Monday, December 8, 2014

How "believe the victim" caused Rolling Stone's rape article debacle, or How "believe the victim" = "presume guilt"

When Rolling Stone published A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA by Sabrina Rudin Erdely, people who were familiar with traditional journalism noticed something odd: the other side of the story was entirely absent. When they began investigating, they discovered something else: the most basic fact-checking had been ignored.

The reason comes from the ethics of the internet's social justice warriors (not to be confused with actual social justice workers):


1. You must "believe the victim" if the accusers are female or consider themselves female.


2. You must not link to or allow comments from anyone who has been accused of harming women or who criticizes intersectional feminism.


The second point follows from the first: once you presume guilt, the guilty do not deserve a chance to defend themselves.


Their binary worldview warps SJW logic. For example, Zerlina Maxwell's No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims, begins with an impossible notion: You cannot "generally believe" something happened. Either you believe it or you do not. 
If Maxwell was trying to avoid bias, her title would be something like "No matter what Jackie said, we should support people who say they were raped".

Maxwell's subhead carries her bias further: "Incredulity hurts victims more than it hurts wrongly-accused perps." Because she thinks credulity and incredulity are the only options, she speaks of "wrongly-accused perps". But there's no such thing as a "wrongly-accused perp"; a perpetrator is the person who did something. Good people presume innocence until the perpetrator has been identified beyond reasonable doubt.

What SJWs fail to realize is that rape is a crime like any other crime. Erdely's original article includes this line which she and her editor should have paid more attention to: "studies indicate that false rape reports account for, at most, eight percent of reports." Whether there are more or fewer false reports of other crimes, I don't know, but I do know that only suicidal people would play Russian Roulette if one chance out of twelve was fatal.

The proper attitude toward people who claim to have been raped is not to believe them or disbelieve them; it's to support them while their charge is investigated. To people like Maxwell, investigation equals incredulity, but to those of us who understand statistics, it's only an essential part of establishing truth.

Recommended:

Magazine’s Account of Gang Rape on Virginia Campus Comes Under Scrutiny - NYTimes.com

The College Rape Overcorrection: Campus sexual assault is a serious problem. But the efforts to protect women are infringing on the civil rights of men.  - Slate.com