The Year of the Narrative, True or NotPosted: December 30, 2014
Christian Schneider writes: When Mark Twain gave one of his fantastical lectures, he was keenly aware that many in the audience didn’t believe his wild stories. He bragged that his long speeches contained many facts, but that he “expected everybody to discount those facts 95%.” Nonetheless, he maintained, “all through my life, my facts have had a substratum of truth.”
The year 2014 was a year in which the truth lay beneath the surface, not in facts, but in “narrative.” It was a year in which political activists frequently relied on the Italian maxim, “se non e’ vero, e’ ben trovato” — while it may not be true, it is well-founded.
Perhaps the most prevalent narrative of the year was found in a mere gesture. Following the August death of African-American teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer, protesters adopted the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture, adopting the narrative that Brown was attempting to surrender when he was shot. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that Brown attacked officer Darren Wilson in his squad car, then charged at Wilson in a second altercation before Wilson shot Brown to death.
Nonetheless, narrative trumped facts, and looters set Ferguson ablaze on the night the grand jury announced its decision to not charge Wilson with Brown’s murder. Even after all the forensics and testimony were made available, the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture lived on in protests around the country. In essence, “hands up, don’t shoot” became a stand-in for African-American distrust of police departments around the country; distrust intensified by the officer-instigated deaths of Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee.
Yet poor areas weren’t the only place where the wish became the father of the facts. On college campuses, feminists pushed the “rape culture” narrative, trying to convince Americans that sexual assault on elite campuses was more prevalent than in violent Third World nations. President Barack Obama himself cited an extremely wobbly statistic that claims 20% of women on campus are victims of sexual assault; near the end of the year, the U.S Department of Justice reported that the number was more like 0.6%, and women were actually safer on college campuses than in society at large.
But the need for the campus rape narrative to be true was so intense that journalistic standards sometimes placed a distant second. In November, Rolling Stone published a widely praised article that claimed a grisly gang rape took place at a University of Virginia fraternity, causing the university to shut down all fraternity activity on campus. Soon, the story unraveled….(read more)
- Rolling Stone’s U-Va. story: What about the other two alleged gang rapes? (washingtonpost.com)
- ‘Gentlemanly’ nonsense from frat at center of U-Va. sexual assault controversy (washingtonpost.com)
- Teachers Union President Reveals: Someone Tried To Rape Me In College (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- The ‘Rape Culture’ Moral Panic is a Threat to Liberty (everyjoe.com)
- Frats Will Go Back to Partying at UVa in January (gawker.com)
- Rolling Stone backtracks on campus rape story (cbsnews.com)
- Harrop: Make public identities of rape accusers (columbian.com)
- GENE LYONS: Claims of increase in campus rapes are exaggerated (pottsmerc.com)