Posted on June 21, 2006

Why The Duke Case Matters

William L. Anderson,, June 21, 2006

The Seattle Public Schools recently decided to define “racism” in all its forms, including the denunciation of those who held to the importance of “future orientation” and “individual rights” (both under the “cultural racism” category). However, after being hit with a barrage of emails (including a couple from me, one of which said that according to their standards, having pensions for Seattle teachers was an act of “cultural racism,” since it involved “future orientation”), the board took down the site and claims to be re-working it.

Seattle might be a long way from Durham, North Carolina, but the same disease seems to have hit both cities, and that is the denial of individual rights. I say this because in my previous articles which have strongly criticized Michael Nifong, the district attorney who is pushing these bogus rape charges, I receive a number of emails that say something to the effect that the accused lacrosse players are little more than “pampered jocks,” or that the real issue is race and that there can be no functioning multi-racial society.

Whatever one wishes to make of those claims, I believe they miss the point entirely. The Duke case presents, in a microcosm, a clear picture of life in a future United States in which the Politically Correct world of the college campus becomes the legal standard for everyone. That is a world in which all events are viewed through an extremely abstract prism in which there are only “group” or “collective” rights, and where all individual rights are destroyed. Ultimately, it is the world of the Soviet Union and Josef Stalin’s “Show Trials” of the 1930s, in which we saw this whole thing in full flower.

What is happening in Durham is what would happen everywhere if the vision of the Seattle Public Schools becomes the basis of all law and social organization. It is not simply a story about a rogue prosecutor, although Nifong clearly fits that description. Some may argue — me, included — that we are well on our way and may have passed a “tipping point” in which it is all downhill to the abyss. That may be the case, although I also believe that it is my duty to fight against such barbarism while I still have the tools by which to fight. Maybe in this case I am standing up for “pampered jocks” (although the situation and the people involved are much more complex than to be described with a slur) who are part of a “hook-up” college scene that is little more than state-sponsored debauchery (given that even at places like Duke, government money pays much of the tuition). But when it comes to issues of law, I will stand up for the rights of people, even those people who are scorned by all the “respectable types.”

The Duke case is an outrage on many fronts, but I argue here that the real battleground is abstract, but also very real, and that is where individual rights go against the zeitgeist of “collective rights” that are all the rage among our intellectual and political classes. The response of some black students at nearby North Carolina Central University put the whole thing into a very sad perspective:

Across town, at NCCU, the mostly black college where the alleged victim is enrolled, students seemed bitterly resigned to the players’ beating the rap. “This is a race issue,” said Candice Shaw, 20. “People at Duke have a lot of money on their side.” Chan Hall, 22, said, “It’s the same old story. Duke up, Central down.” Hall said he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”

I doubt that Hall has heard of Nikolai Bukharin or even the Seattle Public Schools website, but his words clearly reflect support of the collectivist thought that permeated Bukharin’s work — and that ultimately led to his own execution by Stalin — and the nihilism that comes with it. In Hall’s world, there is no guilt or innocence apart from the collective. The Duke athletes are white; the accuser is black; black men wrongly were convicted of rape on false accusations during the Jim Crow era; therefore, the athletes are guilty. (Paul Craig Roberts has an excellent chapter on the nihilistic trial and execution of Bukharin in his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Like so many intellectuals today, Bukharin derided individual rights as “bourgeoisie” nonsense, not knowing that he himself would be murdered by those simply following Bukharin’s instruction book.)


One would have hoped that the various “rights” movements of the 20th Century would not have led to a collectivist viewpoint that eviscerates individual rights, but that is what happened. Today, we are seeing this at work in the Duke case; if Nifong and his allies prevail, then there is nothing from stopping the courts from destroying the few rights individual have left. That is what ultimately is at stake here, period.