December 17, 2014
But the most important question is not who ginned up this nonsensical hoax, but why was this hate-filled saga of the “night of broken glass” so widely believed? Let’s concentrate upon the behavior of the New York Times, the Newspaper of Record. The Times tries to be the Mitt Romney of the coalition of the fringes: responsible, sober, buttoned-down. It takes seriously its role in setting the agenda for the rest of the press.
But there are two mirror-image processes going on in the media in the Internet age:
First, there’s the projection of unstable new personalities to global attention such as Jackie and Tessa Kum. But what the Internet gives in terms of easy embellishment, it takes away in allowing anybody online to fact check.
Second, you have the destabilization of old-timers such as Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Nicholas Kristof, and David Carr as the narrative crumbles and their hold on the Megaphone is threatened.
A search using the terms “Virginia rape fraternity” for the weeks following Rolling Stone‘s publication of “A Rape on Campus” on November 19 reveals (leaving out “week in review” type rehashes):
Does the University of Virginia Have a Culture of Silence Around Sexual Assault?
Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried “rape,” and we’ll never be allowed into any frat …
By ANNA NORTH, NOVEMBER 21, 2014
University of Virginia’s Image Suffers After Campus Rape Report
“The fraternity culture has to change, but I don’t know how it would, because …
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and RICHARD PÃREZ-PEÃA, NOV. 24, 2014
On November 24, veteran journalist Richard Bradley posted on his blog “Is the Rolling Stone story true?“ and the next day I began adding comments. Not surprisingly, the Times paid no attention to this lonely outpost of skepticism:
University of Virginia Officials Vow to Combat Campus Rape Problem
The board that oversees the University of Virginia said it would come … after a magazine article reported a gang rape at a campus fraternity and …
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and RICHARD PÃREZ-PEÃA, NOV. 25, 2014
The revelation of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity by Rolling Stone underscores how thin our veneer of civilization …
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF, Nov. 26, 2014
On November 29, I posted a link to Bradley’s piece on my iSteve blog at the Unz Review. Comments finally began to roll in to Bradley’s Shots in the Dark blog. The Times, however, carried on as before:
Princeton Eating Club Ousts 2 Officers Over Emails Ridiculing Women
A report in Rolling Stone about a fraternity gang rape has roiled the University of Virginia, which suspended all fraternity and sorority activity …
By ARIEL KAMINER – Dec. 1, 2014
On December 1, Bradley-based critiques began appearing in Reason, the Wall Street Journal, and other sites, but the Times continued to run with the narrative:
Reporting Sexual Assault Is Difficult, but a New Technology May Help
… is shared awareness of the numerous rape allegations against him, … A protest outside a fraternity house at the University of Virginia last …
Dec. 2, 2014 – By BRENDAN NYHAN
Gillibrand Seeks Another Vote on Military’s Handling of Sexual …
With several high-profile assault and rape cases dominating the … men had raped her at a fraternity at the University of Virginia, which was …
Dec. 2, 2014 – By JEREMY W. PETERS and EMMARIE HUETTEMAN
The University of Virginia has temporarily suspended its fraternities … social events until the end of 2015 “ also because of rape accusations.
Dec. 2, 2014 – By FRANK BRUNI
Finally, on December 2, the Times ran a small, soft-hitting article noting that questions had emerged:
Magazine’s Account of Gang Rape on Virginia Campus Comes …
The article began with one woman’s description of a violent rape in 2012 by seven members of a Virginia fraternity, complete with vivid and …
Dec. 2, 2014 – By RAVI SOMAIYA
But two days later it was back to banging the drum:
Widening Spotlight on Assault of Women
While protests of the so-called rape culture on college campuses have … The University of Virginia has suspended its fraternity activities until …
Dec. 4, 2014 – By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
On December 5, Rolling Stone announced it had put too much trust in Jackie, and the Times had to backpedal:
Rolling Stone Cites Doubts on Its Story of University of Virginia Rape …
The magazine acknowledged “discrepancies” in an article that described a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.
Dec. 5, 2014 – By RICHARD PÃREZ-PEÃA and RAVI SOMAIYA
But then on December 10, the hometown Washington Post unleashed its bombshell demonstrating (although without having the courage to state it explicitly) that this was all a hoax based on Jackie’s ridiculous catfishing scam.
The Times responded by going silent. Finally, on December 14, the Times“ media columnist David Carr penned a diatribe, “Sowing Mayhem, One Click at a Time,” screeching at a 26-year-old conservative blogger named Charles C. Johnson who had become tangentially involved in the RaperGate story. Carr, a recovering crackhead whose 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun details his cocaine addiction, ended his Times column about Johnson with this remarkable howl of rage:
What they will find is a clear look into the molten core of a certain mind-set, a place where conspiracies are legion, victims are portrayed as perpetrators and so-called news is a fig leaf on a far darker art.
“A far darker art?” What the hell?
Win, and a multitude of weaknesses will go unnoticed.
Lose, and out comes the crazy.