For collectivist crusaders, mythology is more useful than the truth

In response to Rolling Stone Editor Offers 2nd Apology Amid Intense Criticism:

What a season of journalistic meltdowns we’ve had!  From the grand jury demolition of Ferguson mythology, to the media’s bizarre obsession with the Facebook postings of an obscure Republican staffer, Lena Dunham’s rape claims fact-checked into oblivion, and now this Rolling Stone piece disintegrating… after a week of liberals furiously denouncing anyone who asked questions about the UVA fraternity-mauling story as a “rape apologist” who doesn’t understand “rape culture.”  

Some of them are still at it, insisting that the greater Narrative Truth is so important that it doesn’t matter whether the Rolling Stone story was a pile of badly-reported hooey or not.  Another of the many Washington Post articles on the UVA story, by Zerlina Maxwell, is entitled “No Matter What Jackie Said, We Should Generally Believe Rape Victims,” and the subhead asserts: “Incredulity hurts victims more than it hurts wrongly-accused perps.”  A more concise and explicit case for collectivist “justice” based on narratives that transcend physical reality could not be made.  Who cares if some people get slandered on the long march to Greater Truth?

Jonah Goldberg of National Review somehow became a lightning rod for such “all rape claims are true, even if they’re not” fury.  Before the Rolling Stone piece collapsed utterly, he wrote a column pointing out that some of the claims made in that piece stretched credulity, and even though he began his column with an extremely careful disclaimer – “I am not saying terrible things don’t happen.  I don’t think the author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, is deliberately fabricating facts, nor do I believe that all of her reporting is wrong” – he still got ripped to shreds in an op-ed published by one of the very same papers that ran his column, the L.A. Times.  He also suffered a bizarre, nonsensical Twitter attack from Sally Kohn: “Wow, I’m curious when you last demanded that reporting on a burglary be independently corroborated by other outlets?  Or a murder?”  (If you can downshift your brain into a low enough gear to grok Kohn’s point, she’s insinuating that it’s outrageous to ask for thorough investigation and careful fact-checking of a rape allegation – you’re supposed to accept them as true with no further questions asked, unless the accused is a powerful Democrat with good abortion credentials, like Bill Clinton.)

Now we’re backing into the post-debunking protective phase of this little kerfuffle, where the people who savagely attacked anyone who asked reasonable questions about the RS story begin wailing that we’d all better forget about the whole thing, immediately, or else we’ll do irreparable damage to rape victims and reinforce “rape culture.”  That’s a handy little tactic for those who beclowned themselves defending the story, isn’t it?  They don’t even have to wipe the egg off their faces, if they can persuade everyone that noticing those facial omelettes is a thought crime.  They demand full credit for the noble intentions behind their hideous errors.

Let’s be brutally honest: mythology is more useful to collectivist crusaders than the truth.  That’s one reason why these huge national protests about the allegedly racist killings of black men swirl around dubious cases – Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown most obviously, but even the Eric Garner case in New York is more complicated than conventional wisdom has it.  A dubious case is exceptionally useful not just because falsely asserted “facts” like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” can be molded like clay to fit political narratives, but because when people ask reasonable questions about what actually happened, the activists get even angrier.  Critics are goaded into pointing out that some aspects of a sanctified story don’t add up, and the activists pounce, savaging the naysayers as apologists for racism, police brutality, sexual assault, misogyny, and so forth.  An untrue story passionately believed by angry people is more useful for generating conflict than the simple truth.

This notion of collective “justice” – essentially holding all men guilty as presumed sexual predators, with a very limited ability to dispute even the most unsubstantiated and outlandish charges – is nothing new to the Left.  A great deal of leftist ideology is based on holding certain groups collectively accountable for historic crimes, whose statute of limitations supposedly runs generations into the future.  That’s how a white college kid whose parents immigrated from Sweden in the Eighties gets held accountable for the legacy of slavery in the United States, for example.  Vast centralized power is asserted in the name of correcting collective injustice, conveniently reducing the Left’s shakedown targets to helpless defendants whose every retaliatory utterance can be held as further proof of their guilt.  Oh, so you’d like to question some of the more incredible details in this UVA rape story, eh?  Prove you’re not a rape apologist who’s only making trouble because you hate women!  And don’t think you can get off the hook by asserting your fair-mindedness in one lousy paragraph at the beginning of your op-ed!

It’s a long-standing item on the Left’s agenda to make normal people feel abnormal, to make everyone feel like a criminal so they’ll accept the exercise of coercive power by the State.  Nearly every media narrative pushed by liberals imposes the accusation of collective guilt on a large number of people who never did anything wrong, or even harbored a malicious thought… although it’s worth noting that as soon as the crusade for collective “justice” barges into the realm of mind-reading the true intentions of people who did nothing harmful, we’re crossing the border into some very dangerous territory.  Meaningful communication with someone who claims they can read your mind and divine your “true” meaning is impossible.  What individual people do is important, and the true details are crucial.  This business of asserting Deeper Truth beyond the facts – in everything from cooked statistics to unverifiable horror stories – never ends well, because such assertions are the instruments of ideologies that know they can’t honestly sell themselves to willing buyers.