Wolves Everywhere! The Media Cried
@daveweigel It’s really time for people to understand that rape denialism is like Holocaust denialism: Broad refusal to accept reality.
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) December 4, 2014
The way the media covers race + sex plays a substantial role in persuading many conservatives to tune out even valid points from the left.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) December 5, 2014
Yes, this. Deeply this. Marcotte is extreme, obviously, but not as extreme from the race+sex media ideologues as I’d like to think.
You must never question the narrative, or stand revealed as a hater and thought criminal. It is bizarre how so many people on the left don’t grasp that to exaggerate hot-button stories like these hurts their cause.
UPDATE: Sam M. links in the comments to this piece by Hanna Rosin. Excerpt:
One thing I heard several times when trying to do re-reporting myself: Many people had doubts about the details in the story, but didn’t really care, as long as it was effecting change at UVA. I don’t agree. But I still hope we can salvage some good from this episode, even if Jackie’s story proves false. Perhaps one thing we should look at is how we treat victims of sexual violence so differently than other victims, and whether that serves them. When I initially reached out to the advocates who had supported Jackie, they wondered if maybe the media was doubting the story because it was about rape, and people have always doubted victims of rape, and held stories about rape to a higher standard. But what this Rolling Stone story shows is that maybe we’ve reached a point where we hold stories about rape to a lower standard. What we should hope for instead is a world where college administrators, and reporters, can ask a victim of sexual assault questions and carefully investigate without it being seen as a betrayal of the victim but rather as part of the effort to seek justice.
Finally, if this turns out to be a fabrication, we should wonder why we were so quick to believe it. In the last few days, the names of the fraternity members started to leak out, and many of us began to look up their Facebook pages. I found myself playing the profiling game: Is that the kind of haircut a rapist would have? Are those the kinds of girls he would have hanging all over him? Oh, yeah, that bro is totally a rapist. If the boys remain shadows in these stories, as so many of them have as we’ve (rightfully) focused our attention on campus sexual assault, then we can project all our prejudices onto them. Which is exactly what people did to women for all those years.
Very good points here. This is a perfect example of why we absolutely have to link truth and justice when we confront these cases. There can be no genuine justice without the truth, and when we fix the intelligence and the facts to fit the policy, we run the risk of facilitating lies and injustice, as has been done by Rolling Stone at UVA. Rosin shows why this sort of thing works: because it fits pre-existing biases. As I’ve been saying here, I had the same initial reaction, because the UVA story fit my pre-existing biases about sexual abuse and institutional indifference.
As Rosin notes, it’s dangerous to take the point of view that victimized people, or those one believes are victimized people, should not have to have their opinions or statements questioned. They too are human, and subject to the same faults that the rest of us are. Last week on this blog, when we were talking about the need for white people to start listening more to black people on the subject of police brutality, I said something to the effect that it would be worthwhile for black Americans to consider why white Americans are not as concerned about police brutality against blacks as they ought to be. The implication of my remarks was that the vastly disproportionate crime rate among young black men has something to do with this, fairly or not. Our longtime valued commentator Pinkjohn wrote in response:
Wow! Asking traumatized communities to be “understanding” of non-traumatized communities (or at least not traumatized in the same way, or as many times in rapid succession) is exactly the kind of cluelessness I was talking about.
Pinkjohn said he was “emotional” about the issue, and backed away from it a bit subsequently. I bring his response only to point out how our sense of compassion, or of social justice, can allow us to erect epistemological structures that bias the search for truth and justice toward one side and a favored outcome. This is why the calls for a “national conversation” on race go nowhere. Many white people understand that such conversations are rigged, and that any opinions they might hold, however nuanced, that don’t line up with the preferred narrative are going to be devalued, and maybe even held against them subsequently. And they understand that the point of view of their black interlocutors will be privileged by the facilitators of such sessions, for the same or similar reason behind Pinkjohn’s initial reaction.
So we find ourselves in a situation where white people, especially conservative white people, really need to hear what black people have to say about an issue, but do not open themselves up to it because they rightly sense that the rules of the game are stacked against them. And they dismiss most or all complaints made by feminists and racial minorities because they assume — often wrongly — that the complaints are not made in good faith, but with a reckless disregard for truth and justice, because the questions “What is true?” and “What is just?” are conditioned on arriving at pre-determined conclusions.
William James said, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Similarly, a great many people thinking they are doing the work of justice when they are actually conflating their prejudices with justice. This is not a liberal thing; it’s a human thing. But when it comes to reporting on social and cultural matters, the overwhelming liberalism in the American media, which set the boundaries and the tone of public debate, has a dramatic effect, one that harms the common good. This is not good for blacks, women, whites, men, liberals or conservatives. This is Ross Douthat’s point.