Jonah Goldberg should have known he would be painted as a rape apologistsighs Benny Huang,
when he refuted the oft-repeated “one in five” campus rape statistic. The National Review Online editor was locked in a Twitter debate with Matthew Dowd of ABC News, who posited, “[O]ne out of five college women are either raped or victims of attempted rape. thats [sic] a fact.”
Well, no. It isn’t a fact. That statistic has been proven, again and again, to be nothing more than a token of feminist mythology, similar to the claim that wife-beating spikes on Super Bowl Sunday. The Department of Justice’s most recent comprehensive study of rape on college campuses concludes that the number is actually .03-in-five, making Dowd’s claim roughly a thirty-three fold exaggeration.
The emotionalism that envelopes the topic of rape makes truth a commodity much less valued than concern for the victims, some of whom are genuine, and some of whom are false accusers. Ron Fournier of National Journal demonstrated this tendency to undervalue truth when he joined in the chiding of Goldberg, tweeting: “Jonah, you’re splitting statistical hairs to undermine an argument against …. rape. Let’s call it a day.”
Fournier begins by referring to the exaggeration of the problem by a factor of thirty-three as merely “splitting statistical hairs,” then makes clear that he thinks Goldberg a real heel for “undermining” an argument against rape. As if Goldberg has taken the pro-rape side of the argument! Could Goldberg be a rapist himself? Keep an eye on that fellow.
What we’ve learned from the UVA rape hoax is that a person’s opposition to sexual violence can be measured by the degree to which that person inflates rape statistics. Why then should anyone stop with the thoroughly discredited “one in five” stat? How about one in three? Four in five? One in one? If Fournier and Dowd can trot out a grossly exaggerated rape statistic then I can trot out an even more overblown one, thus rendering theirs a low-ball estimate. Who would minimize rape stats unless he was in fact a rapist sympathizer? Dowd and Fournier have some ‘splaining to do.
Some people don’t see any harm in a little hyperbole; or a lot, for that matter. They’re only telling noble lies, you see, intended to “raise awareness” about some issue that’s really, really important. How noble their lies are is very questionable, but they fact that they’re fibbing is not.
The end result of this kind of endless hyperbole is utter hysteria. Lives are ruined, freedom curtailed, and demagogues empowered when truth-challenged activists try to one-up each other with their alarmist claims. I, for one, am fed up with it. Lying for a good cause doesn’t mean that you care. It means you’re a liar.
Homeless advocates, for example, peddle some pretty suspicious facts. Mitch Snyder, the now deceased homeless advocate who made a name for himself in the 1980s with his rather overheated anti-Reagan rhetoric, liked to claim that there were three million homeless people in the United States. … The same Mitch Snyder later claimed that forty-five homeless people died every second, which would mean 1.4 billion dying every year.…
So Mitch Snyder’s numbers were a little off but his heart was in the right place. If you dispute his ridiculous statistics, yours isn’t. That’s how this game is played.
Environmentalists have their own catalogue of hair-on fire scare statistics and doomsday predictions. I recall my third grade teacher telling the class that the Amazon rainforest would be completely cleared in just twenty years and I believed her. Twenty-five years have gone by and that pesky Amazon still exists. I don’t blame my teacher. I’m sure someone passed that little factoid to her and she passed it along to us, believing it to be the truth.
… AIDS activists are just as alarmist in their rhetoric as environmentalists or homeless advocates. During the early days of the AIDS “crisis”—which was only really a crisis if you indulged an appetite for intravenous drug use of anal sex with men—the movement’s tactic seemed to be to scare the bejeesus out of white, suburban, heterosexual America. …
… In 1987, Oprah Winfrey had her own bogus “one in five” warning for America: “Research studies now project that one in five—listen to me, hard to believe—one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years. That’s by 1990. One in five. It is no longer a gay disease, believe me.”
Yes, it was hard to believe, as she put it. Because it wasn’t true.
Whether it’s projections of the number of “climate refugees” there will be in a few years or the number of young black men gunned down by racist cops, there’s always someone who will hype a problem with undue hysterics. The alarmists don’t seem to think they’re doing anything wrong. Perhaps it’s because their theatrics are usually rewarded with press accolades if not more tangible items. Consequently, we end up making bad policy based on unfounded fears and indefensible prejudices.