From Reason’s coverage of UVA bureaucrat Nicole Eramo’s libel lawsuit against Rolling Stone for the Haven Monahan Hate Hoax:
Day 4: Erdely gives scarring testimony
… Erdely was to be one of the magazine’s stars. She revealed Thursday that after writing stories for Rolling Stone for several years, this one was to be her first under a new contract that would have paid her $300,000 for seven stories over the course of two years.
That’s a lot of incentive, approaching $5 per word for her 9000 word article, which is nice work if you can get.
Bizarrely, Jackie Coakley’s surname is being blocked from anybody mentioning it during the trial:
During a discussion of the days in late August when Jackie allegedly stopped replying to the reporter’s texts and e-mails, [plaintiff's attorney] Locke begins reading from one e-mail shown on a screen. When she gets to Jackie’s last name, plainly visible to the gallery, the lawyer suddenly halts and shouts to a nearby technician: “If we could take that down, please, off the screen.”
Later, the technician dims the gallery screens again when a photograph appears of Jackie’s purported facial injuries from an incident—disputed by the Charlottesville Police Department—in which Jackie was allegedly injured by a thrown bottle.
“Keeping her identity confidential is important,” said Judge Glen Conrad, to encourage “other victims” to come forward. How Jackie, now with multiple false accounts, convinced a judge as well as both sides of this litigation that she’s a “victim” has yet to be explained.
Devastatingly, Locke produced interview audio in which Erdely mentions the photo to Jackie and says the supposed facial injuries resemble “something smeared,” a substance, the reporter said, “looked like face paint.”
In response, Erdely downplayed the statement as merely a manifestation of alleged abrasions that were “so bright.”
Coakley’s fantasy about much later being the victim of yet another beer bottle attack ought to have been the straw that broke the back of Erdely’s gullibility. As I wrote in Taki’s Magazine in 2014:
A Rape Hoax for Book Lovers
by Steve Sailer
December 03, 2014
… What should we make of Erdely’s “brutal tableau” of beer bottle rape amidst the shattered glass?
As a work of journalism, it’s most interesting for what it inadvertently reveals about the bizarre legends that seem plausible to American media consumers in 2014.
… Some of the literary power of Erdely’s nightmarish retelling of poor Jackie’s saga stems from the writer’s use of glass, both broken and bottle, as an ominous multipurpose metaphor. Throughout “A Rape on Campus,” glass stands for fragility, bloodshed, loss of virginity, alcohol, littering, male brutishness, danger, violence—even a literal phallic symbol. Glass represents not the calm transparency of a window pane, but the occluded viciousness of the white conservative Southern male power structure.
The first weeks of freshman year are when students are most vulnerable to sexual assault. … Hundreds of women in crop tops and men in khaki shorts stagger between handsome fraternity houses, against a call-and-response soundtrack of “Whoo!” and breaking glass. “Do you know where Delta Sig is?” a girl slurs, sloshed. Behind her, one of her dozen or so friends stumbles into the street, sending a beer bottle shattering.
Strangely, just about the only people in America who don’t seem to have accepted at face value Jackie’s theory of a nine-man conspiracy to rape her are those portrayed in the Rolling Stone article as knowing the poor young woman well.
Much of this immense article is devoted to puzzling scenes in which Jackie’s friends and female mentors tell her to cheer up and get over it. If you read the article carefully, you’ll notice that almost everybody who knows Jackie closely treats her about the way you’d treat a friend who starts talking about having been abducted by aliens. You would try to find out what the real actual thing that happened to her was. But if she kept talking about alien rectal probing, you’d try to change the subject.
Morally, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone should not have exploited an unsettled young woman.
Late in her first year at UVA, depressed and in danger of flunking out, Jackie talks to Dean Nicole Eramo, Chair of the Sexual Misconduct Board. This dean patiently explains to Jackie the three ways she can file charges, but Jackie can’t make up her mind. Eventually, Dean Eramo suggests she join a campus rape survivors’ support group. There, Jackie makes new friends who appreciate her story (even though it’s more violent than their own).
In Erdely’s telling, Dean Eramo, a middle-aged lady, is a sinister figure, a sonderkommando who shields the rape culture by getting students to confide in her instead of exposing the vileness all about. But there’s a problem with the author’s interpretation: Jackie and numerous other young women love Dean Eramo. She listens. Jackie and others responded to the Rolling Stone hit piece against Eramo by writing a long letter to the college newspaper praising the dean.
My vague impression is that Jackie seems like a troubled soul who drew needed comfort from talking to listeners who were sympathetic. She doesn’t appear to have been in any hurry over the last couple of years to talk to people who might ask her tough questions about the validity of her allegations, such as police detectives or defense attorneys. That appears to have been prudent on her part.
That was an overly nice interpretation of Coakley on my part. What we know now is that Coakley is much like Erdely’s old pal and boss at the U. of Penn student publication, Stephen “Shattered Glass” Glass: Coakley likes lying for the fun of it. Like Glass, she’s not even terribly adept at it, just brazen.
One bizarre, unexplained aspect of this whole story is the Shattered Glass motif. It’s possible that Coakley Googled Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s name and discovered she was an old friend of Stephen Glass and perhaps watched the movie about him. But I
Unfortunately, Rolling Stone was eager to use her for its own commercial and political purposes.
And so her story is now our latest national media crisis.
During her sophomore year, Jackie became prominent in the struggle on campus against rape culture. But the patriarchy struck back brutally last spring, using its favorite tool of violence, the glass bottle. Outside a bar at the Corner:
One man flung a bottle at Jackie that broke on the side of her face, leaving a blood-red bruise around her eye.
That’s horrifying … assuming it happened. Or are we deep into Gone Girl territory now? (There’s nothing in the article about anybody calling the police over this presumably open-and-shut case.) Erdely continues:
She e-mailed Eramo so they could discuss the attack—and discuss another matter, too, which was troubling Jackie a great deal. Through her ever expanding network, Jackie had come across something deeply disturbing: two other young women who, she says, confided that they, too, had recently been Phi Kappa Psi gang-rape victims.
A bruise still mottling her face, Jackie sat in Eramo’s office in May 2014 and told her about the two others. … (Neither woman was willing to talk to RS.)
Eramo had been listening to Jackie’s stories for a year at this point:
As Jackie wrapped up her story, she was disappointed by Eramo’s nonreaction. She’d expected shock, disgust, horror.
Erdely attributes this widespread ho-hum reaction among Jackie’s old friends and confidantes to a second massive conspiracy, this one to cover up the first conspiracy in order to protect that bastion of the right, UVA.
Erdely’s explanation for why those who know Jackie best didn’t rush her to the hospital or call 911 or even pay much attention to her claims over the next two years is that the University of Virginia is an alien, hostile, conservative country club with an
… aura of preppy success, where throngs of toned, tanned and overwhelmingly blond students fanned across a landscape of neoclassical brick buildings.
The Rolling Stone writer is bothered by how UVA students look up to founder Thomas Jefferson (a notorious rapist of a black body, I might add).
Erdely finds offense in the campus honor code, by which students promise not to cheat on papers. …
I suppose that Erdely’s positing two conspiracy theories is logically consistent. But Occam’s razor suggests that the real campus conspiracy may have been to gently humor the unhappy girl.
Not surprisingly, Erdely’s hate hoax about fictitious Nights of Broken Glass led to an actual Night of Broken Glass on the UVA campus as Social Justice Warriors smashed the windows of the libeled fraternity house. From the Huffington Post in 2014:
Erdely’s defense at this trial is that she really believed Coakley’s BS. From Reason:
“It wasn’t a mistake to rely on someone [so] emotionally fragile,” Erdely said softly on the witness stand, as her voice broke and tears flowed in an otherwise silent courtroom. “It was a mistake to rely on someone who was intent to deceive me.”
Earlier, the judge ruled that the previously obscure Nicole Eramo was a “public figure,” which makes it a lot harder for the plaintiff to win a lawsuit just by proving flagrant negligence rather than by proving “malice.” (If you are an expert on libel law, please feel free to chime in in the comments.)
This seems like one of those situations in which the easiest person to con is a con man. Erdely, going back to her work with Stephen Glass in the 1990s, has a dubious journalistic track record. But her own corner-cutting tendencies seem to have made her more credulous.
The big issue is what does it say about our society in which a middle-aged reporter can be conned so easily by a young girly girl coed just feeding back to the reporter Law & Order SVU episodes she watched.
A close reading of the Rolling Stone article demostrates Erdely’s pervasive ethnic malice against the university founded by Thomas Jefferson, which she views as a bastion of sinister gentile culture just itching to unleash another Night of Broken Glass against the helpless.
But her anti-Gentilic malice is unlikely to be mentioned in court. After all, “anti-Gentilic” isn’t even a word …