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Monday, August 27, 2007

More 'Group of 88' Spraying

Like General Sherman marching through Georgia, Professor KC Johnson has burned a swath through the boll weevil infested academic cotton fields of Duke University. Prof. Johnson's searing analysis and criticism of the Duke Group of 88 academics and their addled agendas conducted at his Durham-in-Wonderland blog has exposed an insidious blight on higher education.

So the question is, will Prof. Johnson's forthcoming book "Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, written with Stuart Taylor, elevate the discussion of the moral and ethical rot in higher education to a broader audience? Will the book lead to any changes in higher education?

Hopefully yes, but the blight runs deep. Here we can just nibble around the edges of that issue; while the academic heavy weights slug it out, alumni vote with their financial donations, and incoming freshman classes pick their schools. Seeing Duke President Richard Brodhead burrow into his plush Duke cotton bud and tell the world that it's time to move on is a sign of how virulent the problem is.

The Taylor/Johnson book sounds like it will be sweeping in scope. A preliminary review said, it "covers all five aspects of the case (personal, legal, academic, political, and media) in a comprehensive fashion."

How much academic rot can Taylor/Johnson possibly fumigate given the massive corruption of Mike Nifong and the Durham PD that they have to map out? The main stream media's horrible performance is also a vast and juicy target. The still simmering scandal brings the phrase "target rich environment" to mind.

This target rich Duke environment is well documented on Prof. Johnson highly regarded and extremely popular blog (TJN has touched on it too). Prof. Johnson points out that his blog has grown to around 750,000 words spread over 970+ blog posts, and with just under 2.9 million unique visitors. The book, he says, is about 130,000 words. So every word should hit a case-related academic vector.

The timing of the book is good. Releasing the book at the start of the back-to-school, back-to-work period should help sales if the publisher and merchants can get it out on the bookshelves. Plus there should be another good burst of news and attention shortly if Nifong gets thrown in jail for his criminal contempt. To say the book is highly anticipated in the small corner of the world known as Johnsville is an understatement.

However, Prof. Johnson doesn't sound like he's giving up his day job. He's pointed out that blog popularity doesn't necessarily translate into a best seller. He said, "that isn't a business model that has frequently occurred in the blogosphere. (If it did, we'd all be rich!) That said, I hope the book sells extremely well."

Some of the impact of KC Johnson's book and blog on academia, a/k/a the academy, is starting to percolate in the blogosphere. Recently, Scott Eric Kaufman at his Acephalous blog aimed some criticism at Prof. Johnson:

If the research presented on the blog is indicative of the content of his soon-to-be-published book—Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case—then I can only conclude that the book'll be positively Horowitzian in tenor and substance.

Like Horowitz—and clocks twice a day—Johnson occasionally nails his target...
Prof. Johnson responded to Kaufman in the comment section of Kaufman's post:
I'm a bit amused by the Howoritzian argument, as I have been publicly denounced by Horowitz and have publicly opposed (through an AHA amendment) the ABOR. In any event, Until Proven Innocent has received strong words of praise from ACLU president Nadine Strossen, former Crossfire co-host and LA Times editorial page editor Mike Kinsley, defense attorney and author John Grisham, and Kirkus Reviews. It would strike me as rather unlikely that such figures would endorse a book that was "positively Horowitzian in tenor and substance."
For the non-academic, you can better understand the "Howoritizian" label by going to this reference - Wikipedia: David Horowitz - Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR)

There are more interesting back and forth comments on the Kaufman article. It will be interesting to see if there is any serious fallout from Until Proven Innocent. But aren't weevils second-cousins to cockroaches, and they've survived pretty well.

Hopefully, the book royalties will at least reimburse KC for his twelve trips to Durham to cover the case. And good folks will learn not to send their kids into infested schools.

Scott Eric Kaufman, Acephalous blog:
On K.C. Johnson's Durham in Wonderland and Until Proven Innocent

John in Carolina:
Kristin Butler, Duke Chronicle:
Bye-bye, Brodhead?