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Two weeks ago Rolling Stone dropped a bombshell on the Commonwealth of Virginia in a story about fraternity gang rape. The story is being challenged as we learn from Erik Wemple in the Washington Post.
For the sake of Rolling Stone’s reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country’s greatest judge of character. On Nov. 19, the magazine published Erdely’s story about a ghastly alleged gang rape at the stately Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The victim, Jackie, was taken into a dark Phi Kappa Psi room in the early weeks of the 2012 school year and raped by seven men while her date, the pseudonymous “Drew,” and one other man provided “instruction and encouragement,” the story claims. …
… When asked repeatedly on that Slate podcast whether she’d interviewed the accused, Erdely sounded evasive. Here’s a rough transcript of the back-and-forth:
Slate DoubleX Podcast: Did they respond about this, did they deny it? What was their response to the allegations?
Erdely: There was never a need for a response until I stepped in apparently because it wasn’t until I started asking questions that the university put them under some kind of investigation or so they said. It was unclear to me whether there was actually an investigation. The university said that they were under investigation but when I spoke to the Phi Psi chapter and also to the Phi Psi national representative, both of them said that they were not aware of any kind of university investigation….
Slate: But did the boys say anything to you? The thing about it is that everybody in the story seems to know who they are…
Erdely: There’s no doubt that — people seem to know who these people are….I would speculate that life inside a frat house is a probably, you know, you have this kind of communal life where everybody is sort of sharing information…People are living lives closely with one another and it seems impossible to imagine that people didn’t know about this.
Slate: Did they try to contact you? Did you try and call them. Was there any communication between you and them?
Erdely: Yeah, I reached out to them in multiple ways. They were kind of hard to get in touch with because their contact page was pretty outdated, but I wound up speaking…with their local president who sent me an email and then I talked with their national guy who’s kind of like their national crisis manager –
Slate: But not the actual boys –
Erdely: They were both helpful in their own way, I guess. All they really said was, they both claim to have been really shocked by the allegations when they were told by the university. And they both said that this is a really tragic thing and if only we had more information we could look into it and that’s the end of that.
Those answers look bad for Rolling Stone. Perhaps Erdely didn’t understand what she was being asked — that is, whether she spoke with the actual alleged perpetrators themselves. She answers only the much different question of whether she spoke to fraternity management, a much less central matter.
This lapse is inexcusable: Even if the accused aren’t named in the story, Erdely herself acknowledges that “people seem to know who these people are.” …
Bret Stephens refers to the story in his column this week.
… Ms. Erdely tells the story of an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, identified only as “Jackie,” who claims to have been gang-raped by seven young men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity over the course of three hours. The account is graphic and stomach-turning. No less disturbing is the article’s description of UVA as a campus saturated with institutional misogyny and governed by a de facto law of omerta when it comes to sexual assault.
The article has stirred a national outcry. The university has shut down Greek life through January. Congressional Democrats are calling for hearings. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is using the UVA case as an opportunity to push a campus sex-crime bill.
All of this may do a great deal of good. With apologies to Bluto, there’s not a lot to be said in favor of Greek life, much less of the toxic blend of partying, drinking and hooking up. Nor is there much doubt that rape is a serious problem on college campuses, all the more so because an astonishing number of young men do not seem to understand that coerced sex is rape.
But using the Rolling Stone story as an opportunity to promote a worthy cause should not acquit the media from looking closely at the details of the story itself. And here there are some serious reasons to exercise caution. …
So, if this is all true, Megan McArdle says UVA can find out who the perps are and bring them to justice.
… For starters, there are two people whom the university can surely identify right now. First is “Drew,” the boy who worked as a lifeguard at the university pool with her, invited her to the party, and handed her over to his brothers to be raped. There are about 80 brothers in this fraternity; the odds that more than one of them was an upperclassman lifeguard in 2012 seem pretty small, unless this happens to be the swim team frat.
Second is the kid who raped her with a beer bottle when he found himself unable to maintain an erection; she says she recognized him as a classmate from a small anthropology discussion group. The story strongly implies that the rape was an initiation ritual for the fraternity, and since fraternity rush takes place in the second half of freshman year at UVA, this boy was almost certainly a sophomore, or maybe an upperclassman who transferred in. At any rate, it’s very unlikely that there is more than one young man who was a new member of Phi Kappa Psi in 2012, and also a member of lower-level anthropology class. The university ought to be able to identify these two young men in a matter of a few hours.
But the university may well be able to identify everyone, because the story strongly suggests that an entire new class of Phi Kappa Psi brothers participated in a gang rape, …
Here’s the Richard Bradley piece noted by both Bret Stephens and Megan McArdle.
Some years ago, when I was an editor at George magazine, I was unfortunate enough to work with the writer Stephen Glass on a number of articles. They proved to be fake, filled with fabrications, as was pretty much all of his work. The experience was painful but educational; it forced me to examine how easily I had been duped. Why did I believe those insinuations about Bill Clinton-friend VernonJordan being a lech? About the dubious ethics of uber-fundraiser (now Virginia governor) Terry McAuliffe?
The answer, I had to admit, was because they corroborated my pre-existing biases. I was well on the way to believing that Vernon Jordan was a philanderer, for example—everyone seemed to think so, back in the ’90s, during the Monica Lewinsky time.
So Stephen wrote what he knew I was inclined to believe. And because I was inclined to believe it, I abandoned my critical judgment. I lowered my guard.
The lesson I learned: One must be most critical, in the best sense of that word, about what one is already inclined to believe. So when, say, the Duke lacrosse scandal erupted, I applied that lesson. The story was so sensational! Believing it required indulging one’s biases: A southern school…rich white preppy boys…a privileged sports team…lower class African-American women…rape. It read like a Tom Wolfe novel.
And of course it never happened. …
Sorry to have closed our week with such a bleak topic. To make amends we close with David Harsanyi telling us “we are never going to run out of oil.”
In a chilling 2010 column, Paul Krugman declared: “peak oil has arrived.”
So it’s really not surprising that the national average for a gallon of gas has fallen to $2.77 this week – in 10 states it was under $2.60 – and analysts predict we’re going to dip below the two-dollar mark soon. U.S. oil is down to $75 a barrel, a drop of more than $30 from the 52-week high.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Energy Research estimates that we have enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet electricity needs for around 575 years at current fuel demand and to fuel homes heated by natural gas for 857 years or so – because we have more gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia combined.
With prices returning to ordinary levels and a few centuries’ worth of fossil fuels on tap, this is a good time to remind ourselves that nearly every warning the Left has peddled about an impending energy crisis over the past 30 to 40 years has turned out to be wrong. And none of them are more wrong than the Malthusian idea that says we’re running out of oil.
Each time there’s a temporary spike in gas prices, science-centric liberals allow themselves a purely ideological indulgence, claiming – as Krugman, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren and countless others have – that we’re rapidly approaching a point when producers will hit the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum. Peak oil. With emerging demand, fossil fuels will become prohibitive. And unless we have our in solar panels in order, Armageddon is near. …
And some comedic looks at Thanksgiving instead of the normal cartoons.