Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Duke case and McCarthyism

K.C. Johnson argues that the Duke lacrosse case is an example of “McCarthyism.” I think that’s a misuse of the term. McCarthyism refers to punishing people for their free speech. Violating due process is bad, but it’s not McCarthyism. The people who denounced the accused students were simply following a common view: anyone arrested for a serious crime is probably guilty. Most of us don’t expect prosecutors to be incompetent, and until more proof of innocence came out, it would be rare to find anyone speaking out for the rights of people who might be guilty. (How often do we see this much attention to prosecutorial misconduct when the accused are poor and black?)

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