An appropriately incredulous observation from someone who did the kind of basic investigative work the mainstream media is now largely incapable of, when the story in question violates their precious political narratives:
Same day WaPo does incredible work debunking Rolling Stone, they trash Breitbart for looking into the Lena Dunham story. #IsThisThingOn?
‚?? John Nolte (@NolteNC) December 11, 2014
Mr. Nolte did nothing more controversial¬†than read Dunham’s intensely weird memoir, observe that she accused a very specific individual of raping her in college, and conduct the sort of fact-checking safari that Dunham’s publishers are going to deeply regret blowing off:
In her just-released memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham describes her alma mater, Oberlin College, as “a liberal arts haven in the cornfields of Ohio.” After a month-long investigation that included more than a dozen interviews, a trip to the Oberlin campus, and hours spent poring through the Oberlin College archives, her description of the campus remains the only detail Breitbart News was able to verify in Dunham’s story of being raped by a campus Republican named Barry.
On top of the name Barry, which Dunham does not identify as a pseudonym (more on the importance of this below), Dunham drops close to a dozen specific clues about the identity of the man she alleges raped her as a 19-year-old student. Some of the details are personality traits like his being a ‚??poor loser‚?Ě at poker. Other details are quite specific. For instance, Dunham informs us her rapist sported a flamboyant mustache, worked at the campus library, and even names the radio talk show he hosted.
To be sure we get the point, on three occasions Dunham tells her readers that her attacker is a Republican or a conservative, and a prominent one at that — no less than the “campus’s resident conservative.”
For weeks, and to no avail, using phone and email and online searches, Breitbart News was able to verify just one of these details. Like everyone else interested, we immediately found that there indeed was a prominent Republican named Barry who attended Oberlin at the time in question.
Whatever her motives, Dunham is pointing her powerful finger at this man. But as you will read in the details below, the facts do not point back at him. Not even close. This man is by all accounts (including his own) innocent.
The rest of Nolte’s piece meticulously details his investigative work, which was Journalism 101 stuff: does this person really exist, what does he have to say for himself, do the details in Dunham’s account check out, and so forth. ¬†Dunham’s publishers, and the left-wing media people who comprise the bulk of her audience, did none of this essential groundwork because (a) she is liberal royalty who (b) told a Narrative-friendly account of campus rape which (c) pointedly implicated a Republican. ¬†Not a single soul on the Left needed to hear another word, including those¬†given to fact-checking “Saturday Night Live” comedy skits that mock His Sacred Majesty Barack I. ¬†(In addition to Narrative validation and the special privileges afforded to liberal aristocracy, one can’t help noticing that liberals don’t mind reading memoirs full of whoppers, notably including Barack Obama’s. ¬†They have a boundless appetite for mythology about their heroes, and believe it is important to revere them without question, to demonstrate their fierce devotion to the Cause and its champions.)
As a result of this investigative¬†work, Random House began talking about a settlement with Barry’s lawyers, and committed to modifying future editions of her memoir to make it clear that the name “Barry” is a pseudonym – which, as the excerpt from Breitbart News above points out, is a courtesy extended to several other people Dunham writes about, but¬†not¬†her alleged college rapist. ¬†If I were Barry, I wouldn’t be content with any edition of the book that drags my name through the mud, even if the name was now encased in scare quotes. ¬†In addition to whatever financial concessions he extracts from Dunham for ruthlessly slandering him, I’d insist the book be moved to the Fiction section of bookstores, possibly the Horror Fiction subsection.
Was the media grateful to Breitbart News for doing the job they couldn’t be bothered to do? ¬†What do¬†you¬†think? ¬†As with every other feminist fairy tale, angry supporters doubled down after the debunking, calling Nolte a “hound of hell,” “creepy” (while he was sitting right there on the same stage!) and, as Emily Shire at the¬†Daily Beast¬†put it, a “rape troll.” ¬†The second-funniest part of Shire’s hyperventilating rant is when she gives Nolte grief for repeatedly noting that Dunham repeated went out of her way to identify her accused rapist as a college Republican. ¬†Dunham doing this evidently A-OK, but¬†noticing¬†that she did it is verboten.
The funniest part is when Shire tries to give Dunham and Random House “complete credit” for “dealing with the criticism head-on.” ¬†In reality, Dunham and Random House left Barry to twist in the wind for a¬†month. ¬†They only took steps to clear his name after they could no longer contain or ignore the story emanating from conservative media. ¬†When Dunham finally addressed the controversy, it was with a lengthy celebration¬†of herself¬†as a courageous cosmic justice warrior, in which she devoted precisely two sentences to apologizing for falsely accusing a man of rape in a book that earned her millions of dollars: “To be very clear, ‘Barry’ is a pseudonym, not the name of the man who assaulted me, and any resemblance to a person with this name is an unfortunate and surreal coincidence. I am sorry about all he has experienced.”
She topped this off by posting a video of herself dancing to Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it Off” (the “haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate” song) with the title, “And now we can return to our scheduled programming,” ¬†Exposing Lena Dunham’s falsehoods is an act of “hate,” you see, but she’s not going to let it break her stride. ¬†That’s quite a demonstration of contrition for laying waste to a far less wealthy and powerful man’s life.
This isn’t about some divine crusade for rape-victim justice; it’s about a Hollywood millionaire carelessly destroying an innocent man’s life in the course of enriching herself. ¬†It is absolutely disgusting¬†for Dunham to wrap herself in the mantle of victimhood and martyrdom, or for her defenders to say that asking reasonable questions about the veracity of her claims is tantamount to an attack on all victims of rape everywhere. ¬†The Left is pretty hung up on this notion of its pampered aristocracy becoming the avatars of victimhood, rising above both informal standards of decency and statutory law because they are the flesh-and blood incarnations of the oppressed.
Even if Dunham’s smearing of Barry¬†was¬†a crucial battle for the fate of victimized women, it still wouldn’t be acceptable to trash an innocent man. ¬†That seems to be one of the most difficult concepts for liberals to grasp, because they are devoted believers in collectivism, including collective “justice.” ¬†Their notions of guilt and innocence depend on massive “inequity of power” calculations, carried out to several decimal places. ¬†The presumption of innocence is rationed very sparingly to those who belong to inherently “guilty” groups, such as campus Republicans, white police officers, and part-Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteers who have last names that make them sound white.
One reason the presumption of innocence is such an important concept is that it’s supposed to protect us from spurious accusations. ¬†The presumption of¬†guilt,¬†on the other hand, is the most important element of a good old-fashioned witch hunt. ¬†Witch hunts only work if accusations are taken as valid by default, placing an impossible burden of proof on the targets, which often intimidates them into confessing false guilt in order to escape persecution. ¬†Presumed innocence therefore dilutes power, while presumed guilt enhances it, while criminalizing dissent – if you ask too many questions of witch hunters, you must be in league with the witches. ¬†The whole “campus rape culture” crusade is predicated on the presumption of guilt, to balance the alleged inequities of power between accusers and perpetrators. ¬†The Left would very much like to subject other groups to such presumed-guilty cultural prosecutions, if this campus trial run works out.
Likewise, a duly recognized member of an approved victim group can’t really be “guilty,” not even when they’re caught making false claims to perpetuate sacred Narratives. ¬†The danger of high-profile fabulists making it more difficult for genuine victims to be taken seriously never enters the collectivists’ mind, precisely because they don’t think designated villain groups deserve any presumption of innocence at all. ¬†As those who clung to the¬†Rolling Stone¬†rape hoax to the very end explicitly stated, all accusations¬†must¬†be believed automatically (unless the accused is a powerful Democrat with a good record on “women’s issues,” of course) so there’s no reason to worry about liars making life tougher for those who are telling the truth.
As for that Rolling Stone¬†story about the rape-crazed orcs of the University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, there’s nothing left but smoking ruins, with the very fate of the magazine itself hanging in the balance – they’re going to be looking at some gigantic lawsuits for their journalistic negligence. ¬†The¬†Washington Post¬†has indeed been swinging some big wrecking balls at the hoax, which looked worse with each new daily revelation, making some of the people who tried mounting fallback defenses of¬†Rolling Stone,¬†reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and the article’ subject “Jackie” feel foolish for attempting to salvage part of the story.
As the latest WaPo article on the subject notes, even the friends of “Jackie” who were cited as corroborating witnesses for her tale of gang rape by a sizable percentage of the Phi Kappa Psi membership are troubled by the “mounting inconsistencies” in¬†Rolling Stone’s¬†story, although they do think¬†something¬†terrible happened to her on that night:
The scene with her friends was pivotal in the article, as it alleged that the friends were callously apathetic about a beaten, bloodied, injured classmate reporting a brutal gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.¬†The account alleged¬†that the students worried about the effect it might have on their social status and how it might reflect on Jackie during the rest of her collegiate career and that they suggested not reporting it. It set up the article‚??s theme: That U-Va. has a¬†culture that is indifferent to rape.
‚??It didn‚??t happen that way at all,‚?Ě Andy said.
Instead, the friends remember being shocked. Although they did not notice any blood or visible injuries, they said they immediately urged Jackie to speak to police and insisted that they find her help. Instead, they said, Jackie declined and asked to be taken back to her dorm room. They went with her ‚?? two said they spent the night ‚?? seeking to comfort Jackie in what appeared to be a moment of extreme turmoil.
‚??I mean, obviously, we were very concerned for her,‚?Ě Andy said. ‚??We tried to be as supportive as we could be.‚?Ě
Those mounting inconsistencies are stacking up to dizzying heights, and include some of the same fact-check holes John Nolte found in Lena Dunham’s account:
[Jackie’s friends] said the name she provided as that of her date did not match anyone at the university, and U-Va. officials confirmed to The Post that no one by that name has attended the school.
Also, photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie‚??s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn‚??t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.
The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine‚??s reporters or editors. Although vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie‚??s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend‚??s well-being and safety. Randall said that they made every effort to help Jackie that night.
Beaming out a photo of a guy who hasn’t been in town for six years and barely knows you, with the proud declaration that he’s your date for the evening, is the sort of detail that might lead a real reporter to question the veracity of her¬†sole source¬†for a story that would ruin the lives of numerous young men, by accusing them of the sort of crime that would put them behind bars until they were at least middle-aged men. ¬†And Erdely didn’t even bother to actually interview the only people who could have backed up the story she was telling… instead¬†misrepresenting them¬†as heartless monsters? ¬†Nobody in an editorial position at¬†Rolling Stone¬†saw anything wrong with this, because they loved the Narrative that Erdely was selling? ¬†Wow.
That “reporting” method sounds suspiciously like the sleazy standards Senate Democrats used for their “bombshell” CIA interrogation report, in which they took pains to avoid interviewing any actual CIA interrogators. ¬†The conclusion of the Democrats’ politicized report was written first, then they worked backward to get whatever they needed to support it, bypassing evidence and testimony that might protect their targets. ¬†That’s how collectivist “justice” always works. ¬†The targets and their defenders are expected to remain silent. ¬†The treatment of John Nolte by radical feminists is intended to send that message to anyone else who gets any funny ideas about fact-checking Narrative-boosting claims from sanctified victim groups, especially if the claim comes from an anointed member of the leftist aristocracy.