Dropping the Ball

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Talk about failure of fundamental journalism. In any other profession—medical, legal, financial—the guilty party would be struck off. In journalism, the guilty party -(Rolling Stone magazine) -continues on its merry way of disinformation and downright fabrication. Some Duke University lacrosse players must be nodding their heads, as in we’ve seen it all before. Let’s start with Duke in 2006. Three lacrosse players, white and top students, are accused and convicted by the media—T.V., internet, newspapers such as the New York Times, race hustlers, and other such busybodies—long before they had an opportunity to defend themselves.

The charge was the rape of an exotic dancer, hired to perform at an off-campus party following a lacrosse game. The exotic dancer was a stripper and worked at an escort service, a euphemism for a prostitute. Nevertheless, the accused was a woman, and those who believe every man to be a rapist went to town. Well, after they had their say and the boys’ characters—and that of their coach—had been assassinated, justice was served. The boys went free after it was proved that the charges were totally bogus. The media, however, never apologized, nor was there an investigation of how it got the facts so wrong to begin with. The men were white, the woman was black, it was normal to believe her. The woman, Crystal Mangum, is at present doing 14 to 18 years for second degree murder. End of story, but not quite.

Enter an agenda-driven “journalist” by the name of Sabrina Rubin Erdely -(even sounds like a made-up name) whose opus toward fame and fortune for Rolling Stone was “A Rape On Campus.” This is where I come in. Young Taki went to University of Virginia in 1955 and pledged St. Elmo, the top fraternity on campus, but also received a bid from Phi Kappa Psi, the house where the alleged gang rape of one “Jackie” took place. When I read the story (and while the usual suspects I named above were having a field day excoriating frats, white males, and privileged students) I immediately smelled a rat. No, I am not smarter than the rest, but I had gone to UVA, joined a fraternity, and knew well its highly regarded and adhered-to honor system. A frat brother does not lie or cheat, and if he’s aware of someone doing so, he’s obliged to report him. Rape is far worse than lying or cheating, so the idea that seven frat brothers participated and no one cried foul was impossible for me to swallow.

But, like the Duke case, this is by now an old story. What is not is the fact that Jann Wenner, owner and editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone, has refused to fire the people responsible. This makes the kind of dishonesty shown by Erdely almost incidental in reporting, and ditto for inventing facts, lying to colleagues, and plagiarism.

Rolling Stone has a long history of making up facts. It ruined the career of General Stanley McChrystal, the senior commander in Afghanistan, by having its reporter pose as a friend and picking up after-hours chatter, some of it unkind, about President Obama’s understanding of the war. Although many of the quotes attributed were questionable at best, white military officers poking fun at a black president was a story everyone would take at face value. In its desperate quest to be relevant, Rolling Stone then put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, calling him a “normal American kid” and other such horrid drivel. It did not for a moment think that some of the victims might not agree. To hell with Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, three-year-old Martin Richard, and about 250 others who lost limbs. Profits and publicity come first.

Now the magazine is facing a lawsuit by those fraternity boys who had their lives almost ruined by an unscrupulous reporter fabricating a story that she knew an unscrupulous magazine would run. Their crime was to be males, white, and members of a fraternity. Worse, even after the story had begun to fall apart, still the magazine insisted printing it. It could have killed it but refused. Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, rejoice. You are now joined by Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone

For more Taki, visit www.takimag.com.