The Rolling Stone-“Jackie”-University of Virginia ethics train wreck has claimed another victim, and an unlikely one: “Doonesbury’s” characters, who have been led astray by cartoonist Gary Trudeau and the newspapers that carry his popular strip.
In the episode that ran yesterday, the campus bimbo-turned-feminist “Boopsie” ranted about sexual assault cover-ups of by institutions, and singled out the University of Virginia as a culprit, forbidding her college age daughter from attending school there. [ Notice of correction: I am informed by a reader that “Sam” is Boopie’s daughter, not her son as I wrote originally. Thus she is forbidding her daughter from attending a school where she thinks she is likely to be raped, rather than forbidding her son from going to a school where major magazines will unjustly accuse his fraternity of being a cult of rapists. I apologize for the error.] The premise was based on the anonymous allegations of a fraternity campus assault that were turned into a sensational expose by a feminist reporter with an agenda, and guilelessly published in Rolling Stone without confirmation, fact-checking, or a minimal level of ethical journalistic practices. “Jackie’s” rape accusations have been shown to be substantially or completely fabricated, and story has been thoroughly discredited for more than three weeks.
Why are Trudeau and his fictional creations still calling UVA a hotbed of sexual assault? There are several reasons:
- Trudeau is as good an example of a knee-jerk liberal as you could find, and he would naturally assume that any unidentified woman’s account of sexual victimization is true without any real evidence whatsoever. These are the rules in his world.
- Although most readers don’t focus on the fact, comic strips are completed weeks or even months in advance. It is fair to assume that Boopsie made her rape rant before the Rolling Stone story fell apart.
- Trudeau, as a political, partisan, ideological satirist, often launches barbs of dubious fairness. Can editors tell when Gary is on firm ground or just indulging in his increasingly bitter and unfunny flame war on behalf of the groups that make up the enthusiastic wing of the Democratic Party? I doubt it. I know I couldn’t.
- No newspaper editor wants to be accused of subject matter censorship. Nothing in yesterday’s strip crosses the line into libel; it’s just very unfair, and spreads a false and inflammatory story that was known to be false by the time the strip ran.
The one who had the ethical obligation to fix the problem was Trudeau. There was plenty of time to contact his syndicate and withdraw the December 28 strip as inaccurate and based on reports now known to be unreliable. There was also plenty of time to draw a new strip: I know Trudeau is busy these days (he has been recycling old strips, much to the dissatisfaction of many readers), but there is no excuse for allowing UVA to be vilified further over an incident that may not have happened.
My guess, having read “Doonesbury” literally from the beginning and watched it devolve from a funny reflection on college life in the Sixties to a shrill far left polemic in which the laughs are separated by weeks and month, is that Trudeau didn’t care. He probably assumes that if Jackie’s story is false, then there are other co-eds on the UVA campus being raped and ignored, so no injustice has been done. (Al Sharpton fans will recognize this as the equivalent of Al’s rationalization for the Tawana Brawley hoax.)
That’s just a guess, however, based on my long ago-formed conclusion that Gary Trudeau is a pompous jerk. It could be that he was just lazy, inattentive and irresponsible.
[ Note: It is also fascinating to peruse the reader comments to the strip. Few readers are troubled by the fact that it is based a debunked account: these are Trudeau’s philosophical allies, and this is a symptom of the ethics illness that is infecting them.]
Source: Go Comics