Politics

Clusterfake

December 17, 2014

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Clusterfake

The Progressive crack-up of late 2014 began in early November: the voters rejected the Democrats’ “Coalition of the Fringes” campaign themes of Ferguson, feminism, and foreigners. It worsened with the shameful Michael Brown riots and the ludicrous fraternity gang rape libel, which has reached hilarious new heights over the last week.

As I’ve been pointing out for a decade, the Republicans do best among the married and content, while the Democrats prosper from the lonely and aggrieved. The candidacy in 2012 of the exotic “blank screen” Barack Obama had papered over the obvious cracks in the Democrats’ confederacy of the margins, an alliance united largely by resentment of core Americans, such as white-bread paterfamilias Mitt Romney.

The embarrassing events of recent weeks have reiterated another problem the Democrats face with trying to assemble peripheral people into a majority (beyond the obvious difficulties of reconciling the interests and values of, say, black church ladies and Wellesley College gender-queers). This fringe coalition is fragile in another sense as well: if the underlying engine of your politics is hate (as suggested by all these hate hoaxes that are the KKKrazy Glue of the Obama coalition), you are going to attract and excite a lot of psychologically fragile fringe personalities. And they tend to repel the normal and healthy.

“The Times tries to be the Mitt Romney of the coalition of the fringes: responsible, sober, buttoned-down. It takes seriously its role in setting the agenda for the rest of the press.”

The “social justice” brand appeals to the unhappy and unsettled. More than a few aren’t quite right in the head: the criminal, the paranoid, the fantasists, and those obsessed with obscure ancestral vendettas. By working so hard to lure in individuals motivated by their anger at cisgendered straight white males, the progressives wind up encouraging and highlighting borderline personalities, such as Michael Brown (a mentally stable 6’4”, 290-pound black teenager would have been spending August at football practice, not knocking over convenience stores) and the cast of crazies in the U. of Virginia gang rape hoax.

The spirit of the age appeals most to the most troubled spirits. Consider this week’s terrorism in Australia. Let’s not even talk about the Iranian cleric refugee/terrorist. Focus instead on the media’s chosen heroine of tolerance, Melbourne writer Tessa Kum, who has been praised worldwide for coining, even before the victims were dead, the Twitter hashtag #IllRideWithYou to raise awareness about shielding Muslims from a theorized bogan backlash.

It turns out, however, that Kum is motivated less by humanitarianism than by her hatred of white people, which she articulated on her blog last month in a ten-thousand-word racist screed:

To dismiss this as ‘online drama’ is an exercise of white privilege. …

I am not angry because I am struggling with mental illness.

I’m struggling with my mental illness because I am angry.

Having one does not invalidate the other. It is neither rhetoric nor melodrama to state that you, white person, are f****** with my depression. I hate you for that too.

The crack-up accelerated this fall with some undocumented shopping in memory of the late Michael Brown. Chaos in Democrat-run cities like St. Louis and Oakland does little to burnish the Democratic brand with voters. In Pat Buchanan’s recent memoir The Greatest Comeback, he recounts how at the Democratic Convention in August 1968 he and Norman Mailer stood together watching the liberal ruling party destroy itself as hippies battled Mayor Daley’s cops in the streets of Chicago. As part of the 1964 Democratic ticket, Hubert Humphrey had won 61.1 percent of the vote. In 1968, he earned only 42.7 percent.

The 2014 crack-up gathered more momentum over the last week as the U. of Virginia swindle cratered in humiliating fashion for the central wielder of the Megaphone, the New York Times. After obediently promoting the Obama Administration’s “rape culture” talking points, the Times was left dumbfounded when it turned out that handsome “Drew,” the organizer of the seven-man shattered glass initiation rite, doesn’t—to get all technical about it—exist.

Instead, Jackie had made him up, using phony text messages to induce jealousy in her let’s-just-be-friends friend “Randall.” (This is a variation on “catfishing.”)

The Washington Post broke this news a week ago by asking the three friends vilified in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Rubin Erdely for a look at their text messages. The Washington Times confirmed it this week by demonstrating that the texts received by “Randall” were sent via a spoofing website.

Is this the dumbest national media whoop-tee-doo ever: to be fooled for weeks by a silly, lovelorn teen’s machinations?

There has been some debate over who is to blame for what my commenter candid_observer aptly calls “Clusterfake:” Jackie, her fellow UVA rape activist Emily Renda, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, or Rolling Stone magazine?

But the most important question is not who ginned up this nonsensical hoax, but why was this hate-filled saga of the “night of broken glass” so widely believed? Let’s concentrate upon the behavior of the New York Times, the Newspaper of Record. The Times tries to be the Mitt Romney of the coalition of the fringes: responsible, sober, buttoned-down. It takes seriously its role in setting the agenda for the rest of the press.

But there are two mirror-image processes going on in the media in the Internet age:

First, there’s the projection of unstable new personalities to global attention such as Jackie and Tessa Kum. But what the Internet gives in terms of easy embellishment, it takes away in allowing anybody online to fact check.

Second, you have the destabilization of old-timers such as Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Nicholas Kristof, and David Carr as the narrative crumbles and their hold on the Megaphone is threatened.

search using the terms “Virginia rape fraternity” for the weeks following Rolling Stone’s publication of “A Rape on Campus” on November 19 reveals (leaving out “week in review” type rehashes):

Does the University of Virginia Have a Culture of Silence Around Sexual Assault?

Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat ...

By ANNA NORTH, NOVEMBER 21, 2014 

University of Virginia’s Image Suffers After Campus Rape Report

 “The fraternity culture has to change, but I don’t know how it would, because ...

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, NOV. 24, 2014

On November 24, veteran journalist Richard Bradley posted on his blog “Is the Rolling Stone story true?” and the next day I began adding comments. Not surprisingly, the Times paid no attention to this lonely outpost of skepticism:

University of Virginia Officials Vow to Combat Campus Rape Problem

The board that oversees the University of Virginia said it would come ... after a magazine article reported a gang rape at a campus fraternity and ...

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, NOV. 25, 2014 

Bill Cosby, UVA and Rape

The revelation of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity by Rolling Stone underscores how thin our veneer of civilization ...

By NICHOLAS KRISTOF, Nov. 26, 2014

On November 29, I posted a link to Bradley’s piece on my iSteve blog at the Unz Review. Comments finally began to roll in to Bradley’s Shots in the Dark blog. The Times, however, carried on as before: 

Princeton Eating Club Ousts 2 Officers Over Emails Ridiculing Women

A report in Rolling Stone about a fraternity gang rape has roiled the University of Virginia, which suspended all fraternity and sorority activity ...

By ARIEL KAMINER - Dec. 1, 2014

On December 1, Bradley-based critiques began appearing in Reason, the Wall Street Journal, and other sites, but the Times continued to run with the narrative:

Reporting Sexual Assault Is Difficult, but a New Technology May Help

... is shared awareness of the numerous rape allegations against him, ... A protest outside a fraternity house at the University of Virginia last ...

Dec. 2, 2014 - By BRENDAN NYHAN  

Gillibrand Seeks Another Vote on Military’s Handling of Sexual ...

With several high-profile assault and rape cases dominating the ... men had raped her at a fraternity at the University of Virginia, which was ...

Dec. 2, 2014 - By JEREMY W. PETERS and EMMARIE HUETTEMAN 

A Pox on Campus Life

The University of Virginia has temporarily suspended its fraternities ... social events until the end of 2015 — also because of rape accusations.

Dec. 2, 2014 - By FRANK BRUNI

Finally, on December 2, the Times ran a small, soft-hitting article noting that questions had emerged:

Magazine’s Account of Gang Rape on Virginia Campus Comes ...

The article began with one woman’s description of a violent rape in 2012 by seven members of a Virginia fraternity, complete with vivid and ...

Dec. 2, 2014 - By RAVI SOMAIYA

But two days later it was back to banging the drum:

Widening Spotlight on Assault of Women

While protests of the so-called rape culture on college campuses have ... The University of Virginia has suspended its fraternity activities until ...

Dec. 4, 2014 - By JENNIFER STEINHAUER

On December 5, Rolling Stone announced it had put too much trust in Jackie, and the Times had to backpedal:

Rolling Stone Cites Doubts on Its Story of University of Virginia Rape ...

The magazine acknowledged “discrepancies” in an article that described a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

Dec. 5, 2014 - By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA and RAVI SOMAIYA

But then on December 10, the hometown Washington Post unleashed its bombshell demonstrating (although without having the courage to state it explicitly) that this was all a hoax based on Jackie’s ridiculous catfishing scam.

The Times responded by going silent. Finally, on December 14, the Times’ media columnist David Carr penned a diatribe, “Sowing Mayhem, One Click at a Time,” screeching at a 26-year-old conservative blogger named Charles C. Johnson who had become tangentially involved in the RaperGate story. Carr, a recovering crackhead whose 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun details his cocaine addiction, ended his Times column about Johnson with this remarkable howl of rage:

What they will find is a clear look into the molten core of a certain mind-set, a place where conspiracies are legion, victims are portrayed as perpetrators and so-called news is a fig leaf on a far darker art.

“A far darker art?” What the hell?

Win, and a multitude of weaknesses will go unnoticed.

Lose, and out comes the crazy.

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