Quote of the Day:
Why was it so easy for so many to believe that nine unnamed male undergraduates were sociopathic monsters?
—Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers on the U Va rape story
In one of the best and most fact-filled Factual Feminists yet, Christina Hoff Sommers explains why Rolling Stone’s shoddily reported U Va rape story, which unraveled very quickly, managed to be published in the first place.
The Rolling Stone article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who enjoys the dubious distinction of having once been disciplined by journalist fabulist Stephen Glass, was, as the Factual Feminist puts it, “a male damning Gothic fantasy.” Yet editors went with it and for a few days, before it began to fall apart, it was widely believed.
“In retrospect the story should have aroused immediate suspicious,” says the Factual Feminist.
Any rape is a serious crime but the idea of a “rape culture” on campus that would give rise to gang rapes such as the one described in the Rolling Stone story was once a tenet only of radical feminists.
This worldview went mainstream in 2010 when the Center for Public Integrity and NPR teamed up to produce a report that was based on “the worst kind of advocacy research.” It promoted the notion of a “hidden epidemic of rape” on campus. This report also promulgated the statistic that one in five women on campus are victims of rape. (A recent Department of Justice report indicates that that number is astronomically off target.) Skeptics who challenged the one-in-five stat, however, were called “rape apologists.” The Office of Civil Rights took notice and promised action. The Obama administration has used the “rape culture” idea as a justification for a sweeping array of ideologically-driven recommendations regarding campus sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Glenn Harlan Reynolds also addresses the idea that we are living through a time of a horrific “rape culture” and that nothing will suffice to fix our culture but more and more federal laws. The real hoax, writes Reynolds, was not the Rolling Stone story. It was Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., citing Rolling Stone article to support their legislative agenda and claiming, now that the story is known to be false, that the underlying problem is still there.
Given that the one-in-five figure is widely debunked, Reynolds asks why the rape “crisis” continues to be such a hot story:
It's getting press because it suits the interests of those pushing the story. For Gillibrand and McCaskill, it's a woman-related story that helps boost their status as female senators. It ties in with the "war on women" theme that Democrats have been boosting since 2012, and will presumably roll out once again in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps Elizabeth Warren. And University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan hasn't apologized for her action in suspending all fraternities (and sororities) on the basis of a bogus story in Rolling Stone. Nor has she apologized for the mob mentality on campus that saw arrests, vandalism and protests at a fraternity house based, again, on a single bogus report. Instead, she's doubling down on the narrative.
This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.