We learn, from a squint-eyed investigation by major functionaries at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, that Rolling Stone magazine’s bulging-eyed, 9,000-word article, “A Rape on Campus,” doesn’t wash. A “journalistic failure that was avoidable,” the investigators called the article, which purported to tell of a 2012 gang rape at the University of Virginia, involving fraternity members and a female student.
Except, apparently, it didn’t happen: or anyway not nearly the way the complainant told the magazine, which with minimal investigation bought her story hook, line, and sinker, and commenced to spread it abroad. Guilty as charged, was Rolling Stone’s message.
A bunch of Paleolithic types — members (wouldn’t you know it?) of UVa’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter, had outraged an innocent student who was at last telling her story. Her unverifiable story, it turned out: a story the magazine ought never to have swallowed without careful scrutiny, in the traditional of investigative journalism. The investigating team found that hardly any scrutiny occurred. And Rolling Stone’s ownership acknowledged that, true, the thing hadn’t been very well done, and “we never sort of allowed for the fact that maybe the story we were being told was not true…” etc.
We just “sort of” bought the story the way it came to us; just assumed it was likely true!
What a glorious description of the present cultural moment in our fair land. If you’re a college man and, worse, a white frat member, destined for Wall Street or some such culturally deficient place, you’re under immediate suspicion. You probably regard women as playthings. You’d as soon rape one as not. You probably dislike blacks and all them furriners, too. Bet you vote (ugh) Republican!
Well — Rolling Stone, as representative of the elite establishment that now decides what we can believe and say in 21st-century America, certainly has your number.
Among our modern shibboleths — a gift from the high priesthood of the media — is the notion of a “rape culture” — “the concept,” as Wikipedia puts it, “that rape was common and normal in American culture, and that it is one extreme manifestation of pervasive societal misogyny and sexism.”
The ’60s set us up for this addition to the list of social evils, such as government-enforced racial segregation. Man the Protector became Man the Ravager — a narrative that liberal males mostly accept in order to maintain their cultural credibility and social status.
The Man the Ravager stereotype has by now so embedded itself in general consciousness that to hear an accusation against the enemy is to swallow it. Which isn’t so good for honest journalism, we find out. It’s terrible for freedom of speech, what with universities on the lookout for random remarks, in the classroom and on campus, that might make hearers (according to one definition) “uncomfortable, unwelcome or unsafe on account of biology, sex, race, ethnicity, sexual credentials” — and so on and so on.
The lack of common moral and cultural assumptions among us has never been more evident than in the 21st century. This was likely because the assumption rarely arose previously that your ordinary frat member (to revert to the topic at hand) was a rapist just waiting to spring.
Mistrust and injustice are among the fruits of this suspicion we seem doomed to live with for so long as, say, there are journalists who never sort of allow for the fact that maybe the story being spun for their benefit isn’t true.
Formerly a common sense of right and wrong, based on scriptural teaching and the natural law, minimized the dangers that people with conflicting ideals — or different sexes — posed to each other. The ’60s, with their culture of personal liberation, pretty well broke down the old ideals and routed their enforcers — parents, college deans and presidents, ministers of religion; leaving the staff of Rolling Stone to enforce orthodoxy and good behavior on grounds all their own.
Nice try, folks. Can’t wait for the next issue.
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