DC Trawler

Rolling Stone’s UVA Rape Hoax: Why Don’t We Know Jackie’s Last Name?

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Long story short: On the evening of Easter Sunday, Rolling Stone retracted Sabrina Erdely’s 9,000-word, single-sourced article about a fraternity gang-rape at the University of Virginia. Erdely apologized to everyone affected by the lie, except for the actual victims. All involved in the publication of the lie will keep their jobs.

The single source of the false story is a UVA student known only as Jackie. The Columbia Journalism Review has done a meticulously thorough investigation of this trainwreck, exposing Rolling Stone’s bias, groupthink, shoddy journalism, stupidity, and galactic self-delusion. But at no point does CJR identify Jackie, or even question the idea that she should remain anonymous.


As Robby Soave of Reason magazine notes:

Given all the (entirely fair) criticism Erdely has taken for failing to vet the story, I was most struck by the undeniable fact that the author actually did press Jackie for key details about the identities of the perpetrators. In this sense, she possessed at least some of the right impulses. She believed Jackie, but she knew she needed names in order to corroborate. The problems came when Jackie simply refused or dodged these key questions…

When Erdely told Jackie that she really did need to know the name of Jackie’s date (the lifeguard who supposedly masterminded the attack), Jackie stopped answering her phone calls and texts for about two weeks. Eventually, Erdely left Jackie another voicemail in which the writer agreed to stop trying to contact the lifeguard and instead use a pseudonym, Drew. After that, Jackie magically reappeared, calling Erdely back “quickly,” according to the report.

Jackie, in fact, displayed impressive levels of self-preservation and rational behavior—at least, from the perspective of a highly disturbed person whose goal was to spread an incredible lie without exposing it as such.

There’s plenty of blame to go around here, but Jackie [No last name given] isn’t an innocent bystander. She’s the perpetrator of this hoax. She lied, she went to great lengths to safeguard that lie, and she allowed it to go out to the whole world.

Now she’s being treated like a victim.

That’s the underlying assumption you’re going to see in most of the reporting about this: Yeah, this is pretty messed up, but we can’t blame this poor woman. She’s been so traumatized. Isn’t she the real victim?

No, she isn’t the real victim. She’s not a victim at all. She told a massive, cruel lie, and she’s hurt a lot of people.

She did this. She went out of her way to do this. She could have stopped it at any point in the process by simply telling the truth.

Concealing her identity isn’t doing anything to protect rape victims. It’s only protecting liars. And liars shouldn’t be protected, even if they lie about the type of frat bros you hate.

If there’s a good reason Jackie [No last name given] shouldn’t be held to account for her actions, I’m listening.

Update: Has Kirsten Gillibrand commented on this yet?