No, This is not the Last of the Campus Rape Hoaxes
By William L. Anderson
At last, with the usual fanfare of self-importance served with a side of dishonesty and arrogance, Rolling Stone admits that its November 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story was a hoax, a hoax created in “good faith” and in “sensitivity to a rape victim,” but a hoax nonetheless. As I had predicted in an earlier story, no one lost his or her job over this piece of fiction, and the writer, Sabrina Erdely, no doubt soon will be off to her next writing assignment for another high-profile American publication like New Yorker (which has published her work before) or even RS. In for a dime, in for a dollar.
According to Columbia Journalism Review, which conducted the “investigation” of the RS journalistic malpractice, the magazine made one serious mistake: it depended upon one source and one source alone, the so-called victim named “Jackie.” Hey, no sh*t, Sherlock. An explosive story like this in which no one seems to care that a poor freshman girl has been brutally raped by seven men, thrown against a glass-topped table that shattered, leaving the “victim” covered in blood, and a supposedly reputable publication depends upon one person who turns out to be a pathological liar? And no one is canned for this?
One thing is clear: All of this could have been avoided if the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had made more phone calls.
“The editors invested Rolling Stone’s reputation in a single source,” Columbia’s 12,866-word report concludes.
The source was Jackie, a student who leveled allegations of a violent gang rape against a group of fraternity students. None of her allegations have been corroborated.
No, the problem is not that Erdely failed to make phone calls. The problem is that the magazine decided to publish a story in which a supposedly-experienced and highly-touted writer did not follow even the basics of journalism, something that I learned nearly 40 years ago as a cub reporter for a newspaper in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The question to be answered is not why Erdely failed to do Fact Checking 101. It is abundantly clear to me why she failed to check the facts, and it was because this was The Story Too Good To Be True. Just as the Duke Lacrosse Case went airborne after the supposedly-reputable Raleigh News & Observer published an interview with Crystal Gail Mangum, who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team, Erdely and the rest of the faux journalism gang at Rolling Stone decided that a bit of basic journalism research might ruin a good story.
The N&O’s interview with Mangum contained numerous factual claims that easily could have been researched, but the editors decided to believe everything Mangum told them because it fit their ideological biases. Likewise, RS decided to pursue its “Rape on Campus” story in the manner it did because its editors already had given into the fiction that one in every five college females is raped, and that colleges and universities are awash in “rape culture.” To have done basic research, in their view, would have somehow cast doubt on their precious ideologies and the whole leftist notion that women at the University of Whatever are more likely to be raped than women in war zones where soldiers use rape as a weapon.
Unfortunately, we are going to see more of these kinds of stories with the same results because Progressive publications such as RS want both to adhere to the fiction that is campus identity-based ideology and to those things called facts. Columbia Journalism Review declares:
It would be unfortunate if Rolling Stone‘s failure were to deter journalists from taking on high-risk investigations of rape in which powerful individuals or institutions may wish to avoid scrutiny but where the facts may be underdeveloped. There is clearly a need for a more considered understanding and debate among journalists and others about the best practices for reporting on rape survivors, as well as on sexual assault allegations that have not been adjudicated. This report will suggest ways forward. It will also seek to clarify, however, why Rolling Stone‘s failure with “A Rape on Campus” need not have happened, even accounting for the magazine’s sensitivity to Jackie’s position. That is mainly a story about reporting and editing.
No, this was not a fundamental problem of reporting and editing. True, what was reported was not true, but Erdely was not interested in the truth any more than the N&O and the New York Times were interested in the “truth” about the Duke Lacrosse Case. (At least the N&O did change the tenor of its coverage after its best investigative reporter, Joe Neff, took over the story. The NYT, on the other hand, decided to go down with the ship and protect a rogue prosecutor, Michael Nifong, even when Mangum’s account was as doomed as the Titanic.)
Furthermore, CJR is sticking to the fictitious doctrine that “something happened” to “Jackie” that night, or at least that something “could” have happened:
Rolling Stone‘s retraction of its reporting about Jackie concerned the story it printed. The retraction cannot be understood as evidence about what actually happened to Jackie on the night of Sept. 28, 2012. If Jackie was attacked and, if so, by whom, cannot be established definitively from the evidence available.
To use a term that Progressive journalists love to attack, I would say the “something happened” theme is “faith-based.” Yes, we are supposed to believe that after “Jackie” had given a detailed account, complete with broken glass sticking in her back and all of the things uttered by her “seven rapists” that night, that somehow she got it all wrong, and that something else actually happened. Yes, she has absolutely no memory of what actually happened, but gives a full and coherent version of what did not happen. Please.
What we are seeing is a dog-and-pony show, a staged expression of angst from The Usual Suspects in American journalism that will make way for the next campus hoax that Really Serious Journalists will claim is true. For example, did the NYT learn anything from its coverage in the Duke case? Not according to one of its former writers, Stuart Taylor, who also wrote extensively about what happened (and did not happen) at Duke:
Over the past year The New York Times has published thousands of words about the rape allegation against Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, all pointing to a single conclusion: He is guilty, and the state of Florida and his school have excused his crime because of his football prowess.
But there is a large body of evidence that The Times has kept from its readers that would lead a discerning reader to another conclusion: that Winston has been cleared by three separate investigations because the evidence shows that his claim that his accuser consented to have sex is as credible as her often-revised account.
The Times‘ coverage of the Winston controversy (and others like it) shows the nation’s most influential newspaper exemplifying bias in the Winston case in particular and on the issue of campus rape in general.
Here is the problem, and it involves two things that are mutually exclusive: fact-based reporting and full acceptance of the Progressive-leftist “one-in-four, campus rape culture” theme. If one accepts the latter and intends to devote journalistic space to it, then one cannot engage in the former. It is that simple. In the wake of the UVA story last fall, I described the carnage of rape in war zones in Africa, where it is estimated that one in four women in those areas is raped by rampaging soldiers. I then added:
Why do I begin with this passage that describes unthinkable brutality that soldiers inflict upon women? It is because President Obama, the U.S. Department of Education and almost all of the American media, along with college officials, want us to embrace the false notion that women on U.S. college and university campuses are raped at the same rate as women in the Congo and that the experiences are identical. To put it another way, Barack Obama wants us to believe that the campus is one of the most dangerous places for women in the entire world and certainly in the United States.
The “campus rape culture” theme is fraudulent. Yes, rapes occur on college campuses, although most of what is called rape or sexual assault involves two people who are drunk, with the female deciding after the fact that she regrets the sexual encounter which at the time likely would have been deemed consensual. College campuses, as much as they have been turned into zones of hard leftism, bastions of suppression of speech, and propaganda centers, they are not the Second Coming of the Congo, at least as far as females on campus are considered.
(I do not endorse the oversexed atmosphere on campus, nor do I endorse the party scenes that often involve immoral and self-destructive behavior. These bacchanalias that would rival a Roman orgy are fueled by “easy money” of student debt and truly are a blot on decent civilization. But they are not the Congo, at least not yet.)
Given all of the ideological baggage carried by RS and the NYT, and just about every other major U.S. journalistic outfit, the UVA story was a train wreck waiting to happen. However, as Tallyrand said of the French dynasty, the Bourbons, “They learned nothing, and they forgot nothing.”
Likewise, for all of the “we learned our lesson this time” nonsense we hear time and again, as long as journalists continue to embrace the false “one-in-four” claims regarding campus rapes, we are going to get stories like what RS gave us last November. To be honest, journalists will not be able to help themselves the next time a Too Good To Be True story stands in front of them. They will give into the ideology, and sooner or later, there will be no investigation because ideological blindness will ensure that readers are expected to embrace falsehoods and no investigation will be deemed necessary because Progressive ideology demands that people believe that which is unbelievable.