Some years ago, when I was an editor at George magazine, I was unfortunate enough to work with the writer Stephen Glass on a number of articles. They proved to be fake, filled with fabrications, as was pretty much all of his work. The experience was painful but educational; it forced me to examine how easily I had been duped. Why did I believe those insinuations about Vernon Jordan being a lech? About the dubious ethics of uber-fundraiser Terry McAuliffe?The answer, I had to admit, was because they corroborated my pre-existing biases. I was well on the way to believing that Vernon Jordan was a philanderer, for example—everyone seemed to think so, back in the ’90s.So Stephen wrote what he knew I was inclined to believe. And because I was inclined to believe it, I abandoned my critical judgment. I lowered my guard.The lesson I learned: One must be most critical, in the best sense of that word, about what one is already inclined to believe. So when, say, the Duke lacrosse scandal erupted, I applied that lesson. The story was so sensational! Believing it required indulging one’s biases: A southern school…rich white preppy boys…a privileged sports team…lower class African-American women…rape. It read like a Tom Wolfe novel.In the future, being reminded of a Tom Wolfe novel will be punishable by Watsoning.
And of course it never happened.Which brings me to a magazine article that is causing an enormous furor in Virginia and around the country; it’s inescapable on social media. Written by a woman named Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article is called “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.”The article alleges a truly horrifying gang rape at a UVA fraternity, and it has understandably shocked the campus and everyone who’s read it. The consequences have been pretty much instantaneous: The fraternity involved has voluntarily suspended its operations (without admitting that the incident happened); UVA’s president is promising an investigation and has since suspended all fraternity charters on campus; the alumni are in an uproar; the governor of Virginia has spoken out; students, particularly female students, are furious, and the concept of “rape culture” is further established. Federal intervention is sure to follow.The only thing is…I’m not sure that I believe it. I’m not convinced that this gang rape actually happened. Something about this story doesn’t feel right.Read the rest there.