In 2010, a small team of investigative journalists published a report revealing, so they claimed, an epidemic of college rape. The report was a jumble of highly selective reporting and dubious statistics, as we shall see. But the reporters spread the news far and wide and no one thought to question their accuracy.

Federal officials were electrified by the findings and launched a draconian crusade. The term “rape culture,” previously limited to gender-theory seminars, slowly found its way into the national lexicon.

Before long, otherwise sensible people came to believe that Yale, Swarthmore, and the University of Michigan were among the most dangerous places on earth for young women. Dozens of falsely accused young men were subjected to kangaroo court proceedings and expelled from college. By 2014, the panic produced outbursts of fanaticism—a young woman carried a mattress around Columbia in an attempt to expel a classmate who was found not responsible for sexually assaulting her.