Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Questioning the UVA/Rolling Stone Rape Allegations is Verboten

   So I argued fairly early on that the Rolling Stone allegations about a gang rape at UVA were rather implausible.
   Other blogs have now expressed similar views:
   Richard Bradley
   Robby Soave at Reason
   Finding dumb posts at Jezebel is like shooting fish in a barrel...but this seems pretty bad even by their standards (Archive Today link, so no worries about giving them hits.) Turns out that it is impermissible to point out that an implausible story is implausible; doing so makes you an "idiot"...
   Bradley responds to Jezebel
   There's also:
   Judith Shulevitz at TNR
   And this:
   Bloomburg Politics
   Of course we don't know what happened. And, sadly, the story might be true--though I think it somewhat unlikely that the Rolling Stone story will turn out to be true in all its details. [Perhaps I should be more honest about this point: I do not think there is much chance at all that the story will turn out to be true in all its details.] But I'm more concerned about the bizarre nature of what we might I guess call the second-order features of the conversation: the widespread rush to accept an implausible story, the attempt to close down any attempt to think critically about the story, and use of moral outrage to enforce this ban on critical conversation. This seems like the utterest madness to me. This does not seem like some small error, nor like a close call, nor like something about which rational people ought to be disagreeing. The prevailing attitude is something like a communal insistence that the allegations be unquestioningly accepted as established fact. (I've seen many, many online comments that say almost exactly that, in fact.) It really does seem almost like mass hysteria to me.
   Not to open too many cans of worms at the same time, but it also seems to me to be not a single, isolated event. Rather, I am inclined to think that this is merely one--though rather extreme--example of the relatively extreme internet left dragging liberalism in a very bad direction.
   It goes without saying that rape is an extremely significant problem. It also goes without saying that we don't want to make the plight of rape victims worse by refusing to believe true accounts of rape. (Though it's an alarming sign of the times that these things that should go without saying have to be said in order to deflect charges of insensitivity, sexism, and so forth...) However, I don't see any way that those points entail that it is obligatory to unquestioningly accept every rape accusation, no matter how implausible, as established fact.
   In my view, the "social justice" (misnomer alert) crowd, including  feminist activists are at the vanguard of web liberalism's current headlong rush into neo-PC insanity. "Don't blame the victim of rape"--sound advice--has mutated into virulent strains of lunacy, including (as I've previously discussed) "there is nothing any woman can ever do to lower the odds of rape" and now "it is never permissible to in any way question any account of rape, no matter how implausible." This is especially mind-boggling given that our best evidence suggests that approximately 1 in 20 rape accusations made to the police is a false accusation. 1 in 20 seems like a pretty low rate of false reporting--but not low enough to justify an insistence that all reports be accepted and none be questioned. And 1 in 20 is apparently the falsehood rate when accusations are made to the police... Of course, there would be a lot less Cartesian certainty flying around if people were actually betting money, instead of simply garnering internet-liberal-moral-outrage karma...
   Unfortunately, I fear that many liberals may believe that extremism in defense of vaguely liberal causes is no vice. Some equal and opposite irrationality from the right would be met with furious derision. But many liberals seem to think that there is nothing to be lost by erring to the left--if they even believe that it's possible to err to the left...
   There is nothing magical about being a liberal. It does not provide infallible protection from error, and it doesn't absolve you of all your epistemic sins. Liberals can, believe it or not, still be wrong. Still be irrational. Still be dogmatic.
   Perhaps the liberal consensus is right, and "Jackie"s story is true in every detail... Or at least largely true. But I am fairly sure that the angry insistence that the story be accepted without question cannot be right. And to endorse an attempt to enforce a dogmatic orthodoxy that rejects critical thought is the kind of thing that leads, fairly directly, to epistemic, moral and political perdition.

[I should note that none of this applies to Jim B., who is always sane and reasonable, even though I often disagree with him.]


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