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Wednesday, April 08, 2015


In the End, It’s All About Rape Culture—or the Lack Thereof

A great article summarizing the Rolling Stone UVA rape hoax, the CJR analysis and why the story is still screwed up.  Read the whole thing (it's long but very well written) but here's the point that I would emphasize:

I have seen a lot of published fretting—not just in Erdely’s statement—about whether this fiasco will discourage victims of rape from going public. This sentiment, which I have seen far more of than I have seen empathy for the people Erdely falsely accused of rape, strikes me as odd. A horrific story of rape, which, following its publication in a national magazine, had an enormous impact, is discovered to be a fraud. And the response is: Well, we should all worry about the potential impact on rape victims’ ability to come forward to speak the truth.

I have a different take: Let’s agree that if you don’t lie and claim that you were gang-raped as part of a fraternity initiation ritual, you’ll be treated with respect. And if people treat you disrespectfully based simply on past frauds, then shame on them.

But in the meantime, let’s remember that the only known victims of this story are members of the Phi Psi fraternity, fraternity members in general and the University of Virginia. These individuals and institutions suffered in tangible ways; you might even say that some of the fraternity members were “traumatized.” The argument that the people we should worry about first are rape victims could actually—if I may borrow a phrase from Sabrina Rubin Erdely—re-traumatize them. ...

Remember how I said that I thought Columbia made one big, fundamental mistake?

Here it is.

The only part of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article closely examined by Columbia was the lede, which detailed Jackie’s incredible story of gang rape.

Columbia should, in fact, have closely examined the entirety of Erdely’s article.

Because ultimately, this article was not really about Jackie. Take a pencil, lop the Jackie story off the top, and the article could have run pretty much as it was.

The article was about the existence of rape culture and university indifference to said culture.

Jackie’s story was supposed to be proof of that, and Jackie’s story was a lie. But no one at Rolling Stone—not Erdely, not Dana, not Woods, not Wenner—seems to have considered just the possibility that maybe, must maybe, they were wrong about this.

Jackie’s lies do not in and of themselves disprove Rubin Erdely’s rape-culture thesis.

But if you examined the rest of the article with the same critical eye that you examine Jackie’s story, you’ll find that it, too, is deeply deceptive. “A Rape on Campus” is fashioned on selective presentation of material, the use of bogus or discredited statistics, quotes that are either fabricated or taken out of context, unconfirmed allegations, anonymous sources, the deliberate exclusion of evidence contrary to the author’s thesis, and material that is either fabricated or presented in a way that is so profoundly misleading it can only be evidence of incompetence or dishonesty. (The multiple verses of a UVa fight song, for example, that nobody at UVa has actually heard.)

Sabrina Rubin Erdely was not first and foremost trying to obtain justice for Jackie; that was incidental. Her intention was to prove the existence of rape culture and to shame and ostracize those whom she fervently believed participated in it.

When you know how Rubin Erdely went about her work, you are forced to conclude that she failed, that the rest of her story is as unbelievable as Jackie’s story—it’s just concocted in a slicker way. In the ongoing debate about sexual assault on campus, we must remember this.

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