Katie McDonough, of Salon, offers up an excellent example of why objectivity, distance and reasoning are superior to emotion and passion – at least if you are concerned with being right – when analyzing current events and policy. Yesterday, Ms. McDonough penned an article on Salon titled “It makes me really depressed”: From UVA to Cosby, the rape denial playbook that won’t go away. Sadly, and embarrassingly for Ms. McDonough, her article turns out to be a perfect example of someone seeing only what she wants to see and disregarding evidence that might be contrary to a pre-determined position.
Ms. McDonough was upset that Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone article on rape had been questioned by a number of journalists who found issues with the journalistic standards used in writing the article and questioned the veracity of some of the claims. These articles did not claim that the article was false, but merely that there were questions that should have been answered that weren’t. However, for Ms. McDonough, the questioners are to blame because, in her view, their questioning detracts from the central idea of the piece – that rape on campus is a problem.
That Ms. McDonough thinks that examining the truth of a story is a problem is, sadly, reflective of a leftist mindset that cares less about truth than about “ideas.” It’s a bit reminiscent of 1984 – the truth is malleable; all that matters is what people believe. For Ms. McDonough, the Salon story is about rape on campus and it matters less that the underlying facts are correct than that attention is being brought to an issue she feels needs to be addressed. However, sacrificing the truth on the alter of expediency has a price – and that price is that you wind up with egg on your face when you make heroes out of liars, cheats or just plain flawed people. (I would say just ask Al Sharpton, but given his prominence in city politics and at the White House these days I would just be damaging my own point).
And so we come to the reckoning. Rolling Stone has just retracted the story because “there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” Ms. McDonough probably doesn’t care, since she cares more about the cause than the truth, but for those who are not blinded by personal feelings, this revelation makes a mockery out of much that is contained in the article.
Also in the same article, unfortunately for Ms. McDonough, she chose to attack the people who have cast doubt Lena Dunham’s account of being raped. Once again, for McDonough, the questioning of the alleged facts should be outside the bounds of inquiry because it only serves to detract from the larger point that rape is a problem.
There is no way to talk about rape and escape this kind of interrogation, this questioning of character and motives and bias. How many of the people calling foul on this report as a matter of journalistic ethics in investigative reporting were also attacking Lena Dunham for including a chapter in her memoir about being raped while at college. Dunham used a pseudonym for her rapist in that personal essay, but she was still accused of lying — and ruining a man’s life.
The problem for McDonough is that, once again, the facts do matter. It is possible that Dunham’s account is accurate. However, an investigation by Breitbart was unable to confirm many of the claims that Dunham made. McDonough may not think that is a problem, but for some of us false accusations of rape (or any other serious crime) are a big deal. For one, it hurts the person who is accused and is innocent. More broadly, for people interested in truth – as opposed to just being interested in political ideology – it is offensive to create issues and drive narratives based on lies, even if the cause is worthy.