“I can’t state this more emphatically: If Jackie’s story is partially or wholly untrue, it doesn’t validate the reasons for disbelieving her.”
— Melissa McEwan, feminist proprietor of @Shakestweetz, an-all tweet blog, responding to the meltdown of the Rolling Stone story accusing a University of Virginia fraternity of gang rape.
Look, I’m not going to insult you by explaining what’s wrong with the assertion that those accusing others of horrific crimes shouldn’t be held to strict standards of credibility.
What is more significant than McEwan or her tweet is that this frightening and dangerous state of denial is moving from the status of self-evidently insane to acceptable. As I suggested in the previous post about the Rolling Stone retraction of its explosive story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the Ferguson demonstrators, the “Hands up!” protestors, the Congressional Black Caucus, and pundits like Eugene Robinosn who are still arguing that Officer Wilson should be indicted are doing essentially the same thing. Having decided that the Ferguson narrative pressed by civil rights activists communicated a deep truth about America, they refuse to accept that it was false even in the face of overwhelming evidence because they are intellectually and emotionally committed to that “truth.”
The tweet also forces me to upgrade the Rolling Stone fiasco to Ethics Train Wreck status. It already has a large passenger list: the alleged rape victim, “Jackie,” Rolling Stone and its editor (who admits that his publication didn’t do its due diligence before publishing the story, ignoring basic journalism ethics, because it didn’t want to appear “insensitive” to rape victims by checking whether “Jackie’s” accusation panned out); the University of Virginia and its president, Teresa A. Sullivan, who suspended all the campus fraternities based on the unsubstantiated, anonymously-sourced Rolling Stone accusation that one fraternity had been the scene of a gang rape in 2012; and the Obama administration, which created the environment leading to UVA’s unfair response by threatening to punish schools that provided basic due process to students accused of sexual assault. Now it is clear that feminists will be climbing on board—McEwan is just the craziest—as well as pundits on the right who are eager to use this one incident as proof that the campus sexual assault problem is a myth. Who else? We shall see.
The true villain here, however, at least until we learn more about “Jackie,” is Erdely. When I wrote yesterday’s post I had not seen Erik Wemple’s blog entry about how Erdley came to write the piece. The Washington Post’s media commentator reveals that Erdley went hunting for a “Jackie,” and even auditioned various campuses to finger as the site of rape cultures. He writes:
“On Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest podcast last month, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely explained why she had settled on the University of Virginia as the focus for her investigative story on a horrific 2012 gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. “First I looked around at a number of different campuses,” said Erdely. “It took me a while to figure out where I wanted to focus on. But when I finally decided on the University of Virginia — one of the compelling reasons that made me focus on the University of Virginia was when I found Jackie. I made contact with a student activist at the school who told me a lot about the culture of the school — that was one of the important things, sort of criteria that I wanted when I was looking for the right school to focus on….there’s ample evidence of poisonous biases that landed Rolling Stone in what should be an existential crisis. It starts with this business about choosing just the “right” school for the story. What is that all about? In his first, important piece on this story, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi described the author’s thought process:
So, for six weeks starting in June, Erdely interviewed students from across the country. She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right. But one did: the University of Virginia, a public school, Southern and genteel, brimming with what Erdely calls “super-smart kids” and steeped in the legacy of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.
A perfect place, in other words, to set a story about a gang rape.
Observe how Erdely responded to a question about the accused parties in Jackie’s alleged gang rape. In that Slate podcast, when asked who these people were, she responded, “I don’t want to say much about them as individuals but I’ll just say that this particular fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi — it’s really emblematic in a lot of ways of sort of like elitist fraternity culture. It’s considered to be a kind of top-tier fraternity at University of Virginia…It’s considered to be a really high-ranking fraternity, in part because they’re just so incredibly wealthy. Their alumni are very influential, you know, they’re on Wall Street, they’re in politics.”
The next time Erdely writes a big story, she’ll have to do a better job of camouflaging her proclivity to stereotype. Here, she refuses to evaluate the alleged gang rapists as individuals, instead opting to fold them into the caricature of the “elitist fraternity culture,” and all its delicious implications.
What are the odds that Erdley would agree with McEwan’s mind-melting tweet?
Pretty good, I’d say.
Source: Washington Post
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