It Shouldn’t Take Two

I guess every attempt to legislate against abortion is doomed to suffer a backlash from the abortion lobby, but in this case I think it’s worth it for the pro-life lobby to push back, too:

Rep. Rick Brattin says he thinks pregnant women should be required to get the father’s permission before being allowed to get an abortion.

He said he wrote House Bill 131 to protect the lives of unborn children and the rights of their fathers.

“With the women’s movement for equal rights, well it’s swung so far, we have now taken away the man’s right and the say in their child’s life,” he said.

His bill would require a woman to obtain the written and notarized consent of an unborn child’s father before getting an abortion.

Women’s rights groups say the proposal is outrageous.

“It’s simply demeaning and degrading to women. We, and most of the voters in Missouri, believe that women can make their own decisions both about their lives generally and about their healthcare specifically,” said Laura McQuad, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and mid-Missouri.

It’s pretty rich for Planned Parenthood to talk about women “making their own decisions;” the organization has come out against over-the-counter birth control, preferring to funnel women through the expensive pipeline of either doctors’ offices or Planned Parenthood itself. Anyway, as I said, the pro-life lobby would do well to well to push back against this law; its practical implications may mean less abortions, but its philosophical underpinnings are fairly onerous: it suggests that men can have “a say in their child’s life” to the extent that men, too, can elect to kill an unborn child. How is this progress? It is not; it is a clumsy regression. The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to make abortion illegal, not make it contingent upon the father’s approval. As far as anti-abortion laws go, this one is a dud, and a ghastly one at that; I get that our current system of legalized abortion makes the task of saving unborn lives very difficult, but there’s no reason to go about it in so graceless and unpleasant a way.

It’s Getting Worse All The Time

At The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “It’s Not Just Obamacare: Health Insurance Is Completely Screwed Up.” I’ve written before of the necessity of dispensing with wishy-washy health care reform solutions: we need actual reform, not, as I wrote,

this half-assed, heavy-handed, piecemeal kind of thing.

That’s what Obamacare is: a half-assed, heavy-handed, lazy liberal gesture towards actual reform. Obamacare’s architects were not brave enough to spring for universal health care and not smart enough to simply deregulate the entire health care industry. So we got Obamacare, which mandates that Americans must purchase private insurance in order to be in the law’s good graces. And that is not a good thing:

[W]e have exhausted ourselves trying to figure out how to get everyone health insurance, while health insurance itself has largely been the problem all along. It is not that insurance is a bad thing, but that it is a grossly overused thing. We have missed this point to the great detriment of our health care system.

Just so. Health insurance, properly understood, is meant to protect against bankruptcy in the event of medical disasters. It’s not meant to cover routine doctors’ visits, eye exams or feminist-friendly birth control prescriptions; if you want health insurance to pay for this stuff, you’re going to get more expensive health insurance. As I point out, you’ll also get more expensive medical care in general; the needless complexities and politics of overused health insurance inevitably drive up the cost of health care, leading people to believe that health insurance is the only way to afford a “wellness visit.” Thus is maintained a vicious cycle, which Obamacare only makes worse. The American health care market was already on a downward trajectory, and we can thank the Affordable Care Act for  making it even more byzantine, expensive and unpleasant to deal with.

The Conversation Collapses

I do not pretend to be an expert on matters of racism, simply for the reason that there’s not much to be an expert on: racism is a fairly simple concept and its application is a fairly simple phenomenon, if often a brutal and a nauseous one. Its overcomplication—the convoluted theories, the silly terminology, the desperate search for racial “microagressions” and other phantom prejudices—are all largely products of the academic Left, the members of which often draw their paychecks from analyzing racial non-occurrences to death. Take a look, for instance, at Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper’s description at Salon today of a “nightmarish train ride” she experienced while heading to a “teach-in on Ferguson:”

Beats headphones on, lost in thought, peering out the window, I suddenly saw a white hand shoving my work carry-on toward me. Startled, I looked up to see the hand belonged to a white guy, who was haphazardly handling my open bag, with my laptop perched just inside to make space for himself on the seat next to me.

That he wanted the seat on the now full train was not the problem. That he assumed the prerogative to place his hands on my bag, grab it, shove it at me, all while my computer was unsecured and peaking out, infuriated me. I said to him, “Never put your hands on my property.”

His reply: “Well, you should listen when I talk to you.” That line there, the command that when he, whoever he was, spoke, I should automatically listen encapsulates the breadth of the battle against racism we have to fight in this country.

Yeesh. Well, is there anything else? Did the white fellow hurl some racial epithet at her, or treat her with further hostility that was clearly motivated by some seething internal hatred of Brittney Cooper herself? No. Some dude on a train—a train bound for New York City, remember, the Jerk Capital of the World—spoke rudely to Cooper while “haphazardly” handing her her bag, and she has a fainting fit over it. That’s it.

Cooper’s anguish is clearly real, which is part of the problem: anyone else whom this experience befell would roll his eyes, perhaps say something snappy back towards the rude guy, and leave it at that. For Cooper—and for Salon, apparently, which published the article—the event morphed into an indication of “the breadth of the battle aginst racism:” one guy’s dismissive attitude on a train is seen as representative of a cosmic war between evil and justice. Well, maybe Cooper was bored that day and just let her imagination run away with her. But look at what she says later on in her article:

What I envy about the prior racial era is the explicit nature of racial animus. In this moment we are saddled with the task not only of surviving widespread and deadly racial discrimination but also proving that things are “racial” to begin with.

The “explicit nature of racial animus” in the “prior racial era” included blacks getting hosed down by municipal authorities, attacked by dogs, savaged beyond belief, and lynched. Nothing of the sort happens today; nothing even resembling such brutality happens today. Yet Brittney Cooper envies the “prior racial era;” she envies it! There are no words with which one can respond to this kind of depraved insanity, except, perhaps, “Brittney, we’ve decided that you are not fit to teach classes at Rutgers. You’re fired. Pack up your things and be gone by the end of the day.”

It is entirely probable that, with a little more age and maturity, Cooper may look back on her missal and feel the proper mix of embarrassment and horror. Indeed, one can see many of America’s race-obsessed social justice warriors one day reflecting on the excessive vanity of their salad days. Some time ago I highlighted an instance of this in Jamelle Bouie, who, after we got into a little Twitter debate, dismissed my argument as ““A white man is giving his opinion and you need to listen” (Interestingly, that was largely how Brittney Cooper judged her fellow train passenger, as well.) After I pointed out how silly and, frankly, bigoted this kind of language was, Bouie fired back:

Hm, thanks for clarifying. Actually, this is plainly false: nothing about my writing abilities was mentioned initially, and indeed the only thing Bouie took a jab at was my skin color. Publicly embarrassed for making so petty and provincial an argument, Bouie attempted to retroactively change his argument from one of race to one of literacy. Needless to say, he came off as desperate and ashamed. Bouie is often an intelligent and interesting commentator, so this was a sad declension for him. The American race debate often serves to make total fools out of otherwise-perceptive and insightful people. Both Cooper and Bouie are victims of a racial discourse that elevates emotion and theatrics over rationality and careful thought. “The breadth of the battle against racism” often turns out to be both inflated and dumbly histrionic. From the view of constructive American dialogue, it’s a genuine shame.

Virginia Gets a Gun Grab

It looks like we Virginians can expect a revitalization of the eternal American gun debate, courtesy of Governor Terry McAuliffe:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday will call for a package of gun restrictions in Virginia, including a renewal of the state’s one-a-month limit on handgun purchases and a requirement that buyers at gun shows undergo background checks.

McAuliffe will also propose keeping guns away from people convicted of crimes related to domestic violence and revoking concealed-handgun permits for parents who are behind on child-support payments…

“As Governor, there is no greater responsibility than ensuring the health and safety of the citizens I serve,” McAuliffe said in the release. “Our Commonwealth and our nation have seen too many tragedies as a result of dangerous weapons getting into the hands of the wrong people. These common-sense proposals will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, will keep our communities safe, and will help to build a new Virginia economy.

“These common-sense proposals” are in fact total lies: aside from the domestic violence measure, there is no indication that any of McAuliffe’s proposals will help to limit gun violence in the Commonwealth. The one-gun-a-month limit appeared to have absolutely no effect on preventing violent crime: Bob McDonnell repealed the limit in 2012, yet shootings continued to drop over the next couple of years—a damning indication that the law was functionally useless for preventing gun violence. As for the “gun-show loophole,” there’s no evidence that closing it will do much to reduce shootings at all: gun show purchases account for a vanishingly small amount of the guns used in crime. And I am aware of no positive correlation between violent crime and “parents who are behind on their child-support payments;” maybe there’s a connection, but the governor does not cite any. More likely he’s just looking for a large class of citizens to which gun rights can be quickly denied. In essence, McAuliffe is enacting a duplicitous and fraudulent package of gun control measures that will doubtlessly have little effect on gun crime; these laws are likely intended not to reduce gun violence but to pave the way for further gun control efforts. With any luck, this dishonest campaign will founder in the legislature; given how transparently mendacious it is, conservatives in the Capitol should be able to shut this down fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, a sad but baffling element to the gun control debate has arisen in Hartford, Connecticut:

The families of nine of the 26 people killed and a teacher injured two years ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the rifle used in the shooting.

The negligence and wrongful death lawsuit, filed Monday in Bridgeport Superior Court, asserts that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle should not have been made publicly available because it is a military weapon unsuited for hunting or home defense.

“The AR-15 was specifically engineered for the United States Military to meet the needs of changing warfare,” attorney Josh Koskoff said in a release. “In fact, one of the Army’s specifications for the AR-15 was that it has the capability to penetrate a steel helmet.”

As sympathetic as we should feel towards people whose children were killed because of gun violence, I confess I find this lawsuit to be confusing and faintly ridiculous. To sue the manufacturer on these grounds just defies reality: Adam Lanza’s AR-15 was not functionally unique as far as weapon capabilities go—it fired one bullet for every pull of the trigger—and if the families want to sue Bushmaster for putting out a weapon that can kill lots of people, well, they might as well sue every other gun manufacturer in the United States as well. Indeed, a cursory glance at shootings over the past fifteen years show that handguns—not rifles—are used far, far more often in mass shootings than are “military weapons,” or what the rest of us call semi-automatic rifles. This lawsuit, in short, feels almost like a publicity stunt. The attorney in the case, Josh Koskoff, has written previously that gun makers should be liable for the firearms they sell, and the name “Josh Koskoff” from Bridgeport, CT appears on a Connecticut petition to ban “assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” so perhaps the lawyer has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about guns and saw an opportunity to go after a high-profile gun manufacturer.

Whatever the reasons for this case, it’s an uncomfortable one: as misguided and incorrect as the lawsuit is, it’s still a suit that has been brought about by the parents of children who were murdered by a madman with a gun. Second Amendment supporters need to be vigilant in our defense of gun rights, but we also need to be sensitive to people who have lost loved ones to gun violence and who are perhaps desperately looking for solutions to ameliorate their very real pain.

The Narrative Doesn’t Hold

Earlier this week I wrote that, due to the half-witted way our society talks about sexual assault, Rolling Stone’s rape article fiasco will happen again. I may have spoken a bit too soon about it happening “again,” given that the Rolling Stone’s fiasco is still happening:

The college students described as friends of the alleged rape victim Jackie in an explosive Rolling Stone article revealed their identities to ABC News today, and said that some of the magazine’s story is false.

“The text was so divergent from what we said that evening,” said Alex Stock, who said he’s identified as “Andy” in the article.

The magazine article describes a violent, three-hour gang rape that left a University of Virginia student identified as Jackie bruised and bloody when she escaped a house on fraternity row, right near the university president’s office.

When her friends, identified by Rolling Stone as “Randall,” “Andy” and “Cindy,” arrived that night, the article says they urged Jackie to keep quiet to keep their social lives intact.

That is not the scene described by Jackie’s friends to ABC News…

Well, who knows? At this point it’s impossible to say what’s true; it’s even impossible to really make an educated guess. For instance, Jackie’s friends might be lying in this case: the original article made them look like monstrous, misogynistic pigs, and it would behoove them to lie through their teeth about how things went down in order to save their own images. Then again, with each passing day, Jackie herself appears to be almost-completely unreliable:

U-Va. officials told The Post that no student with the name Jackie provided to her friends as her date and attacker in 2012 had ever enrolled at the university.

Randall provided The Post with pictures that Jackie’s purported date had sent of himself by text message in 2012. The Post identified the person in the pictures and learned that his name does not match the one Jackie gave friends in 2012. In an interview, the man said he was Jackie’s high school classmate but “never really spoke to her.”

The man said he was never a U-Va. student and is not a member of any fraternity. Additionally, he said that he had not visited Charlottesville in at least six years and that he was in another state participating in an athletic event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012.

This does not bode well for Jackie. Prior to this most recent report, the feminist / rape culture activist response was thus: because rape victims experience such trauma due to their being raped, they often have trouble remembering specific details and events leading up to and surrounding their assault; ergo we should not hold Jackie to too high a factual standard in how she recalls her alleged rape. But now there is compelling evidence that Jackie was a liar before she was allegedly raped; if more evidence points to this conclusion, then it will be a damning indictment of Jackie’s reliability altogether. To be sure, this could just be a giant misunderstanding that has befallen the victim of a terrible crime at the worst possible moment—but then again, it could just be evidence that Jackie isn’t to be trusted about anything.

In an insightful piece exploring the flawed feminist response to the entire debacle, Amanda Hess at Slate writes an article titled:

Feminism Can Stand Without Jackie

That’s good news if you’re a feminist, embarrassing news if you’re Jackie. Actually, although Hess’s article is quite good, I think the fairly brutal headline (which she probably didn’t write) is quite misguided: it presupposes that Jackie is the problem, when in fact the problem is more squarely rooted in feminism. Jackie is either a victim, a half-liar caught in a tragic web she partially weaved, or a total fraud—which means she has at least one third of a chance of coming out clean. Modern feminism, on the other hand, is indisputably a rotten and backward ideology, as was clearly shown by the ignorant and narrow-minded feminist response to the article, and as modern feminism has demonstrated time and again. Feminists don’t have to worry about Jackie, but they do have to worry about feminism itself, which has become a self-defeating burden to its own cause.

Meanwhile, the “narrative” surrounding “rape culture” continues to unravel, as was reported by the Federalist yesterday in light of a new Department of Justice study:

The full study, which was published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division within DOJ, found that rather than one in five female college students becoming victims of sexual assault, the actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or 0.61 percent (instead of 1-in-5, the real number is 0.03-in-5). For non-students, the rate of sexual assault is 7.6 per 1,000 people.

Well, “three-one-hundredths-of-one-in-five” doesn’t sound quite as catchy, so I guess it’s understandable why anti-rape activists wanted to inflate the numbers a bit. Kidding aside, this is great news: the alleged scourge of campus rape turns out to have been wildly overestimated, and we can rest easy knowing that college campuses are nowhere near as dangerous for women as was previously thought. Strangely enough, the feminist response to this wonderful development has been rather muted: you think they’d be delighted that the world is slightly less violent and harmful towards women than it originally appeared. I can’t imagine why they might be so silent on the matter.

Shut Up, You’re Racist

In one of those rambling race-obsessed Salon posts (that sure narrows it down), Cera Byer recently penned a long lecture “To my white male Facebook friends,” in which the author makes “A plea to the good guys in my world to stop being so defensive and listen to other people’s experiences.”  Actually, “stop being defensive” seems to be the dominant theme of Byer’s overlong soliloquy to white men:

First, let me say, I’m not addressing you to put you on the defensive

One way to respond to this is to walk away, or get defensive. Another way to respond is to compassionately lean in to it; lean in to our discomfort, our fear, our panic, our incredulity, our doubt…

[Y]ou may believe you are not racist. You may have never said the N-word. You may have non-white friends. However, there are many different forms of racism, not all of them are active. Many of them are passive, and they might be invisible to you, because you’re a white man. (Pause, breathe, try not to jump to defense at this idea. Stay open. Hang with me.)…

(Breathe. Stay with me, try not to jump to defensiveness. Keep your heart open. Feel me here.)…

And when the things they say make you feel defensive, or cut your soul, you can stop, and breathe, and compassionately lean in to your discomfort, and ask yourself, “Why might this be true?”

“Don’t get defensive” is one of the stock canards that people use when they’re accusing white men of being racist. It’s not difficult to understand why: anybody who’s not racist will naturally want to defend himself against such an ignominious and embarrassing slander, and moreover it’s not hard to do so: “I don’t believe one race is superior or inferior to any other,” would suffice. But the Left isn’t really interested in this kind of simple and easily-resolved dialogue; they want to both accuse you of racism and preempt any reasonable and logical objection you might have to being so accused. This is a shallow and dimwitted approach to racial discourse, but thankfully it’s transparent and thus easy to dismiss.

Meanwhile, over at the Daily Beast, Chloé Valdary actually has a refreshing “Dear White People” letter, in which she points out that “Well-Meaning Paternalism Is Still Racist:”

As a black woman living in America, I am very pleased to see my white counterparts taking this issue head on and doing so with a desire to rectify injustices that are often perpetrated against the black community.

At the same time, I feel it prudent to put to rest this fanciful notion that some of those same white people have, namely that treating us with kid gloves is somehow noble or desirable. It is not. It is racist.

Indeed. Actually, this is a wonderful contrast to Cera Byer’s hack missal to white folks: Byer wants white people to self-neuter themselves when it comes to racial discourse, while Valdary deftly dismisses the idea of blacks being treated with “kid gloves.” Which person do you think represents a healthier and more rewarding approach to talking about race? Which person do you think is a vacuous clown not worth taking seriously?

Doing Your Homework

At the Federalist this morning, you can find my latest piece, this one on the UVA rape disaster: “Rolling Stone’s Rape Article Fiasco Will Happen Again.” It will happen again, mainly, as I write, because of

the great flaw in our modern discourse on rape. This discourse, taken over as it has been by radical feminists with plenty of axes to grind, demands that we accept rape victims’ stories uncritically and unreservedly, with little to no eye to determining the true facts of the matter.

Would that I were exaggerating. In the wake of Rolling Stone’s idiotic journalistic flub, a bizarre public spectacle has arisen in which a great many media voices have declared in unison: “Facts do not matter.” It is one of the most perplexing instances of willing societal ignorance I have ever seen. As I point out in my piece, Zerlina Maxwell declared that we should “automatically believe rape claims” no matter what; elsewhere, an editor at the Cavalier Daily claimed that “to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.” After Rolling Stone’s retraction, Annie Clark at Buzfeed lamented that “power, privilege, money, and reputation seemed to matter more than an individual’s life,” as if Rolling Stone should have simply ignored the serious and potentially devastating inconsistencies in Jackie’s story in order to make Annie Clark happy. Frustrated that the “narrative” was not as cut-and-dried as it first appeared to be, John Foubert of One-in-Four wrote that “our culture needs to shift from doubting the word of a survivor to being seriously critical about the expressed denials of accused felons.” But as I point out, this was partly the mistake everyone made regarding the UVA story: nobody doubted Jackie in the slightest, everyone believed her unreservedly. Now a bunch of people are professionally humiliated and a bunch of well-meaning anti-rape activists are embarrassed and ashamed. A little fact-checking could have easily avoided this mess. That’s all it would have taken.

If a woman claims she’s been raped, we should believe her in the same way we would believe anyone else who claims to be the victim of a serious crime. But we should not be taking part in this bizarre cultural groundswell that advocates for “belief” above everything else. No other crime is approached as whimsically and with so little regard to the evidence.  “Belief” is not fact, and it is not even an attempt at fact. If we really want to help rape victims, we would do well to avoid people who disavow evidence and rationality in favor of this weird feminist pseudo-faith.

The Vegan Loophole

I have written before of the weirdness of vegans; I confess that I find vegan culture to be both endlessly fascinating and endlessly weird. I suppose that sounds kind of rich coming from a guy who only eats “humane” meat, but in my defense vegans are much weirder than me, cf.:

Take a moment to imagine platters of andouille sausage, barbecue ribs and bacon. Now think of all of those dishes without meat.

It might seem like a contradiction, but brother and sister Kale and Aubry Walch — yes, Kale — are opening the first vegan butcher shop next spring in Minneapolis, to be called the Herbivorous Butcher. They plan to bring their customers all of those delicious meat flavors, minus the meat.

Obviously, from a qualitative perspective, “vegan butcher shop” is an absurdity and a nonsense term: veganism is the antithesis of butcher shops, and indeed rejects them wholesale in favor of, I don’t know, vegetable cutting boards. But philosophically speaking it’s even weirder. Vegans—at least ethical vegans, which are most of the vegans I’ve ever met—give up meat because they find it morally repugnant: they believe it is wrong to slaughter animals and eat them, or even use animal products for anything at all, and so they abjure exploiting animals for food. Why, then, would they want to open up a “vegan butcher shop” full of mock meat? Is that not making a joke of their professed ethics? Put another way, why would someone want to make a pastiche of something they consider so repugnant? Would a passionate pro-lifer ever get a mock abortion? Would a militant atheist attend a mock High Mass? I suppose there’s more utility in eating fake meat than there is in attending a fake church, say, but nevertheless it’s just baffling: these people find meat to be morally abhorrent, but they seem drawn to imitations of it nonetheless. It’s just, well, weird.

Of course, the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction, as we see in Canton, Ohio:

The Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary reviewed government inspection records for the 300 poultry processing plants in the U.S. and found Case Farms Chicken had inhumanely handled more birds from December through April than any other poultry slaughterhouse. (See the records below.)

Nearly 50 birds were boiled alive, while dozens froze to death or suffered broken legs on their way to the plant from Case farms.

Nearly 40 birds were buried alive under dead birds in trash bins, and 20 chickens froze to death in cages in the plant’s holding area.

Even if you ignore the brutal, inhumane treatment of these birds, this is a shocking case purely from a business perspective: that’s well over a hundred birds (that we know of) that were treated like worthless commodities. One of the crucial parts of processing chickens is the draining of the blood from the bird; you can’t have all that blood still inside a chicken when you go to cook it. Boiling and burying birds while they’re still alive, freezing them to death—in these cases, you haven’t removed all the blood and you’ve got an inferior, possibly worthless end product. The habits of industrial agriculture accommodate for this kind of shameful and depressing waste of food; industrial chicken processing so devalues its own product that it’s perfectly comfortable tossing hundreds of animals into the garbage bin. Vegans may be weird, but slaughterhouses like this—which waste precious food in a world of scarity—are almost sinful.

Bad Portents All Around

Proving that progressivism is nothing if not capable of injecting government into everything it can lay its hands on, the Obama white house announced recently its plans to nationalize the local food scene:

Today, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, six federal agencies joined to announce 26 communities selected to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing technical support to integrate local food systems into community economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health and regional economic experts will work directly with the communities to develop specifically identified local food projects. Project proposals include repurposing vacant land into local food production, developing year-round retail markets for local food products, and establishing food hubs to increase local food supply chains.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Affairs Doug O’Brien and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl made the announcement in Wheeling, West Virginia. Wheeling will receive Local Foods, Local Places support to transition the historic and underused Vineyard Hill, into a productive regional hub for diversified local food production and value added products. The officials will also visit Youngstown, Ohio, which will receive Local Foods, Local Places support to reclaim vacant property for local food production.

I am unable to determine how, in any meaningful sense, a food system can consider itself truly of “local foods [and] local places” while being overseen by a massive, bloated, centralized government bureaucracy. It is also beyond me as to why the progressive ideology has such an insatiable appetite for government involvement in everything. I am as manic a local foodie as anyone—where most farmers-market-shopping hipsters speak of “food miles,” I prefer to deal with “food inches”—but the last thing the movement needs is the USDA, which is a corrupt, incompetent and utterly useless bureaucracy staffed by self-serving crooks. If the local food movement wants to retain both its integrity and its ability to grow good, local food, it should reject any government interference whenever possible. And anyway, why in God’s name should anyone trust a body so oxymoronically named as the “White House Rural Council?”


Earlier this week I spent some time examining the problems with Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story; like a few other commentators, I was suspicious that the article’s brutal and graphic gang rape could have happened as the alleged victim claimed it happened, given some problematic aspects of the story itself. Well, apparently Rolling Stone caught on, issuing a brief addendum to the piece in which managing editor Will Dana claimed that

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.

Oof. The Washington Post today also published an investigation into the matter; none of it looks good for anyone: Jackie, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone all come off as either sloppy or untrustworthy. As I wrote earlier this week, if Jackie’s allegations really are revealed to be false, in whole or even in part, it will also probably prove devastating to future rape victims who will likely face more skepticism regarding their claims. This is a mess for everyone involved. There is nothing redeeming about it.

A Difficult Inquiry at UVA

A few days ago I wrote about the UVA gang rape story, the controversy of which has continued to broil on: as I wrote, there are many worrying and disturbing questions surrounding the alleged victim’s account of the brutal gang rape, and the way in which it was reported has raised some legitimate concerns as well. Both Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely have been quite vague when questioned about the story, which is troublesome and perhaps telling. I’m not sure. The whole thing seems like it’s becoming more bizarre by the day, and I guess it’s unsurprising that the author and the magazine might be getting defensive about it; nevertheless, it seems inexcusable that Sabrina Rubin Erdely did not interview any of the accused rapists. There have been some genuinely puzzling arguments made in order to justify Erdely’s apparent lapse in judgement, such as Columbia journalism professor Helen Benedict’s:

“If a reporter were doing a story about a university accused of failing to address the mugging or robbery of a student, that reporter would not be expected to interview the alleged mugger or robber,” she said. “The piece might have been stronger with more than one source, but exposés of wrongdoing often start with one whistle-blower.”

No: this analogy is deeply flawed. Robberies and muggings generally take place under anonymous conditions. The alleged criminals in Jackie’s case, on the other hand, were known to both the alleged victim and the journalist who interviewed her: “We verified their existence,” claimed editor Sean Woods. “I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were.” If a student accused another specific, identifiable student of a robbery or a mugging, it is unquestionable that the journalist assigned to the case would attempt to contact the accused—and if he or she didn’t attempt to make contact, you’d better believe people would be asking why.

Of course, Erdely claims that she and Jackie made an agreement that the former would not attempt to contact the latter’s alleged rapists; “She asked me,” said the journalist, “not to name the individuals because she’s so fearful of them.” I suppose if this is true, it exculpates Erdely from any journalistic wrongdoing—though then again it seems like any responsible journalist might have responded: “If you’re going to make these bombshell accusations, I have to at least speak to these people. It’s the right thing to do.” And it also raises the question of why Jackie did not want her alleged rapists to have a chance to defend themselves: was she worried that they might dispute her claim? She claims she is fearful of identifying them, but assuredly their identities can be easily determined after that jaw-dropping and incredibly detailed article; after all, Rolling Stone knew who they were. It seems as if both the journalist and the primary source went out of their way to avoid talking to any of the alleged perps. There may be some perfectly good explanations about this, but based on the evidence we have now, there are some pressing questions regarding this case, questions with potentially devastating answers. Meanwhile, the strange defenses of this article continue apace:

No journalist wants to fall for the next Stephen Glass or Duke lacrosse case. But Erdely wrote the piece in such a way that she and Rolling Stone — not Jackie and Drew — are the ones who will be most damaged by a false report. Meanwhile, the journalist backlash is putting feminists who believe in believing women in the uncomfortable position of hoping Jackie told the truth about her gang rape. Not because we want to confirm our biases about monstrous men, but because we’d hate to see confirmation for sexist biases about lying, attention-seeking women. In other words, we’re backed into the corner of hoping someone was gang-raped on broken glass — and how can that possibly constitute a happy ending? If anything, we should hope that Jackie is lying. Then exactly zero lives will have been ruined in this story.

Here we have a great example of the tension between ideological feminism and general rationality: we are apparently being told that there is no way to “believe in believing women” while at the same time holding a rigorous standard of evidence for extraordinary claims like Jackie’s. Nearly everyone, save for a few misogynistic psychopaths, believes that women should be given as much the benefit of the doubt as men; yet that does not mean we must do away with high evidential standards when it comes to bombshell accusations such as the ones Jackie made. As well, Kat Stoeffel is wrong: if, indeed, “Jackie is lying,” then it’s not true that “zero lives will have been ruined in this story:” it would probably be guaranteed, in the event of this story’s being false, that any future rape allegations would be taken less seriously by some or perhaps many people. False charges, especially of this magnitude, could be devastating for future rape victims and advocacy groups. I am concerned for Jackie’s safety and her well-being, and it appears that she has experienced a brutal, sadistic and almost-unforgivable crime—but that does not absolve her, or her journalistic advocates, of the responsibility of providing more evidence than we have now. May it be forthcoming.