Free Markets, Free People

Narrative Journalism, ideology and serving the “greater good”

I don’t know about you but I’ve been fascinated by the UVA/Rolling Stone “rape” debacle.  And while it is clear that Rolling Stone, in general, and the author of the RS article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely specifically, broke every journalistic rule out there, there’s a deeper story here (I’ll get to RS and Erdely later).

It’s about why the story even had a chance of being published.  It’s about the combination of “narrative journalism” and an ideological agenda.  It was about one supporting the other without any real evidence that what had been claimed (a gang rape by fraternity members) was true or had even happened.

The story was out there before Erdely had ever inquired about it.  And you have to understand that that story had largely been accepted as “the truth” by people who wanted to believe it to be so.  These weren’t just students and a couple of teachers, by the way.  These were very well connected people who knew exactly where to go to push their agenda.  Here’s that backstory:

As the Rolling Stone article fell apart, Catherine Lhamon’s involvement has gone virtually unmentioned. But a deeper look reveals her ties to Emily Renda, a University of Virginia employee and activist who put Erdely in touch with Jackie, the student whose claim that she was brutally gang-raped by seven members of a fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, served as the linchpin for the 9,000-word Rolling Stone article.

President Obama nominated Lhamon to become the Education Department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in July 2013. The Senate approved her unanimously the following month.

She has served as the Education Department’s designee to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which Obama created on Jan. 22, 2014. Renda served on the same task force.

Besides that link, both spoke at a February 2014 University of Virginia event entitled “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.”

Lhamon has been invited to the White House nearly 60 times, according to visitor’s logs. Renda has been invited six times. Both were invited to the same White House meeting on three occasions. One, held on Feb. 21, 2014, was conducted by Lynn Rosenthal, then the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Twenty-one people, mostly activists, were invited to that meeting. Lhamon and Renda were invited to two other larger gatherings — one on April 29 and the other on Sept. 19.

It is unclear if both attended the three meetings. Renda did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Renda and Lhamon also testified at a June 26, 2014, Senate hearing on campus sexual assault. It was at that hearing that Renda cited Jackie’s story that she was brutally gang-raped by five fraternity members — a statement that was inconsistent with Jackie’s claim to Erdely that she was raped by seven men. According to the Columbia report, Renda first told Erdely about Jackie’s allegation on July 8, nearly two weeks after her Senate testimony.

During her testimony, Lhamon claimed that “The best available research suggests that 20% of college women, and roughly 6% of college men, are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.” That “one-in-five” claim about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been heavily disputed.

So when Erdely showed up wanting to do the rape story, she had Renda to encourage her to do this one, because both had the same agenda:

The reporter used Jackie’s story about a gang-rape to introduce readers to what she asserted was a systemic failure on the part of universities, police, and society to prevent and investigate sexual assault.

Rape culture.  Rape crisis.  How else does one advance such a story except finding the perfect “rape” to feature all of those things?  Bingo.  The prefect story. And who was more than willing to offer it?  Renda.

Now some may ask, “why do you contend that advancing such a narrative was Erdely’s motive?”  For one thing, she’d done it before on another “rape” story – this one in the military (another institution that is “misogynist”).  And it followed a very similar pattern.  The case involved a female Navy Petty Officer who claimed to have been sexually assaulted.  Leon Wolf, doing some great research, finds that Erdley did for that case exactly what she did for the UVA case – and so did the Rolling Stone editors:

The point of this story is this: the evidence is clear all over the face of this story that Erdely – as enabled by her editors at Rolling Stone – has a serial habit of reporting rapes without conducting any more fact checking than she did of the UVA story. It is facially obvious that she did not talk to the accused rapist because there wasn’t one. There is no evidence that she talked with anyone who was present at any of the bars where Ms. Blumer drank on the night before her DUI to attempt to verify even her story about meeting the three guys. And, again: the sources who spoke to RedState were clear that Ms. Erdely made no effort to contact any member of the Naval command who was involved with the investigation to get their side of the story with respect to what manner of investigation was conducted into Ms. Blumer’s allegations or what that investigation revealed.

After an exhaustive investigation that spanned a year and a half (which Erdely and Rolling Stone ignored and/or did no research into whatsoever), no one was able to produce any evidence that a sexual assault had occurred, physical or otherwise. The alleged victim herself had no recollection of it happening, did not report it to the police who arrested her, and had a ready motive for latching on to the narrative, which is that it would have stopped or possibly prevented punishment at the hands of her military superiors and possibly prevented her from permanently losing the top secret clearance necessary to keep her job.

Sound familiar?

This was an important story for the “rape culture” agenda.  It was to be the cherry on the top of the narrative that says, “college men are misogynists and serial abusers who need to be punished for their actions”.   That’s why the fictitious “20%” number was invented.  That’s why the DoE’s civil rights division is involved.  As noted, this story shows the connection all the way to the top and the narrative that was being pushed.  Erdley and Rolling Stone were heaven sent to these people and they used her just as she used them.  The result was shoddy journalism of the worst stripe that apparently is standard operating procedure for Rolling Stone (I have another example of precisely the same problem with another author that I highlighted February of 2011.)

Of course, as we’ve seen, the narrative, as presented by Erdley, failed spectacularly.  It not only couldn’t withstand even the slightest scrutiny, it had holes in it wide enough to drive a tank through.  Yet, that was precisely the narrative that had survived up until that time.  Why hadn’t the school investigated it more thoroughly before accepting the story?

Well, here’s why:

In December, as Erdely’s article began to collapse, Julia Horowitz, a student journalist at UVA, tried to explain why the campus newspaper had been caught flat-footed by the falsity of Jackie’s tale. She conceded that “factual inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” might exist in Erdely’s tale, but, she cautioned, “To let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.” Horowitz, exponent of this horrifying view of journalism, went on to become editor-in-chief of UVA’s student newspaper. Much of the media has been quick to pillory Rolling Stone, but Horowitz’s fear of allowing facts to overwhelm the narrative would be at home in vast swaths of our media — and government and higher education, too.

Facts shouldn’t define the narrative – got that? Now you understand why an administration, a magazine reporter and editors and a student “journalist” would let a tale like the UVA rape story exist and flourish – it fit the narrative like a glove if you didn’t look to closely.  And no one did – including Rolling Stone.

As to the reputations ruined and lives tarnished by all of this?  Well, that’s just collateral damage in a world where the narrative is much more important that the individual.  It serves the “greater good”, you see.



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31 Responses to Narrative Journalism, ideology and serving the “greater good”

  • “To let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.”

    Said the fully indoctrinated post-modernist.

    She believes it, too. Because her post-modern indoctrination means that she doesn’t even believe in the concept of objective truth. Once the narrative is accepted by enough people, it becomes the truth. That’s why she can say such outlandish things with a straight face. They’re only outlandish if your thinking is based on the Enlightenment instead of post-modernism.

  • You can even extrapolate this incident and make a more general comment on the media.

    Think of any topic you’ve read or heard about in which you, the reader or listener, have knowledge of.
    How often does one say ‘wait, that doesn’t sound right’ or ‘hold on, that’s not how it’s done’ etc etc, this is way off and wrong, when reading/listening to the media’s coverage of said topic.

    If the media is demonstrably wrong about aspects of the topic you do have some knowledge of, think of how many other topics you read or listen to where you have no knowledge.
    What confidence can you have that they have those topics correct when you know they don’t regarding the topic you know of.

    I have used the above many times recently in commenting to friends and relatives about the media in general. The universal response from friends and relatives has been a ‘a ha’ moment where they realize ‘hey, you’re on to something there!’

  • This parallel has probably already been made by wiser people than myself, but do the words “fake but accurate” sound like they ought to be involved here?

  • This was an important story for the “rape culture” agenda. It was to be the cherry on the top of the narrative that says, “college men are misogynists and serial abusers who need to be punished for their actions”

    That’s too narrow. The “rape culturists” seek to demonize and delegitimize men. See the period? Men are evil. Men are “rapey” (All PIV sex is rape. OK?) They really hate us. They really do.

    And, whatever it takes, they are quite prepared to do it. Because they believe what they believe, in the face of everything rational and true.

    • I’m hoping that they aren’t procreating through any means.
      After all, they might have, egad, sons.

      • According to Muggeridge’s Law…that’s already done. Seriously, I’ve read the the pieces.

  • BTW, McQ, you did good for a guy with drain bammage…



    “Keep flogging that unicorn, Eugenia. It’ll be fine…it’s only PLAYING dead.”

  • This is rather like your immune system. In earlier days you’d have very little time or resources to waste away for years at college studying literally nothing. Now these kiddies have no real challenges, no hardships to speak of. Like a bored immune system with no exposure to the outside world they turn on themselves and their surroundings. Modern liberalism is merely an autoimmune condition brought on by too little exposure to dirt when young.

  • Social Justice Warriors are having a tough time lately, to wit:
    1. UVA Rape Hoax debunked.
    2. Gemergate (overall internet consensus favors gamers)
    3. Shirtgate (as with Gamergate, overwhelming support for science and high IQ over political correctness)
    4. Lena Dunham, posterhippo for latter-day feminists, confessing to being a sexual predator.

    Meanwhile, the Alt-Right is in its ascendancy: red pill, MGTOW, minarchism, PUA, DA, NRx, minarchism, liberarianism. etc.

    • Yes, but until we get a better feedback loop, the effects of the incidents you mention are minimal. UVA and Rolling Stone need to lose a few million, and some people need to lose their jobs.

      As for the others, Brianna Wu is still spreading her SJW vitriol and still getting paid to do it. Lena Dunham is still making millions, and I don’t think she cares much about insults on Twitter. The Group of 88 at Duke all did just fine, and Brodhead still has his job. Sure, he paid some of Duke’s money to the lacrosse players, but it didn’t really hit him at all. Only that over-reaching DA in Durham, Nifong, got any serious blowback.

      I’d like to think the “rationally ignorant” people in the middle are going to start writing these idiots off once we see enough of these fraudulent incidents, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

    • 5. They’re getting their asses kicked by the Sad Puppies, too.

  • 70 years ago the average age of the men and women (and bi-curious or transgendered of course) who liberated Europe was 26.

    Now they would still be considered ‘children’ and could be covered on their parents health insurance policies.

    • But coming up a Waffen-SS tank brigade is really just the same as twittering from your Mom’s basment against Boko Haram stealing “your” girls, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head *just* right.

      • Well of course – I might have done that Waffen-SS thingie once or twice in “Call of Ditty” or “Good thing I’m Immortal because I don’t have any tactical sense Combat.”
        It’s almost exactly the same except for the smoke right?

        • Coming next in the Journal of Revisionist Antiwestern Ahistoricism, by Scott E Oblivious… “Kampfgruppe Peiper, misunderstood anti-capitalist anti-Zionist freedom fighters”.

          • They didn’t study about that stuff in Pizza school!

            In any event, slavery! Manifest Destiny! America bad!

  • Facts shouldn’t define the narrative = it is okay to lie to push a political agenda.

  • The narrative was pushed in anticipation of a Female Democrat Presidential contender.
    The point is to sensitize the issue so that misogyny = racism.

    That way her opponents can be trivialized as misogynists if they attack her and you’re a misogynist if you don’t vote for her much like racism & Obama.

    Do you really think the tiff with two female TV journalist with Ran Paul and how they were spun were random coincidences? Anyone who thinks that at this point hasn’t been watching.

  • Oh, and Memories Pizza just re-opened…$842,000 richer: it’s the Chick-fil-a Effect. The Left’s Alinsky-style attack of personalizing a target, isolating it and cutting-off all of its social capital just doesn’t work so well in the information age where they can’t monopolize the narrative.

    • I hope they’ll donate a hefty portion to the Madison fund for the benefit of like-situated folks.


      • Yeah, even after taxes and all on the gift, I could see myself kicking a pretty good chunk of change from my win on the ‘Stupid Justice Warriors’ lottery.

    • And honestly,

      WhyTF does most of the world care if a bunch of SJW dimwits on the other end of a cell phone twitter account are raling about a (very) small town pizza place. Most of them might be able to find Indiana on the map IF they asked Google Earth to do it for them.

      These clowns only have the power that people lend them by paying any attention to their articles and so forth.
      When I post something here I don’t kid myself about the social impact my anger or views about – pick a subject – are going to have.
      When I trade barbs with professor oblivious I don’t expect even HE will really make any changes in the end.

      So far it’s repeatedly demonstrated they need to pay attention to the actual effect they have when they assault main street Americans. Generally a spectacular failure, and in at least the cases of Chic-fil-a and Memories Pizza, exactly the opposite of what their self perceived super powers led them to believe would happen.
      Another example, the FurbyToronto dolt Dale mentioned the other day, who now won’t ‘gofundme’ any more. Oh, booooo hoooo, I’m sure they’re going to suffer now because some metrosexual pin-head has his knickers in a twist and won’t use the funding site.
      Nose meet knife – he now officially has ONE less source of funding for supporting causes he DOES approve of. I’m sure his hissy fit will eventually fade and next time he wants to fund or kick in to a fund he’ll go right back to Gofundme and someone will catch him at it, and he’ll blubber and make pragmatic progressive excuses.

      IMNHO the Twitteratti people have a much over inflated view of their power. They only matter to other twits inside the twitosphere.
      Their assault on the small town pizza place for thinking WRONGthought was only going to affect the few idiots in the vicinity of that pizza place who probably weren’t buying their pizza there in the first place.
      They can say what they like in Twitter – for at least 84% of the country it’s like a tree falling in the forest when we’re not there to hear the sound.
      It’s pretty certain Boko Haram ain’t worried about their fiery wrath, and if tomorrow the twitosphere erupted in anger at Hillary Clinton’s illegal shenanigans it wouldn’t change her decision to announce her candidacy on Sunday 1 bit.