So the infamous University of Virginia rape story, the one that had the Usual Suspects up in arms, has been exposed as yet another campus hoax.
One would think that people in higher education would become wise to this stuff, but no, that does not seem likely. As Tallyrand said about the Bourbons of France, “They learned nothing, and they forgot nothing.” If Tallyrand were alive, he would say the same about faculty, student activists, and administrators at American colleges and universities.
As anyone who might know a bit about medical science, even a pedestrian knowledge, the story that “Jackie” told to Rolling Stone about being brutally gang-raped in a UVA fraternity house never made sense from the beginning. A woman is raped by five – no, make that seven – young men for three hours, a glass table is shattered during the attack and people are covered in blood, and no one notices? An attack like this would createhorrific injuries, and the young woman would not have been able to do anything for quite a while.
Why did Rolling Stone suspend all common sense, take in “Jackie’s” story word-for-word, and then publish it? Why did the administration at UVA – and especially UVA President Teresa Sullivan – rush to judgment and suspend the entire Greek system on campus when from the start the whole thing looked suspicious?
If readers by now are saying “Duke Lacrosse” to themselves, they are right. From the New York Times to the Washington Post, as well as all mainstream broadcast media, journalists took every accusation made against the lacrosse players as gospel truth, only to reluctantly have to accept the truth a year after the story broke. That the story was as full of holes on the first day as it was when North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper exonerated the accused a year after they were indicted apparently did not make an impression on American journalists.
Indeed, with the exception of Joe Neff from the Raleigh News & Observer and Ed Bradley of “60 Minutes,” mainstream journalists simply stuck to the tired narrative of “privileged, drunken white athletes raping working-class black female” and ran with it even when the facts cried out otherwise. As one of the most visible bloggers writing about the case, finding huge inconsistencies and outright fraud in prosecutor Michael Nifong’s accounts was not difficult. Really, it wasn’t.
Without going into details about the Duke case, I can say that from the beginning, things did not add up. That hard fact did not matter to the activists and Duke faculty members driving the case; they had a set of narratives that they repeated ad nauseum, and they were not going to allow truth or laws of time and space to get in the way of a good protest.
That the application of logic and time and space are supposed tomatter at a so-called institution of higher learning apparently is lost on huge sections of college faculties, administration, and student bodies. If the Rolling Stone story were accurate, or at least its description of “Jackie’s” alleged rape, then one would expect (medically and psychologically speaking) that “Jackie” would have needed to go to the local emergency room, as being soaked in blood from shards of glass sticking into her body and having been raped by 5-7 men would have meant her injuries would have been horrific. Her pelvic-area trauma would have been significant and she would have been hysterical. There is no doubt that a woman with these kinds of rape-induced injuries would have resulted in an immediate police investigation.
The notion that “Jackie’s” friends would have been nonchalant about the whole thing and that university authorities would have ignored the obvious is absurd on its face. Her friends were activists and already fell into the rent-a-protester category. Furthermore, most of what are called sexual assaults on college campuses do not involve anything close to the mayhem that “Jackie” described to the Rolling Stone. This would not have been a “he-said/she-said” situation; there would have been convincing medical evidence of rape and no one in a position of authority at UVA would have ignored the obvious.
So why did supposedly intelligent people swallow what was obvious nonsense? First, and most important, UVA has a long history of campus decadence. A university which has a fight song that begins with “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, we’re gonna get drunk tonight! The faculty’s afraid of us, they know we’re in the right…” is going to attract attention for debauchery. Second, until the 1970s, UVA was all-male, and 40 years later, feminists on campus still are rankled about that fact and have attacked the Greek-based campus culture for obvious reasons.
Third, the imbecilic Progressivism that rules higher education these days has created a surreal atmosphere on college campuses in which leftists are demanding – literally – that nearly all aspects of interpersonal relationships be regulated by the state. Thus, everything is politicized.
Over the years, Progressives have taunted pro-life supporters with the accusation that they want “government in the bedroom,” yet that is exactly where Progressives have led us. When the Obama administration gave new guidelines for colleges and universities on how to pursue accusations of sexual assault and rape, it essentially ordered government agents to oversee all sexual encounters on campus.
(California’s legislature this past year actually codified the Obama guidelines in a bill entitled, “Yes means yes.” At every point in an encounter that leads to sexual relations between two people, there must be clear and convincing consent by both parties, although it can be difficult to ascertain at times what would constitute a “yes,” so it is up to college officials and government agents to make the final ruling, should one of the parties later claim there was sex without consent.)
Furthermore, the Obama administration has ordered colleges and universities to use a standard of “preponderance of the evidence” to determine if sexual assault or rape has occurred. People who are accused (almost always male students) are not permitted to have attorneys representing them and usually are not given specifics of the accusations until a hearing is held. Any institution that does not use these “standards” can be denied federal money, which would pretty much put most of them out of business.
The hearing officials generally are campus activists who come in with a bias against the accused – should the accused be a male – and the hearings themselves are little more than kangaroo courts. If drinking is involved, which usually is the case, then the government pretty much has ordered the following standard to be observed: if a female has even a drop of alcohol in her when she has a sexual encounter, it is to be assumed that she has absolutely no control over herself to give consent, so that if she has been drinking and has sex with a male, the male by definition has raped her. However, even if the male is stinking drunk, college officials are supposed to assume he has full control over his faculties.
This is an Alice-in-Wonderland set of legal standards, but that is how things are done these days. Even if two persons have sexual relations and they seemingly are consensual, the female is permitted to change her mind later and charge the male with sexual assault or rape, and it is up to college officials and government agents (should the college actually rule in favor of the male and the female appeals to the government) to determine long after the fact if it was rape (sex without consent) or not.
To make things even more surreal, most college and universities actively encourage students to engage in sexual relations. Dormitories and health centers on campus give out condoms by the basketful, andmany institutions celebrate “Sex Week” in which students are given “demonstrations” on how to have good sex, among other things.
Thus, we see officials of higher education telling students to have sex and lots of it, but then adding that they might change the rules of the encounters after the fact. The new rules “recommended” by the Obama administration (which most higher education institutions accepted immediately without protest) have created a minefield in relationships, as any encounter, even those that are non-sexual, later can be turned into a legal nightmare for someone.
It does not surprise me to see people at UVA swallowing a nonsensical story, given that UVA is an “elite” institution and it has been the “elites” that have most enthusiastically embraced the Alice-in-Wonderland thinking. Lest anyone think that sanity reigns in the administrative offices at UVA, the statement made by UVA President Teresa Sullivan after Rolling Stone retracted its story throws cold water on that notion:
Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus.
We will continue to take a hard look at our practices, policies and procedures, and continue to dedicate ourselves to becoming a model institution in our educational programming, in the character of our student culture, and in our care for those who are victims.
A translation of Sullivan’s statement should be: “After our cathartic outburst at receiving the original story, we are disappointed that the story turned out to be yet another campus hoax, especially since we wanted every word to be true. However, even though it was a hoax, we will go on as though it were not so that we can continue to act like whiny adolescents who are incapable of discerning a lie from the truth. We must let nothing stand in the way of our self-righteous behavior.”
As for Rolling Stone, we should remember that this is the publication that helped to make Stephen Glass famous, first as a journalist and then as one of the worst serial fabricators in all of mainstream journalism. I am not surprised at all that the publication accepted the word of one person who clearly is not stable and did not even do basic fact-checking, the kind that would have raised the obligatory red flags almost immediately. The author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, supposedly is an experience journalist, and she has won numerous awards and has been a high-profile writer for several years.
In a world in which mainstream journalists actually cared about the accuracy and truth of their work, Rolling Stone would be immediately shuttered and Erdely would be banished from her craft forever. Unfortunately, this is the same world that claims William Cohan’s book on the Duke Lacrosse Case is “magisterial” when, in fact, it is poorly-researched, inaccurate, and depends upon convicted liars for its main source.
Just as Rolling Stone and The New Republic rebounded nicely from the Stephen Glass debacle, so Erdely and the magazine will soon receive absolution and go on to provide the next hoax – and more hoaxes are surely coming.
Yes, the spirit of the Bourbons lives on in Progressive journalism and the Progressive university. We “anxiously” await the next hoax, and the inevitable absolution that follows. Such is life in Wonderland.