Am I the only one who sees this?
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.