Since every TV “news” organization is giving the Imus firing and the Duke lacrosse players’ exoneration wall-to-wall coverage, the least I can do is quote from Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings with some actual wisdom on the subject: Sometimes, justice prevails:
What the Imus episode and the Duke lacrosse case have in common is that in both cases, people seem to have forgotten that they were dealing with actual human beings. Don Imus was just doing (what I gather is) his normal schtick. I don’t suppose he was actually thinking: here are a group of young women who have taken their team to the NCAA championships; I wonder how I can completely ruin what ought to be one of the greatest days of their lives? They probably just weren’t that real to him. Similarly, though much more damagingly, I don’t suppose that Mike Nifong said to himself: I wonder how I can do something truly awful to some Duke lacrosse players? He probably just got caught up in the politics of it, and forgot about justice. Likewise, there were altogether too many commenters — probably on both sides — for whom this case was just an occasion for a canned political rant, not one that involved actual human beings.
I think that getting so caught up in what you’re doing that you forget that you’re dealing with actual human beings is one of the most morally dangerous things there is. It’s easy to see how it happens; we’re all vulnerable to this. But forcing yourself to remember the human beings on the other side, especially when it’s tempting not to, is absolutely essential. And it’s equally essential to remember that however closely a story seems to fit your favorite preconceived narrative, you can’t know that it does fit without evidence. The world does not exist to reinforce our preconceptions.