Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Journalistic Malpractice, Rolling Stone's UVa Gang Rape Story, And Lena Dunham

It's been one of the busiest weeks I can recall for peddlers of the notion that college campuses are rape factories, and not in a good way. First, the Washington Post came out with a second fact-check of the now nearly month-old Rolling Stone story outlining a horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia. This, of course, was in addition to an earlier WaPo story that the friends "Jackie" (the victim of the story) spoke with that night recalled details that differed significantly from her account. (Emboldening below is all mine.)
...photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.
The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine’s reporters or editors. Although vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie’s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend’s well-being and safety. Randall said that they made every effort to help Jackie that night.
“She had very clearly just experienced a horrific trauma,” Randall said. “I had never seen anybody acting like she was on that night before, and I really hope I never have to again. . . . If she was acting on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, then she deserves an Oscar.”
The texting of a photograph of someone who hadn't actually been in the area for years (and was out of state at the time) and misrepresenting him as a date is the most important single piece of this article, because it indicates "Jackie" is a serial fabulist, and more, appears to have been at the time of the event. More in that vein came from the presumably less reliable and more partisan Washington Times, which noted that
The friends say among their concerns is the fact that the woman, named only as “Jackie” in the article, gave them a cellphone number so they could text a man she said she was seeing about three weeks before she alleged she was gang-raped at a fraternity house.
Eventually, the friends ended up with three numbers for the man. All are registered to Internet services that enable people to text without cellphone numbers but also can be used to redirect calls to different numbers or engage in spoofing, according to multiple research databases checked by The Washington Times.
While we can't say with any certainty, this particular detail speaks to a rather elaborate hoax, albeit one not terribly well-constructed. But what is consistent in all of this is that author Sabrina Rubin Erdely did no research on the key parts of the story — something she apparently is "re-investigating" — by failing to speak to any of the friends "Jackie" encountered that night, i.e. she engaged in journalistic malpractice.
Rubin Erdely is deeply compromised by her original shoddy reporting, and she is now part of this story; it makes no sense for her to be a part of “re-reporting” it. What if she subsequently writes that Jackie made the whole thing up? That would obviously be to her benefit—and we couldn’t possibly believe it.
The imagination balks at what Erdely might report next. One hopes the recently re-hired Matt Taibbi's defense of the magazine's fact-checking turns out to be accurate. I presume that verification will be turned on for this bout of journalism, though whether her revised story gets past that gauntlet is a different matter.

If Erdely fell down on her job in its most important part, i.e. actual journalism, she still has her followers in the world of doctrinaire feminism where actual facts have no bearing on the veracity of charges*. And yet, some of these media outlets have, to their credit, changed their tunes in a remarkably short time. Jezebel, who to my mind probably forms the centerline of modern feminism, went on December 1 from running a headline of "'Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?' Asks Idiot" to a deeply conciliatory "Alleged UVA Rape Vic's Friends: Rolling Stone Didn't Even Talk To Us" on December 11, after the latest WaPo piece eviscerated the original story.

So there is hope of sanity in Virginia, which may be spreading to other outlying areas. These provinces include the world of Lena Dunham's late autobiography, Not That Kind Of Girl. It's not clear exactly why or how a 28-year-old might get greenlit to write such a tome; but as we might surmise, it's full of salacious details, including a purported rape at the hands of one "Barry", another student at Oberlin while she was enrolled there. The Breitbart media empire, via reporter John Nolte, deconstructed the charges and discovered a "Barry" at Oberlin who vaguely (but neither conclusively nor compellingly) matched an actual Barry at that school. This later became such a mess that the individual felt it necessary to crowdfund a legal defense, which ultimately resulted in Dunham making changes to future versions of her book. In that, we hear echoes of "Jackie", to the extent that a competent editor would have performed background checks on the source material prior to publication.

The importance of rape as an animating factor for third-wave feminism cannot be overstated. From Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will to the present day, the belief in rape as a political force forms a core tenet of that branch of feminism that insists western civilization is as benighted, and frankly violent, as the outer reaches of Iran or Pakistan or Somalia. It renders men vulnerable to false charges, openly asserting they all benefit from this brutality. That this is obviously and trivially rebutted is immaterial, especially given the considerable redoubts this religion has in academe, particularly in the Department of Education's shift to a "preponderance of evidence" standard for "proving" what was hitherto a criminal charge. The secrecy that the alternative forums for adjudicating sexual grievances amount to a star chamber. We are, supposedly, to "automatically believe" all such charges, or so says Zerlina Maxwell, herself an attorney. Yet, if such charges cannot be defended against, if they cannot even be rebutted by high-profile individuals (i.e. quarterbacks on football teams), imagine how much worse a road ordinary men might have to travel.

I have long said feminism, at least the kind in general public display these days, is a self-limiting disease in that it must ultimately enlist men in its defense. Men and women are stuck with each other, and whether or not we like it, must separately come to terms with the consequences of sexual reproduction and its disparate effects on each gender. That means we all need to employ intelligence and empathy. Scattershot accusations and slander simply aren't beneficial, to anyone.

* I have not returned the favor to shakesville.com of using the ref=_nofollow modifier, as it has the side effect of making their nonsense less visible. We should encourage such monomanias with full-throated abandon, so as to allow the general public to see them and deliver the ridicule they so obviously and richly deserve.

1 comment:

  1. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it is later disclosed that Jackie is, in fact, bi-polar and her newly expressed mental disorder is in conflict with the academic expectations of going to college and this is part of her falling off the mental cliff.

    If she's a rational actor, she's frankly evil. There's really no other words to describe someone who would manipulate a hack of a "reporter" after doing the same to her friends earlier in the most lowly of methods, to claim to be a victim, to name her attackers and to then supposedly claim that she's doing this for the greater good of other women (can't wait for the "send me money here" link).

    That's all that makes sense to me, either a descent into mental illness that is likely undiagnosed here-to-fore or a vile concoction which itself might indicate a sort of narcissistic personality disorder. Normal, healthy people just don't lie like this.

    And the theory that Jackie didn't lie... just has no evidence. No hospital visit, no rape kit, no police report, no actual rapist named that is remotely able to be the person who raped her, no location, etc. None of the who-what-when-where-why questions are at all supported, and the results so far are 100% consistent with a fabricated fantasy.

    It's pathetic that this is happening, it's pathetic that someone went to print with it. Rolling Stone is an utter joke.