In summary, the media gang-raped a UVA fraternity’s reputation.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) December 6, 2014
The MSM rarely acquits itself well on its best days, but this week it seemed like a particularly huge implosion by the legacy media. First up, in order to advance the narrative, and get a little payback for their bosses’ shellacking in the midterms, the media had a collective frenzy over a little-known Republican operative’s Facebook page post on the decorum of the semi-retired president’s daughters. This despite the media’s own previous obsession over GWB’s daughters. (For the MSM, mankind’s collective history now begins on January 20, 2009.)
On Wednesday, Big Journalism’s John Nolte poked massive, potentially fatal holes in Time-Warner-CNN-HBO-employed actress Lena Dunham’s claim, as written in her autobiography, that she was raped at Oberlin. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
This was followed on Thursday by “Facebook Prince” Chris Hughes blowing up the venerable leftwing but usually semi-sane New Republic, and re-purposing it as another BuzzFeed/Vox /click-bait Website, resulting in almost the entire TNR senior staff resigning en masse. As Stacy McCain’s co-blogger Smitty quips, “This is another suck-is-the-new-cool call from the manor house down to the the peasants working the fields. Dig it, lackeys.”
But the real fireworks occurred yesterday, involving Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner’s almost-equally venerable ripoff of AARP Magazine. (Wait, it may be the other way around. I find the two magazines virtually interchangeable, at least based on who’s on their covers.)
As John Hinderaker wrote yesterday at Power Line on the Dunham and Rolling Stone fiascos, It’s been “A Bad Week for Rape Culture”:
The author of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, now says that it doesn’t matter so much whether “Jackie’s” story was really true. (This is a common theme among liberals these days.) The real point of the article, she says, is that the University of Virginia didn’t respond forcefully enough to the incident. But this is a transparent bait and switch. The university’s reaction was inadequate only if the story was true. If it was false, then the university over-reacted, for example by closing down the entire fraternity system. (As William S. Burroughs said in a different context, “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.”) There are no valid lessons to be drawn from a lie.
Then we have the case of the appalling Lena Dunham. If you have no idea who she is, you are lucky. But she wrote an autobiographical memoir (at age 28, much like her idol Barack Obama, for whom she filmed a commercial in 2012) titled Not That Kind of Girl. (It’s none of my business, but since she brought it up, she does appear to be that kind of girl.) In her book, she claimed to have been “raped by a Republican” when she was a student at Oberlin. The party designation, for her, was obviously of the essence. She described her purported rapist as a fellow Oberlin student named Barry, who was a prominent Republican on campus, had a radio show and wore a mustache.
As Hinderaker notes, there is indeed a man named Barry who went to Oberlin, sans mustache and radio show. “I agree with Eugene Volokh that Barry has a good libel case against Dunham, should he choose to bring it,” he adds.
But back to Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia. As Chris Bray of the Daily Caller writes, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the story’s author, was “rape shopping,” perhaps the ultimate example of a “journalist” starting with a sensational narrative she wanted to trumpet in a big glossy national publication, and then finding the facts to support it, and failing that, pushing the truth through the Play-Dough Fun Factory to produce the desired outcome:
[Erdely was] going from campus to campus auditioning rape victims, contacting advocacy groups and asking for introductions. But the rapes she found at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn didn’t have the right narrative feel. They were just rapes, and she needed a cover-worthy rape. So she kept shopping until she found someone who would tell her a version of the story she had already decided to tell. She needed a big rape — something splashy, something with wild details and a frat house. She needed a rape that would go viral. You can’t do that with just some regular boring rape.
Meanwhile, real problems go unreported, because boooooring. Look again at how casual the discard pile is: “She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right.”
Get better rapes, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn. Let’s face it: For magazine journalism, yours just aren’t colorful enough.
Jonah Goldberg of National Review took particular heat for his column, which first ran on Tuesday in the L.A. Times, for doubting the veracity of Erdely’s Rolling Stone article. In his G-File yesterday, written before Rolling Stone walked the story back, he responded to one of his critics at the L.A. Times:
First of all, we aren’t talking about “a rape allegation” we are talking about this rape allegation. Crandall is simply wrong to say I can’t “appreciate the very real fear of being chastised for reporting a rape.” Her mind-reading skills notwithstanding, I can testify here and now that I can. What Crandall and countless others, including Sabrina Erdely, her editors, and their defenders can’t appreciate is that as onerous as the stigma on rape victims may or may not be, the stigma against rapists is worse.
No, really, it’s true. There’s a well-documented tendency for known or suspected — and especially convicted — rapists to be stigmatized. They’re shunned by polite society. They have trouble finding work. They often have to register as sex offenders and — oh yeah — they very often are sent to jail for very long periods of time. And this is as it should be.
But this fact is also why I am deeply skeptical of the story. Most of the UVA students I’ve met — and I’ve met a lot — are the sorts of kids who worry a lot about their permanent records. That makes sense; UVA is a truly great school with an impressive academic culture. And so while I can certainly believe sexual assaults and rapes happen there — drunk and sober — I simply cannot believe that nine men sat around soberly and plotted a brutal gang rape that would land them all in jail for decades — never mind hinder their chances of working at Goldman Sachs! At least not as presented in Erdely’s story. Indeed, it wouldn’t just be nine men, because you can’t keep such plans a secret in a fraternity when the rape is an initiation ritual. You need to make sure all of the kids are down with committing a heinous felony. You need to make sure they all know where to wait to commit the deed. And you need to make sure no one blabs to that one guy who isn’t totally and completely down with “rape culture.” That requires conversations, lots of conversations. And lots of conversations make secrets hard to keep.
What baffles and infuriates me is that I am supposed to be pro-rape and a rape apologist because I want to get to the truth. If this story is true, these men (and, frankly, the dean) should go to jail. The whole fraternity should be prosecuted for running a criminal enterprise. Honestly, as a matter of justice I’d have no problem seeing Drew hang. Meanwhile the heroic enemies of rape and rape culture are outraged that anyone would want these men exposed and brought to justice. That’s bananas.
I understand why most of the debate in the press about the Rolling Stone piece is about journalistic ethics. That’s fine. But my complaint isn’t that she didn’t talk to the alleged rapists. My complaint — or at least my claim — is that the story isn’t true. The fact she didn’t get quotes from the alleged rapists isn’t Erdely’s crime, it’s evidence of it.
The left (sorry, I can’t call it “liberal,” and there’s nothing “Progressive” anymore about this century-old ideology) has a strange and exceedingly toxic push-pull dynamic to it. Those with keyboards and a byline have long ago exited the journalism profession, to transform themselves into “Social Justice Warriors.” Everything is a toxic hotbed of racism and sexism, from Hollywood to video games. College campuses, despite being the most left-leaning places in America outside of Bernie Sanders’ living room, are, from the SJW perspective, concentration camp-level rape factories. And if you don’t believe them, your brain is suffering from a false consciousness and needs to be “trained in a different way,” as the original Marxists first started claiming over a century ago.
As for those on campus, as Stanley Kurtz wrote at National Review Online last year, “What do America’s college students want? They want to be oppressed.” As Kurtz added, “And why should the privileged wish to become victims? To alleviate guilt and to appropriate the victim’s superior prestige. In the neo-Marxist dispensation now regnant on our college campuses, after all, the advantaged are ignorant and guilty while the oppressed are innocent and wise.”
And it gives the SJW the perfect opportunity to swoop in and attempt to “fix” the issue. Or at least find lots more oppression. Lots more.
And if that fails, as it did in the case of Rolling Stone’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely this week, go full Orwell, as one distaff blogger memorably did yesterday in a widely retweeted — and appropriately roundly mocked — Tweet that she ultimately deleted:
As Blogger “Sooper Mexican” tweeted in response, “Feminists are making impressive Kamikaze attacks on intellectual honesty right now.” Or as another responded, “Shorter @Shakestweetz If something is untrue but it fits with your narrative, you should believe it…. emphatically.”
No matter what the damage to others, which Ed Morrissey summed up today at Hot Air:
The fraternities at UVa got shut down for no good reason, the one fraternity named got vandalized on top of that, and several men came under suspicion for a crime that they not only didn’t commit but may not have happened at all. That is what happens when activists hijack journalism to further their agenda at the expense of the truth, a value which clearly wasn’t a high priority for either Erdely or anyone at Rolling Stone. If the truth had been their agenda, they would have doubled their efforts to make sure their story was solid, rather than simply act as stenographers for someone who told Erdely what she not only wanted to hear, but actively campaigned to find.
Activist, agenda-driven, narrative “journalism” is the real cause of this fiasco — and anyone practicing it anywhere should get canned, as [Erik Wemple of the Washington Post] advises.
The quotes around “journalism” are certainly appropriate. Yesterday, Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon summed up all of the recent train wrecks under the headline, “Liberalism Is a Hoax.” At a minimum, that ideology certainly does appear to be built on a number of…curious…fables. (Not the least of which is its hijacked name.) After beginning his article with a flashback to the St. Louis Rams’ preening “hands up” gesture last Sunday in response to Ferguson, and then running through the Rolling Stone Uva debacle, the global warming bullies’ efforts to make middle class lives worse, and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber’s cynical contempt for voters, Continetti concluded:
So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: the Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.
Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens—and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency—liberalism itself goes on trial.
Has the jury reached a verdict? Yes, your honor, it has. We find the defendant guilty. Liberalism is a hoax.
I’ll leave you with this:
Washington Post stealth-edits its horrible article on automatic belief of crime accusations. pic.twitter.com/JAgz8yJVbK
— Popehat (@Popehat) December 6, 2014
Whichever version of that headline you prefer, I look forward to what Hillary Clinton has to say about that in the coming weeks and months. Not to mention her husband’s thoughts on the topic.
“The Liberal’s Dilemma” [was a New Republic essay] written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1977. And with this piece, we begin to learn things about the New Republic that perhaps the volume’s editor did not intend to teach us.
Drawing on the stump speech Moynihan gave while running for the Senate in New York, he writes:
The dilemma for liberals in New York … is that we faced unprecedented government problems which however had come about under the auspices of impeccably liberal governments in New York City and New York State. Not merely liberal, but most often patrician liberal. There had been a great coalescing of progressive forces, and government was truly given a free hand to do all that it could do. And all that it did was go bust.
This remains the dilemma of modern liberalism.
Indeed it does.