Earlier this week, writing for the Washington Post under the headline "Rolling Stone whiffs in reporting on alleged rape," Erik Wemple said: "For the sake of Rolling Stone's reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country's greatest judge of character. ...Rolling Stone bears a great deal of responsibility for placing the credibility of the accuser in the spotlight, thanks to shortcomings in its own reporting. Consider that: Erdely didn't talk to the alleged perpetrators of the attack."Unsurprisingly, Reed's "thoughtful" remarks include this graf:
Katherine Reed has written a thoughtful response [H/T to Jessica Luther] to this particular criticism, from the perspective of someone who covers sexual assault cases, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
I also understand the fairness argument when names are involved. But in this particular case, the names of the accused are not included in the Rolling Stone story.In other words, Reed takes the position that, so long as no particular individuals are named as perpetrators, anything goes, i.e. the same position taken by Rolling Stone editor Will Dana. That Melissa McEwan confuses this with something like responsible journalism comes as no surprise; she continued in this vein for literally months, condemning in harsh terms anyone daring to do the actual investigation that Rolling Stone had not, or who shared Wemple's skepticism. From December 5, 2014 (emboldening mine):
Robby Soave, writing under the headline "Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?" for Reason, does not find it credible that Jackie's friends could have discouraged her from going to the hospital or reporting out of self-interest.If "Jackie's" story were even remotely like true, in the real world, her friends should have immediately driven her to the closest emergency room. But of course, in McEwan's tortured cosmology, it's much more likely that they're monsters; she cannot imagine a good rape tale being false, ever. It's the same reason she justified Erdely's failure to contact the assailants on the grounds that "there was nothing meaningful they were going to add" to the story, never mind that their very existence would be a good starting point.
If the frat brothers were absolute sociopaths to do this to Jackie, her friends were almost cartoonishly evil—casually dismissing her battered and bloodied state and urging her not to go to the hospital.Failure to support a rape victim is something that could only seem "cartoonishly evil" to someone who has never survived an assault only to be met with indifference from friends, law enforcement, and/or even one's own family.
She does this sort of toe dance repeatedly, here, and here, and finally here, pretending that the Charlottesville police investigation and reporting from the Washington Post and Washington Times (which latter she does not mention) indicated that "Jackie" was anything other than a serial fabulist. (Mean old facts.) So at last, what does she take away from this? Why, of course, that Rolling Stone "threw Jackie under the bus" when they credulously and unquestioningly believed the supposed victim, just as McEwan demanded, and this now amounts to "victim-blaming". "Always believe" got Erdely to publish the story, just as it got her in trouble when "Jackie" turned out to be a liar. And I use that term without reservation, because who gives out multiple burner accounts to "friends" when trying to establish the identity of a supposed date? Why could no one confirm literally a single detail of "Jackie's" story?
The same approach, i.e. it's really Rolling Stone's fault for doing what I told them, pollutes Jessica Valenti's reaction at The Guardian, initially established by her December 9 piece in which she announces that
I choose to believe Jackie. I lose nothing by doing so, even if I’m later proven wrong – but at least I will still be able to sleep at night for having stood by a young woman who may have been through an awful trauma.It's a "heads I win, tails you lose" argument that should invite derision and contempt from anyone interested in justice or actual facts. Surprisingly, Amanda Marcotte's followup is remarkably subdued in comparison; she's the only one of the three — to her credit — who calls "Jackie's" prevarications "lie[s]". Even so, she partially lets Erdely off the hook for want of "guidance and support". That said guidance should have been obvious — get on the phone with the friends, and track down and interview the alleged perps — is almost beside the point. It's nearly a monumental victory to cross the low bar of calling a lie a lie.