Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Pimping" by the media

Last December I wrote about the case involving last November’s publication of a Rolling Stone magazine “exposé” of a brutal gang rape that allegedly occurred back in 2012 by seven members of a fraternity on the campus of the University of Virginia. The story was written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who was apparently in search of a victim who had a story that was suitably horrific to advance an advocacy journalism agenda. Unfortunately, when fanaticism enters the picture, truth and justice fly out the window; the fact that a police investigation could find no evidence that an assault had been committed against the alleged victim, “Jackie”—a then student at the university—but that the fraternity has decided to sue Rolling Stone for libel has left one wondering exactly how something like this could happen.

It’s not that hard to figure out. We live in a world where the media simply does not report what is really important in people’s lives. Plane crashes, mass shootings, police shooting blacks, anything involving sex, and politicians and pundits shouting inanely at each other has been determined to be the most reliable ratings winners. Nobody wants to talk about what the long term effect on health care coverage in this country will be if the partisan Right has its way and kills the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because the media knows that the Right would be exposed (once again) as inhuman brutes, and media doesn’t want to be accused of being “unfair and unbalanced”—like Fox News is.  

In the wake of the Ray Rice episode, Rolling Stone didn’t want to miss that gravy train. Who cares about facts, as long as you have a large demographic that believes it happens “all the time” and revels in its “victim” status, largely a creation of the media and “studies” by advocacy groups who keep what is useful and throws out the rest—which is usually most of the picture. 

Thus the magazine published an article telling the sordid tale contrived by “Jackie” and fictionalized by Erdely. How did these two get together in the first place? It seems clear and that they were “made” for each other. “Jackie” apparently had a victim complex and was vindictive by nature, and Erdely was only too eager to accept her tale whole hog, since the reality is that it isn’t that easy finding such stories (I have noted before that a Seattle Times story on campus crime at the University of Washington noted only six reported sexual assaults in 2006, none leading to charges). The fact that Erdely was extremely eager to disseminate such a story no doubt convinced “Jackie” that she could “embellish” a story whole cloth without fear of being found out. After all, a phony name was shielding her from culpability for her lies; what did she have to fear? Everyone would believe her—or if they didn’t, their doubts would be muzzled in the face of accusations of “women-hating.” What is wrong with just hating injustice?
The Washington Post has now reported that “In March the Charlottesville police department detailed a months-long investigation that exonerated the fraternity and found there was no evidence to substantiate the sexual assault allegations described in Rolling Stone. Fraternity members told The Post in the fall that they knew within hours of the article’s publication that there were significant discrepancies in the account. Phi Psi members said that they used social media logs, digital records and financial statements to confirm that the fraternity did not host a function on Sept. 28, 2012, the night Jackie said she was attacked by seven Phi Psi members while two others watched.”

It turned out that three friends who had encountered “Jackie” the night of the alleged sexual assault told a much different story than the one reported in Rolling Stone.  They recalled being told that she had been on “date” with a male friend who in fact was not only not there, but hadn’t been anywhere near the vicinity in six years. Later in the evening she appeared “upset,” but said nothing of being “gang-raped,” only alluding vaguely to something about being “forced” to perform oral sex. They suggested that if she was upset about this, that she should report it to campus police, but apparently she never did. Perhaps it was that later given all the media attention given to the issue of sexual assault, she could feel “empowered” and “special” by portraying herself as a victim of a “patriarchal” society, and this was her chance to send someone or someones as low as she possibly could. Who wouldn’t believe her in the media? She would also be a “hero” to gender victim advocates.

The Post also reported that “A months-long investigation into a flawed Rolling Stone magazine article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia has concluded that the story reflected failures at virtually every level, from reporting to editing to fact-checking…a 12,000-word report that reads like a reportorial autopsy, a three-person team at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism called the November article ‘a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. . . . The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting’ that would likely have exposed the story as dubious.”

Many have attempted to escape from their own hypocrisy and contempt for due process. The president of the university had reacted with near hysteria over the publication and subsequent campus rioting over the alleged assault, assuming that everything was “true” and kowtowing pathetically to the media and the advocacy frenzy. Teresa Sullivan rolled out the usual bovine scatology of the self-deniers: “Rolling Stone’s story, ‘A Rape on Campus,’ did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue. Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed University staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.”

Do false reports really “reinforce” the “reluctance” of sexual assault victims to report their experiences? Or could it be that because of the fantastically broad definitions used to include various sexual scenarios that make virtually all heterosexual encounters potentially “sexual assaults,” depending on what the “feelings” about the encounter by the female (like did she feel “disrespected”), that we have an overblown sense of the extent of the crime? It is because so many alleged sexual assaults fall under the category of “he-said, she-said” with differing interpretations of an encounter, the fear should be that too many men fall into the chasm between lies and what the monster that the media and public officials have created to protect themselves from attack from gender victim fanatics. 

Such fanatics include Emily Renda, the University of Virginia’s project coordinator for sexual misconduct, policy and prevention, who was quoted in the Washington Post as asserting that “she didn't question ‘Jackie's’ credibility—because that wasn't her role.” What? Is she saying that the so-called victim’s role was to create the illusion that a crime had been committed, in order to “illuminate” the issue? No doubt Renda has a tougher job than she wishes, since most of what she has to work with is hearsay and unsubstantiated sob stories from the women’s studies department. In order to lend “substance” to her beliefs, a lie—especially a really big whopper—is infinitely preferable to the truth. 

And for her part, Erdely hypocritically “apologized” to everyone except those who were the actual victims in her story:  “I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the UVA community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article. . . . In the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story.” She still cannot accept the probability that “Jackie” had lied to her through and through as suggested in the police investigation, and she was desperate to believe those lies. She is not “sorry” for reporting lies.

So Jackie’s “role” was not to tell the truth, but to tell as  grotesque story as possible from "memory," regardless if it was true or not, in order to paint as broad a brush over as many people as possible to “prove” a “culture” of sexual assault on campus. Didn’t we learn anything from the Duke University Lacrosse case? As for Erdely, is putting her credibility in the toilet is how to persuade people to take her as seriously as she wishes, when she wants to create innocent victims in order to create false ones? Who can believe anything she writes about now without the suspicion that she has utter contempt for facts in the pursuit of a personal agenda?

Of course, pumping up an incident so that it overwhelms truth goes beyond gender. As we have seen in the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, the media and activists have little use for such inconvenient things like facts and context. The media exploits these incidents to disguise the fact that it ignores the problems that affect the lives of many people, like the lack of decent paying jobs, the on-going fact of job discrimination (which I will elaborate on in a future post), adequate health care if the extremist Right gets its way, and the like. Just play on emotions, and it will drown out everything else. The media did its duty, and it’s time to move on and ignore reality.

A week or so ago, gender victim fanatic and Seattle Times reporter Sara Jean Green wrote a story about some “months long” sting operation on a rundown motel that netted  a few “pimps” and drug dealers.  Of course, this was all part of the city, law enforcement and media campaign to portray prostitutes as “victims.” So I asked Green (or tried; my email to her was blocked) what made herself as a representative of media (along with the city and police) no less of a “pimp”? Is she going to help prostitutes (the vast majority who do not use “pimps” to find their “clients”) find alternative employment? Does she actually believe that most prostitutes are being “forced” to be so by “pimps,” and all you have to do is arrest pimps and johns and they will be “free” to find other employment? 

Who is she trying to kid?  No doubt herself and the like of mind.  These “victims” most likely will continue to do what they are doing instead of, say, going to temp agency and getting started on the path to a legitimate job, because basically despite the sob stories they tell you, they are really just kind of indolent, preferring to work at a “job” that requires no special skills or annoying hiring process. When forced to explain themselves by phony moral media paladins, they seem to expect the kind of “help” from people like Green (or the city and police) that they never actually get. They are just used to satisfy some grudge people like Green harbor against, say, the “patriarchy” that she herself benefits from. She and all the rest of these “advocates” are just as much the victimizer as anybody else—perhaps more so because these “sex workers” don’t have immediate income prospects, and Green is unlikely to assist them personally in the matter. They are simply being used, and in the quest of a sensational story, it is the media that is doing the “pimping.”

Come to think of it, the media is in the business of “pimping.” It is only made worse when the person that is being “pimped” is exposed as a liar—and the “pimp” couldn’t care less.

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