Rolling Stone has begun backing off the story they published of the alleged rape that occurred at UVA.
To Our Readers:
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone‘s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
What the Rolling Stone is learning, and what is apparently no longer taught in journalism school, is that the truth matters. Here the author of the piece admitted, even bragged, about shopping for a story to enhance the narrative that there is an epidemic of rapes occurring across the country on college campuses even though all crime statistics show this is not the case.
Eventually she found someone willing to tell her the story she wanted to hear. We can’t know for sure if anything happened to the young lady in question here. But we do know that the Rolling Stone did nothing to help us sort that out because they refused to cover the story neutrally. They flat out state that they did not take steps to verify the story because they thought it might hurt the alleged victim in some way. But it never occurred to them that they cannot be sure they even have a victim without checking the facts. Some of the reasons they gave for believing her, such as her advocacy for certain causes, should have been (if you will excuse the leftist symbolism) a red flag.
My understanding is that the young woman claimed to have been raped over a period of hours while laying on a bed of broken glass. It seems to me it would have been easy enough to have merely asked to see the scars and medical reports. I am sure there are other steps that could have been taken as well that would not have involved contacting the alleged perpetrators.
And that word “alleged” is just not some pro forma piece of tradition. It is important in making sure one keeps an open mind. It must be applied to all parties equally in a dispute until the facts are all brought to light and an adjudication made. Rolling Stone and others talk about protecting the “victim” without understanding that in doing so they have already made a presumption as to what happened. They have already decided a rape occurred rather than a false charge being lodged and have determined at U.Va. that the woman was a victim. Obviously, they are useless as a source of information once they make a decision like that.
We see a pattern of this sort of behavior from Ferguson, to Trayvon Martin, to this case where the narrative and its implications are deemed more important than the facts. We are supposed to run out and be angry, or promote certain laws or remedies, or be ashamed without even knowing what happened — and all based on some irrelevancy such as the melanin content of our skin, or our sex organs. But one would think if racism were really so bad that black men were unjustifiably being gunned down in droves by white people (and the stats show precisely the opposite), or that women were being raped in huge numbers on every campus across the country that they would be able to find better examples of it.
Part of “the tell” here is that they do not argue from statistics (not even tendentious ones). They take an incident and blow it up into an emblem of a wider problem without providing evidence of a wider problem. They argue from anecdote. But even the anecdotes they choose don’t tell the story they are asking us to believe. Their martyrs — the ones they promote the hardest anyway — are all false.
And we get back to the reason for this I have proposed many times before. People who choose to go into journalism these days do so for all of the wrong reasons. The main one being that they want to make a difference. And that is a motivation that should automatically disqualify them from the job. Journalists should merely be conduits of information and they should provide as much of it as they can with as little filter as possible. That is their only role. It is the public’s job to determine the implications of the information we are given. “Making a difference” and “having an agenda” are merely synonyms for the same thing.
I have also seen where Lena Dunham’s rape story is falling apart as well. That does not surprise me as she appears to be a serial fabulist. Her stories are too pat in a way that those created by a poor author usually are. Her sister finds pebbles in her vagina just after she has a discussion about eggs and ovaries with her mother. She is raped by a Republican with a large mustache and purple cowboy boots. None of this passes the smell test in my mind. Certainly there is no reason to mention the political affiliation of your rapist unless you are trying to make a political point. People don’t say “the Democratic mayor raped me” instead of ” the mayor raped me” unless they are trying to make a political point.
Even Clinton’s accusers did not include his party affiliation, and frankly, if you had really been raped I doubt such considerations would even come to mind. That aside, no one has been able to verify key elements of Dunham’s story and she has not helped the inquiries being conducted by the local police.
I guess I should also point out that the Rolling Stone even gets a lot of things wrong in its apology. According to the Washington Post many of the woman’s close friends and some campus sexual assault awareness advocates have come forward to say they doubt her story. The university was not remiss in handling the original report as the alleged victim was given three alternatives as to how to proceed, from filing criminal charges to various ways of the university handling the matter internally. And the fraternity has now had time to gather evidence and issue a response which undermines most of the key elements of the story… which is likely why the apology is being issued now. The Rolling Stone likely knows what will be in the report and alludes to this tangentially in its apology.
It should also be noted that this was not a harmless series of errors. The fraternities at U.Va. have already been collectively punished as U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan had suspended all of their activities and a movement was underway to see them banned from campus permanently. We should also be mindful of the fact that because this story was given so much coverage other rape victims who come forward might face more skepticism than is warranted. This is the problem with not taking each case individually and instead making a political football of them to promote certain causes or narratives. It is also the problem of seeing people as members of groups or political props instead of as individuals.