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

Posts tagged ‘Sabrina Rubin Erdely’

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.

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The UVA rape story comes to its not-so-dramatic conclusion.

It was a hoax.

Shame on Rolling Stone for publishing such slander.  Shame on Sabrina Rubin Erdely for writing it.  I hope that both face several large libel lawsuits as a result.  Is it too much to hope that Rolling Stone will go bankrupt and cease publication as a result?

Shame on other media sources that were fooled by this and spread the story uncritically.  Shame on those at UVA and elsewhere who vandalized the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and threatened those who were falsely accused.

Congratulations are owed to those with the courage to expose the truth, particularly Richard Bradley and Robby Soave.

More Hoax Evidence

(Continuing from my previous post.)

In the past 24 hours, the problems with the Rolling Stone article about a brutal gang rape at UVA have continued to multiply.  More and more news sources, watchdog groups, and individuals are pointing out that Erdely clearly engaged in shoddy journalism at best.  More likely, it goes beyond that.  Erdely is simply making things up.  Some more points that should be mentioned:

10. Regarding the credibility of Rolling Stone, here are a couple of relevant examples.  Back in 2003 and 2004, the magazine aggressively pushed the theory that the Diebold company, which manufactures voting machines, had rigged its machines so as to steal elections for the Republican Party.  Of course in 2006 the Democrats began winning elections, and from that point on Rolling Stone and every other left-wing source became happy to accept the results from those same machines.

In 2005, they published Deadly Immunity, a piece by Robert F. Kennedy claiming that vaccines cause autism and other health problems, and that a massive cover-up had been hiding this information from us for years.  A few months later, they removed the piece from their website without a formal retraction.  Then they put it back on their website, and claimed that they had never removed it.  The scientists that Rolling Stone relied on, Mark and David Geier, are transparent frauds who have faced legal consequences for their bogus research.

11. Returning now to Erdely’s story itself, there are other obvious flaws that no one seems to have point out yet.  The largest is simply the idea that such a lengthy, violent rape could have occurred inside a crowded frat house during the middle of a major party.  The victim would only have needed to scream for help in order to attract the attention of everyone in the building, and probably many others outside of it.  (The Phi Kappa Psi frat house is only a few feet away from other residential buildings.)  It beggars belief that a gang of rapists would have carefully planned their crime in a location where scores of people were nearby and the victim could easily get their attention.  The claim that frat brother did this repeatedly, as part of an initiation ritual, is just plain impossible.

12. Erdely also tells us that once Jackie left the building, she immediately called her friends.  This means that she had her phone with her.  Why, then, did she not dial 911, either during the rape or immediately afterwards.

13. Aside from the narrative about Jackie, Erdely does tell one blazingly obvious and undeniable lie.  Throughout her article she posts verses from a song called Rugby Road, and she says: “In 2010 Rugby Road was banned from football games–despite a petition calling it ‘an integral part’ of UVA culture.  Rugby Road verses are still performed on campus by UVA’s oldest a cappella group.”

As some who attended football games in Charlottesville before 2010 many times, I can testify that I never heard any part of this song.  All testimony that I’ve found from students, professors, and alumni confirms that no one else has either.  If the verses that Erdely quotes exist at all, they’re clearly not as popular as she claims.

* * *

Summing it all up, things are not looking good for Rolling Stone or for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s career.  Time will tell what becomes of this story in the end.

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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