November 8, 2016

“JURORS AWARDED A UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA ADMINISTRATOR $3 MILLION MONDAY FOR HER PORTRAYAL IN A NOW-DISCREDITED ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ARTICLE ABOUT THE SCHOOL’S HANDLING OF A BRUTAL GANG RAPE A FRATERNITY HOUSE,” AP reports tonight, adding, “Jurors found that the magazine and its publisher, Wenner Media, acted with actual malice because they republished the article on Dec. 5 with an editor’s note after they knew about the problems with Jackie’s story. The jury also found that Erdely acted with actual malice on six claims: two statements in the article and four statements to media outlets after the story was published. Jurors awarded $2 million to Eramo for statements made by Erdely and $1 million for the republication of the article by Rolling Stone and Wenner Media. Rolling Stone could appeal the verdict.”

Rolling Stone is currently facing a $25 million defamation lawsuit from the UVA fraternity whose house was where Jackie claimed she was raped,” Bre Payton of the Federalist adds.

Earlier: “Rolling Stone Can Take Their Defamation Statement And Shove It,” Mollie Hemingway wrote on Friday:

When Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus” in 2014, it was attempting to drive a sketchy narrative for progressive political results. That’s what Sabrina Erdely has done with many of her pieces over her career. That’s why Rolling Stone hired her. They took a very serious issue of how the sexual revolution has led to all sorts of abuses on college campuses and decided instead to focus on the dubious “rape culture” message pushed in recent years by progressive activists. Abuses on college campuses — and especially off college campuses — are real, but the recent “rape culture” craze has led to attacks on the civil liberties of men and created a panic built on emotion more than reality.

Rolling Stone has spent the last half century fostering that aforementioned sexual revolution, and has pushed hard for numerous additional examples of relaxing social mores. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in a recent G-File, “If we can’t immediately grasp why some old practice, some ancient tradition, some venerable custom or Chestertonian fence is worthwhile, we tend to instantly dismiss it as outdated and old-fashioned. But again, as Chesterton and Hayek alike understood, simply because something is ‘old-fashioned’ doesn’t mean it wasn’t fashioned in the first place. And by fashioned, I mean manufactured and constructed. Customs are created because they solve problems. But they get less respect in our present age because they have no identifiable authors. They are crowd-sourced, to borrow a modern phrase for an ancient phenomenon. The customs and institutions we take for granted are crammed full of embedded knowledge every bit as much as prices are. But most intelligent people are comfortable admitting they can’t know all the factors that go into a price, but we constantly want to dissect the whys of every custom.”

Let’s assume for a moment that Rolling Stone’s base story was true. Or as Jann Wenner was quoted as saying late last month by the New York Times while defending the story as being fake but accurate (to quote a Times-approved phrase):

“We did everything reasonable, appropriate up to the highest standards of journalism to check on this thing,” Mr. Wenner said in a libel trial in federal court here. “The one thing we didn’t do was confront Jackie’s accusers — the rapists.”

As he has previously, Mr. Wenner assigned much of the blame to the woman at the center of the article, identified as Jackie, whose account of being raped began to fall apart shortly after the article was published two years ago. Mr. Wenner said there was nothing a journalist could do “if someone is really determined to commit a fraud.”

He said that while the magazine rightly retracted “the Jackie stuff,” he disagreed with the decision to retract the entire article in the wake of a damning report on it in April 2015 by The Columbia Journalism Review. He said the bulk of the article detailed ways that the University of Virginia could improve its treatment of victims of sexual assault.

Does Wenner feel that Rolling Stone, his life’s work, bears any responsibility for creating the conditions he describes in the above passage?

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