A Philosopher's Blog

Rolling Stone’s Failure

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on December 10, 2014

In November, 2014 the Rolling Stone magazine received worldwide attention for a story on the brutal gang rape of a student at the University of Virginia. The story had a significant impact not only on the University of Virginia but also on the broader community.

Some accepted the story as true—after all, it was a horrifying example of the rape culture that had become part of a general media narrative. Others had doubts about the story—some for ideological reasons and some for what turned out to be legitimate reasons. It turns out that the story is largely (or even entirely) untrue and Rolling Stone issued an apology to its readers.

In preparing and printing this story about the rape of a woman nicknamed Jackie, the relevant people at the Rolling Stone failed both professionally and morally. In investigating the story, the Rolling Stone did not contact the men alleged to be involved in the attack. This seems rather contrary to what should be a principle of good journalism, namely that of seeking information regarding all the relevant parties rather than simply using the account of one side. Also, given the information found by other news sources, such as the Washington Post, it appears that the magazine should have been more thorough in its investigation. After all, there is a professional and moral duty to engage in a proper investigation before publishing a story with rather serious potential consequences. When people believed the story was true, there were rather serious consequences. Now that the credibility of the story seems to have been damaged or even destroyed, there are also serious consequences and these will be discussed below.

To be fair, I am obligated to offer some defense for the Rolling Stone. First, as the managing editor Will Dana noted, the magazine was honoring Jackie’s request that they not contact the men she had accused of raping her. According to Dana, they wished to be sensitive to the shame and humiliation women often feel after being victims of sexual assault and Jackie said she feared retaliation from the men.

While the professed motivations seem laudable on part of the magazine, it is not clear how a more thorough investigation would have shamed and humiliated Jackie. It might be claimed that to even investigate the accused would be to engage in wrongful doubting of the victim. The obvious reply is that a thorough investigation is not an expression of doubt, but good journalistic practice. While an alleged victim should be given due respect, this respect does not entail that a journalist should abandon due diligence. But, to be fair to the journalists, there is no doubt considerable political and social pressure to avoid even the appearance of skepticism in such cases.

Second, the managing editor claims that Jackie’s story held up to considerable scrutiny and it is only recently that the problems in the story were found. This allows for a reasonable defense: even a thorough and proper investigation can turn out to have gotten things wrong, as revealed by later investigation.

The main problem with this defense is that the reason why the story seems to have held up is that the Rolling Stone operated within limits set by Jackie: she requested that they not contact the accused and told them that her friend would not speak with the magazine. It turned out that her friend was quite willing to speak with the Washington Post and that his story differs from her account in many key ways. As such, it would seem that the magazine cannot claim this defense. Rather, it can only claim that it decided to seemingly put its trust in Jackie and to allow her to decide the scope of their investigation. This is, obviously enough, not a good approach to investigative journalism.

Third, a defense can be made regarding the discrepancies. As has been well-established, eye-witness reports are unreliable and a person’s memories of an event tend to be rather inaccurate. As such, it would hardly be surprising for Jackie’s account to differ from the accounts of other and have some inconsistencies. This is, of course, a lesson from basic critical thinking.

However, there are limits to how far these facts excuse inconsistencies and factual errors. While there is not an exact line (such as six minor errors and one major error), there are reasonable boundaries to the extent to which these things can be fairly chalked up to these human failings. Looking at the details laid out in the apology and other accounts, the discrepancies between Jackie’s story and the accounts of witnesses and other information (such as the dates for parties at the fraternity) seem to have crossed that boundary. As such, it is rather difficult to chalk up the problems to this sort of cause.

The evidence does suggest that something did happen to Jackie, but the evidence does not seem to support the story told by the Rolling Stone. In defense of Jackie, it could be claimed that she was encouraged to embellish her story or that she felt obligated to tell the sort of story that she believed they were looking for. There are, of course, psychological pressures to do such things.

While the folks at Rolling Stone have contributed one more example of how not to conduct a proper journalistic investigation (and given me an example to use in my classes), there are some serious consequences to this incident.

One consequence is the harm done to the University of Virginia and those accused in the story. While it might be claimed that if the fraternity was not guilty of this specific crime, some fraternity is guilty of something similar, that is hardly just reporting.

A second consequence is that the revelations regarding the story will be taken as evidence that women, in general, lie about sexual assault. It can also be taken as evidence that the alleged problem of sexual assault is also a lie. When people point out that most reports of such assaults are not false, doubters can point to this article and inquire why that claim should be believed. By allowing this story to be published without proper investigation, the magazine has thus fueled such doubts.

A third consequence is that these revelations will also be taken as evidence that the media is eager to serve the “feminist agenda” and push the narrative of the rape culture. After all, one might claim, the magazine saw the story as too good to check and put forth a story in accord with the feminist narrative—a story that turned out to not be true.

This can be taken as evidence that the alleged problem of sexual assault is a fabrication, the result of feminists pushing a narrative on a media that is either a co-conspirator or spineless and eager to cash in on whatever grabs the public’s attention.

Obviously, the failure of the Rolling Stone does not prove that women generally lie about sexual assault or that it is not a problem. But, revelations of what seems to be, at best, sloppy journalism do certainly contribute to doubts.


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  1. T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Mike, don’t all the lies on the Dem/Progressive side ever start to bother you?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      In general, lies bother me.

      I know WTP is going to hop in to call me a liar. But, making claims a person disagrees with is not the same thing as lying.

      Unfortunately, the issue of sexual assault is now ideological. The folks who embrace a certain ideology fall prey to the usual sins of being devoted to that ideology. There are people who are not ideological, but are concerned about actual justice-they are concerned not just about those who might be victims but also about due process for those accused. They are also concerned about facts.

      • T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        What about someone like Jonathan Gruber, who clearly feels comfortable telling any number of lies?

        • T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm

          “Unfortunately, the issue of sexual assault is now ideological.”

          Not really. Everyone is against sexual assault. The only difference is that one side wants to stick to the facts, whereas the other side believes that the narrative trumps the facts.

          “Hand up, don’t shoot” — fact or fiction, Mike?

          • WTP said, on December 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm

            “Hand up, don’t shoot” — fact or fiction, Mike?


            • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:12 am

              frog croaks…

            • wtp said, on December 13, 2014 at 9:59 pm


              (My impression of an owl. Best I could do)

            • wtp said, on December 14, 2014 at 10:26 pm

              Water trickling over and around smooth rocks and stones in a small creek. A babbling brook, if you will…

            • WTP said, on December 16, 2014 at 11:01 am


            • WTP said, on December 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

              Hey TJ, did you know that the sound crickets make does not come from rubbing their legs together? Really. That’s just a myth. See Wiki:

              The sound emitted by crickets is commonly referred to as chirping; the scientific name is stridulation. Usually only the male crickets chirp, however some female crickets do as well. The sound is emitted by the stridulatory organ, a large vein running along the bottom of each wing, covered with “teeth” (serration) much like a comb. The chirping sound is created by running the top of one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing. As the male cricket does this, he also holds the wings up and open, so that the wing membranes can act as acoustical sails. It is a popular myth that the cricket chirps by rubbing its legs together.

              Things I would never know where it not for Mike.

            • TJB said, on December 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm

              The sound of one stridulatory organ chirping…

            • wtp said, on December 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm

              So TJ, do you think mike is afraid to answer this question? If so, do you think it’s intellectually dangerous or possibly a fear for his personal safety or standing in his community? If it’s not fear, what do you suppose it is? It’s a legitimate question after all.

            • wtp said, on December 21, 2014 at 7:49 pm

              Another thing you might find interesting, TJ. Did you know that Ian Fleming got the name Blofeld, the evil-dr-evil-baddie leader of SPECTRE from the father of a BBC cricket broadcaster? It’s true, assuming wiki can be trusted on these things…

              It is commonly believed that the name Blofeld was inspired by the English cricket commentator Henry Blofeld’s father, with whom Fleming went to school.[2] Henry Blofeld offered on the BBC Radio 4 series Just a Minute that “Ian took my father’s name as the name of the baddie.”[3]

          • T. J. Babson said, on December 20, 2014 at 9:14 am

            “So TJ, do you think mike is afraid to answer this question?”

            Nah. But would the Socratic method work if no one would answer Socrates’s questions?

            • wtp said, on December 20, 2014 at 9:43 am

              Well perhaps we should first ask of what value is the Socratic method? It’s thousands of years old. Is it still relevant? Is it not a form of aggression against the self?

          • TJB said, on December 22, 2014 at 5:39 am

            Did the fact that so many people didn’t call out the lie of “Hands up, Don’t shoot” contribute to the deaths of the two NY cops?

            • WTP said, on December 22, 2014 at 10:14 am

              That’s one of those questions that one could never definitively answer. Most people who have a sense of responsibility would say yes. Others who feel that keeping silent in the presence of evil or wrong doing is in no way an endorsement of such would say no. Our host has constantly held the latter position, has he not? Though as he wishes to continue to remain silent on these matters, I suppose we’ll never know for sure. Ahh, well. Not our shame. That is not to say that everyone has a responsibility in every situation to express one’s position. But in extreme circumstances, potential watershed moments, especially for the kind of people who feel that one of their main duties is to “preserve humanity”, the silence is, in my mind, an abdication of one’s influential role that has been granted and paid for by society.

              “I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led.”
              ― Thomas Jefferson

            • WTP said, on December 22, 2014 at 11:25 am

              Another pertinent quote, this from the oft referenced here John Stuart Mill. Though oddly never, until now, this quote:

              What is called the Law of Nations is not properly law, but a part of ethics: a set of moral rules, accepted as authoritative by civilized states. It is true that these rules neither are nor ought to be of eternal obligation, but do and must vary more or less from age to age, as the consciences of nations become more enlightened, and the exigences of political society undergo change. But the rules mostly were at their origin, and still are, an application of the maxims of honesty and humanity to the intercourse of states. They were introduced by the moral sentiments of mankind, or by their sense of the general interest, to mitigate the crimes and sufferings of a state of war, and to restrain governments and nations from unjust or dishonest conduct towards one another in time of peace. Since every country stands in numerous and various relations with the other countries of the world, and many, our own among the number, exercise actual authority over some of these, a knowledge of the established rules of international morality is essential to the duty of every nation, and therefore of every person in it who helps to make up the nation, and whose voice and feeling form a part of what is called public opinion. Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.
              Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867

            • WTP said, on December 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm

              Hey TJ, in regard to your question Did the fact that so many people didn’t call out the lie of “Hands up, Don’t shoot” contribute to the deaths of the two NY cops?, I found this comment rather interesting going back to the Gabby Giffords shooting.

              That said, there are still some legitimate concerns about Palin’s use of violent rhetoric and the infamous cross-hair map. I will, however, not be discussing these now beyond saying that Palin would seem to need to step up to address this matter.

              As far as who is to blame, the obvious answer is this: the person who shot those people on that Saturday. At this point, that shooter is supposed to be Loughner.

              Of course, as the media psychologists point out, it can be claimed that others are to blame as well. The parents. The community college. Society.

              On the one hand, this blame sharing seems to miss the point that people are responsible for their actions. The person who pulled that trigger over and over again is the one that is responsible. He did not have to go there that day. Going there, he did not have to pull the trigger.

              On the other hand, no one grows up and acts in a perfect vacuum. Each of us is shaped by factors around us and, of course, we have responsibilities to each other. If Loughner was the shooter, then it seems that there was considerable evidence that he was unstable and likely to engage in violence. As such, it could be argued that those who were aware of these facts and failed to respond bear some of the blame for allowing him to be free to kill and wound.

              It is very true, as the author states, As far as who is to blame, the obvious answer is this: the person who shot those people on that Saturday.. You will note however, putting aside the simple concrete facts, the author does refer to some legitimate concerns about Palin’s use of violent rhetoric, that Palin would seem to need to step up to address this matter. Also of note, his concern that Each of us is shaped by factors around us and, of course, we have responsibilities to each other.

              So my question to you TJ is, does the author’s point apply in this matter as well? Perhaps even to a greater degree? And I’ll give you $5 if you can guess who that author is. Promise no googling, however.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 23, 2014 at 3:35 pm

              How so? These people did not say “shoot the cops” and most protesters seem to be bothered by killing in general. For example, one scheduled protest turned into a candlelight vigil.

              Currently, the evidence seems to show that the shooter suffered from mental illness. While he did claim to be acting in revenge for the deaths of Garner and Brown, I recall hearing on NPR that Garner’s family has denounced violence.

              To break down the causal connections, a case can be made that the deaths of Brown and Garner influenced the shooter and presumably the protests had some impact on his behavior. But, to lay the blame for the actions of the shooter on the protesters would seem to be an error. Now, if the protesters were encouraging people to kill cops and the families of Brown and Garner cried for police blood, then that would be a rather different matter. When anti-government folks on the right shoot cops, the blame should not fall on the conservatives and Tea Party folks just because they say negative things about the state. I’m reasonably sure most folks in the Tea Party and libertarians do not want people shooting cops.

              I could be wrong, but most of the protesters are against violence-they do not want police killing citizens and they do not want citizens killing police.

            • WTP said, on December 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

              “Hands up, don’t shoot” — fact or fiction, Mike?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm

              I’m not quite sure what you are asking. Are you asking if a specific person said “don’t shoot”? Are you asking if that is the slogan used by many protesters? Or something else?

            • TJB said, on December 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm

              Everybody who supported the false narrative has blood on his hands.

            • wtp said, on December 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

              Hey TJ, since it was originally your question can you help Mike out here? He’s not lying when he says after your asking this question two weeks ago that he’s only now discovering that he doesn’t understand it. And in no way was he trying to bury his non-response response under a half dozen or so other posts/comments. It’s ethics, you see. Its a hard question to answer. Perhaps you could put it in some kind of context for him. Honestly.

          • TJB said, on December 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm

            Mike, you are joking, right? This is the basis for all the protests, and it is a lie.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

              I am curious as to what your account is. Humor me.

            • wtp said, on December 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

              Oh please TJ, do “humor” him. Why, I’m so terribly confused myself I simply don’t know what to believe.

      • wtp said, on December 10, 2014 at 8:29 pm

        Oh, for God’s sake. You can weasel out of anything by dismissing your lies as “saying something you disagree with”. What we “disagree” on is the meaning of words. I believe in the evil hegemony of Noah Webster and you believe in yourself.

        TJ, when are you going to get a clue here? Don’t you think you might first need to define the meaning of the word “fact”? But what are you going to do that with? More words? Best you get is an inch, then he’ll turn right around and take a mile. Mike toes the party line even to the party’s lies because THAT’S WHO HE IS. Apologies for the caps, but damn. We’ve been at this for years now. Do you think Mike is more honest and straightforward now or say five years ago when we got going on this? God, five years of this sh*t. Pathetic.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Mike, by supporting Dems and Progressives, don’t you contribute to the decline in society’s critical thinking skills?

    We now live in an increasingly Salem-like culture, in which people are called to suspend skepticism in relation to all allegations of rape, to say “I believe” the minute anyone claims to have been raped, and to be openly and proudly credulous in response to reports of rape. This cult of credulity, this constant chanting of “I believe!” has warped the public debate about rape and sexual assault. It has now reached its nadir in the shocking suspension of skepticism at Rolling Stone in response to a fabricated horror story.

    If Erdely nodded along to Jackie’s story while robotically thinking “I believe,” she isn’t alone. Automatically and uncritically believing allegations of rape is all the rage today. Where for most of the Age of Enlightenment it was considered civilized to believe that those accused of a crime were innocent until proven guilty, now it appears the way to show that you are a good and caring person is to do pretty much the opposite. You should believe instantly the alleged victim’s every word, and by extension to believe instantly that the accused is guilty as hell.


    • WTP said, on December 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Mike, by supporting Dems and Progressives, don’t you contribute to the decline in society’s critical thinking skills?

      That’s a rhetorical question, yes?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      I support some views that are held by some Democrats. But that hardly makes me a party to anything that a Democrat might do.

      In the US, there are only two main parties, so almost everyone just gets tossed into one or the other without much nuance. Going with just two options, I’d obviously be more of a Democrat than a Republican. But, to be honest, most of the top politicians are also not very ideological-they are in it to stay in power. The agendas they push seem to be mostly calculated (as you often say about Democrats) to hold onto office.

      There do seem to be some who have actual commitments, to be fair.

      • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        “I support some views that are held by some Democrats. But that hardly makes me a party to anything that a Democrat might do.”

        Actually, by voting for Democrats it does make you a party to what they do. Why wouldn’t it?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:38 pm

          I don’t always vote for the Democrat. Also, most elections present me with three choices: Democrat, Republican or not voting. So, I am a party to the crimes of one party or the other…or I don’t vote for anyone.

          If you are right about this, then the folks who vote for the Republicans are also a party to their misdeeds.

          But, in a way, this supports my view that citizens of a democracy are responsible for the actions of their country. So, I guess we agree on this.

          • T. J. Babson said, on December 13, 2014 at 11:23 pm

            “If you are right about this, then the folks who vote for the Republicans are also a party to their misdeeds.”

            Yes, of course.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Your quote does raise a legitimate concern. Whereas the past problem was that women were often disbelieved in regards to assault, now the tendency on campus seems to be in the other direction.

      On the one hand, this is understandable: when it comes to rape, a decent person will certainly feel bad about doubting a person who claims she was raped. And, as I mentioned, there is that past history of disbelieving women and blaming the victim.

      On the other hand, fairness and justice require raising just such questions. This is not an attack on the (alleged) victim, but how a fair system has to work. To assume, uncritically, that the alleged victim is telling the entire truth and the alleged perpetrator is lying is as morally inexcusable as assuming the opposite.

      As I have argued in another post, universities should not be handling sexual assault cases. If it is an assault, that is a criminal matter that needs to be handled by the criminal justice system. If it is non-criminal misconduct that falls under the university’s authority over the students, then it is a university matter.

  3. georgefinnegan said, on December 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Nothing has been ‘proven’ regarding the veracity of Jacki’s claims. This statement “It turns out that the story is largely (or even entirely) untrue and Rolling Stone issued an apology to its readers” is pretty misleading and may be, itself, largely false. Someone at the Rolling Stone decided to interview Jacki and made the determination that he or she couldn’t trust her accounts, so Rolling Stone issues an apology. You have to ask, did that person know how to interview rape victims so as to be able to make such a determination? I would think the way in which Rolling Stone responded, i.e. by issuing that apology, indicated they didn’t have a clue about the issues surrounding the mental conditions of rape victims. People should read this:


    In summary, inconsistencies should have been expected and a magazine shouldn’t have issued an apology from the information they got from interviewing her, or anyone else in connection with this case. Journalists should regurgitate what people tell them, but not make judgements, as was done here. Particularly if they do so out of ignorance.

    • T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      George, do you believe the 1 in 4 stat, too?


      • georgefinnegan said, on December 10, 2014 at 3:48 pm

        Maybe if you read what I wrote, you’d have a more pertinent question.

        • TJB said, on December 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm

          Dodging the question. I’ll take that as a “yes.”

          Next question. Do you believe the wage gap between men and women is primarily due to discrimination?

          Like the notion of a pervasive “rape culture,” these are all lies and distortions promulgated by the Dems and their fellow travelers. You seem to be particularly credulous–I am just trying to find out at what point your skepticism kicks in.

          • georgefinnegan said, on December 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

            Maybe if you were more than a troll, I’d bother to answer your question.

            • TJB said, on December 10, 2014 at 4:48 pm

              No matter. I won’t waste any electrons on you again.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm

            Good question. I do know that discrimination exists. I vaguely recall someone pointing out in a comment that the White House underpaid its female staff relative to the men.

            The wage gap is, of course, complicated and determining to what extend discrimination impacts the wage gap would involve sorting out all the non-discrimination factors (like women working more part-time jobs than men, etc.). There is also the matter of sorting out what counts as discrimination. For example, some might say that women are discriminated against if they take off a few years for child rearing and then re-enter the job with less pay than men (and women) who did not take that time from work. Others would say that is not discrimination, since the relevant factor is the time on the job not one’s gender.

            The last time I did a review of the literature, the evidence seemed to support the claim of discrimination. But, I do not have an ideological commitment here: if the best evidence shows there is little or no discrimination, then I would accept that and say “discrimination problem solved. Next problem, please.”

            As far as the rape culture thing, I do believe that women are assaulted on campus. I am unsure about the statistics, though-especially when people make definitive claims about the number of assaults that occur but are not reported. There is a problem on campuses-but ideological squaring off over the matter is not helping the situation.

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm

              “I do know that discrimination exists.”

              How do you know this?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:35 pm

              Seen it in person. Also, is it likely that everyone deals fairly with everyone else with no discrimination? So, it seems reasonable to accept that it does exist. The rather important question is the extent to which it exists.

    • WTP said, on December 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      While we’re handing out reading assignments, perhaps people should read this as well:

      The social-justice complex wants a separate system of show trials, secret evidence, and stacked tribunals where any young man in college can be found guilty of the most heinous crimes of sexual violence without legal process and without the chance to clear his name. Like the Duke Lacrosse case, the men of UVA’s fraternities have had their reputations stained and scarred, but the left demands no penalty for false accusers.

      Celebrities want a separate standard, and the media seems willing to grant it to them. Lena Dunham accuses a man of raping her in college, providing such granular detail that finding his name is a matter of a quick Google search, but wants to be free of responsibility for slandering “Barry” because she’s an “unreliable narrator.” After all, she’s a celebrity, a cultural icon, and a darling of New York’s and Washington’s smart young things.

      Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone want you to believe “Jackie’s” claims to have been brutally gang-raped without confirmation, evidence, or even the most cursory due diligence. Even as the story falls apart, advocates like Zerlina Maxwell and Amanda Marcotte have shifted to the shopworn “fake but accurate” defense and accuse anyone who dares question the story as a “rape apologist.” That the accusations aren’t real doesn’t matter; they’re useful.

      “Jackie” will skate into a Sandra Fluke-style media darling status, but UVA’s young men will have their resumes flagged with, “Oh, he was at UVA in 2013? Pass on that one.” Liberal writers and advocates say all rape claims must be believed without question, lest we discourage other victims from coming forward. The notable exception are victims of rape and sexual assault at the hands of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Hollywood producers, and any other prominent Democrat. In those cases, the women are just gold-digging trailer-park attention whores.


      • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        And the RS story (being the story about the RS story of course) gets even more stupid:

        Bizarrely, incredibly, it is now revealed that when Sabrina Erdely was a student newspaper editor at U Penn, she was disciplined for fabulism, for making a story up out of whole cloth.

        She was disciplined by the paper’s editor in chief, Steven Glass.


    • ajmacdonaldjr said, on December 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      I thought the apology was a bad idea too. It made it seem they caved in to political pressures.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm

        Well, they did cave in to some additional investigation of the facts.

        • ajmacdonaldjr said, on December 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

          You don’t think Rolling Stone back peddled due to pressure from influential and powerful men who came to the defense of the fraternity and university? And that Rolling Stone hung the powerless woman out to dry?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

            Is there evidence for that? That is certainly not an impossibility, but without supporting evidence it is just conjecture.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      I do consider that very point:

      Third, a defense can be made regarding the discrepancies. As has been well-established, eye-witness reports are unreliable and a person’s memories of an event tend to be rather inaccurate. As such, it would hardly be surprising for Jackie’s account to differ from the accounts of other and have some inconsistencies. This is, of course, a lesson from basic critical thinking.

      However, there is still the reasonable concern about the extent to which inconsistencies can be attributed to these causes and the rough boundary at which they become actual credibility issues.

      As you note, it might be all on the Rolling Stone: they might have led Jackie to “remember” things that did not happen or might have misrepresented her story. Or they might have bungled the interview from beginning to end due to a failure to be experts on that aspect of psychology. If these are true, then the Rolling Stone story would thus be largely untrue-that is, the story got it wrong.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on December 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Exhibit A. How can anyone who loves the truth support this stuff?

    What do the recent University of Virginia gang-rape charges made in Rolling Stone magazine, rape implications against an Oberlin College “campus conservative” by talented-but-annoying darling-of-the-left Lena Dunham, and the unending “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “die-in” pantomimes of murder-by-racist-cop regarding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have in common?

    The obvious answer is that all three stories are unsupported by actual evidence. While something tragic certainly happened in Ferguson and something bad may have happened to a young woman in Virginia, the aspects of the stories that made them national sensations were fabrications.

    (Given Lena Dunham’s admissions that she was drunk and high on both illegal and prescription drugs, and that she willingly had sex with someone even after he had done something exceptionally inappropriate to her in public, no part of her insinuation of rape seems credible… and further scrutiny demolishes it entirely.)

    The more important answer is that in each case liberal activists, whether “feminists” (the true motivation of too many being hatred of men) or race hustlers like Al Sharpton (who needs to raise a few bucks to pay down $4.5 million in tax liens), are telling us that the truth doesn’t matter.


    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 10, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Well, I am against sexual assault and against excessive use of force by the police.

      I’m also for the truth. My post is critical of the Rolling Stone’s failures. I’m not familiar with Dunham’s case, so I do not have a position on that. I think that Brown might have been unjustly killed, but don’t know that. I do think Garner was needlessly and unjustly killed. However, the case of Brown does illustrate real problems-problems that are worth addressing.

      Truth does matter. If a narrative matches my values regarding assault or police use of force, yet is not true, then I would not accept the narrative.

  5. TJB said, on December 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Mike, you need to explain why is worse to waterboard a handful of people than to kill hundreds if not thousands of innocents in drone strikes.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 11, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Killing people is worse than water boarding them.

      I have been critical of drone assassinations: https://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/tag/targeted-killing/ and https://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/remote-control-assassination/.

      • T. J. Babson said, on December 11, 2014 at 10:47 am

        Is it intellectually consistent to label yourself a Democrat but then distance yourself from all the actions Democrats do that you don’t support?

        Shouldn’t you call yourself an Independent?

        • WTP said, on December 11, 2014 at 11:30 am

          IIRC, Mike in the past denied any significant party affectations. Perhaps he was lying then, perhaps now, perhaps the last few years have caused him to feel more aligned with the Democrat party. And given how the last few years have exposed much that’s not too rosy about the Dems, what would that tell you TJ?

          • T. J. Babson said, on December 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

            I distinctly remember Mike writing somewhere that he supported Dems for moral reasons.

            In that case I think it is only reasonable that he owns their moral failures as well.

            • WTP said, on December 11, 2014 at 12:47 pm

              Which of course in no way would imply that the GOP is less moral.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

              I do support some positions held by Democrats on moral grounds. For example, I am in favor of the minimum wage and regulations aimed at removing taxpayer responsibility for the financial failures of the finance sector. But I also favor some positions held by Republicans. I agree with McCain about torture and I agree with the general principle of small government.

              Yeah, I suppose by putting a D on my voter card, I do get some of the slime from their moral failures. But, by being part of American politics, I guess I also get the spillover from everyone, plus the moral spray from America. I’m thus also a party to all crimes committed by men, humans, rational beings and entities. 🙂

            • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

              For example, I am in favor of the minimum wage

              But he’s not responsible for the jobs that are lost as a consequence.

              and regulations aimed at removing taxpayer responsibility for the financial failures of the finance sector.

              But he’s in favor of the taxpayer being responsible for the bad loans the D’s force certain financial institutions to take, which is the lion’s share of the bubble that led to everything else.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

          Interesting question.

          I label myself an American, but I distance myself from actions of other Americans I do not support. Like when Americans destroy the property of the innocent in riots or engage in abuse of prisoners. If I can do that, I can presumably be a Democrat and also distance myself from what Democrats do that I regard as wrong or stupid. Republicans get the same deal-I don’t require that my Republican friends own things like the “legitimate rape” remarks.

          Actually, I would be an independent if it were not for one critical thing: in Florida, independents don’t get to vote in primaries. So, if I was an independent, I’d not have any role in deciding who gets to run for office. As you might guess, I tend to favor open primaries. But, since we have closed primaries, I go with being a Democrat.

          • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:05 am

            “Republicans get the same deal-I don’t require that my Republican friends own things like the “legitimate rape” remarks.”

            I still don’t get what the outrage was about. He explained that he meant “forcible rape.” What did the people who were outraged think he meant?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

              I think people were mad for two main reasons. One is what the term “legitimate rape” implies-that he was somehow accepting that there are cases of rape that are not legitimately rape. Now if he just innocently used “legitimate” rather than “forcible” and accepts that there are other forms of rape (like raping an unconscious person), then no problem. The second is that he had his facts about biology wrong.

  6. WTP said, on December 11, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Read the excerpt from the Stephen Glass article from the 1997 New Republic. I remember reading that story at that time and deciding TNR was a very untrustworthy source of information and that my subscription was basically a rip off. This was a year before he was exposed. Editors read this crap and approved it, coworkers read it and admired it, thousands of influential readers (TNR was called the In-flight Magazine of Air Force One) possibly even the Clintons (Bill had the keys to AF1 at the time) read this and never questioned it. A movie was made about him five years later in 2003, numerous media scandals later, and still these totally made up lies are dismissed as one-offs and no proof whatsoever of media bias. Lying is endemic in the culture of the left.

    I knew Stephen Glass was full of it in 1997 after I read his absolutely incredible story about all the sex and crazy partying done by young Republicans at a conservative gathering called CPAC. I had been at enough conservative functions — including that one — to know that they would have been a heck of a lot more interesting if they focused on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But in the fever dreams of Stephen Glass, they did. Here are the opening two paragraphs of the very detailed story that, it later turned out, nobody could verify:
    On the fourth floor of Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, eight young men sit facing each other on the edge of a pair of beds. They are all 20 or 21 and are enrolled in Midwestern colleges. Each is wearing a white or blue shirt with the top button unfastened, and each has his striped tie loosened. One of the young men, an Ohioan, is wearing a green and white button that reads: “Save the Males.” The minibar is open and empty little bottles of booze are scattered on the carpet. On the bed, a Gideon Bible, used earlier in the night to resolve an argument, is open to Exodus. In the bathroom, the tub is filled with ice and the remnants of three cases of Coors Light. The young men pass around a joint, counterclockwise…

    Over the next hour, in a haze of beer and pot, and in between rantings about feminists, gays and political correctness, the young men hatch a plan. Seth, a meaty quarterback from a small college in Indiana, and two others will drive to a local bar. There, the three will choose the ugliest and loneliest woman they can find. “Get us a real heifer, the fatter the better, bad acne would be a bonus,” Michael shouts. He is so drunk he doesn’t know he is shouting. Seth will lure the victim, whom they call a “whale,” back to the hotel room. The five who stay behind will hide under the beds. After Seth undresses the whale, the five will jump out and shout, “We’re beaching! Whale spotted!” They will take a photograph of the unfortunate woman.


    Why should anyone expect, even before this story broke, that Rolling Stone would be any different?

  7. ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 26, 2015 at 8:43 pm

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