Evidently and unsurprisingly, some radical leftists have defended Rolling Stone’s fabricated rape story.
Being radical means never having to deal with reality.
More moderate liberals, especially those who still believe in journalistic ethics, have been appalled to see how badly the story was botched.
In the latter group we find New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait. I do not merely draw attention to Chait’s column because he leans left. I do so because he presents an excellent argument against journalism that begins with a pre-conceived narrative and that selects only those facts that prove it.
Chait understands that ideological zealotry corrupts journalistic ethics.
He asks the pertinent question and offers the correct answer:
But why did Rolling Stone flagrantly disregard basic journalistic safeguards in this instance? It seems very likely that the magazine’s staff was operating within a social and ideological environment that made the story’s narrative appear to be self-evidently correct.
When facts contradict the ideologically-driven narrative you must ignore them.
In the politically correct narrative, male fraternity members are evil. If they didn’t do it, people just like them probably did. Even if they did not do what Jackie said they did, they represent the horrors of white male privilege.
Thus, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors believed Jackie because they believed the worst of the accused:
One of the peculiar, unexamined assumptions is that fraternity members are capable not only of loutishness or even rape, which is undeniable, but the sort of routine, systematized torture we would normally associate with serial killers or especially brutal regimes. The story describes a gang rape as a fraternity initiation ritual, complete with members referring to their victim as “it,” the way Buffalo Bill dehumanized his captive in Silence of the Lambs.
Radical feminists have created a hostile cultural environment, an environment that declares white males to be the root of all societal evils. When anyone who does not belong to this evil group commits a crime, even the crime of lying to a reporter, it must be excused.
It’s the sort of error that could only be produced in an atmosphere of unquestioned loathing. Caitlin Flanagan, who has reported extensively on the pathology of fraternity culture, told Hanna Rosin that Rolling Stone’s gang rape scene beggared belief. But Flanagan and Rosin have both offended the left in different ways, so their skepticism merely served to convince Rolling Stone’s defenders that the story’s skeptics were motivated by anti-feminism:
When you begin with a pre-conceived idea, or a pre-digested narrative you will cherry-pick facts that support it.
Those who believe in reality begin with the facts of the case and move on from there. For those who are well versed in the law, the latter method formed the basis for the British common law.
In Chait’s words:
The second problem was a habit of left-wing thought treating rape accusations as a unitary phenomenon, rather than something that needs to be understood on a case-by-case method. When the first troubling signs about the factual veracity of Rolling Stone’s account surfaced, the story’s defenders reacted with incredulity. As Salon’s Katie McDonough put it, “So many of these protests about ethics and transparency are just the latest cover for the same tired bullshit: derailing public conversations about rape so that we will talk about virtually anything else.”
The ideologues do not care what happened to Jackie. She might have lied, but they still call her the victim.
If you refuse to believe that the facts discredit her narrative, you have demonstrated the strength of you faith. If you can maintain your faith when the facts seem to contradict it, you are a true believer, indeed.
Chait then explains the rhetorical ploy that is used by feminist zealots:
But if their mentality in any way reflects the mentality of their outside allies, they would have walled themselves off from all doubt by treating skepticism of any single rape allegation as skepticism of all rape allegations. The story's defenders did not merely apply the understandable impulse to not dismiss a woman's testimony about rape; they described its critics, whose factual qualms were well-founded, as “rape apologists” or “rape deniers.” Their ideological approach makes it nearly impossible to explore the factual basis of a story.
Ideological zeal makes it nearly impossible to examine the facts of any specific case.