?"
Also going on the record this week was Kim Roberts, whom the Associated Press identifies as the "second stripper" at the lacrosse team party at the time of the alleged incident. Roberts commented on the case, and then various attorneys commented on her comments.
"I was not in the bathroom when it happened, so I can't say a rape occurred -- and I never will," Roberts told the AP. But, she added, "in all honesty, I think they're guilty. And I can't say which ones are guilty. Somebody did something besides underage drinking. That's my honest-to-God impression." She also confirmed that the two women initially left the party "after one of the players threatened to sodomize them with a broomstick," the AP says. Defense attorneys in the case countered that Roberts initially told them she didn't believe that a rape had occurred, was probably being paid to reverse her opinion, and anyway may just be trying to "gain favorable treatment" in an unrelated criminal case against her.
I'm really hoping the trial proceedings manage to set aside meta-issue and character debates like these -- for both the plaintiff and the defendants -- but I'm not optimistic.