Well, we all got played by that one.
It will take a few days to sink in, but the fact is that the “Rolling Stone UVA Rape Story” is now headed — rightly or wrongly — into that list of media stories which drew tremendous anger and attention at the outset and fit the national zeitgeist for “teaching lessons” about race, sex, etc. Then the story turned out, well, differently.
The Scottsboro Boys in the Thirties. Tawana Brawley in the Eighties. Duke Lacrosse in recent years.
I’ll admit that I fell for it. The Rolling Stone story made me furious and fit my pre-conceived notions about fraternities at UVA and the “ivory tower” mentality of hiding violent crimes in Honor Code proceedings. My own biases, dating back to my student days, came into play.
There was only one problem — the story, as reported, was not true.
We may never know what happened to the young woman in question. We do know that major elements of the story, as reported by Rolling Stone, are simply false. Amazingly, the reporter who broke the story simply failed to corroborate certain key details — or interview a single one of the alleged witnesses.
The Attorney General has commissioned an investigation of this alleged rape and sexual violence in general at UVA. Apparently, that investigation will continue. That’s fine but it must be predicated on finding the truth — not pre-determined notions of what the facts “should” be (or what is politically desirable for the prosecutor).
If it turns out that certain allegations lack sufficient evidence or are not credible, then that conclusion must be honestly reported. If, on the other hand, the AG finds evidence of unreported crimes, then please prosecute them.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last few weeks of the need to educate young men about “rape” and “sexual assault.” That’s the advantage of actually prosecuting cases, as opposed to rallies and vigils which only feed a one-sided viewpoint. As I said in this space a couple weeks ago, nothing will make an impression on a college campus faster than a felony conviction and sentence in a state prison.
But making (and publishing) a false accusation against a randomly chosen fraternity is not the solution. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, dishonesty in pursuit of a popular political objective is no virtue. Honesty in defense of an easy target is no vice.