2014: The Year of the Imploding Narrative
Ever since the days of Watergate, at least on the level of the national media's overculture, America has had very little pure journalism, but loads of narratives being advanced by the left. But these can only be pushed so far before they overreach. 2014 was the year a lot of leftwing narratives overreached very, very badly, with occasionally exceedingly ugly results for those at the center of them. At Reason, Cathy Young describes 2014 as "The Year the Crusade Against 'Rape Culture' Stumbled:"
Kingkade also suggests that the numbers are beside the point, since the effort to combat campus sexual assault is about people, not statistics—specifically, "about students who said they were wronged by their schools after they were raped." Of course every rape is a tragedy, on campus or off—all the more if the victim finds no redress. But if it happens to one in five women during their college years, this is not just a tragedy but a crisis that arguably justifies emergency measures—which is why proponents of sweeping new policies have repeatedly invoked these scary numbers. (Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has now had the one-in-five figure removed from her website.) And while the stories told by students are often compelling, it is important to remember that they are personal narratives which may or may not be factual. Only last June, Emily Renda, a UVA graduate and activist who now works at the school, included Jackie's story—under the pseudonym "Jenna"—in her testimony before a Senate committee.
Of course this is not to suggest that most such accounts are fabricated; but they are also filtered through subjective experience, memory, and personal bias. Yet, for at least three years, these stories been accorded virtually uncritical reception by the mainstream media. When I had a chance to investigate one widely publicized college case—that of Brown University students Lena Sclove and Daniel Kopin—for a feature in The Daily Beast, the facts turned out to bear little resemblance to the media narrative of a brutal rape punished with a slap on the wrist.
Now, in what may be another sign of turning tides, the accused in another high-profile case is getting his say. The New York Times has previously given ample coverage to Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student famous for carrying around a mattress to protest the school's failure to expel her alleged rapist. Now, it has allowed that man, Paul Nungesser, to tell his story—a story of being ostracized and targeted by mob justice despite being cleared of all charges in a system far less favorable to the accused than criminal courts. No one knows whether Sulkowicz or Nungesser is telling the truth; but the media have at last acknowledged that there is another side to this story.
Will 2015 see a pushback against the anti-"rape culture" movement on campus? If so, good. This is a movement that has capitalized on laudable sympathy for victims of sexual assault to promote gender warfare, misinformation and moral panic. It's time for a reassessment.
Another myth of the left is also long overdue for a reassessment, when, as Heather Mac Donald writes at City Journal, "The Big Lie of the Anti-Cop Left Turns Lethal:"
Protesters’ willingness to overlook anti-cop homicidal intent surfaced again in St. Louis in November. A teen criminal who had shot at the police was killed by an officer in self-defense; he, too, joined the roster of heroic black victims of police racism. This sanctification of would-be black cop-killers would prove prophetic. The elites were playing with fire. It’s profoundly irresponsible to stoke hatred of the police, especially when the fuel used for doing so is a set of lies. Hatred of the police among blacks stems in part from police brutality during this country’s shameful era of Jim Crow-laws and widespread discrimination. But it is naïve not to recognize that criminal members of the black underclass despise the police because law enforcement interferes with their way of life. The elites are oblivious both to the extent of lawlessness in the black inner city and to its effect on attitudes toward the cops. Any expression of contempt for the police, in their view, must be a sincere expression of a wrong.
Cop-killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who assassinated NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on Saturday, exemplified everything the elites have refused to recognize: he was a gun-toting criminal who was an eager consumer of the current frenzy of cop hatred. (Not that he paid close enough attention to the actual details of alleged cop malfeasance to spell Eric Garner’s name correctly.) His homicidal postings on Instagram—“I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 of Ours . . . . .Let’s Take 2 of Theirs”—were indistinguishable from the hatred bouncing around the Internet and the protests and that few bothered to condemn. That vitriol continues after the assassination. Social media is filled with gloating at the officers’ deaths and praise for Brinsley: “That nigga that shot the cops is a legend,” reads a typical message. A student leader and a representative of the African and Afro-American studies department at Brandeis University tweeted that she has “no sympathy for the NYPD officers who were murdered today.”
The only good that can come out of this wrenching attack on civilization would be the delegitimation of the lie-based protest movement. Whether that will happen is uncertain. The New York Times has denounced as “inflammatory” the statement from the head of the officer’s union that there is “blood on the hands that starts on the steps of City Hall”—this from a paper that promotes the idea that police officers routinely kill blacks. The elites’ investment in black victimology is probably too great to hope for an injection of truth into the dangerously counterfactual discourse about race, crime, and policing.
All of which are reminders that the left's omnipresent race card carries a steep cost to all of its victims, Thomas Sowell adds at NRO:
Mayor de Blasio has made anti-police comments with Al Sharpton seated at his side. This is the same Al Sharpton with a trail of slime going back more than a quarter of a century, during which he has whipped up mobs and fomented race hatred from the days of the Tawana Brawley “rape” hoax of 1987 to the Duke University “rape” hoax of 2006 and the Ferguson riots of 2014.
Make no mistake about it. There is political mileage to be made siding with demagogues like Al Sharpton who, as demagogue-in-chief, has been invited to the White House dozens of times by its commander-in-chief.
Many in the media and among the intelligentsia cherish the romantic tale of an “us” against “them” struggle of beleaguered ghetto blacks defending themselves against the aggression of white policemen. The gullible include both whites who don’t know what they are talking about and blacks who don’t know what they are talking about either, because they never grew up in a ghetto. Among the latter are the President of the United States and his attorney general.
Such people readily buy the story that ghetto social problems today — from children being raised without a father to runaway rates of murder — are “a legacy of slavery,” even though such social problems were nowhere near as severe in the first half of the 20th century as they became in the second half.
You would be hard pressed to name just five examples from the first half of the 20th century of the kinds of ghetto riots that have raged in more than a hundred cities during the second half. Such riots are a legacy of the social degeneracy of our times.
Moynihan argued that deviancy -- crime, mental illness, out-of-wedlock births, etc. -- had become so rampant, had so thoroughly soaked into the culture, that we simply had to redefine the abnormal as normal to cope. By setting the bar lower, we comforted ourselves with the notion that the percentage of abnormal behavior was still manageable.
Moynihan's most famous example was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. That event was a major turning point in American history, credited with helping to convince Americans to abandon prohibition. It warranted two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia. The actual details? Four gangsters murdered seven gangsters.
In the early 1990s, Moynihan noted, Los Angeles suffered from the equivalent of one St. Valentine's Day Massacre every weekend.
Don't look for the left to experience much introspection anytime soon, however.
Salon vs. Salon. pic.twitter.com/YL1DiSPbwM
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) December 22, 2014