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Here’s part of my December 3, 2014 Taki’s Magazine article “A Rape Hoax for Book Lovers” recounting the history of the Jackie Coakley-Sabrina Rubin Erdely hoax up to that point. The key lesson is that the giant Rolling Stone article was self-evidently a fraud of some sort, but the media has become so warped by animus toward disfavored demographics that they promoted it with barely any dissent or even cognitive dissonance from November 19 through November 30:

A Rape Hoax for Book Lovers

photo credit: Shutterstock

Numerous identity politics uproars, such as Ferguson, Trayvon, and Duke Lacrosse, have turned out to be humiliating fiascos for the national press when all the facts are finally toted up. Note that these were the mainstream media’s wars of choice, battlegrounds chosen to teach the public lessons.

What can we expect from the next crisis in the press’s pipeline, the purported fraternity initiation gang rape?

Even as the Ferguson narrative exploded, both metaphorically and literally, in an orgy of media-encouraged looting and arson (plus a white St. Louis man who was murdered with hammers on Sunday), vanguard elements were moving on to the upcoming obsession. A long article in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, entitled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” appeared on November 19th:

Jackie was just starting her freshman year at the University of Virginia when she was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tried to hold them accountable, a whole new kind of abuse began.

Here’s the tale that has been acclaimed across the country with barely any journalistic skepticism for the first 10 days.

A stone-cold sober coed named Jackie is lured by her date “Drew” to an upstairs room at the fraternity house. She is immediately tackled by one of the eight men waiting in the pitch darkness. Their toppling bodies crash through a glass table unaccountably left out in the middle of the rape room. Amidst the shattered glass, the young men beat her and hold her down on the floor. The shards grind into her bleeding back as she is methodically raped in the dark for three hours by seven young men, while her upperclassman date and another man coach them.

The frat boys egg on one reluctant pledge: “Don’t you want to be a brother?”

“We all had to do it, so you do, too.”

In other words, this is supposed to be some sort of fraternity initiation rite. (That fraternities at UVA hold their initiations in the spring, not in September, isn’t mentioned in the article.)

The last lad, whom Jackie somehow recognizes in the dark as a boy in her anthropology class, rapes her with a glass bottle.

“Wouldn’t the rapists get cut by the broken glass all over the floor, too? I guess they were such sex-crazed animals that they didn’t notice the glass cutting their hands and knees for the first three hours.”

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.

As a creative work of art, however, drawing (consciously or unconsciously) upon multiple influences such as the blockbuster Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hate porn franchise and the Shattered Glass biopic of magazine article fabricator Stephen Glass, it is more impressive. It’s first-rate propaganda, and Erdely’s adroit techniques should be studied by those concerned about how gullible Americans are.

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.
For example:

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.

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.

By the way, how conservative is UVA? In 2008, Barack Obama carried Charlottesville, home of UVA, by a sizable 11,600 votes. But Charlottesville is probably less extremely liberal than, say, Penn. So to Erdely, UVA is, basically, the Other.

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.

Perhaps the first person of any prominence in the media to read the Rolling Stone article skeptically was Richard Bradley, a veteran author and magazine editor (who used to be named Richard Blow). Bradley asked on his personal blog on November 24th, five days after publication, the simple question: “Is the Rolling Stone Story True?

Bradley began:

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. … The answer, I had to admit, was because they corroborated my pre-existing biases.

The career of Stephen Glass at The New Republic was made into a decent little movie called Shattered Glass, with the fellow who played young Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels as Glass and the always good Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane, the new TNR editor who was the first to figure out Glass was just making up all his fabulous stories. The title card to the movie explained one major reason for TNR’s naiveté: the median age of New Republic staffers was 26.

(In contrast, we columnists here at Taki’s Magazine tend to be, shall we say, less callow. For instance, Pat Buchanan, as he recounts in his memoir The Greatest Comeback, was in the Congo with Richard Nixon 47 years ago when dictator Mobutu Sese Seko leaned in close to explain what his developing country needed most from America: “Twenty Chrysler Imperials and twenty Harley-Davidsons.”)

By the way, Erdely said in 1998 that she “adored” Stephen Glass when they were colleagues on a student publication at Penn.

Bradley went on:

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.

Except the Duke lacrosse team gang rape never happened.

Like most 21st-century brouhahas, “A Rape on Campus” recapitulates many themes of Wolfe’s novels. For example, in A Man in Full, Atlanta’s establishment mobilizes to make go away a Georgia Tech coed’s allegation that she was raped by the school’s Heisman Trophy winner, Fareek Fanon.

Moreover, Jackie is portrayed as similar to the title character in Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, in which a first-year coed at a prestigious university is plunged into suicidal depression after she semi-consensually loses her virginity to a handsome but callous fraternity boy. Something deeply upsetting likely happened to Jackie, too, but exactly what is a mystery.

The fraternity rape story serves as a welcome distraction from the October arrest of black cabdriver Jesse Matthew for the September murder of white UVA coed Hannah Graham. (DNA evidence has since linked Matthew to another dead coed and another rape, and he is now being considered in 10 cold cases of crimes against women.)

A timeline of how Richard Bradley’s critique finally made its way to the general public may be of interest.

A reader kindly alerted me to Bradley’s post on November 24th. I made four scattershot comments on it on November 25th, beginning with my question:

Wouldn’t the rapists get cut by the broken glass all over the floor, too? I guess they were such sex-crazed animals that they didn’t notice the glass cutting their hands and knees for the first three hours.

I continued to mull over the issues that had been raised. (I hate being publicly wrong, so I’m cautious.) On the 27th I returned to Bradley’s blog to find I was still the only commenter, and added a fifth:

Sorry to keep coming back to this, but I’ve done some more thinking and here’s where the story falls apart: pitch darkness _and_ broken glass on the floor. The glass table is smashed, but nobody turns on the light to see what happened or where the broken glass is? Instead, each man, having heard the glass table get smashed, still gets down on the floor covered with shards of broken glass, risking not only his hands and knees, but also pulling out an even more personal part of his anatomy, one that he only has one of.

Really?

By the 29th I was still the only commenter, but I finally felt confident enough that there were major problems with the Rolling Stone account to link to Bradley’s critique from my iSteve blog at the Unz Review.

That opened the floodgates. Comments finally poured in to Bradley’s blog. And on the first two days of December, numerous well-known publications weighed in with skeptical assessments based on Bradley’s analysis: Robby Soave at Reason, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner, Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, Judith Shulevitz at The New Republic, Jonah Goldberg at the Los Angeles Times, and Erik Wemple at the Washington Post.r.

Read the whole thing there.

The reality turned out to be even more preposterous than I had imagined: As T. Rees Shapiro revealed in the Washington Post on December 10, a week later, Jackie had catfished “Drew” (whom CNN later discovered she called “Haven Monahan”) into pseudo-existence before the night of the purported rape to make a boy she liked named Ryan jealous and fall in love with her.

Here’s my December 17th article in Taki’s, “Clusterfake,” listing all the New York Times articles that took this self-evidently absurd fraud seriously.

 
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  1. Victory lap time. I like it.

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  2. I would say of all the commentators on the UVA situation you are the one best situated for a long form treatment. Richard Bradley gets credit for being the first to register his doubts, but you were the first one to try and put it into a wider context of confabulation.

    If/when someone does a long form version — not long form journalism, like the CJR report, we don’t need another, “When Sabrina Rubin Erdeley sat down with her laptop and opened her email, she found that she had broken a fingernail …..” — we would need the following:

    1. A brief but not excessively learned intro.
    2. A simple narrative of every agreed upon fact from freshman orientation in 2012 until April 2015 as it verifiably emerged in documentary sources: the meeting with the Dean in spring 2013, the meeting about the bottle in spring 2014, SRE’s research, Emily Renda’s appearances and references, then the emergence of contradictory facts, etc.
    3. A reconstitution of the narrative in strict chronology, from freshman orientation onwards.
    4. An analysis of 3, which at that point would allow some pretty heavy judgments against Jackie, SRE, RS, and so on.

    If I ran a website and had the money available I would definitely commission such a treatment.

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  3. Steve, I salute you. It is difficult to imagine the UVA hoax would end this way without your courageous work. Well done.

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  4. Who went to jail over this?

    Why aren’t you as obsessed over this?

    http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/03/glenn_ford_exonerated_after_30.html

    Or this?

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/us/alabama-death-row-inmate/

    You’ll be screaming about this for the next 5 years. You are obsessed over a hoax, while you coulnd’t care less over real injustices.

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    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    Sounds like the guy was wrongfully imprisoned, and is now being released. That's good, I'm happy for him, but it isn't really news.

    On the other hand, a sexual assault hoax that has become "the hoax that dare not speak its name" because the minds of our national media are themselves imprisoned by their beliefs and assumptions is a far deeper, and far more pervasive, issue.
    , @27 year old
    i'll be honest, i don't care about injustices that happen to blacks. happy?
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  5. There is one more point I want to make about the treatment of the UVA story, now that we finally “have closure”.

    That is, this is one of the more extraordinary hoaxes I can recall, in the sense that by now it should be clear to everyone that Jackie’s narrative was indeed made out of whole cloth, and yet no one seems willing to say so in public (except here.)

    This is like everyone is in Kindergarten, and the media (as the adults) have all agreed that they are going to continue to pretend that Santa Claus really exists. How cute. How adorable.

    I am waiting for the NYT editorial, “Yes, America, there is a Haven Monahan”, with the continuation, “Not believe in Haven Monahan! You might as well not believe in sexual assault.”

    What makes this even more creepy is that all of the emerging evidence concerning Jackie suggests that she is in fact not only mendacious and manipulative, but even dangerous.

    I cannot think of any hoax that was so thoroughly repudiated and yet nobody (excepting the people hereabouts) seems willing to speak the truth about this matter. This is a weird taboo; one that really should be overcome.

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    • Replies: @Desiderius

    I cannot think of any hoax that was so thoroughly repudiated and yet nobody (excepting the people hereabouts) seems willing to speak the truth about this matter. This is a weird taboo; one that really should be overcome.
     
    Well, we've been here before (rape hysteria where no word against a woman's honor is to be tolerated). As is usual with history, lessons from last time this happened can provide perspective. This sort of thing isn't exactly a spontaneous emergent phenomenon. Who is being stirred up against whom this time?
    , @Irish Savant
    The real truth of the matter has still not come out.

    http://irishsavant.blogspot.ie/2015/04/the-elephant-gets-ignored-again.html
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  6. Steve should start handing out an annual award for journos who get caught peddling SJW lies. The more outlandish and life-destroying the lies are, the more deserving the recipient, of course. He can call it the Sabrina.

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  7. I would be willing to bet that Erdely has read a book containing another famous rape (hoax) perpetrated with a bottle: “The Painted Bird”, by the eminent , late, bullshitter, Jerzy Kosinski.

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  8. @WhatEvvs
    Who went to jail over this?

    Why aren't you as obsessed over this?

    http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/03/glenn_ford_exonerated_after_30.html

    Or this?

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/us/alabama-death-row-inmate/

    You'll be screaming about this for the next 5 years. You are obsessed over a hoax, while you coulnd't care less over real injustices.

    Sounds like the guy was wrongfully imprisoned, and is now being released. That’s good, I’m happy for him, but it isn’t really news.

    On the other hand, a sexual assault hoax that has become “the hoax that dare not speak its name” because the minds of our national media are themselves imprisoned by their beliefs and assumptions is a far deeper, and far more pervasive, issue.

    Read More
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  9. Manti Teo still got away with his hoax. He and his
    buddy made up the fake girlfriend from day 1. But ask anyone and they say he was catfished.

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  10. PMan, formerly Udolpho, nee Nancyboy, wrote an entertaining takedown all the back on November 20. He should be given some credit.

    NSFW

    http://mpcdot.com/forums/topic/8194-rapes-that-didnt-happen-dot-txt/

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    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    That's a great link, very funny, and furthermore, it links to another board where others expressed their doubts from the beginning. Personally, I didn't pay any attention to the case until Thanksgiving weekend, when a friend alerted me to the issue, via Richard Bradley. So I started reading and knew it was wrong almost immediately (probably like everyone else here.)

    But there is a difference: Steve stuck his neck out, in public (as did Richard). They really had something to lose. For that they deserve all of the plaudits they will never get.

    At the same time, somebody has to talk about this case as it was, I mean, as a hoax. Otherwise you are actually going to have a lot of people out there who can't figure out why, if this case is a hoax, no one is calling it one.
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  11. Rolling Stone learned its lesson for sure. For the next rape hoax, have the victim work our her story with a room full of movie screenplay writers and a continuity editor.

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    • Replies: @black sea
    Tennessee Williams had this turf covered back in the 40s:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-YgYFve18s
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  12. @timothy
    PMan, formerly Udolpho, nee Nancyboy, wrote an entertaining takedown all the back on November 20. He should be given some credit.

    NSFW

    http://mpcdot.com/forums/topic/8194-rapes-that-didnt-happen-dot-txt/

    That’s a great link, very funny, and furthermore, it links to another board where others expressed their doubts from the beginning. Personally, I didn’t pay any attention to the case until Thanksgiving weekend, when a friend alerted me to the issue, via Richard Bradley. So I started reading and knew it was wrong almost immediately (probably like everyone else here.)

    But there is a difference: Steve stuck his neck out, in public (as did Richard). They really had something to lose. For that they deserve all of the plaudits they will never get.

    At the same time, somebody has to talk about this case as it was, I mean, as a hoax. Otherwise you are actually going to have a lot of people out there who can’t figure out why, if this case is a hoax, no one is calling it one.

    Read More
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  13. @SPMoore8
    There is one more point I want to make about the treatment of the UVA story, now that we finally "have closure".

    That is, this is one of the more extraordinary hoaxes I can recall, in the sense that by now it should be clear to everyone that Jackie's narrative was indeed made out of whole cloth, and yet no one seems willing to say so in public (except here.)

    This is like everyone is in Kindergarten, and the media (as the adults) have all agreed that they are going to continue to pretend that Santa Claus really exists. How cute. How adorable.

    I am waiting for the NYT editorial, "Yes, America, there is a Haven Monahan", with the continuation, "Not believe in Haven Monahan! You might as well not believe in sexual assault."

    What makes this even more creepy is that all of the emerging evidence concerning Jackie suggests that she is in fact not only mendacious and manipulative, but even dangerous.

    I cannot think of any hoax that was so thoroughly repudiated and yet nobody (excepting the people hereabouts) seems willing to speak the truth about this matter. This is a weird taboo; one that really should be overcome.

    I cannot think of any hoax that was so thoroughly repudiated and yet nobody (excepting the people hereabouts) seems willing to speak the truth about this matter. This is a weird taboo; one that really should be overcome.

    Well, we’ve been here before (rape hysteria where no word against a woman’s honor is to be tolerated). As is usual with history, lessons from last time this happened can provide perspective. This sort of thing isn’t exactly a spontaneous emergent phenomenon. Who is being stirred up against whom this time?

    Read More
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  14. Ms. Renda has her fingerprints all over this story. Yet no one has dared call her out on this. Except the Washington Post.

    Giving the Post a big journalism award would be not only appropriate — sense they actually did a hell of a lot of real work, and were the turning point in the main stream media — but it would reinforce the fact that this was a hoax.

    Also .. frat boys drink their beer in large plastic cups from kegs. I have never seen anything else in public.

    Broken glass is simply not part of the scene.

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  15. @JimB
    Rolling Stone learned its lesson for sure. For the next rape hoax, have the victim work our her story with a room full of movie screenplay writers and a continuity editor.

    Tennessee Williams had this turf covered back in the 40s:

    Read More
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  16. @WhatEvvs
    Who went to jail over this?

    Why aren't you as obsessed over this?

    http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/03/glenn_ford_exonerated_after_30.html

    Or this?

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/us/alabama-death-row-inmate/

    You'll be screaming about this for the next 5 years. You are obsessed over a hoax, while you coulnd't care less over real injustices.

    i’ll be honest, i don’t care about injustices that happen to blacks. happy?

    Read More
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  17. 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

    Jackie is like the Helena Bonham Carter character in Fight Club, going to the support clubs for diseases she doesn’t have.

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  18. […] See here, here and here. […]

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  19. Read More
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  20. Steve, you deserve great credit for your work on this scandal. But sadly you (like everyone else) turn a Nelson Eye to the elephant in the room.

    http://irishsavant.blogspot.ie/2015/04/the-elephant-gets-ignored-again.html

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  21. @SPMoore8
    There is one more point I want to make about the treatment of the UVA story, now that we finally "have closure".

    That is, this is one of the more extraordinary hoaxes I can recall, in the sense that by now it should be clear to everyone that Jackie's narrative was indeed made out of whole cloth, and yet no one seems willing to say so in public (except here.)

    This is like everyone is in Kindergarten, and the media (as the adults) have all agreed that they are going to continue to pretend that Santa Claus really exists. How cute. How adorable.

    I am waiting for the NYT editorial, "Yes, America, there is a Haven Monahan", with the continuation, "Not believe in Haven Monahan! You might as well not believe in sexual assault."

    What makes this even more creepy is that all of the emerging evidence concerning Jackie suggests that she is in fact not only mendacious and manipulative, but even dangerous.

    I cannot think of any hoax that was so thoroughly repudiated and yet nobody (excepting the people hereabouts) seems willing to speak the truth about this matter. This is a weird taboo; one that really should be overcome.

    The real truth of the matter has still not come out.

    http://irishsavant.blogspot.ie/2015/04/the-elephant-gets-ignored-again.html

    Read More
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