Some yuletide cheer from the Washington Times, whose reporters are picking through the rubble of the left’s busted “campus rape culture” narrative. Not just metaphorical rubble, either: One night soon after the Rolling Stone story came out, bricks started flying through the windows at Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity named by Jackie and Sabrina Rubin Erdely as the site of her gang rape. That was grimly foreseeable given how horrendous the story Jackie told RS was; the fact that Erdely took that story to print without talking to people who could have challenged it tells you how much she cared about the consequences to the accused. Oddly enough, cops haven’t made any arrests for the window-breaking even though a Times reporter apparently had no trouble tracking down the ringleader, who admitted his role in it on the condition that the paper not reveal his name. Why the impunity from local PD? Does Charlottesville have a vandalism culture?
Part of me wishes this guy didn’t really exist but was concocted by the Times as a lesson to the left. The RS story is itself based on a fictional person, after all, a fact that better reporters had no trouble uncovering, but it was received uncritically by its target audience because it supported a narrative about rape, fraternities, and privilege that they’re politically invested in. If they’re going to invent not just facts but people to bear out their suspicions about designated villains, righties could respond in kind by inventing the most comically repulsive Social Justice Warriors they can imagine. But why do that when people like this evidently do exist, right at the scene of the non-crime, and are willing to let the media quote them at length?
The young man, the progeny of a privileged family, readily and unrepentantly admitted his role and described the attack his friends carried out in details that match police and eyewitness reports. He also said he knew his actions would be considered illegal.
“I texted one of my friends and I was like, ‘Let’s throw bottles at the Phi Psi house tonight,’ and she said, ‘Yes!’ I think that the article made it clear that victims at the university have no legitimate channels to take action, and I think vandalism is a completely legitimate form of action when like, legitimate authority is corrupt. I think it was justified,” he said in an interview with The Times…
The student who claimed to participate in the attack said he had no regrets despite the fact that the accuracy of Jackie’s story in Rolling Stone has come under significant doubt, including the name of the fraternity where the alleged attack occurred. Asked whether he felt at all bad about attacking the wrong fraternity, he showed no remorse and justified the attack on the broader woes of “social injustice.”
“I’ve done some thinking about that, but the answer is no. Everyone knows this is a house that does not respect women. They are part of the problem, and I do not feel bad. We have an objective set of laws that empowers the police to kill black men with impunity and protects white rapists at U.Va. from prosecution. The laws are only legitimate when they work. This is not a particularly radical campus, but we’re mad.
Phi Kappa Psi may not have deserved to be vandalized for a gang rape that didn’t happen, in other words, but they must have committed lesser offenses against Progress that went unpunished. Bricks through the window are belated rough justice for those other offenses. That’s the thing about the “privileged” — they’re always guilty of something even if they’re not guilty of the particular thing you’re accusing them of, so there’s no sense sweating the details. And the ringleader here wasn’t the only student to make that point to the Times: A sorority sister whom they spoke with reportedly told them that worrying about the vandalism to Phi Kappa Psi will only draw attention away from the more important problem of rape on campus. That’s “fake but accurate” reasoning in practice, and that’s how the Rolling Stone story will inevitably be salvaged by the people who embraced it. The ends was to raise awareness about college rape and the means was running a sensational bogus rape story without checking it. When the Times asked the ringleader of the PKP vandalism whether he believed that the ends generally justifies the means in fighting “injustice,” he told them sure, up to and including “armed revolution.” QED. Awareness has been raised. Fake but accurate.
Speaking of “fake but accurate,” Rolling Stone’s going to go the same route that CBS went after the Rathergate fiasco by bringing in outsiders to figure out what went wrong. Seems pretty straightforward to me — Erdely didn’t talk to the accused or to Jackie’s friends and no one on the RS editorial staff insisted that she do so — but the “outside review” is less about usefully identifying errors than about the magazine making a show of accountability to try to repair its reputation. Joe Concha notes that Jann Wenner’s statement announcing the review doesn’t even refer to Jackie’s rape as “alleged,” and that the story is still posted on the RS website with a disclaimer. That’s good but cynical politics by Wenner: In spite of everything, he has more to fear within his own social and political circles from taking the story down too early than he does from taking it down too late. So he’ll stand by it until he gets the official word from Columbia Journalism School that, yes, his staff farked up badly, and then he’ll take it down. I think?