On Sunday, Rolling Stone published a report authored by scholars at the Columbia School of Journalism about the magazine’s repeated failings with regard to its notorious University of Virginia rape article.
Since the report was published, an array of commenters have lamented the supposed death of journalistic standards in the Internet age. What they should really be worrying about is something even scarier — the death of liberalism itself.
By “liberalism,” I do not mean American liberalism (or progressivism, as it is more accurately dubbed), but rather liberalism in the classical sense. That is, the system of free speech, property rights, and the rule of law that serves as the foundation of Western society. The fact that Sabrina Rubin Erdely could print such a libelous article without a peep of inquiry from Rolling Stone’s editors, and the article could cause such a frenzy so as to suspend fraternity life at UVA without a disciplinary hearing, points to an even deeper cancer than one of journalism.
Due process is under threat at modern American universities, as is evident in the case of sexual assault. Instead of respecting law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate, try, and punish actual rapists, universities instead opt to hold such hearings in kangaroo courts in the form of disciplinary hearings — where the burden of proof is almost always lower than that of actual criminal courts.
As such, it boggles the mind to think of all the former students who have been expelled and had their professional lives ruined because of a false rape accusation that their university, and not a court of law, deemed to be true.
But what’s even scarier is the unreasonable deference that is given to alleged victims of sexual assault regarding their accusation. In the UVA case, not only was “Jackie” readily believed by Rolling Stone’s editors without question, prominent pundits shamed anyone who dared question her story.
At Jezebel, Anna Merlon called Reason reporter Robby Soave an “idiot” for asking about the facts of the case. At the Washington Post, Zerlina Maxwell published a shocking piece with a title that says it all: “No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims.”
No due process. No free inquiry of ideas. Such is the modus operandi when it comes to sexual assault in 2015. This is the crisis of liberalism.
The most perverse fact about the whole situation is that the enemies of liberalism are themselves self-identified liberals (in the progressive sense). Jezebel, Rolling Stone, and the Washington Post are not exactly right-wing rags. Nor can modern academe be readily accused of being conservative. Rather, American liberals are now forgetting the very foundations of their philosophy — calm inquiry to determine the truth behind a statement of fact.
Yet all too often when this disturbing trend is pointed out, anti-liberal progressives mistake healthy skepticism for another symptom of “rape culture” perpetrated by a right-wing conspiracy. If only they could understand the true motivation behind such skepticism — to save the very essence of a free society.
Only when that is preserved can real criminals be brought to justice.