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April 08, 2015

Absolutely Blistering Take on Sabrina Erdely & Rolling Stone

Richard Bradley was the first one to state his strong suspicions about Jackie's Rape Hoax.

His take on the matter is the most brutal I've seen.

1) In Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s public statement, she makes no apology to the fraternity she defamed. I imagine she feared, or was told, that doing so might have legal implications. I doubt that that would be the case; whether that was her intention or not, she obviously harmed the fraternity. There can be no doubt about that. So it is particularly galling that instead of apologizing to people on whom she inflicted tangible harm, she apologizes to "any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article." What about people whom she falsely accused of rape?

Rubin Erdely owes Phi Psi and its members--probably all fraternity members, frankly--an apology. That she refuses to acknowledge her obligation says something about her character.

It also suggests that, despite everything, she still believes, whether Jackie's story is true or not--it obviously isn't--some larger truth about rape culture and the predilections of fraternity members. Seen in this light, her refusal to apologize actually strengthens the fraternity’s lawsuit; it reinforces the idea that Sabrina Rubin Erdely really, really doesn't like fraternities--and was determined to portray their members as rapists.


6) Sabrina Rubin Erdely is a terrible journalist, part II.

In the Columbia report, Erdely explains that if she had spoken to the three friends whom Jackie encountered on the night in question--as she should have--and the three friends contradicted Jackie's story--as, of course, they later would--she would have instantly abandoned Jackie and gone in search of a rape victim free of those "contradictions."

As the report puts it:

If Erdely had learned Ryan's account that Jackie had fabricated their conversation, she would have changed course immediately, to research other UVA rape cases free of such contradictions, she said later.

(Note how the word "contradictions" is actually here a euphemism for "lies.")

Let's consider that for a moment, because it sounds virtuous, but isn't. Sabrin Rubin Erdely started with a thesis and went in search of someone--and some place--that fit her thesis. She found Jackie and the University of Virginia. But, she admits, if she had discovered that Jackie was a liar, it wouldn't have caused her to question her thesis. (To which the only response is, if that doesn’t cause you to question your thesis, what would?) Instead, she'd just go find another person who would better conform to what she already wanted to write.

And if that person proved to be a fraud as well, she’d find another...and another...

I am not a lawyer, so I don't know if Phi Psi has a strong case against Erdely and Rolling Stone. But if the famed "actual malice" test--you are intending to defame someone--is relevant, it seems to me that Erdely has just given the fraternity some explicit evidence of such malice. Even if her "victim" was a liar, Erdely has no doubt: Frat boys are rapists.

Well I don't want to quote it all. Make sure you read to the end. He notes in one of his final points that the Columbia Journalism Review only analyzed Erdely's lies about Jackie. They did not go through the rest of the article, to note her claims about college rape, generally -- which Bradley concludes are also unfair and examples of bad, agenda-driven journalism (and who knows, maybe more Huge Lies):

[I]f you examined the rest of the article with the same critical eye that you examine Jackie’s story, you'll find that it, too, is deeply deceptive. "A Rape on Campus" is fashioned on selective presentation of material, the use of bogus or discredited statistics, quotes that are either fabricated or taken out of context, unconfirmed allegations, anonymous sources, the deliberate exclusion of evidence contrary to the author's thesis, and material that is either fabricated or presented in a way that is so profoundly misleading it can only be evidence of incompetence or dishonesty.

And speaking of More of Sabrina Erdely's Huge Lies, Leon Wolf at Red State establishes, to my satisfaction anyway, that Sabrina Erdely's previous foray into narrative-driven "journalism" on rape is also a Huge Lie-- or at least she seems not to have taken the most basic, foundational steps towards fairness and accuracy in journalism.

Such as, again, not contacting the people she was accusing to get their side of the story.

Erdely’s reporting of the Blumer story is eerily similar to her reporting of the UVA story. In each case, Erdely uses a central figure who has a similar tale to tell: she was a victim of a horrific rape, she reported the rape to authorities, and her concerns were ignored and/or used against her. The narrative in each case is used to advance the theory that the institution in question (college administrators in the UVA case, military command in the Blumer case) is indifferent to the problem of systemic sexual assault occurring right under their noses. In both cases, the stories read suspiciously as though Ms. Erdely arrived at her conclusion before writing her story, and simply set out to find the first person who would constitute a credible vehicle for the narrative she wanted to create, without regard to the factual accuracy of her story....

RedState has now spoken with multiple members of Navy command who were either personally involved in the investigation of Ms. Blumer's allegations or who had firsthand knowledge of the facts of this case. For obvious reasons, their names have been withheld to protect their identities. However, it seems clear that, if Ms. Erdely's story concerning Petty Officer Blumer were subjected to the same scrutiny as the UVA story, it might well come unraveled just as quickly.

The key fact from these conversations is this: Everyone I spoke to in connection with this investigation was crystal clear that at no point did Sabrina Erdely or Rolling Stone ever contact them whatsoever, even to ask for background information. This is exactly the same lapse in journalistic standards that doomed the UVA story and ultimately led to its retraction. The fact that it occurred in this story is indication of a systemic problem with Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely’s reporting, not of a single lapse in judgment.

Sabrina Erdely is a terrible journalist, part X.

All emphases added.

That was my big contribution to this post: I added some boldface and italics.

You're welcome.

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posted by Ace at 12:39 PM

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