Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (2)

rape-on-campus

 

I still can’t sleep.

This is the second Comment of the Day on this October 18 post, a surprise one for Pennagain, since I didn’t even flag it at the time. Again, I’m sorry. I don’t know what was up in October; it also ended with the worst traffic here of any week for more than two years. Obviously, it was a protest over my dilatory posting of the fine work by my commenters.

This one is a triple COTD, made up of three by Penn, who properly raised the specter of Samantha Erdly in the context of hoax research. Erdley is the Rolling Stone journalist who inflicted the “Jackie” tale of an imaginary gang rape at the University of Virginia, an earlier assault of truth and due process by the “believe all women” crowd. (Ethics Alarms covered the episode in a series of posts.). I just re-read Pennagain’s comments, made in a discussion with Alizia Tyler, who earns an assist. Excellent observations, and a valuable assist in making sure this journalistic outrage is never slipped down the memory hole, as so many would love it to be.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

As far as hoax articles appearing in either reputable journals or popular publications (rarely the same thing), if I weren’t an atheist, I would damn them all to hell. What I have in mind as an example that should need no further elucidation here is the piece knowingly published by Rolling Stone that included the false rape stories and statistics responsible for poisoning much of a culture, not to mention its politics….

“In November 2016, a federal court jury found Samantha Erdely was liable for defamation with actual malice” and that “Erdely and Rolling Stone failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice”

Her background reveals a start in college, when her colleague Stephen Glass ‘threw a righteous fit’ after she and a another student “concocted a funny and obviously made-up travel story” for the school magazine.” [Glass, you may not know, later became nationally notorious for inventing false stories published as factual journalism in the highly respected The New Republic, seriously harming its reputation.] Erdely was obviously already toxic before she left school. If you’re curious, her Wikipedia bio contains descriptions of six other major rape stories she invented out of whole cloth and used to smear real people and institutions, articles that in at least two cases went up for major journalism awards. As a self-appointed expert in rape and bullying, her work went into GQ, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Health, Philadelphia, among other lesser magazines. She was believed. The more she got away with, the greater the lies she invented … until, after twenty wonderful years of conning millions of people, she got over-confident and lazy, and plagiarized a previous article of her own. Until someone finally noticed that the Rolling Stone piece bore too many similarities to another one to be coincidental.

For twenty years, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Seattle to Florida, she built a reputation for being the go-to journalist on the subject of rape. No one doubted her. Witnesses later spoke out using her writing as statistical evidence — women (and so many men who had been falsely accused) and feminists in particular — had absorbed every precious word – even against the evidence of their own knowledge and experience in the times and places Erdely was writing about.

A month ago, September 21, 2018, Rolling Stone was also found “liable for defamation.” It was noted in the case against Erdely that the magazine hadn’t been doing too well before they glommed onto that gem of Samantha, aka “Jackie,” the fictional rapee.

Last week’s headline: WaPo Reporter Is Tired of Being Reminded He Fell for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Hate Hoax So Badly He Called for Burning Down UVA Frat Houses

I now amend my description of the poisonous piece: It is a “hate hoax.”

No, Alizia, poisons do not, in general, lead to death. They lead to minor discomfort in some, and major permanent damage in others; some knock you on your ass right away, and some creep insidiously into your brain over months or years. The public remembers things they read and hear. They (I won’t say “we” because I became skeptical reader at the age of 12 after a defamatory article was published in a local newspaper concerning a friend of my family concerning something that happened while I was present and knew to be a lie. I had been visiting one of their children, a classmate, at the time the incident took place, or rather, didn’t take place. My testimony was taken down, along with his, not discounted, but the editor of the paper would not print a retraction because, he said, “we don’t want to confuse our readers; they expect the truth, and that is what we give them.” Our parents wanted that in writing; naturally, he refused.

I am convinced that what is presented in a plausible manner from an authoritative source (which could be the 10 o’clock news or a magazine with a reputation for having its journalistic thumb on the pulse of young America) is frequently taken in without the auditor, viewer or reader later recalling the source. If they didn’t question it in the first place, they not only don’t question it later, but, when challenged, they will deny or dismiss any correction out of sheer embarrassment, egotism, mental laziness or, in the case under discussion, because they want to believe it.

As has been pointed out in Ethics Alarms before, the left, on the whole, has taken the anomalous position of being at once both victim and dictator. Thus, the concept of a Rape Culture is heaven for them: they are, collectively, the injured parties … and the ones who injure, including any who are capable of doing injury, are now at their mercy — via 30-year-old wisps of memory, anonymous join-the-conga-line #MeToo-ers, a casual touch on the shoulder, or a dirty-dirty word in their ears. They feed on lies more than on facts – the truths are painful, but the lies are more … emotional, memorable, dramatic, arousing . . . . They need to feed the addiction even when they know it is poison…

The fact in this matter is that Erdely, falsely or idiotically or crazily or not, believed she was doing something fine and high-minded “for women,” and to alert a deaf public (and via that route influence authorities) that there was “a rape problem” that needed to be addressed. In her mind, the ruining of a single man (or a whole college fraternity) was insignificant in terms of getting her message “out there.”

In other words, her cover (if you will) was in presenting these gross exaggerations as hoaxes. I may have taken you in the wrong direction by quoting the court decisions concerning malicious intent. The articles undoubtedly did “malicious” damage. So where am I? What Erdely believed (and apparently still does) has been shown to be shared by much of the public touched by it — including a proportion of men who don’t understand they are simply seeing themselves as heroic exceptions, or else thinking they are disguising themselves to live in the midst of an Amazonian tribe that wants to cut their balls off (that was an irrelevant side-bar, sorry, I do that a lot, letting off steam). Here’s what happens when someone with a cause and a vague concept of how bad the situation is gets hold of what she thinks are solid statistics, intended as a righteous hoax: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/12/06/msnbc_panelist_we_live_in_a_culture_that_hates_women.html

I rest my case.

Ethics Dunce: “Rolling Stone” Founder/Owner Jann Wenner

rape-on-campus

 

I’ve been awarding Ethics Dunces for more than a decade now, and I’m beginning to find the title too generic. For example, Jann Wenner, in this instance, is a particularly repugnant Ethics Dunce. In short, the title’s too good for him.

Wenner’s iconic baby, Sixties relic Rolling Stone magazine, is a defendant in a  $7.5 million lawsuit brought by Nicole Eramo, a former Associate Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, who claims that the 2014 Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” depicted her as a villain in the shocking story, which was ultimately shown to be about a gang rape that never happened. (Ethics Alarms covered this episode extensively, an ethics train wreck, here.) Testifying in video excerpts from his deposition, Wenner said his magazine was wrong to retract the  article, despite the fact that it was based on false allegations. In his videotaped testimony Wenner claimed that much of the material in the article was accurate

How Dan Rather of him! In a classic example of agenda-driven reporting, Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely accepted the tale of a never-identified student called  “Jackie” who claimed to have been brutally raped at a party that never happened, at a misidentified fraternity, primarily by one student who was falsely accused. Because of the article, the  fraternity system at the University was temporarily shut down and permanently subjected to more stringent regulations. The male student body was tarred as teeming with sexual predators. The entire thesis of the article was based on the fabricated rape account. There is no ethical justification to continue to present such an article after its diseased heart must be removed. Continue reading

“Jackie” Scores A Jumbo!

That's not really "Jackie" with Jimmy and Jumbo---it's Doris Day, who turned 92 this week. Happy Birthday, Doris!

That’s not really “Jackie” with Jimmy and Jumbo—it’s Doris Day, who turned 92 this week. Happy Birthday, Doris!

You remember “Jackie,” surely, who was featured often in Ethics Alarms posts last year. She is the inexplicably still un-named lying fake rape victim who exploited the sloppy journalism and miserable ethics of man-hating Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdley, to create a sensational account of a fraternity gang rape on the University of Virginia campus…that never happened. The resulting article led the UVA president to shut down fraternities, set anti-male feminist pundits and activists into a frenzy of nation-wide victim-mongering, brought down the fires of Hell on the brow of UVA associate dean of students Nicole Eramo, who “Jackie” fingered as an unfeeling villain, and seriously— and, one hopes, permanently— wounded the credibility of Rolling Stone, which ultimately had to retract the whole thing.

No,  the gang rape never happened. About that, there is no longer any doubt. No evidence of an assault was ever uncovered, besides “Jackie’s” lies. None of her “facts” could be confirmed, except by the progressive biases—mostly political, as the Obama Administration has been working overtime to represent campus romance as the equivalent of the Rape of the Sabine Women—that allowed the story to progress to publication in the first place.

Now Nicole Eramo is suing Rolling Stone for defamation, alleging that Erdley’s article vilified and harmed her recklessly. Naturally, her lawyers want to depose “Jackie,” since it was “Jackie’s” fiction, never verified by Rolling Stone, that created the false story.

Jackie’s lawyers, however, strongly argued on her behalf that she should not have to testify, since the experience would cause her serious psychological trauma by forcing her to relive the sexual assault—that never happened. She will be “re-victimized,” her lawyers say–remember, this is Jackie’s position; her poor lawyers are the ones she pays to present it without laughing. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce (From The Shark-Jumping Files): The National Organization For Women

Fomzi, Homer, The National Organization for Women...

Fomzi, Homer, The National Organization for Women…

It would be good for the nation and national discourse on gender-related matters if there existed a national organization, operated with integrity, intelligence and dignity, that addressed legitimate issues of women’s rights with the zeal of an advocate as well as professionalism and common sense. There was a time, so long ago now that I can’t even recall exactly when it was, that the National Organization for Women appeared capable of evolving into just such an organization. As this incident shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that chance has passed. NOW has descended into permanent knee-jerk hackery, the realm where its neighbors are such predictable and rightly-maligned one-note fanatics as PETA, the NRA, NARAL, and Media Matters. What a shame. What a lost opportunity to do good.

When the Worst of Ethics 2015 is finally published here (It’s coming! I swear!), the “Rolling Stone” fiasco featuring the fantasy rape accusation of “Jackie” against a University of Virginia fraternity will take one of the “honors,” and maybe more. From that collision of campus sexual assault hysteria and incompetent journalism came real harm, and several of the victims are suing the publication for defamation. One such victim is a University of Virginia associate dean named Nicole Eramo, who is alleging in her lawsuit that the magazine falsely portrayed her as negligently unconcerned with allegations of sexual assault on campus and as the now totally discredited fraternity gang rape tale’s villain.

Counsel for Eramo has asked that a court require “Jackie” to turn over any communications ,related to the alleged assault, between Jackie and  the magazine, friends, family and a campus support organization. Now NOW has presumed to interfere, and is trying to derail the lawsuit. In an open letter published this week, NOW president Terry O’Neill called on UVA president Teresa Sullivan to get Eramo to drop the suit. (She cannot force her to do that, however, and it would be unethical for Sullivan to try.) Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Columbia Journalism Review’s Report On Rolling Stone’s False UVA Gang Rape Story

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

The Columbia School of Journalism was tasked with delivering the final verdict on the already thoroughly discredited Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus,” which first ran Nov. 19, 2014. The report, which was published yesterday, could not be more critical or devastating to the publication’s reputation and credibility. The one positive conclusion about Rolling Stone that the report documents is that the magazine cooperated fully with the investigation. In light of everything else Rolling Stone has done in this indefinably awful instance of atrocious and unethical journalism, that compliment is like praising a serial killer for leading police to the bodies of his victims.

The news media this morning is full of punditry on the CSJ report, none of it kind to Rolling Stone, so I will confine any new commentary here to the following 10 observations Ethics Alarms has already discussed the matter and related ethics issues extensively.

1. Upon receipt of the CSJ report, Rolling Stone finally took down and retracted the story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. The story has been on the magazine’s website since mid November, and it has been universally identified as unreliable, misleading and false before the month was over. Why was the piece still up almost five months later? What the reporting of the Washington Post and others demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt was that the story was based on unsubstantiated allegations and terrible reporting practices sparked by the reporter’s ideological agenda and her own biases. Once a news article is found to be so sub-standard that it should never have been published, that means it need to be un-published,  and does not belong on a news source website, unless it is under a banner stating: “Retracted and Discredited.”

2. While the Columbia report added some new details and had the name of a university on it, its findings added little to what had already been reported elsewhere. The CSJ’s proper role was to examine the lack of professional and ethical journalism policies and procedures that led to this fiasco, and to make recommendations to prevent similar abuses of the First Amendment from occurring. The fact that the article itself was indefensible did not need confirmation.

To me, it looks like Rolling Stone used the investigation to stall, delaying accountability as long as possible. Continue reading

Accountability, “Jackie,” and the University Of Virginia Fraternity Libel

"Jackie"

“Jackie”

There are times when I feel like the ultra-conservative Senator Keeley played by Gene Hackman in “The Bird Cage,” when he’s just learned that his daughter’s future in-laws are a gay couple, that his future son-in-law has two mothers, and the middle-aged woman he had been flirting with all evening is a gay man. Literally nothing makes sense to him any more, and he says, plaintively, “I feel like I’m insane.”

The New York Times report on the police investigation into Rolling Stone’s false story about a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity made me feel like this. It made no sense to me whatsoever.

“After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews,” the story said, “Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.Despite “numerous attempts,” he said, his officers were unable to track down the man Jackie had identified as her date that night. And several interviews contradicted her version of events.”

But wait, there’s more:

During the course of the ensuing police investigation, the chief said, investigators interviewed nine of the 14 members who were living at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012; none said they knew Jackie. The authorities also sent questionnaires to other fraternity members; 19 were returned, and none of the respondents said they knew Jackie or had any knowledge of an assault having occurred at the fraternity house. A review of bank records for the fraternity revealed no expenditures for a party. The police also found a photograph time-stamped Sept. 28, 2012. It showed two men in an otherwise empty entrance hall, the chief said.Investigators also interviewed two of Jackie’s friends, both men, whom Jackie had said met with her after the assault occurred. But both contradicted her version of events, the chief said, adding, “They don’t recall any physical injuries.” And while both said they were told by Jackie that she had gone out on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, with a person named Haven Monahan — identified in the Rolling Stone article as “Drew” — the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down.

Meanwhile, we are told, “Jackie” refuses to cooperate with the investigation in any way. Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 2)

Rice and Janay

Ethics Corrupter of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

Janay Palmer Rice, beloved punching bag of NFL star Ray Rice, who was caught on camera smooching with her man shortly after being cold-cocked by him in a hotel elevator, married him, and has repeatedly defended her husband, prompting confused female pundits to defend her. She is not only the embodiment of Rationalization #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”, she is also a good bet to get some young women killed by giving them a role model who stands for standing by your abusive man with the hard right hook.

Double Standard Of The Year

In a year of double standards, the treatment of soccer star (and accused child abuser) Hope Solo by her sport, feminists, the media and the public takes the prize. The standard, as I understand it, is that big, strong female athletes can beat up smaller, weaker family members with impunity, and it’s no big deal, but when a male athlete does the same, he is scum. Got it.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, was caught saying in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU.”  Now that’s diplomatic. Of course, she wasn’t fired, because she works for the Obama Administration

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

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First Lady Michelle Obama, who helped her husband make the U.S. look weak and ineffectual (he needs no help), by engaging in this ridiculous effort at hashtag diplomacy. Those kidnapped girls were never found, and Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that took them, I learned today, just killed a reported 2000 more victims. Time for another sad picture, Michelle!

Most Unethical Sports League

The NFL, last year’s winner, was even more unethical this year, with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, Commissioner Roger Goodell showing no innate instinct for right and wrong and both the league and its teams making up rules and policies according to talk show calls, polls and wet fingers in the air. Meanwhile, it’s still making billions paying young men to lobotomize themselves. What a great sport.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Alex Rodriguez, suspended Yankee star, had denied, denied, denied, threatened to sue Major League Baseball and the union, and insisted that he had not, as an investigation had determined, used performance enhancing drugs supplied by Biogenesis. Then, just as his season-long suspension was lifted, it was revealed that A-Rod had, under oath, admitted using steroids from 2010 to 2012.

Annual Sports Ethics Controversy That Gets Worse Every Year

Steroid cheats (like Rodriquez) and their fitness for admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Unethical Lawyer of the Year

Michael Fine, the Ohio lawyer who allegedly hypnotized female clients in order to sexually molest them.  Runner Up Alexa Van Brunt. She didn’t do anything unethical; she just advocates ethics rules that would eliminate the core of legal ethics, proving that she doesn’t understand her own profession.

Unethical Judge of the Year

judge_mccree

Wade McCree, the handsome devil pictured above (he circulated this selfie), who, presiding over a felony child-support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant. This was just the latest of his embarrassments.  Runner up: Texas District Judge Jeanine Howard, who handed down a stunningly lenient sentence of probation and 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center for a man who confessed raping a 14-year old girl at her school.

 

Unethical National Broadcast Journalist Of The Year

CNN’s Carol Costello. She was biased, smug and incompetent all year long, but reached her nadir when she gleefully played a recording of Bristol Palin explaining to police how she had been assaulted, saying to her viewers, “You can thank me later.” She refused to apologize on the air, or to Palin. Continue reading

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.

Note:

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The “Rolling Stone” UVA Gang Rape Botch

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn't happen? Take a cue from the "hands up!" crowd: keep protesting. The news media won't notice.

Student protest against campus rape at UVA. And if the rape didn’t happen? Take a cue from the “Hands up!” crowd: keep protesting! The news media won’t notice.

Hardly making it to the headlines (except where I live) is the latest example of 1) irresponsible journalism and 2) the results of the Obama administration threatening colleges with sanctions of they don’t presume every male student accused of sexual assault is guilty.

On Nov. 19, Rolling Stone published a sensational report—sensational, mind you—by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, telling the tale of a vicious  gang rape at the  Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The victim and the source of the story, a young woman called “Jackie,” said that in 2012 she was forced into a room in the fraternity  and raped by seven men, as her date and another man  cheered her assailants on.

In response to the uproar triggered by the story, the university, which was loathe to be a target of investigations and sanctions by the Obama administration if they did not act with appropriate haste and severity,  suspended all the campus fraternities until January as the media went into a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, the alleged crime is under investigation by local police. [UPDATE: Here is a call to suspend the UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan:  “Her decision was arbitrary, rash and wrong. Even Delta House got some semblance of a trial in the movie, ‘Animal House.'” I do not disagree.]

Several journalists diplomatically raised questions about the account, especially the fact that the story was often phrased in terms that left  no hint that these were allegations only. In an environment where the party in control of the White House maintains that any hesitation to regard a rape accusation as inherently reliable is proof of a “war on women,” one unnamed woman’s  unconfirmed accusation presented as truth by a female reporter was sufficient to trigger adverse consequences for male UVA students with remarkably little reflection: this was unfair, an example of punishing all the horses because someone said that one of them left the barn.

It should be no surprise that the other shoe has dropped. Continue reading