I was taken in by the story in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Erdely about Jackie’s rape at UVA.
I fell prey to confirmation bias, as was made painfully clear in a subsequent post by Richard Bradley, which asked whether Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story of the gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman, identified only as Jackie, might be a lie.
‘Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?’ Asks Idiot
That didn’t turn out well for its author, Anna Merlen, the same person who twitted for a Covington Catholic yearbook so she could dox the kid in the red hat. Lessons. How do they work?
Of course, the Jackie accusation was a hoax, a complete fabrication where Erdely was taken in because she wanted to believe, and Rolling Stone humiliated itself because how could it doubt such a truth? If you want to believe hard enough, you can. But back in 2014, there was still room for doubting voices to speak out, even if they had to endure people like Merlen calling them “idiots.”
And then there was Duke Lacrosse. KC Johnson chronicled that fiasco at Durham-in-Wonderland from start to finish. As with Jackie, there was no doubt whatsoever that these privileged white male lacrosse players raped a black woman. Who had the time to wait for a trial when the Group of 88, academics who not only condemned these students as rapists, but long after there was no doubt they were innocent, that prosecutor Mike Nifong was a lying, conniving dishonest worm, still clung to their narrative without regard to crime or guilt.
But the students were innocent. The charges were dropped. Every remotely rational person recognized the Duke Lacrosse scandal, like the UVA scandal, was a lie.
Of course, both the Duke and UVA hoaxes involved rapes, heinous and inflammatory crimes. It’s not at all surprising that passions would soar, that emotions would seize control, that critical scrutiny would be overcome.
These weren’t stories of equivocal rapes, the trendy sort of post-hoc regret or one-beer-wonders that have become the normal fare of college campus sex tribunals and sad traumatized tears. These were the real deal, hardcore forceful rapes. But for the fact that they never happened, they were awful.
So how is it possible that a kid in a MAGA hat, smirking, became so much more powerful than rape that it not only demanded instantaneous condemnation, but that once it became impossible to deny that the original video failed horribly to provide a serious view of what happened, so many people could not let go, could not admit confirmation bias, could not control their impulse to defend their outrage through any means necessary?
If we can’t manage to control our rush to condemnation, an understandable impulse in these days where nothing speaks worse of a person’s humanity than not being in the forefront of the mob, can we at least back off when the error of our ways becomes patent? Some could. Most couldn’t. Even now, they remain defiant in their contention that they are right, even if for the wrong reasons.
The questions appeared in the twitters from Jesse Singal, Robby Soave and others. There is a long stream of historic errors, going back to such glories as the Satanic Panic and Central Park Five, that have since been debunked despite the absolute certainty they were real. Is this possible now? If we can’t get past a kid who did nothing more than Smirk in the First Degree because he wore a MAGA hat, how will we ever overcome the lies and hoaxes that involve actual crimes, horrific offenses?
Who foretold the future better, Robby Soave or Cassie Delaney? Why bother to try a case if guilt or innocence no longer matters?