Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Puff-Pastry Intellectuals

 False Rape Stories

In his book, Intellectuals Paul Johnson indicts successive, famous modern intellectuals for lying.  Not just an occasional porky, but a life-long dedication to fabrication.  Apparently, their "higher truth" and status as superior beings justified lying and living lives of systemic deceit.

This is not to say that all intellectuals are liars.  But the incidence is sufficiently common that anyone with the slightest dose of cynicism would at the very least suspend belief when prominent, celebrated intellectuals are involved.  Indeed, the more celebrity attached to an intellectual, the more likely professional deceit is at the core of their public (and private) personae.  Johnson does the numbers on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, poet Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, Victor Gollanz and Lillian Hellman.  All were deceitful liars.  All built and cultivated a public image and a personal narrative that was untrue.

In recent weeks we have seen two incidences of what appear to be fabricated claims about rape.
  In the first, a starlet and self-appointed and self-promoted intellectual, Lena Dunham claimed to have been raped whilst a student at Oberlin College.  The claim was made in a book authored by Dunham.  It certainly helped turn her intellectualising into a rampant best seller.  But a few serious and professionally cynical journalists started to research her rape account.  It has quickly unravelled. Dunham has not co-operated in the least to assist corroboration of her claims. Lena Dunham appears to have joined a long, illustrious line of mendacious intellectuals.  What is common to them all is the telling of lies to augment and buttress the particular opinions and philosophies they wanted to peddle. 

This apparent disgrace has been fast-followed by a gang rape account alleged to have taken place in a  University of Virginia frat house.  Rolling Stone ran the story, only to issue an embarrassing partial retraction a short time later, acknowledging "inconsistencies" in the story.  Apparently the account of the complainant, "Jackie" was never cross checked.  As one commentator put it: "Erdely and her editors were so determined to find exactly what they were looking for, they took the word of one young woman and the say-so of a handful of activists as a substitute for proof."

Jonah Goldberg, writing in the LA Times, had publicly questioned the story's veracity.
Rolling Stone has published an incredible story about a rape at the University of Virginia. The story has sent shock waves around the country. But when I say the story is incredible, I mean that in the literal, largely abandoned sense of the word. It is not credible — I don't believe it. 
He then goes on to pick the Rolling Stone piece apart. For his trouble, he received a barrage of criticism.
Goldberg further shows his lack of familiarity with the problem of college rape when he calls the victim's friends the "worst ... imaginable" for not immediately reporting her brutal assault. Here, Goldberg fails to appreciate the very real fear of being chastised for reporting a rape. I'm not saying that the friends were right in not reporting it, and I'm not making a judgment on whether or not the assault happened. But it's clear that Goldberg's cultural distance from modern campus life and disregard of the social consequences of reporting an assault render him inadequate to judge the veracity of a rape allegation.  Sadly, Goldberg's piece is the type of ill-informed berating that makes victims of sexual assault afraid to come forward in the first place.
No, to the contrary, stories like Lena Dunham's and "Jackie", the alleged rape victim at the University of Virginia,--which at best are unsubstantiated, and at worst, downright fabrications for the "greater good", actually have done terrible harm.  Rape is an awful crime.  But lying about it, or, at the very least, appearing to lie about it,  for purposes of propagandising against it makes dealing with rape ten times harder.  If there is shame about reporting rapes (and there surely is) Dunham and Rolling Stone have just made it much, much worse.  At the very least, Dunham and Rolling Stone thus far have indirectly facilitated and encouraged rape and rapists.

It is some--albeit small--comfort that Rolling Stone has partially retracted its piece.  But where was the necessary "willing suspension of belief" which is supposed to be the hallmark of Journalism 101 in the first place?  Oh, that's right, Rolling Stone editors and journalists wanted the story to be true in the interests of  a particular propagandising position.

And that, dear friends, is the classic dissembling mode of puff-pastry, wannabe intellectuals.  On the other hand, those seriously committed to detecting and prosecuting rape will be gnashing their teeth in righteous anger and frustration at the harm these idiots and flakes have done. 

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