Suntosh Pillay
Suntosh Pillay

Being a straight white male silently cushions Armstrong’s plunge

“Armstrong ‘still a hero’ ” read the Independent on Saturday headline.

Lance Armstrong’s scandalous admission of guilt has got fans scratching their heads wondering how to feel about this anti-hero. The tour-de-farce of lies and denial has climaxed in a tacky American-style made-for-daytime-TV confessionary. Oprah tweeted; the world waited; and now it’s confirmed — cycling’s golden boy had taken us for a ride.

His path to public salvation and his choice of Oprah Winfrey as chief archaeologist of the truth, was strategic. Her façade of sympathetic eyes, well trained visage of concern and compassion, and almost neutral, non-judgmental tone of inquiry, lubricated what could have been a scornful and shameful journalistic inquisition had it been another host, on another show. There’s something about confessing to Oprah that makes you want to give the person a big, fat hug.

“Mixed feelings” summed up the mood in follow-up articles, as fans wondered whether their idol’s books will be moved to the fiction section. Scorn, it seems, was not the default emotion. There was an ambiguity; a desire to forgive.

“South Africans salute disgraced US cyclist” was the Independent’s by-line; USA Today ran a poll, “Give Lance a second chance?” and Matthew McConaughey is sticking by his buddy, saying he felt mad but also sad for his friend’s ordeal.

A blogger, Dustycat, posted: “We flock to athletic Hall of Fame buildings all over the world and marvel at the inductees, not having one clue as to whether they cheated or not. Lance Armstrong got caught! Now he’s disgraced. But one thing we know for sure: he was the best we’ve ever seen or will likely see again when it comes to cycling. Sure he ‘doped’ but, more than likely, his competition ‘doped’ as well … he cheated, I believe, to level the field.”

The subtle, creeping discourse of sympathy comes as no surprise, and one could argue that the silent variable of race is going to play a major part in whether or not public opinion sways in his favour. While there is nothing overtly racial about this story, or the public spanking of Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, or Chris Brown, a tendency towards leniency when perpetrators are white is well-documented.

This discursive appeal to forgive and understand hovers over the headlines and bylines.

Xolela Mangcu, writing in 2008 about South African politics, argues that this is a frequent quality of white discourse, naming it a “racialised mobilisation of sympathy”. He says this rallying cry of solidarity, to forgive or to understand, can be seen in other events of white transgression such as former cricket captain Hansie Cronje being caught for match-fixing. Cronje was initially vilified in the media, but later rehabilitated as a repentant hero of national sport, especially after his unexpected death. But Mangcu argues that the same leniency is rarely offered by white citizens when the ”perpetrator” is black, but that this is consistent with the punitive, long-held stereotypes of black incompetence and the need to punish black people. He comments: “Too often executioners are able to mobilise public sympathy by hogging media conferences, and calling an amazing array of sophisticated diversions and metaphors … before we know it, a reversal of roles has taken place … the original perpetrator has become the victim.” (p104, To the Brink, 2008).

Despite its best intentions, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission epitomised the social reluctance to punish white wrongdoers. Using the motifs of forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion, white ”perpetrators” of apartheid atrocities became victims of their time, or victims of a cruel system where good people had to do bad things.

Consequently, the stigma of shame evaporates. Armstrong’s reputation management is what sociologist Erving Goffman called “the plight of the discredited”. Writing seminally in the 1960s on how stigmatised people try to save face, Goffman observed that stigmatised folk try desperately to reconstruct their humiliated identities to fit historical narratives of who they once were. Armstrong’s struggle with cancer may ironically be his saving grace; it humanises his character, as a suffering, flawed, but charitable figure. These will be highlighted as the trial by public opinion continues.

Even Robert Feldman, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts who studies lying and deception, commented that “the world is rife with great liars … nothing about the Lance Armstrong case is shocking. We all lie every day. We live in a culture where lying is quite acceptable”. He goes on to make the case that “we want superheroes” to believe in, implying that Armstrong probably lied for our sake.

This leniency, however unconscious it may operate, extends globally when one compares the newspaper coverage of black versus white villains. Similarly white criminals in the US seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed compared to minorities, according to research by ProPublica. In response, Roger Adams, who served as head of the US justice department’s pardons office from 1998 to 2008, said “I’m just astounded by those numbers,” saying he could think of nothing in the office’s practices that would have skewed the recommendations. “I can recall several African Americans getting pardons.” The pro-white/anti-black bias remains hidden precisely because it has become normalised, with a few outliers used as anecdotal evidence that no bias exists.

Mercy, it seems, is statistically in favour of lighter pigmentation.

The prototype for perfect on the continuum of life has for centuries been the heterosexual, able-bodied, white male, and if a poster-boy was needed, Lance Armstrong would be it. His disgrace, however painful, is doubly cushioned by racial privilege and colonial cultural norms that are silently embedded in our discourse. Although race per se will not enter this debate, evidence shows us that white villains are reincarnated into victims much easier than their black counterparts. Using this as a case study draws awareness to hidden, silent privileges afforded to some and not others, hopefully enriching this debate in a meaningful way as we voyeuristically watch him cycle up the road to redemption.

Tags: , , , , ,

  • Racism, sexism and homophobia: Which prejudice is worse?
  • Racism in SA is real and it matters
  • Rampant racism in the US, the land of the not so free
  • On being mis-recognised: Julian Hewitt and the angry black woman
    • HEATHER

      Yes it worked for Tiger

    • HEATHER

      And Chris Brown

    • Sports Fan

      This seems like a rather weak argument to bring race into an area where it hardly seems relevant. Are there statistical surveys of disgraced sportsmen of different races proving different treatment? Would OJ Simpson (another sportsman) have been let off his murder charge if he had been a straight white male and unable to play the race card? Did people absolve or condemn Hansie Cronje because of his race or because of his behaviour? Who knows? It seems to me that SA’s core competency is becoming bringing a racial angle to any argument under the sun – not specifically a criticism of this commentator, as this seems to be universal. Winning nations generally do this less. In fact even losing nations don’t do it that much.

    • Graham

      Uum, have to disagree. Tiger Woods is still the biggest name in golf by a country mile. Chris Brown still sells out shows with ease.

      The world, and people, move on.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Clinton and Tiger lumped together is strange as a politician and a golf player are held to very different standards. To then throw a vicious, cowardly woman beater into the mix is just beyond strange.

      Talking of abusers of women, why isn’t Mike Tyson still vilified? Because of his colour?

    • Skerrminkel

      You cannot argue accurate statistics, but you can also not just deduce that Armstrong will cycle again merely because he is white and heterosexual.
      Also, Hansie admitted his guilt within four days of being accused. He never played again. I am not sure how what Hershelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje’s racial classifications are (still searching for that book!), but they continued playing for many years.
      Then there is Tony Yengeni, Allan Boesak….

    • Facts People

      oprah is a classic example of sucking the occasion for $ and choreographing the whole thing

      South Africa’s biggest example:

      Zuma – need we say more!

    • Richard

      And Ben Johnson hasn’t done too badly, either. Suntosh Pillay, chip, shoulder?

    • King Lear

      How do you quantify forgiveness? How do you measure this?

    • Philip Leahey

      Only a South African could see racial privilege as a factor in determining the likelihood or speed of Armstrong’s public pardon. “You people” see a white racist under every rock in the world. Americans don’t care about the colour of their athletes. They care about their success. And like so much else in America, vast quantities of money follow athletic success and Americans respect wealth more than most. Somehow, Americans are able to forgive a wealthy man much more easily than a loser. No-one cared that Kobe Bryant narrowly beat a rape charge. Even his wife let him off the hook when he gave her a big pink diamond. Think Tiger’s crowds are any smaller because the whites will boycott him? Watch the Masters this year and see the big, fat whities cheer the guy! No, race won’t be a determining factor in judging Armstrong’s unlikely return to respectability. Don’t try to export your own bias. America is a little further down the road of a color blind society, albeit with a long way to go. You may be on the way there when you freely elect an Indian or white man President.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/davidjsmith David J Smith

      Ah, the long bow. A wonderful stretch indeed. I think next week you should write a piece about how Lance survived cancer because he’s a straight white guy.

      You can call God a hetro racist for saving him or cite some facts about how white straight people run the pharmaceutical companies and only make medicine that cures white straight people, or just make some other tenuous links to the subject matter.

      Yes, I do like a one-eyed argument, makes the corn flakes go down.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Speaking of outliers and the mean, why don’t we have full disclosure with the pencil test being applied to all the available data? This blog post is a virtual case study in how to conduct ‘research’ with confirmation bias.

    • Percipient

      And Jacob Zuma.

    • Brent

      It is all in one perception, people whos identy is ‘white’ feel that Blacks get better treatment and visa versa and these ‘attached’ people ONLY see evidence that prooves their case, the rest is unseen.

      Brent

    • Drunkenbastardman

      OJ Simpson. Your argument is invalid.

    • mike venter

      Mr Pillay another born-free that is also clinging onto the white bashing train of late for some fame?
      Honestly I see no benefit this piece brings to the table.

    • Zeph

      I bet you thought would add nicely to the much protracted and ongoing race debate? This article is missing substance and is rather pathetic.

    • Zeph

      …as is my sentence structure above….

    • Mr. Direct

      Armstrong is a dirty rotten cheat, no sympathy from my side. Standing on the winners podium, smiling knowing he cheated makes me want to punch him in the face. He has forged a fabulous life based on his cheating, that good honest sportsmen should have had. I do not care that the sport is riddled with doping, it is not an excuse.

      I do not think race is a relevant factor. Maybe every writer is bedazzled by the amount of reads that Schutte managed to incite, and is looking to boost ratings by using this angle.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Mr. Direct:
      Don’t forget that sexual orientation is also a deciding factor. When you’re straight and white, life is so easy.

    • Vic

      Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace: Minorities suffer the most.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      The appeal for colour-blindness and the “myth of sameness” – while tantalizing to aid our efforts at nation-building, ignore the structural, social and institutionalized ways in which specific types of racialisations are perpetuated. Citing a few high-profile exceptions just won’t do.

      For a comprehensive list of systematic academic studies that support the point, go to:
      http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Bibliography.pdf

    • Skerrminkel

      Thinking about the issue again… If you really want to make a noise about racism and cycling, how about checking the statistics for non-white cyclists, especially in mountain biking.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      A bibliography does not imply academic support for a specific viewpoint. The specific viewpoint that is still not supported is that Lance Armstrong is having it easy because he is while, straight and male.

      That biography lists several researchers who in general support various ideas about race-based thinking. It does not point to the specific research data that would support the hypothesis. In order to have this, what you’d require is a survey of all the available cases of icons who have fallen from grace and a means to gauge how rough their treatment was.

      You could start with doping in sport and compare Lance’s case with say, that of Ben Johnson. I wouldn’t say that either of these have had a particularly soft landing.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Johnson_%28athlete%29

    • Lennon

      Talk about opium of the masses! This Armstrong bollocks is a serious waste of paper and bandwidth.

      The guy is a cheat and admitted to it. Let him be stripped of whatever accolades he has been awarded and banned.

      End of story.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      @ Garg Unzola: a good idea for an interesting research project.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Suntosh,

      Profile exceptions ?

      Try giving us apples and pears to compare and we will see if you can make an argument for this.

      I’ll start. A well known white SA rugby player gets caught in holey underwear with a hooker and is sneered at and loses his job as a commentator. A well known coloured cricket player gets divorced then writes a tell all book and people shrugged, laugh and his career carries on.

      Why? Because one never pretended to be anything other than a wild child and the other made himself out to be a saint. Nothing to do with their colour, just their honesty.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Nice article Suntosh!
      People like Lance Armstrong are the worst since they never stop with their deceit and denialism. Recently, it was revealed by the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong continued lying even during his interview with Oprah!! Seems like he is in for some serious jail time,

      Armstrong’s denialism is reminiscent of our own beneficiaries of apartheid (BOAs) who question and deny that they continue to benefit directly from land stolen during apartheid.

      The world’s shock however, shows how much we’ve bought into the myth of who are real drug users in our society are. This is why one NEVER thinks about someone that looks like Lance Armstrong when one thinks of a drug abuse, instead he gets to go on Oprah to “redeem” himself! White privilege in action!

    • Tyson

      What a typically stupid comment from ‘Dave Harris.’ Attacking Armstrong for his race and then generalising it to all white people is as stupid and racist as saying that all black people are murderers and liars like OJ Simpson, just because they are of the same race. However such crass stupidity is what we have come to expect from this pathetic character.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay suntosh

      This article is merely problematizing media representations, because certain identity markers, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability etc. impacts our perception of people.

      Using Lance Armstrong as a case study works well, precisely because this story is NOT about race. The salience of white privilege operates in seemingly banal ways, invisible to surface-level scrutiny, and disguised in our discourse. A critical deconstruction of a single case study exposes social dynamics that might otherwise go unnoticed when looking at quantitative statistics.

      This is not about blaming Lance Armstrong, or blaming white people, or accusing anyone of anything. It is about highlighting how certain social dynamics operate. If it makes people uncomfortable, we should start a conversation about why this is so.

    • ??????

      What rubbish! This is an absolute stretch. The commentators thus far have pointed out the weaknesses in your argument, so I won’t add to them Why don’t you spend your time doing something constructive?

    • george orwell

      Highly relevant to this discourse – read the new book called “Why are *We* The Good Guys?”, written by David Cromwell, co-editor of media analysis site Media Lens.
      http://www.medialens.org.

      Cromwell’s other books, “Newspeak” and “Guardians of Power”, are also worth a read.

    • Robert

      mmm..Clive Derby-Lewis does not seem to be having much luck in being granted medical parole, even though he has cancer, whereas Schabir Shaik has been granted medical parole and is happily playing golf. Rather contrary to your argument no?

    • Momma Cyndi

      suntosh,

      By the sounds of things, the only person who is uncomfortable about discussing this is you.

      Oprah is all about ‘unicorns and rainbows’. From Whitney Huston to Marion Jones all the way down to cheating housewives, they have ALL gone on her show in search of the elusive ‘forgiveness’ coins that Oprah deals out so generously.

      Armstrong does make a point in that doping in cycling is at epidemic levels. Whilst that will NEVER make what he did right or shield him from the rightful ridicule he is now getting, should that be the main focus?

      Did you know that in the 2005 Tour de Doping, if you took out every cyclist who has no doping stigma attached to their name, the winner would be the guy who crossed the line in the 25th position? The greatest irony is that doping control was first implemented due to Tommy Simpson dropping dead during a live broadcast – in (you guessed it) the Tour de France! Makes you wonder why the cycling community is probably one of the last to implement out of competition testing. Is this something that has been tacitly encouraged by the Cycling Federation and is foolish Armstrong the sacrificial lamb? If he is, that puts one hell of a dent in your theory

    • The Critical Cynic

      So does the author subscribe to forgiveness (and want more of it for non-whites) or would he prefer to see less forgiveness being offered to whites in order for the world to be a little more fair?

      The article seems mostly to support Brent’s comment.
      Philip Leahey’s comments are quite telling – worth taking note of too.

      Sentences like
      “This leniency, however unconscious it may operate, extends globally when one compares the newspaper coverage of black versus white villains”
      are not backed up with any compelling race-based evidence or statistics from the USA to prove this is because of race, race alone, and not any other factors (be careful, they are often lies remember, and not facts) . Granted, the numbers evidence bias, but prove nothing about white people in general. They may just as easily point to something about the bias of government officials (especially in the republican USA context). Do we exclude the Arab world when making sweeping statements about global bias in favour of whites (certainly in the middle east the Arabs get the benefit of the doubt, quite possibly due to their race?)

      I must have missed something while being away on leave – is it my imagination or are the comments from Harris, Tofulux et al a little more shrill and definitely more overt in their racism this year?

      Personally I think it’s a little premature to deduce that the world (or even just the white world) has collectively decided to forgive Lance,

    • Lynne

      Is a reading list a supporting argument? No. …and having David Harris support you makes you a sure-fire loser.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      Thanks for the comments folks; let me try to address some of them:

      The two main critiques involve:
      1) Naming exceptions to the argument (Heather; Graham; Momma Cyndi; Skerminkel; Richard; Percipitent; Drunkenbastardman; Robert; Zeph)

      2) Downplaying race as irrelevant (Sports fan; PhilipLeahey; Brent; Mike Venter; Zeph; Mr Direct; Tyson; David J Smith)

      Other critiques:
      3) Lack of evidence (David J Smith; Garg Unzola)

      4) I’m riding the “race” gravy train (Mike Venter; Zeph; Mr. Direct)

      5) Forgiveness can’t be quantified (King Lear; The critical cynic)

      1) Naming individual exceptions just won’t do, because I am taking as my point of departure the empirical fact that countless studies show a pro-white media bias, in general. Of course there will be exceptions; that is the nature of the Bell Curve. Qualitatively,I’m using this individual case study to tease out social dynamics that are lost in the stats, because there is a prima facie case to be made (there is “face validity”).

      2) Sure, we could make another argument for why race doesn’t matter – go ahead – but it needs to be theoretically sound at least to trigger some debate.
      However, there is abundant evidence that white, heterosexual, able-bodied males receive statistically more positive media coverage than any other identity category, even when they are perpetrators of crime.

      Lance Armstrong a white, heterosexual, able-bodied male and a perpetrator of crimes. This argument surely…

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Santosh:
      I beg to differ that it is an interesting or relevant research project. It’s a case of the sharpshooter fallacy, which is exactly the wrong way around of doing research. Research becomes apparent from the conclusions that the available data indicates. One does not simply hunt for data to support foregone conclusions – or in other terms, shoot an arrow first then draw the bullseye around it.

      If it could be shown that white, straight males in general have a better time than other races or orientations in general upon getting caught red handed, perhaps it would be interesting. This of course implies an objective means of determining whose treatment is better or worse – by their nature more categorical than ordinal or interval variables. Any such analysis assumes the possibility of specific levels of measurement. In this case, we’d have the equivalent of an applause-o-meter.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Suntosh, beg your pardon for getting yiour name wrong:

      In your response above, you are trying to shift the burden of proof. You have proposed a hypothesis, and you have the burden of proof to come up with evidence to support it. It’s not up to the rest of us to prove you wrong. It’s not up to the rest of us to prove that race doesn’t matter. It’s up to you to prove that white males who are straight have a generally easier time when they get caught. So far, you haven’t presented the connection between race, sexual orientation and cushioned blows.

    • The Critical Cynic

      Suntosh,
      when you state “However, there is abundant evidence that white, heterosexual, able-bodied males receive statistically more positive media coverage than any other identity category, even when they are perpetrators of crime” are you basing this on a study of all the world’s media coverage or perhaps certain sectors of the world’s media (like the western world’s media for example)?

      I could understand such a bias in the western world’s media (given their historically chauvanistic, white supremist european backgrounds) but that still excludes a huge proportion of the world’s population and media.

      Even if there were statistics we’d be wary of them.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Suntosh,

      The problem is that you aren’t giving us anything to work with here.

      If I say that empirical evidence is that the sky is orange and then claim that using mid day is an ‘exception’ to the rule – how does one argue with that? Give us a ‘for instance’ so we can at least try to see where you are coming from.

      Taking into account various cultural, situational, occupational and regional differences, I honestly haven’t seen that white, hetro males get it easier when on the wrong side of the cheating law than anyone else.

      I’d like to understand how you get to that hypothesis but you aren’t giving me anything to grab onto

    • Brent

      Suntosh, I did not downplay race, (your 2 above) in fact i make race the deciding factor in our thinking. If, like Dave Harris, race decides your every breath, it will decide what evidence we accept and reject, we are our thoughts. Your last line in your response says it how you see it, not just a simple case of a guilty person. You add the other bits you dont approve of changing the article from simple guilty deeds to who does the deeds as the focus. Write a ‘political/racial’ article and you will get political responses.

      Brent

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      I went for reasonable provocation instead of a dry academic style; and certainly, this short media piece has many methodological flaws, however, given the curious backlash (that in itself is discursively interesting), here’s some empirical evidence upon which this argument rests:

      – David Niven’s (2002) book “Tilt? The Search for Media Bias” shows that American media is still biased, but only on race and gender.
      – Brennan & Vandenberg’s (2009) content analysis of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times concluded “that stories about white female offenders were more likely to contain excuses for their alleged or actual offenses and were, therefore, more likely to take on an overall favorable tone than stories about minority female offenders”.
      – In a shocking exposé by Eddy & Sandor’s (2011), participants were significantly more likely to judge a rape victim as probably desiring sexual intercourse if the perpetrator had a lighter skin tone compared to if the perpetrator had a darker skin tone. Even in these gross violations of human rights, lighter skinned men were offered greater leniency.
      – An experiment by Standford University psychologists Rattan et al. (2012) concluded: “if people imagine a juvenile offender to be black, they are more willing to hand down harsher sentences to all juveniles… The fact that imagining a particular target could influence your perceptions of a policy that would affect an entire class of people, we think, is pretty important to…

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      “Harping on about race” is neither pointless nor deliberately belligerent. It warrants attention, especially given the countless academic inquiries showing general media bias in favour of whites. This is not a value-laden moral judgment; it’s merely a statement of a social fact, that is supported by critical inquiry. These studies are far more systematic than my cursory review for the purposes of a short article to trigger debate.

      Journalistic watchdog, The Race Matters Institute states: “It is not uncommon for seemingly ‘non-racial’ stories to have important racial dimensions,” and a critical deconstruction of specific case studies show how “embedded racial inequities produce differential portrayals of people of colour and Whites. Compared to coverage received by Whites, practices and stereotypes within the news media work against people of colour…and over-reports Whites as victims.”
      See: http://www.racemattersinstitute.org/download/…/37/fact_sheet14.pdf

      Greer (2008) asks “who may legitimately claim victim status?” arguing that being presented as a victim in the news is profoundly influenced by social divisions including class, race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexuality, and, as such, remains a point of contention and debate because…there exists a hierarchy of victimization, both reflected and reinforced in media and official discourses…”

      Hill’s (2002) study shows that Americans with lighter skin tones are more positively viewed and more likely to be rewarded…

    • Momma Cyndi

      Suntosh,

      Thank you. That clears it up a lot. You may want to be careful about your examples in any future articles as these were simply confusing the issue. Thanks too for making this an interactive dialogue as that helps tremendously with the understanding.

      I see that you use primarily American studies. Would you say that those translate to the same here or in Italy or Thailand or Nigeria?

      As much as America believes that it is the center of our universe, it actually isn’t. That is why I mentioned cultural, situational, occupational and regional differences. It could be argued that patriarchal countries that are also homophobic are more for hetro males but a broad statement which includes ALL countries makes it questionable.

      It also has to be questioned as to what the political agenda is for those media mentioned.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Again, a few citations are not proof or evidence. I can just as well cite a few publications that find the opposite. We have no objective standard for determining who is judged harsher. There can be no such methodology that is convincing in any meaningful sense.

      To clarify and reiterate: The hypothesis extends to straight, pale males who are treated less harshly than their counterparts given the same circumstances.

      I can just as well point out that black offenders get cushioned in South Africa. While this is strictly true, the fact that they are black is merely circumstantial. There may be other factors, such as those who are politically connected get cushioned. How can we be assured that these other factors have been controlled for in the above studies?

      Media studies generally reveal only one clear bias:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_bias#Experimenter.27s_bias

    • Mr. Direct

      @Suntosh

      I heard that Barcelona FC had more penalties awarded in their favour than any other team in Spain.

      You could claim this is because their footballers are more skillful and needed be fouled to be stopped. You may also claim that they had the backing of the officials more than any other team, or you may claim that their players dive more. But the devil is in the detail really.

      I do not say your statistics are flawed, or the research is not above board, what I am saying is that statistics are always used in the context in which they are viewed.

      Maybe white skin gives people an edge, but you cannot conclusively predict the fate of Mr. Armstrong based on the colour of his skin. That is pure sensationalism….

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/suntoshpillay Suntosh Pillay

      So, can a reasonable person who looks at the above academic evidence and then finds evidence in the media that Lance Armstrong is receiving sympathetic coverage right off the bat, argue that perhaps – just maybe – an established set of variables are at play?

      Sure, there are holes in the way in this particular article is presented, but I think, to a reasonable person, there is nothing shocking or hopelessly flawed about the core message at all.

    • The Critical Cynic

      So the empirical evidence is mainly from North American (USA) sources – I’m not surprised at the conclusions being drawn, given USA and SA’s historical bias towards white males. But the USA is not America, and America is not the world and you may find quite the opposite treatment and draw the opposite conclusions if you were a white male on the wrong side of the law in say, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or South America.

      How you determine that this is NOT an article about race astounds me.

      Harris – “People like Lance Armstrong are the worst since they never stop with their deceit and denialism” – how can you state this and fail to see how it applies to Zuma just before the NPA mysteriously withdrew all those HUNDREDS of charges against him. No doubt Zuma is still denying his involvement and knowledge of Nkandla, or the lovely tar road to take you there, or how he manages to support his household on his normal presidential salary, or how he has a bond or doesn’t have a bond. Yes, people like that, especially those who keep getting caught out as liars, are the WORST. When it’s a cyclist who’s deceit has affected potentially hundreds of people it could be described as a disgrace. When it’s a president whose denialism costs hundreds of thousands of lives (Mbeki and aids) or potentially ruins millions of lives through their being sidelined from mainstream society by virtue of their economic status, THAT is a tragedy worth redress. Lance is a distraction.

    • Graham

      Hi Suntosh,

      I have re-read the article and comments, and still do not agree in singling out Lance Armstrong as the perfect test. It is flawed to singel out one person for your argument, but then dismiss those who counter it with other cases.

      Your argument is as follows: He will receive sympathy (proving the hypothesis), or he won’t receive sympathy (“Of course there will be exceptions; that is the nature of the Bell Curve”)??

      You need to make a comparison between Lance Armstrong and another similar person. Given his sporting status, I would go with Tiger Woods.
      As has been highlighted throughout the comments, Tiger is doing ok. He also received ‘sympathetic coverage right off the bat’.

      There are also other factors at play. Like Chris Rock says about OJ – ‘That case was not about race, it was about fame’. Fame saved Clinton, Woods, Chris Brown, and will save Armstrong in my opinion.