Being a professional writer is not a heroic job, but it does have at least one moral requirement: you mustn’t lie. If you make your living by writing, it stands to reason there are people who read what you write; you therefore have at least some power to inform, influence, enlighten or persuade. You can be wrong — we’re all wrong sometimes; you can err — everyone does. But to use whatever amount of power you have to deceive intentionally by commission or omission or distortion is wicked; it’s a sin.
So if Katie McDonough, an assistant editor at Salon, finds herself feeling angry all the time, as I very much suspect she does, it’s not because conservative columnist George Will pretended “rape never happens,” because that never happened; it’s not because Will claimed that being a rape victim is a “coveted status,” because Will never did; it’s not because Will feels uncomfortable discussing sexual assault, because he very obviously does not; it’s because she’s ashamed of herself for deceiving her audience by distorting Will’s words, thoughts and intentions, as she very well should be. Shame and self-disgust sometimes make you lash out at other people to keep you from facing what you’ve done yourself.
Will wrote a June 6 column for the Washington Post, expressing a bit of schadenfreude at the fact that universities, hotbeds of leftism, are now being hoist by their own leftist petard through government interference. Colleges, Will wrote, “are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro-aggressions,’ often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” There is no way this can be taken to mean that actual victims of rape have a coveted status and it’s disgusting to say so.
Will goes on to point out that Obama’s feds are now threatening to withdraw funding from universities if they don’t deprive men who are accused of sexual misconduct of their basic rights to due process. Will pointed out that the drink-and-hook-up college culture causes there to be many gray areas in people’s sexual relations — which seems to me undeniably true. And rape being such a serious crime — second only to murder, as Will rightly pointed out in a later interview — a man accused of rape, like a man or woman accused of murder, must be assumed innocent until proved guilty and given every chance to defend himself. This is basic American justice. That the government wants to deny that justice to those accused of sexual crimes is plainly foul and unfair. Where’s the offense or controversy in saying so?
In enjoying academia’s discomfiture, Will pointed out that the administration’s statistics on sexual assault are internally contradictory. They say one in five women is sexually assaulted in college and only twelve percent of assaults are reported. Assuming that reports are twelve percent of the whole, the math comes up with many fewer than one in five women who have been assaulted. This drove the fem activists crazy, but the math is plain. Again, where’s the offense or controversy?
It seems to me the hysteria with which activists responded to Will’s comments was brought about by the very fact that the bow-tied and gentlemanly Will, never a bomb thrower, was speaking such simple common sense.
Among the hysterics, along with Angry Katie at Salon, were Katherine Fung at HuffPo, who also distorted Will’s words, Mel Robbins at CNN, who also twisted what Will said, and the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who, in dropping Will’s column from his paper like a cowardly dog, said Will’s column was inaccurate and then, when challenged, admitted there were no errors of fact at all.
These people know most people won’t read Will’s column for themselves. They know their characterizations will get more play in the leftist media than Will’s actual words. They know they can distort and lie about Will and some of it will stick.
No wonder they’re all so angry. Shame’ll do that to you.