On prejudging the Duke lacrosse team scandal

First, we should separate out the two distinct realms of discourse that are operative in this scandal: the formal legal one, from the informal public one. Each realm has different standards of judgment, and plays a different role. The formal, legal realm is organized to determine the legal guilt of innocence of the individuals accused, while it should be clear that the public realm—that diffuse and loose amalgam of both formal and informal communications—cannot determine individual legal guilt or innocence. First, because it is not privy to all the facts (secrets can still be kept, even in these days of hyper-surveillance), and second, because the public realm of discourse is subject to the influence of various media which is in the business of selling stories. Almost everyone today understands that media reports of all sorts are edited, even when they are upholding the most scrupulous of journalistic standards.
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