Nine males were accused of being part of a heinous rape. The alleged injustice fomented a mob mentality. An enraged community wanted to skip any talk of a serious investigation, never mind a trial, and go straight to the punishment.
I'm not talking about the now-discredited allegations against fraternity members at the
Clearly, the injustices involved in these cases are far greater than what transpired at UVA. No one at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity faced the death penalty or went to jail. But the lessons learned and principles involved are timeless and universal; everyone deserves the presumption of innocence.
Let's cut to the chase. Maybe I live in a cocoon of some kind, but it seems to me that as terrible and unjust as it surely can be, the stigma of having been raped is hardly as deleterious to one's reputation as the stigma of being accused of being a rapist. I don't think I know anyone who would discriminate against a rape victim. I'd like to think I don't know anyone who wouldn't discriminate against a rapist.
In the wake of revelations that Rolling Stone reported as fact an unsubstantiated story of institutionalized gang rape, many feminist activists have dug in, saying, in effect, the truth shouldn't matter, or at least it shouldn't matter very much -- not when there's a "rape epidemic" engulfing college campuses. I put the term in quotation marks because I believe this alleged epidemic is largely a deliberate political fabrication.
Obviously, rapes happen. But this "epidemic" would have to coincide with a decades-long decline in forcible rapes and a decades-long increase in public intolerance for sexual assault and harassment. Moreover, the primary evidence activists cite is a bogus statistic, based upon a Web survey of two universities.
So what's going on here? Beyond the hysteria and legitimate concern, this is a power grab. It's no coincidence that the Rolling Stone article spent a great deal of time advocating for the expansion of federal involvement in higher education via Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.
As chronicled by
They started with women's sports, but the model remains the same: Interest groups foment outrage, then enlist sympathetic activist journalists who rely on the testimony of deeply invested "experts" while partisan politicians exploit the allegedly systemic problem to advance an ideological agenda and demonize opponents as sexist bigots or rape apologists.
The UVA story was the perfect -- too perfect it turns out -- outrage at the exact moment the Obama administration was pushing new Title IX regulations that would erode the presumption of innocence in rape cases on campus. There's no reason to expect this fiasco will even slow that effort. So cheer up, Ms. Maxwell. You're winning.