"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Some helpful trigger warnings

Perhaps you have heard of trigger warnings, the new fads that’s swept parts of the internet over the past couple years and is no emerging into real life.  The idea is that there are certain topics which may provoke, or “trigger”, a particularly strong reaction among certain readers.  In some locales it’s become customary to place a trigger warning at the top of an article if it deals with something such as sexual violence, eating disorders, racism, or so forth.  Not surprisingly, colleges and universities are among the places where this type of thinking spread next.  Schools such as UC Stanta Barbara and Oberlin have announced policies requiring professors to offer warnings when a text may be “triggering”.

As one who is always will to assist in the promotion of great literature and education, I’ve decided to write the trigger warnings for some well-known reads:

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Brief update on the hoax at UVA

Robby Soave, the first prominent journalist to suggest that the entire Rolling Stone story was a hoax, has an update at Hit & Run.  There are more details from the three friends: Ryan Duffin, Alex Stock, and Kathryn Hendley.  Recall that in the original story, Jackie aggressively slandered these three, saying that after she showed up injured and bleeding and told them about being gang raped, they refused to contact the police and were only concerned about guarding their reputation and being loyal to their own frats.  The truth turned out to be the exact opposite.  When Jackie claimed that she had been forced to perform oral sex on a group of five men, the friends wanted to take her to the hospital and report it to the police; it was Jackie herself who refused to do so.

Anyhoo, the latest revelation is this: we now know the name that Jackie gave for the junior chem major boyfriend who supposedly lead the gang rape: Haven Monahan.  The Washington Post has confirmed that no such person ever existed, either at UVA or anywhere else.  Investigation of the text messages and emails that ‘Monahan’ supposedly sent to the three friends show that they come from fake phone numbers.  Jackie used a readily available website that allowed her to send messages from non-existent phone accounts.  So that would seem to wrap things up for the bogus claim that any sexual assault at all occurred on the night of September 28th, 2012.  The entire account was entirely fictional.

Meanwhile, over at Poynter, the Rolling Stone story has won the award for “Error of the Year”.  That’s just one of many awards that they give.  I highly recommend clicking the link and reading about all of them.  The funniest ones are the candidates for ‘Correction of the Year’.  Some samples:

In yesterday’s “Chillin’ Wit” column, a fond farewell to former Daily News editor Zack Stallberg as he heads west to New Mexico, stall berg was misquoted as using the term “horse manure.” He responded: “I demand a correction. Does anyone really think I would use the word ‘manure’?” No. Stall berg actually said, “horse s—.” And that’s no bull manure.

In a leader last month (Of bongs and bureaucrats, January 11th) we said that The Economist first proposed legalising drugs in 1993. In fact we argued for it in a cover story in 1988. Who says drug use doesn’t damage long-term memory?

An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquín Guzmán was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected.

An earlier version of this article described bald eagles and ospreys incorrectly. They eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces. (Other birds, like American robins, Eurasian starlings and cedar waxwings, do.)

“Do the Left Thing”: Stand up for free speech.

Here’s another on-campus story that’s not at all shocking, at least for anyone who follows life in the academic world.  A conservative student at the University of Michigan, Omar Mahmood, wrote a satirical column entitled ‘Do the Left Thing’, mocking the bizarre worldview of campus leftists.  He published it in one newspaper, the Michigan Review, and in response he lost his job at the mainstream campus newspaper, the Michigan Daily.  And then, in the least shocking development of all, four female students decided to post insults, threats, profanity, and racial slurs on his dorm room door and throw rotten eggs and hot dogs at it.

Here’s another unsurprising development.  The four enterprising progressives decided to disguise their identities by putting on hoodies.  They decided to don these hoodies right in front of a security camera, making it easy for campus security to identify them.  Read all about it here.

Of course the best way to respond to censorship is by reading whatever the bad guys are trying to censor.  So click here to read the offending column, and while you’re at it, drop by The Michigan Review as well.

One last post on the UVA case

I’ve written a great deal about this case because it means a lot to me, for reasons I’ve explained before.  Nonetheless I’m trying to avoid going overboard on this one issue.  Hence this will be my last post on the case, at least until something important arrives, such as a police investigation.

Okay, first topic: what’s the response from Sabrina Erdely and Rolling Stone?  Answer: almost none.  Erdely seems to have gone into hiding; it’s been almost two weeks since anyone heard from her.  Rolling Stone, meanwhile, has altered its initial statement after widespread complaints that it was trying to put the blame on Jackie.  Other than that, nothing.  As Richard Bradley and many others have been saying, these people are cowards.  They should be coming forward and admitting fault.

Of course both Erdely and everyone else at Rolling Stone has good reason to hide.  They’ve committed the biggest journalistic fraud since Dan Rather and his phony memos.  They’re going to be infamous for years to come.  Erdely’s name will forever be listed next to Stephen Glass as a notorious liar and fabricator who fooled major publications.

Further, it’s not just this one story.  Conservative sources have started poking into everything else Erdely has ever written and much of it is clearly fake.  Mollie Hemingway has a good summary of it.  Erdely won’t be writing any journalism anytime soon, but she has a career has a trashy romance novelist waiting for her if she wants it.

Next topic: what actually happened at UVA?  The latest revelations from the Washington Post show that we’re closing in on the an answer.  Our protagonist, “Jackie”, began playing an elaborate prank soon after arriving at UVA for her freshman year.  She told her friends about her super-hot chemistry major boyfriends, even sending false texts and photos.  Then for some reason it morphed into a story about this guy leading a brutal gang rape in a frat house.  Over time Jackie has changed nearly every detail: the name of the boyfriend, the number of attackers, the location, and more.  The three friends also did an interview with ABC news   As Hanna Rosin puts it, we are inching closer to the moment when the entire story becomes an acknowledged hoax.

Next topic: the response.  Ever since the Post first exposed the flaws in the story, many liberals and feminists have been wringing their hands about the possibility that this will perpetuate the stereotype of “the girl who cried rape” and make true victims of sexual assault less likely to come forward.  While such fears aren’t entirely groundless, I think they’re exaggerated.  The actual, factual evidence that women are intimidated into silence is rather thin.

What liberals really fear is obvious and well-grounded.  People will trust the liberal media less as a result of this.  And well they should.  The difference between Erdely’s disaster and a typical political story in The New York Times is one of degree, not kind.  If skepticism about the media goes up, so much the better.

I will say that some amazingly dumb arguments have sprung up as a result of this.  Here, for instance, we have a student making a stunning argument:

If everyone here believed Jackie’s story until yesterday — a story in which she is violently raped by seven men at a fraternity house as part of a planned initiation ritual — should we not still be concerned?  There was something in that story which stuck. And that means something.

Okay, the wording is careful.  That “means something”; no word on what it means exactly, but the implication is clear.  Since people believe that a fraternity would commit organized gang rape in its frat house, then it must happen, even if this particular case is a fabrication.

I don’t think the student who wrote this is taking Logic 101.  If a magazine publishes a phony story and numerous people at UVA and across the country believe it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the story was plausible or that anything like the story has even taken place.  It may simply be that UVA and other places around the country have lots of credulous fools.  (Pardon my bluntness, but someone’s gotta’ say it.)

Final topic: what’s the appropriate response to all this?  How should we feel about the victims?  First, we must remember who the victims are.  They are the men false accused of rape, two that Jackie named and all the members of Phi Kappa Psi.  These people deserve nothing but sympathy.  They also deserve a big cash settlement from Rolling Stone, and they’re nearly certain to get one.

And, a bit more problematically, they deserve a settlement from Jackie.  Obviously Rolling Stone is the bigger, better target.  Nonetheless I find it likely that at least one person or group will sue Jackie herself.  If so, she’ll be forced to testify under oath about what took place and may, financially, lose everything.  On top of that, there’s a police investigation still underway.  If Jackie lied to the Police, she may even end up serving time in jail.

Should we feel sympathy towards her?  Sort of.  She’s a college student who did something stupid.  I was once a college student who did stupid things.  I’m glad that those things didn’t continue to follow me all my life.  I’d imagine most folks would say the same thing.  Jackie happened to take her bad decisions a few steps too far and will be paying for it for a long time.  Perhaps the real lesson to learn from this is that we need to do a better job of teaching our young people about responsibility, honesty, and empathy, and we need to do it at an earlier age.

More thoughts on the UVA rape hoax

(Continuing from my previous post.)

Another obvious question about this whole mess is: what exactly happened?  It seems clear that Sabrina Rubin Erdely went shopping for a story about rich, white guys committing rape.  She toured several campuses and was eventually connected to “Jackie”, the UVA student who provided the tale.  Erdely published a story chock-full of details, and virtually every detail that can be checked has turned out to be false.  The story says that Jackie was raped at a party at Phi Kappa Psi on the date of September 28, 2012.  In reality, the frat didn’t hold a party on that date.  Jackie says that a particular student named “Drew”–she gave his full name to the Washington Post–dated her for several weeks before taking her to the party and gang-raping her along with his frat buddies.  In reality, this man has never even met Jackie, doesn’t belong to that frat, isn’t a lifeguard (another detail that Jackie supplied about him), and in short, is a completely innocent victim of Jackie’s claims.  So Jackie certainly lied; shame on her.

But the question is, how many of the lies come from Jackie and how many from Erdely?  The logical thing would be to ask both Jackie and Erdely.  Unfortunately Erdely seems to have gone into hiding.  Jackie doesn’t seem to be saying much either, though her father has given an unimpressive and unhelpful interview to a British tabloid.  So it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be getting a clear picture from the two people who could actually provide answers.

Then there’s the question of what actual events occurred?  Was Jackie raped or assaulted?  Some people continue to insist that she was, citing friends who claim she told them about such an assault on the night it allegedly happened.  Well, that’s something that us mere observers can’t know.  Perhaps she was, perhaps not.

On to the next question: why did this hoax happen?  Why on earth did Erdely think she could get away with it?  Why didn’t Rolling Stone uphold even the slightest bit of journalistic standards?

Well, it’s because of the culture, folks.  Brendan O’Neill gives us an excellent article on the ‘Cult of Credulity’.  Many sources, including supposedly intelligent sources, are telling us that we should automatically believe any rape accusation.  Of course this is atrocious–a flat violation of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.  But leftists don’t do principles.

And it’s spreading.  On the same day that the Washington Post blew the lid on the UVA case, they also help expose the fact that Lena Dunham had made a blatantly false accusation of rape, aimed at an innocent man.  Now her publisher is furiously backtracking, apparently having realized that a libel lawsuit is likely to be on the way.  It seems like falsely accusing college guys of rape is the trendy new thing to do, at least among wealthy white liberal women.

I leave you today with a link to this essay: Everything is Problematic.  In it a college student (amazingly) doesn’t accuse anyone of rape, but instead documents her journey away from the political far left.  Among the factors that caused her to flee: anti-intellectualism, dogmatism, and self-delusion.  No kidding.

Thoughts for the day

After being absent from the blog for nearly two years, I’ve returned with four posts about the recent gang rape charges at UVA published by Rolling Stone, which turned out to be a hoax.  Okay, that’s a bit odd.  Why do I care so much about this story?

Every forum thread and comment section on the internet devoted to this topic has overflowed with comments from UVA students and alumni.  For the record, I am neither a student nor an alumnus.  I did, however, live near Charlottesville for seven years, and had many friends among the students and faculty at the school.  In that sense, it makes me particularly angry that Rolling Stone picked UVA as the target of its slander.  If they’d instead made up a fictional rape case set at, say, the University of Alabama, it would be just as much a moral outrage, but it wouldn’t be so personal for me.

That said, it is a moral outrage.  Accusing someone of rape, when you know that person didn’t commit rape, is a terrible thing to do.  The ninth Commandments is “Thou shall not bear false witness”.  Many translations give it as “Thou shall not lie”, but the original Hebrew makes it clear and specific: we should not falsely accuse others of crimes.  For Jews and Christians, this has been a part of the basic moral order for thousands of years.  Of course, the left-wingers who run publications like Rolling Stone and most major universities in this country proudly reject our Judeo-Christian heritage, so it shouldn’t be too surprising when they bear false witness shamelessly.

Well, whatever being wrote the Ten Commandments was right.  It is wrong to falsely accuse anyone of any crime.  It is wrong for the same reason that rape is wrong.  Rape harms other people.  So does a false accusation.  Rape is selfish.  So is a false accusation.  Rape treats other people as worthless.  So does a false accusation.  This should be obviously and clear to all thinking people.

Regrettably, many on the left don’t seem to see it that way.  Examples have multipled, but here are two much-quoted examples.  A UVA student wrote an essay in Politico saying, “to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.”  Meanwhile over at The New Republic, Rebecca Traister tells us this:

The dismantling of Erdely’s storyboth by anti-feminist agonistes and by those genuinely dismayed by possible journalistic errorwould mean that Jackie’s story of being beaten and raped by seven fraternity brothers will be dismissed, and that the reading public will be permitted to slip back into the comforting conviction that stories like Jackie’s aren’t real, that rapes like that don’t happen, that our system works, and that, of course, bitches lie.  What we will all be allowed to happily forget is that there are plenty of real stories of rape: of violent rape, frat house rape, gang rape, date rape; that most rape accusers do not lie and that in fact it’s quite likely, statistically, that Jackie herself did not lie.

Actually, to allow fact-checking to define the narrative is exactly the right thing to do.  Facts matter.  Truth matters.  Separating true from false matters.

As for Traister’s statement, it’s quite telling.  Supposedly “the reading public”, which presumably doesn’t include Traister herself, has a comforting conviction that rape isn’t real and never happens.  In reality, no one believes this.  Everyone knows that rape is a real problem and does happen.  Traister is railing against a non-existent position.

Fortunately there are a few folks still standing up for reason.  I highly recommend reading all of the following:

Emily Yoffe says that The Putative Epidemic of Campus Rape is Pushing Colleges to Adopt Policies Unfair to Men.

Judith Levine takes to task the absurd feminist responses to the whole story: “Feminism Can Handle the Truth.”

And Mollie Hemingway points out that Sabrina Rubin Erdely has a long history of writing utterly absurd stories and passing them off as true.  Why haven’t her lies been exposed before?

Hoax Evidence

(Continued from my previous post)

Okay, so the Rolling Stone article is looking like a hoax.  Nothing sure yet.  It might turn out to be entirely true, but the smart money’d definitely on hoax.  What’s the evidence?  Well, the skeptics that I’ve linked to have already pointed out several things:

1. Supposedly in the room where Jackie was raped, there was a glass table that got shattered, and both her and the rapists rolled around in broken glass for several hours.  Clearly this is not remotely plausible.

2. Afterwards, Jackie supposedly went downstairs, where the crowded party was still going on.  She was supposedly bleeding profusely at the time.  And yet nobody noticed this.

3. The very notion that a group of nine frat boys at a major university would carefully plan a gang rape is quite far-fetched.  Moreover, one line in Erdely’s article implies that this gang rape was part of an initiation ritual, which is even more far-fetched.

4. It’s being alleged, though only in comments on other blog posts so far, that the details don’t add up.  UVA frat boys pledge in the Spring semester, but the alleged assault occurred in September.  Supposedly the frat party was continuing until early morning; in reality, parties don’t last that long.

5. Proper journalism requires names of witness, not anonymity; it requires the journalist to speak with anyone accused of a crime and allow them to respond.  A simple read of the article shows that Erdely made no attempt to reach even these low standards.  The Washington Post has just posted this: “Rolling Stone whiffs in reporting on alleged rape.”

6. Moreover, Erdely doesn’t seem to have any coherent explanation.  When asked about these lapses in her reporting, she’s babbled out incoherent responses full of “sort of’s” and “kind of’s” and “I guess’s”.

On top of that, I’ll add some reasons of my own.

7. Rolling Stone is not a credible source.  It is better known for topless pictures of Britney Spears than for anything resembling journalism.  It’s is shamelessly left-wing and routinely attacks groups that it doesn’t like: Republicans, conservatives, Christians, capitalists, and others.  An attack on a bunch of rich, white frat boys fits perfectly with the magazine’s biases.

8. Erdely provides many direct quotes, supposedly from Jackie and her friends.  They don’t sound remotely like actual college students.  “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years”.  “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”  This is not what actual college students sound like.  It’s more like what a clueless journalist thinks that college students sound like.

9. What’s true about Erdely’s dialogue is also true about her whole story.  We’re being asked to believe that minutes after a young woman was gang raped and was bleeding badly, her friends cared nothing about her, but only about the reputations and access to frat parties.  This isn’t realistic.  It’s more like a parody of fraternity and sorority culture.  And the reason why it sounds so much like a parody of fraternity and sorority culture is that, in all probability, it is a parody.  In other words, it’s a work of fiction designed to attack and mock certain types of people.

As I said at the start, the whole story might be true.  But certainly at this point, any credible evaluation of the evidence (or lack thereof) would lead to the conclusion that it’s probably a hoax.  If we learn in the future that Erdely made the whole thing up from scratch, that there was no real “Jackie” and no friends of Jackie, that Erdely’s goal was to smear rich, white people and nothing more.  Time, I hope, will bring the truth to light.

(The list of evidence continues in the next post.)

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