Hit & Run

Brendan O'Neill on Rape Culture and Suspending Disbelief



Now that Rolling Stone has retracted its University of Virginia gang-rape story—a piece of penny-dreadful writing dolled up as journalism —the hunt is on for the culprit in this fiasco. Who's to blame for the appearance of what seems to be a straight-up hoax in the pages of a once respectable magazine? "Jackie," the woman who claimed to have been gang-raped for hours by drunken frat boys yet who offered not so much as a smidgen of evidence to back up her tale? Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of this piece of fiction, who failed to execute the most basic of journalistic tasks, such as finding the alleged rapists and, err, talking to them? The editors at Rolling Stone, who gave the green light to such thin-gruel hackery? No doubt all these people have a lot of questions to answer. But, writes Brendan O'Neill, we also need to cast the net wider and think about the broader climate that could allow such a tall tale to appear in an esteemed publication.