More than two years after Rolling Stone published its woefully inaccurate and widely debunked “A Rape on Campus,” which detailed the alleged gang-rape of a University of Virginia student by no less than seven guys at a Phi Kappa Psi initiation in 2012 and which proved to have no substantive basis whatsoever, the fact-checker responsible for the piece going to print has now expressed “regret” that she didn’t catch the obvious red flags in the victim’s story.
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports Elisabeth Garber-Paul, the magazine’s final gatekeeper between an article being written and heading off to the presses, told a federal court Tuesday she “believed it all to be true” when the UVA student, known in the article only as “Jackie,” described being raped by a group of frat brothers during her freshman year. Rolling Stone was forced to retract the story and issue a formal apology after investigations by the Charlottesville Police Department, the university and “The Washington Post” found there was no evidence the incident had ever occurred (although a few copies of the original story are still floating around online).
For her part, Garber-Paul admits there were early signs that “Jackie” was lying, including discrepancies in the number of attackers she said were present – all signs Garber-Paul (who isn’t a psychologist, mind you) said she chalked up to memory loss caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.
The fact-checker also “spent four hours discussing specific facts about Jackie’s encounter in the fraternity house, and Garber-Paul said she felt satisfied that the U.Va. student was telling the truth,” the Times-Dispatch noted in its report Tuesday.
No police reports. No verifiable evidence to back up the claim. No testimonies from reliable witnesses or Jackie’s friends, and no statements from the accused assaulters. Just a handful of scathing indictments against a 22,000-student university, a slew of straw man arguments and single-source claims, and the resulting piece of trash “journalism” that sported more holes than a block of rotting Swiss cheese.
And at the tragic end of it all, a dean of students with a smeared reputation, a bunch of college guys with debunked-but-ever-present accusations hanging over their heads, and a school now labeled a haven for rapists.
Perhaps most shockingly, Garber-Paul somehow thinks the whole debacle was “traumatic” – for her.
“When we went to print, I believed it all to be true,” Garber-Paul told the court. “To have that all fall apart, that was incredibly traumatic for me.”
Traumatic. For her. But what about those whose reputations have been dragged through the mud by Rolling Stone's libelous “report”? Nicole Eramo, UVA’s former dean of students, is fighting for damages in court right now after she received hundreds of defaming emails and letters calling her a “rape apologist” and a “disgusting, worthless piece of trash” following the article’s publication. While the magazine may have retracted its story, who repairs the damage done?
The answer: no one. And the reason? Because this is the society we created.
It’s the society that demonizes a man for simply being a man, unless he renounces everything male and begs the Holy Vagina to forgive him his natural trespasses. A guy accused of rape is a villain even when his accuser is proved a flat-out liar, so long as she carts a mattress around campus and voluntarily films her own porno afterward.
It’s the society in which casual sex is worth the cost of the cheap beer it takes to get you there, and in which a female college student can’t be held accountable for her promiscuity when she’s drunk – but a guy sure as hell can.
And it’s the society now desperately trying to find the long-erased moral line in the middle of a media-fueled hookup culture, where sex is totally OK until someone arbitrarily decides after the fact that it wasn’t, in which walking around sans clothing is an acceptable way to get attention until you actually get attention (then you're a victim of rape culture), in which women are somehow simultaneously empowered enough to sleep with whoever they want, but are too weak to be held responsible for it. Women can lie and it's taken as gospel; after all, men can't be trusted.
This society perpetuates stories like the one in Rolling Stone, stories that titillate the senses while fueling this man-hating narrative our culture so craves. There is no room for facts or evidence here; fingers pointed in abject judgment at the elusive “male patriarchy” will do just fine, thank you.
It’s a society like this one, with its cracked foundation and shaky bedrock, which is so prone to crumbling. And, like bombs dropped in a war zone, the innocent get buried in the rubble.