Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Selena's Revisions

Isn't it interesting how many media outlets seem to employ two different sets of standards regarding athletes accused of criminal behavior? Selena Roberts wrote passionately (if incorrectly) regarding the three falsely accused Duke lacrosse players in the once-august pages of the New York Times. One of her main themes was that the lacrosse players were engaging in a wall of silence designed to protect the guilty. She condemned this behavior in very strong terms, even using the illustration of a gang member wearing a "Stop Snitching" T-shirt on her first article, published on March 31, 2006. In this she portrayed them as equally despicable and in fact equivalent to those gang members who discourage snitching to the authorities with threats of physical violence.

So, how did Ms. Roberts react to the news that Michael Vick's co-defendants had snitched on him, revealing his leadership and his financial bankrolling of the dog-fighting gang? Surely she was happy that they had not engaged in the behavior she had previously ascribed (falsely) to the Duke lacrosse team?

Not exactly. It turns out that Ms. Roberts only approves of snitching in cases where the defendants are white and innocent of the crimes they are accused of. If the defendant is black and guilty, then apparently it is not acceptable to snitch on the ring-leader. As KC Johnson wites of Roberts' column,

In her column for today’s Times, however, Roberts takes a far different view of “snitches.” Her commentary deals with the Michael Vick case, and the parade of friends or relatives of the quarterback cooperating with the government—or, in Roberts’ parlance, “snitching.”

How does Roberts describe their behavior?

Vick’s cousin was “the first to fail” him. Then a friend with whom he had a falling out, Tony Taylor, was “the first to flip” on him. And finally, another old friend, Quanis Phillips, who pled guilty to dog-fighting charges on Friday, was “the latest to betray” Vick. [emphasis added in each sentence]

Fail him? Flip on him? Betray him? What happened to Selena Roberts, the arch-crusader for justice, who argued that friends and teammates needed to “come forward to reveal an eyewitness account,” and smash the culture in which “any whisper of a detail [is] akin to snitching?”

Last spring, Roberts described the lacrosse team as “a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.” How does she describe Vick? As a person of “disarming charm” who “employed friends and housed pals.” He has, she laments, been “abandoned, left to contemplate a plea deal that could imprison him and ruin his N.F.L. career.”

The incompetence and flat falsehoods employed by many of the members of the Press in dealing with these two cases is equalled only by their hypocrisy. Hat tip to Durham-in-Wonderland.

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