Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Rolling Stone Rape Story: Is "Something Happened" Really Some Kind Of Compromise Position?

   I've been trying to exaggerate my natural fallibilism in the case of the Rolling Stone rape story. But, to be honest, I am not merely a little skeptical about the story. If I were forced to bet, I'd put the odds that it's largely true at well below 1 in 2. I may be wrong, of course, but that's my honest opinion. Given the current climate, this is an extremely politically incorrect thing to say, but it's my honest assessment of the evidence. And yes, I realize that false reports of rape are rare. And perhaps there's some kind of regression effect I should be taking account of here...I worry about that a lot, actually...
   Many others are now expressing doubts about the insta-orthodoxy that the story must be accepted unquestioningly. And that's good.
   However, I'm a bit puzzled about one of the really common ways to question the story--in particular, the theory that "something (horrible) happened"...but probably not what was reported in Rolling Stone.
   Here's why I'm rather skeptical of that. The view is, basically, that "Jackie" was raped, but embellished the account. So the question that seems to face us is something like: is it more likely that an actual victim of rape would spin out an implausible exaggeration? Or more likely that someone just made the story up? Now, there are people who know a lot about the psychology of rape survivors. And I'm not one of them. But, speaking only as an interested layperson, it seems unlikely to me that a rape victim would exaggerate the account of what happened. I'm not sure I can come up with any reasons for that view, so it may be nothing more than a hunch. Which, of course, wouldn't be worth much...
   However, advocates of partial belief here seem to think that they're being more sensitive by suggesting that "something horrible happened..." just not what Rolling Stone reported. But to my mind, that's just not right. First, it drags considerations of sensitivity into what should be a discussion about evidence...but let that pass. More to the point: of the three possibilities (1) things happened basically just as Rolling Stone reported, (2) "Jackie" was raped, but made up a lot of what she told Rolling Stone, and (3) the story simply isn't true...  Well...I'm just not sure that (2) really is some kind of reasonable, compromise position, as opposed to the least likely of the three options.
   Again, I do recognize that I could be wrong about everything here.

4 Comments:

Blogger The Mystic said...

Since we're sharing our dark politically incorrect secrets...

My private honest theory is that Jackie unwisely semi-consented to something which got out of control to the point of at the very least disgusting her, and at worst endangering her.

It would explain the exaggerations and her life's ruination rather simply, and it would explain the fraternity's apparent lack of willingness to defend itself if they recognize that things got out of control as well. It also might explain her date's apparent psychosis if he didn't really recognize the extent to which Jackie became opposed to what was happening as it was occurring, or if he entered a sort of denial that things really got so bad.

It's speculation, but it serves to tie everything I know together in a way that doesn't seem so utterly implausible as the RS article.

2:45 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Oh, so if it wasn't apparent, that theory I put forth is one possible way that the "something awful happened" position isn't unreasonable sensitivity.

Since I initially put forth the SAH theory on this blog, I thought I might provide the reasoning that led me there. It's largely out of interest in accounting for the evidence which seems hard/pointless to fabricate - that her friends unanimously witnessed her turn from a happy-go-lucky, reasonably successful student to a depressed disaster.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write: "So the question that seems to face us is something like: is it more likely that an actual victim of rape would spin out an implausible exaggeration? Or more likely that someone just made the story up? Now, there are people who know a lot about the psychology of rape survivors. And I'm not one of them. But, speaking only as an interested layperson, it seems unlikely to me that a rape victim would exaggerate the account of what happened."

The missing factor in your thinking here is the reporter. Remember, Jackie didn't just spontaneously write or say this account, it was the result of an interview. If the reporter pressed her for details and asked questions like "What was he saying while this was going on?", there would be pressure on her to answer even if she had no recollection. We all have a basic tendency to want to offer details when asked, especially if we feel like failure to do so will undermine the credibility of our basic story. Of course, no normal person is going to be able to recall details like direct quotes from the middle of a rape two years later. So, if Jackie felt compelled to offer details, its no surprise that they would end up sounding like the projections of her own feelings. Of course, a good reporter would not have pressed a traumatized victim for such a level of detail, knowing that the details she got would be likely unreliable and would cast doubt on the whole story. But the RS reporter was not very good, and could not resist the extra color that the details would add to the article. A basically true story with a layer of false embroidery is the result of bad interviewing.

I don't thing the true-but-embroidered theory is the result of bending over backwards to be sensitive. It's the best explanation, assuming that everyone involved is not a total psychotic.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Those seem like good points by both the Mystic and Anonymous IMO.

3:04 PM  

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