Rolling Stone and the Myth of a Rape Epidemic

"The stunning news that Rolling Stone now disowns its story that claimed a female student was gang-raped at a University of Virginia (UVA) fraternity shows that the drive to root out ‘rape culture’ is spinning out of control," Sean Collins of England's Spiked writes. "We’re living through a full-blown panic, akin to the daycare sexual abuse scandals of the 1980s and early 1990s, with bad consequences for both women and men:"

The unravelling of the Rolling Stone article is not an isolated event, nor simply the case of one journalist’s lapse in ethics. The New York Times has highlighted cases at colleges such as Columbia and Hobart and William Smith, among others, in a similar way to Rolling Stone’s latest, focusing on the accuser’s allegations at the expense of the full picture (an enterprising journalist might revisit these stories, too). But more importantly, the UVA story is the product of a fevered atmosphere whipped up by ‘rape culture’ campaigners, an atmosphere where advocacy and emotion override fact.

Central to the myth of a rape epidemic is a statistic: that one in five women are sexually assaulted on US campuses over four years. The survey from which this statistic derives has been thoroughly debunked by Christina Hoff Sommers and others, who note, in particular, that the survey was based on a small sample (two schools) and a definition of assault so broad as to include uninvited touching and kissing, which even most respondents did not think rose to the level of an attack. In fact, according to more reliable Department of Justice data, sexual assault has fallen by more than 50 per cent in recent years, to a rate of 1.1 per 1,000 women, with similar rates on and off campus.

Found via Kate of Small Dead Animals, Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist asks if by singling out Rolling Stone, and its journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, conservatives aren't ignoring or downplaying the bigger picture, the "widespread journalistic worship of narrative and advocacy over truth," expected in political coverage, it's now rampant in all facets of modern journalism, from sports to videogame magazines to (of course) radical environmentalism.

But let's not move on entirely from examining the corruption at Rolling Stone just yet. Veteran blogger Tom Maguire senses a pattern in their reporting of campus rapes, and/or the lack thereof.

Update: As one Rolling Stone-approved artist would say, strike a pose, there's nothing to it:

More: "The Violent Threat Near UVA that Rolling Stone Downplayed," as spotted by Jim Geraghty, who adds, "This is one more consequence of 'narrative journalism': When you set out to write the evil-fraternities story, you end up missing the serial-killer-stalks-campus story."