Journalism Ethics Reality Check: What The Entire News Media Did To Darren Wilson With Dorian Johnson’s “Hands Up” Story Is EXACTLY Like What Rolling Stone Did To UVA With “Jackie’s” Rape Account, Just Worse.

Am I the only one who sees this?

Two train wrecks, same track...

Two train wrecks, same track…

I discern that I was too subtle—imagine that!when I wrote,

In light of all this, it seems that women really have done a relatively poor job at intimidating the left-biased media as well as its progressive pundits and elected officials. If they had sufficiently pressured journalists into believing that to challenge their accounts of rape, substantiated or not, was proof positive of malicious animus, like the civil rights machine has regarding narratives of police racism, they could depend on much of the media continuing to repeat the Rolling Stone account as truth even if it is completely discredited. This is, after all, what we are witnessing right now, as the recent grand jury decision in the Eric Garner death has allowed columnists, reporters, and broadcasters—and thus protesters and politicians—to continue to represent what happened to Michael Brown as if Dorian Johnson’s discredited description of his friend’s death was fair, accurate and unbiased.

So let me be clear….

We are told the the news media is furious with Rolling Stone over its discredited and anonymously sourced gang rape accusation against the University of Virginia’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Why is it not similarly critical of itself for publicly and far more widely accusing a single, named Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, of a race-motivated, cold-blooded execution of an unarmed man based on the allegations of Dorian Johnson? They are, from a journalism ethics perspective, equally irresponsible and unprofessional, and predictably more harmful. It is, we can stipulate, worse for a police officer to be accused of first degree murder than for unnamed members of a fraternity to be accused of rape.


1. Both Rolling Stone and the mainstream media were eager to accept the stories being told as fact because of their own ideological biases.

Rolling Stone is committed to the current campaign of the left to portray college campuses as perpetuating a “rape culture.” The mainstream media, as it had already proved in its slanted and incompetent coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death and the trial of George Zimmerman, is a shameless ally of the cynical Democratic Party’s tactic of representing the nation as racist.

2. Neither the media that reported Johnson’s accusation nor Rolling Stone confirmed any aspect of the accusation before making it public.

They did not have access to the forensic report, not video, nor Wilson’s testimony.

3. Both Johnson and “Jackie” were inherently unreliable. The accounts of both were presented as facts, and not as unchecked allegations by a witness/participant of unknown veracity.

“Jackie” was unreliable because she wouldn’t allow her name to be used, but Johnson was more unreliable. He had lied before. He accompanied Michael Brown on the theft that preceded the incident. He had just seen his friend killed due in part to his own actions, and had a strong motivation to cause as much trouble for the officer involved as possible. No interviewer challenged his account on this basis: “You’re Mike Brown’s friend. Why should you be believed?” No interviewer warned the audience, “Mr. Johnson’s account cannot be verified, and as a participant in it and a friend of the deceased, his version of events, which cannot be checked at this time, needs to be taken as allegations only.”

4. Both, predictably, caused damaging and undeserved  consequences to those accused.

The fraternity and all others on campus were suspended by the University based on the publication of “Jackie’s” story alone. Johnson’s narrative caused far more damage. Other “witnesses” adopted it as their own, and were also interviewed as supposed substantiation. The “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” scenario launched by Johnson made a normal investigation and prosecution of the case impossible, sparked protests, anger and riots, and was so engaged  confirmation bias of civil rights leaders, anti-police activists and journalists that they haven’t let their grip go of it yet. It triggered riots, looting, and millions of dollars in property damage. It did immeasurable damage to U.S. race relations and society.

5. Both instances of irresponsible journalism guarantee long-term distortions of public perception of a genuine problem.

The critics of Rolling Stone are bemoaning the likely chilling effect the over-hyped story may have on public acceptance of real instances of rape, and their concerns are valid. The misreporting of the Ferguson incident will, and already has, had far more significant and far-reaching effects. It has made one of the most difficult and important jobs there is, police work, more dangerous and less trusted. It has undermined trust in prosecutors and the grand jury system, since many Americans still think that Johnson’s account was accurate. It has hardened the racial divide: one poll shows that over 85% of all African-Americans accept Johnson’s version as fact. Why aren’t media critics condemning this the way they are the Rolling Stone story? The answer is easy: they want justice for rape victims, but they are not similarly bothered by increased attacks on the justice system, fair or not.

In summary, the Rolling Stone story about “Jackie” and the news media’s promotion of Dorian Johnson’s lies were both examples of miserable, unprofessional, careless, reckless, agenda-driven and biased journalism that caused or will cause harm to individuals, institutions, public policy, public safety and society generally. In the case of Rolling Stone, the unethical conduct is being recognized and condemned within the journalistic establishment. Lessons have been learned, perhaps, regarding accusations of rape. In the case of the reckless reporting on Ferguson, it doesn’t appear that the news media has learned anything at all.

8 thoughts on “Journalism Ethics Reality Check: What The Entire News Media Did To Darren Wilson With Dorian Johnson’s “Hands Up” Story Is EXACTLY Like What Rolling Stone Did To UVA With “Jackie’s” Rape Account, Just Worse.

  1. The mainstream media, as it had already proved in its slanted and incompetent coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death and the trial of George Zimmerman, is a shameless ally of the cynical Democratic Party’s tactic of representing the nation as racist.

    I wonder why the Democratic Party is trying to paint the nation of racist.

    • I can only answer with what I think, Michael. I’m not privy to the secrets of the DNC and Ms. Wasserman-Schultz, but very nearly everything the Democratic Party does these days is geared to getting votes. The Wilson-Brown incident was a Godsend for them because blacks were starting to believe the Republican claim that they would be better off with a Republican government. In short, they were losing votes…BLACK votes. Brown gave them an opportunity to spread just a modicum of untruth, and sway black voters back to the Democratic side. And it looks like they are going to continue now to do this with ANY black/police interaction, pretty much no matter what that interaction is.

      By the way, did you know that there is a test for syphilis called the Wasserman test?

      • The problem by trying to gain black votes by claiming that the nation itself is racist (rather than merely the nation’s leadership) is that they would surely lose white votes.

        One basic principle of propaganda is to note define the enemy too widely, and painting the nation itself as the enemy is a clear example of that. Here is a comment on another site that articulates this better than I could.

        “If you keep telling white voters to vote for the GOP, that it is THEIR party and that they’re not welcome in the Democratic Party, party of the “coalition of the ascendant”, then you shouldn’t be surprised when whites turn out against you and do exactly you’ve been telling them to do. The GOP doesn’t need to do the Southern Strategy anymore… the faux-left will gladly do it for them!

        The focus of left-wing activists on identity politics rather than economic justice and class is killing the left-wing’s hold on whites and the younger generation. So many activists find more value in calling people they don’t like “privileged” rather than actually changing situations for the better, and it is alienating a significant part of the electorate. Turns out when you insult and treat with contempt people, they start hating you back, weird, huh?”

        • You may not believe this, but this was exactly my point. Blacks make up 14% of the population. Of the 86% remaining, whites make up, very roughly. 60%. Who wins this one?

      • Remember, you brought this up…
        For some time I’ve thought that the measure of a journalist’s being in the tank for Democrats due to their personal socialist bias should be quantified with some sort of simple short-hand, so that we know instantly what we’re dealing with. Surely the degree to which they agree with Wasserman, and vice-versa would be an excellent indicator of their position. A sort of test, as it were, that could be applied to all commentators and reporters.
        Let’s call it “The Wasserman Test”. Percentage of positive correlation (agreement with Wasserman) could be assigned: so, for example, a Charles Krauthammer could be said to have a negative Wasserman Test (0% agreement); and a Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos would be said to have a positive Wasserman Test (100% agreement). A less than 100% agreement would be described by the percentage of agreement, which would allow valuable background information to be conveyed instantly: One could say that a reporter “has a 70% positive Wasserman Test”, which would allow others to proceed with the requisite caution, or, skip their article entirely.

  2. We can only thank God that the “mainstream media” is no longer the sole source for information. Let’s hope that the day is not long coming that magazines like “Rolling Stone” join “Newsweek” in the trash heap of journalistic history.

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