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.

An Ethics Riddle: What Do Starbucks And The University Of Virginia Have In Common?

They both called the cops on someone who was violating a policy. Only one of them, however, was accused of racism.

Bruce Kothmann, a University of Virginia alumnus, read aloud from his Bible on the steps of the school’s Rotunda this week, so university police came make him stop. He did stop, because he didn’t want to be arrested. For such public speech is no longer allowed at the public university. The Rotunda is not one of the places the university has designated for public speech by outsiders. Kothmann was on to campus because his daughter had just finished her sophomore year, but was reading from his  Bible with him to challenge the school’s  policy limiting speech on campus.

A terse reader comment on the story said, “This is basically what happened at Starbucks.” The comment is correct.

Would UVA have sent the police to silence a black parent? My guess: no, and if it had, the school would be grovelling in the dust right now, begging for forgiveness. Unless the school could quickly point to a white transgressor who got the cops called on him, a charge of race bias would be devastating, and, of course, effective.

You recall the Starbucks episode: I covered it here. Two African Americans were informed of a Starbucks policy that required those using the facilities to be customers. The men refused, the manager called the police claiming trespass, and the rest is ugly, race-baiting history. The two men could have left just as Mr. Kothmann agreed to stop reading, but that’s just moral luck. The reader was right: the episodes were the same….except for the race of the violator involved.

The Ethics Alarms position is that both policies, that of the university and the old Starbucks policy, are reasonable, with the Starbucks policy being the more  defensible, since UVA is a public university and has the First Amendment to contend with. Never mind: the news media and the social justice social media mob have little interest in a white man being stopped by police from reading that old rag, The Bible, but if two black men violating a private business’s reasonable policy have that policy enforced against them, that’s intolerable.

We have the birth of a new racial privilege, now extending beyond police shootings (a white cop can safety shoot a threatening white suspect, but not a black one) to other forms of previously justifiable conduct. Continue reading

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

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 Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout

It is times like this when I wonder if my theory that ethics evolves toward wisdom may be excessively optimistic.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University officials went bananas when a fraternity engaged in randy verbal hijinks of questionable taste at its off-campus home across the street from the institution. ( “Hijinks of questionable taste” is synonymous with “acted like a fraternity.”) Some frat boys hung painted bedsheets as banners to welcome incoming freshmen co-eds, thusly:

Fraternity

Well, THE HORROR!

ODU’s leadership responded to the tomfoolery by issuing the following statement:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not [be] tolerated. The moment University staff became aware of these banners, they worked to have them removed. At ODU, we foster a community of respect and dignity, and these messages sickened us. They are not representative of our 3,000 faculty and staff, 25,000 students, and 130,000 alumni.

Ours is a community that works actively to promote bystander intervention and takes a stand denouncing violence against women. The ‘It’s on Us’ video is just one example of ODU students’ leadership on this topic. In addition, the University ensures all students receive education on the prevention of sexual harassment and relationship violence.”

Old Dominion’s Student Government Association also issued their own verbal condemnation of the incident. They filmed a video directly addressing the banners and stated: Continue reading