Saturday, December 6, 2014

The UVA Rape Case

Here's what happened. A woman named Jackie accused a group of men in a University of Virginia fraternity of having serially raped her at a party at their frat house. Rolling Stone magazine's Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote a big spread on the alleged assault. It confirmed what people believed about the rape culture on campus and was vindication, of sorts, for liberals who had forfeited so much credibility in their rush to judgment in the similar Duke lacrosse players case in 2006.

Rolling Stone, however, in a case of journalistic malpractice that will probably be taught in journo schools for decades to come failed to actually interview any of the accused rapists. Erdely and her editors just swallowed Jackie's story hook, line, and sinker.

The Washington Post decided to do some actual investigation of the account and turned up a few interesting facts which have cast a great deal of suspicion on Erdely's account, and now RS is walking back their story and apologizing for their journalistic negligence. You can read a good summary of all these developments here.

Part of RS's problem in this episode is that they are a lefty magazine and the left has been marinating for decades in a bitter stew of assumptions about men. It's assumed on much of the left that all males are sexual predators, that all men are rapists of one sort or another, that women who report rape are never to be doubted, and that actual facts don't matter. Indeed, what matters in the worldview of people who write for magazines like Rolling Stone is whether the charges fit their preferred narrative. If so, then the allegations are "true" regardless of what really happened and the oppressors are to be punished for their crime of being males and ergo rapists, whether they personally committed the crime or not. Perversely, the accused are seen as a synecdoche of male patriarchy and by punishing them a blow is struck for justice on behalf of women everywhere.

Given this environment on the left, RS probably saw no need to question the authenticity of Jackie's account, and now they've seriously jeopardized the reputation of their magazine and made themselves a laughingstock much like the District Attorney in the Duke lacrosse case, Michael Nifong, made himself the butt of countless jokes and ill-will and finally suffered the ruination of his career.

Adding to the chuckles over the left's discomfiture and their absurd worldview is a piece by Charles C. Cooke at National Review which deserves to go down in the annals of journalism as a classic example of parody.

Here's a teaser:
It is with a heavy heart and a furrowed brow that I must conclude this afternoon that Rolling Stone, once a venerated pop-culture institution, is a rape-apology website. A few hours ago, in a “note to our readers,” the magazine cast aspersions on its own story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, doing a disservice to women everywhere and buying into an anti-female, denialist agenda that needs smashing from the ground up. As students of feminism know, any institution that would question the testimony of a young woman is by definition buying into a culture of “skepticism” that holds women to be untrustworthy and wishes to derail any conversation about Rape Culture in favor of maintaining the patriarchy and the status quo.

Rolling Stone claims today that it has “concerns about the evidence.” This, I’m afraid, is nothing more than coded obfuscation. Here, the outfit is demonstrating an appalling unwillingness to prioritize the “she said” part of its investigation, thereby bowing to those who would scrutinize and scoff at the lived experience of women everywhere. When the magazine refers to “new information” and to “discrepancies” in the alleged victim’s “account,” it is merely attempting to draw attention from broader truths about sexual violence.

When it throws its source under the bus, conceding that it has “come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” it is broadcasting, loud and clear, that women are not to be believed – effectively declaring them, in fact, second-class citizens. “Rape apologists,” Slate’s Amanda Marcotte clarifies, “think that if they can ‘discredit’ one rape story, that means no other rape stories can be true, either.” It is sad to see an institution such as Rolling Stone harboring such disgraceful aspirations. As Jezebel’s Anna Merlan might say: They are “idiots” — yet more people hellbent on teaching our society a class that Rachel Sklar calls “Rape denial 101.”
Read the whole thing. Cooke's parody of so much of contemporary radical feminist thinking is note perfect.

The lesson in this episode - for all of us, but especially for liberals - is the same as it was in the cases of the Duke lacrosse players, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. It's to make sure we've seen or heard all the relevant facts before solidifying our judgments, particularly if that judgment is going to contribute to the destruction of other people's lives.