“Rolling Stone” readers want agitprop, not “journalism”
I have been following the ridiculous saga of Rolling Stone Magazine for the last several months. It started with a 9,000-word hit piece called “A Rape On Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle For Justice at UVA,” aimed at the Phi Kappa Psi (ΦΚΨ) fraternity chapter at the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia. The article was written mainly using a single source, “Jackie,” who claimed that under the leadership of a frat member she called “Drew,” she was gang-raped at a ΦΚΨ fraternity party in September 2012. After the article was published in November 2014, it was quickly fisked by numerous investigators on the Internet, until the magazine was forced to retract the story, admitting that the story “Jackie” had told was unverifiable at best, and contradicted by numerous witnesses at worst. The Charlottesville police department concluded that Jackie’s claims had “no substantive basis,” the frat showed that no such party had taken place, and “Drew” was never identified or located. Meanwhile, “Jackie” refused to cooperate with the magazine or police investigators after her story began to fall apart. A recently-released autopsy from the Columbia Journalism Review laid the blame at the feet of the magazine’s staff, who found the story of “rape culture” too good to ignore, too good to investigate, too good to verify.
Now the fraternity plans to sue, though the damage has been done – UVA administrators kicked the fraternity off campus for the semester and imposed strict requirements on future fraternity activities. Meanwhile, vandals attacked the frat house with spray paint graffiti, and threw bricks through its windows. Both the ΦΚΨ fraternity and the university’s reputations were damaged.
The magazine issued a non-apology, and said that none of the people involved, such as reporter Sabrina Erdely, editor Sean Woods, or managing editor Will Dana, would lose their jobs as a result. The magazine’s publisher, Jaan Wenner, blamed “Jackie” and her skills as a “really expert fabulist storyteller,” not the magazine staff’s failure to corroborate her claims (a basic tenet of journalism).
I don’t know why anyone is really surprised. Rolling Stone is a “pop culture” magazine, a tabloid that features stories mainly about music and movies and television shows. It’s not a news outlet, and it’s not noted for its “journalism.” Its readers are mainly college students. College students today only want their daily dose of leftist agitprop; they neither want nor expect investigative journalism with multiple sources, corroborated evidence, or opposing viewpoints. Rolling Stone knows its audience; an uncritical, unthinking audience that wants its communist pablum, its Two Minutes Hate. And that is what Rolling Stone gave them with its hit piece on the ΦΚΨ fraternity. The “narrative” about “rape culture” on college campuses is MUCH more important than any facts that disprove the narrative. Various leftists and feminazis even made such claims as investigators picked the magazine’s story apart, calling naysayers such names as “rape denialists.”
“Inquiring minds may want to know,” but intelligent minds don’t read Rolling Stone Magazine for facts or journalism; they go elsewhere. Weak minds read Rolling Stone for its propaganda. And it will continue to give them propaganda, because there is no punishment for propaganda gone awry, no repercussions for reputations damaged or lives destroyed. There’s only doubling down on the narrative, and a resumption of business as usual. And that’s what Rolling Stone‘s non-apology says in so many words.