It’s absolutely true that we don’t have a wave of outright fabrication-out-of-whole-cloth. But what we have is much worse. We have a tsunami of inaccuracy that is generally tolerated, embraced and even celebrated so long as it serves the right political and cultural goals.
Yes, the latest shocking revelations about Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone’s journalism are stunning. They really, really messed up. Even more than we previously realized. They should receive every bit of opprobrium coming their way. But they should not be the scapegoat for a problem that is riddled throughout journalism....
But Rolling Stone’s gang rape story was published in an environment of credulity regarding that statistic [that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted--more on that in a moment] and everything it suggests. It is likely true that college campuses are some of the most sexually confusing environments young men and women can find themselves in. It is of course true that any rape or attempted rape should be dealt with severely. It’s true that the way we handle sexual assault on campuses couldn’t be more messed up. But good policies are not aided by really bad numbers. And the Rolling Stone article was advocacy journalism designed to get policies changed. Yes, Erdely and Rolling Stone made some major journalistic malpractices. But so did a lot of other media outlets who parroted this claim without any of the skepticism they should have applied.It's hard enough to determine what is really going on when information is withheld (or cut), but matters are only exacerbated when the reporting is deliberately biased as it so often is.
The various little "ism" ideologies (racism in favor of one or another non-white group, gay liberation-ism, and perhaps especially feminism) don't really care about things like "facts" or "truth" or "reality": what matters is "narrative," and getting what they want when they want it and from whom they want it, the lives and safety and rights and livelihoods of others be damned:
Where most of us are primarily concerned with whether a given claim is correct, others seem more attentive to how we react to that claim in the first place. Did you ask questions about Jackie’s story as it was reported? If so, you must hate women, work for the patriarchy, or hope to prove that nobody is ever raped. Did you believe Jackie uncritically and with a full-throated roar? Excellent, then you must be a good person who wants to help women, move the country forward, and do something concrete about the issue of sexual assault. It’s really that simple, my dear.
Amazingly, these presumptions tend to remain intact through thick and thin. In consequence, a person who incorrectly judged the veracity of Rolling Stone’s story can remain on the side of the angels, while a person who was correct to doubt the account is dismissed as a devil who just got lucky. Sure, the zetetics might have been right in a technical, factual, reality-based sense. But that they tried to investigate the matter in the first instance tells us something terrible about their character. And yes, the story may have been completely and utterly wrong. But at least its advocates took a stand for something nice. Did you? Wait, you’re not a rapist, are you?
....As Slate’s Hanna Rosin noted last night, we are now at a tipping point of sorts. The Washington Post’s latest deep-dive, Rosin writes, “strongly implies, without outright saying so, that the gang rape at the center of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article might be fabricated.” Indeed so. And should we subsequently learn that the Post’s implication was warranted, this will mean that Sabrina Erdely and her source have conspired a) to mislead millions of people on a matter of basic fact; b) to potentially damage the reputations of the men they accused; c) to cast a trio of Jackie’s friends as amoral, vain, criminally negligible monsters; and d) to libel the fraternity that is implicated, as well as the University of Virginia writ large.In the case of this Rolling Stone article, as with the phony "1 in 5 college women are raped/sexually assaulted" statistic (it's actually more like 6 in 1000, according to the DOJ's actual statistics), the point is not to present actual facts, and certainly not with abundance, so that others can form their own opinions (let alone make sound judgments about what is actually happening). Rather, the point is to drive home the narrative, to force this particular worldview and all its ugly consequences down our throats. The people who do this are complete tools. They are tools of the movement, tools of the feminist/black panthers/gay power grab, tools which are helping to cause the downfall of our civilization.