Unethical Tweet Of The Month (Or Eternity?), “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck Division: Melissa McEwan

Melissa McEwan's profile photo. I'm not going to say a thing. No, really. Not a thing.

Melissa McEwan’s profile photo. I’m not going to say a thing. No, really. Not a thing.

“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.

__________________

Pointer: Twitchy

Source: Washington Post

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at jamproethics@verizon.net.

17 thoughts on “Unethical Tweet Of The Month (Or Eternity?), “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck Division: Melissa McEwan

  1. I was going to call your attention to this last night as well as Anna Merlan’s posts where she apologized, I was going go ask you to rate it, then she sent out a tweet that demonstrated she learned nothing and is still Ethically challenged.

    • Ummm…they not only hate men but think the world would be better off without them. And get away with saying absolutely disgusting things about men…followed by comments by other “feminists” of this sort such as

      “You go girl!!!! “

  2. Is anyone really surprised that this is the sort of “journalist” that America’s Pravda would recruit? This is par for the course with that God-awful rag.

  3. If Jackie’s story is partially or wholly untrue, it doesn’t validate the reasons for disbelieving her.”

    When George W. Bush was accused of lying about WMD’s in Iraq, I do not recall any right-leaning commentator- let alone anyone from the Bush administration- claiming that Bush lying about WMD’s would not validate reasons for disbelieving him.

  4. A bit of a different situation…but even that deity named Oprah could not get away with trying to claim that James Frey’s A Million Pieces was still just as powerful and important when it came to light that the majority of his “biographical memoir” which she had endorsed was not true.

    • But then Frey was a man. I forgot about that. Had Frey been a woman, I bet Oprah (I’m really sorry for using her name on this blog) could have salvaged his reputation.

      *even though anyone with the intelligence of a door knob would have known that some of the events written in that book just could not have happened.

  5. Her reasoning and research would not be out of place if she were writing fiction. Fiction can be a powerful tool for advancing an agenda. For example, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She just needs to be honest enough to call it fiction from the beginning.

    • Or better yet, call it ‘fiction’ (wink, wink, it’s really true).

      This is the same line of thinking that led history teachers to show Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ in class. I believe it was Kevin Costner who expressed it best, saying basically “It isn’t how it happened, but it SHOULD be what happened and that’s what history should be.”

  6. “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”

    Sabrina didn’t even bother to get the trivial matters correct–PKP is at best a middlebrow frat at UVA.

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