original article: Joyce Trebilcot Award Nominee
April 7, 2015 by Robert Stacy McCain
Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig (@ebruenig) “grew up in Dallas in a predictably right-wing household, and as a high school kid, had some pretty right-wing ‘opinions’ of my own that I parroted from my folks”:
Then, I volunteered to teach Sunday school to kindergarteners at my church. I became very troubled by the notion that I might unintentionally mislead them about the Bible due to my lack of firsthand knowledge (I’d only read the bits and pieces most people have) and so I committed myself to reading it on my own. I’ve heard this process turns some people into atheists; it turned me into a hardcore leftist.
Tip: Beware of young people who speak disrespectfully of their parents.
Yet who am I to judge Elizabeth Bruenig? My adolescence was spent in a noisy haze of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and whatever drugs I could get my hands on which, considering that my best friend was a dealer, was quite a lot. There was no Internet back then, however, so you’ll find no Facebook photos of my youthful antics, nor was it possible, circa 1976, for a long-haired teenage rock-and-roll hoodlum to “log on” and spew his precocious opinions out there for the entire world to share.
One suspects that the “right-wing” Stoker family of Arlington, Texas, is rather affluent, so that their daughter had the financial resources to attend Brandeis University (annual tuition $47,833) where she graduated in 2013 and was awarded a Marshall Scholarship. She went from conservative Methodism to dabbling in Quakerism to “social justice” Catholicism in a few short years and married Matt Bruenig, who writes for the progressive think tank Demos. Mr. Bruenig graduated summa cum laude from the University of Oklahoma and then went to Boston University Law School. He describes himself thus:
My writing is informed by a leftist political perspective that draws upon a diverse set of historical and contemporary leftist intellectuals. In particular, the various theories of egalitarian distributive justice that began with John Rawls have had the most influence on me.
Matt Bruenig probably never read Friedrich Hayek’s The Mirage of Social Justice, a thorough refutation of Rawlsian egalitarianism, but then again, when did any liberal ever read Hayek?
All of that, however, is just background I came across while trying to figure out, “Who the hell is this idiot Elizabeth Bruenig?” Her take on theRolling Stone UVA rape hoax raises this question:
Yes, there were an absurd number of mistakes in Rolling Stone’s journalistic method, but like most events ostensibly about ethics in journalism, the kernel of the controversy is about politics, not journalism.
The politics, of course, inform the journalism. For better or worse (almost certainly worse), rape is a contested political property, and campus rape is its pinnacle. During last year’s ballyhoo over California’s campus affirmative consent law, the contingencies for and against split down the aisle: The left and center-left supported it, while the right and far-right opposed it.
(We pause to note that, in Mrs. Bruenig’s political universe “the left” is a Guardian column by Jessica Valenti, “the center-left” is a Vox column by Ezra Klein, “the right” is a Reason column by Robert Carle and the “far right” is a Federalist column by . . . Robert Carle. So I guess Robert Carle is a spectrum all to himself. But never mind that . . .)
More importantly, similar political groupings tend to form around controversial cases. When Cathy Young reported skeptically on the case of Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia undergraduate whose mattress-hefting protest made national news, Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan called her out, and anti-feminist finger-waggers at the misleadingly titled American Thinker feted her insight. What accounts for the political polarization in rape journalism, which is presumably odious to everyone, regardless of political orientation?
(Here I’m going to intrude the simple answer to her question. What accounts for this “political polarization” is that feminists and their allies in the Democrat-Media Complex decided that pushing the “campus rape epidemic” hysteria would be a winning issue and, when it turned out that the actual facts about rape contradicted their narrative, they simply refused to quit. The Left’s stubborn insistence on “winning” this issue, despite having neither evidence nor logic on their side, accounts 100% for the aforesaid “polarization.” But now brace yourself for Mrs. Bruenig’s coup-de-main of feminist irrationality . . .)
The left tends to view oppression as something that operates within systems, sometimes in clearly identifiable structural biases, and other times in subtle but persistent ways. . . . Making sense of oppression, therefore, requires looking at entire systems of oppression, not just specific instances or behaviors.
The right, on the other hand, tends to understand politics on the individual level, which fits in neatly with a general obsession with the capital-i Individual. Thus, the right tends to pore over the specific details of high-profile cases like those of Trayvon Martin andMichael Brown, concluding that if those particular situations were embattled by complications or mitigating factors, then the phenomena they’re meant to represent must not be real either. And if a few highly publicized rapes turn out to be murkier than first represented, then rape itself is not a crisis, just a regrettable and rare anomaly. . . . It isn’t great reasoning, but it is very appealing on a sub-intellectual level.
Read the whole thing. This astounding claim — that an insistence on factsin journalism “isn’t great reasoning,” compounded with the insulting epithet “sub-intellectual” — has made this hitherto obscure young woman suddenly semi-notorious. Mrs. Bruenig has now made herself such an infamous fool as to deserve her own Twitchy article and even Instapundit felt the need to mock her. While it is not necessary to do a point-by-point rebuttal of her absurdity, let’s ask whether Mrs. Bruenig believes that female students at the University of Virginia (or at any other U.S. campus) are victims of a “system of oppression”? Is it not rather the case that university students in the United States are among the most fortunate and affluent people in the entire world?
As for whether the incidence of rape on college campuses is a “crisis,” I’ll quote my own American Spectator column from Monday:
Rolling Stone was grossly negligent, but this has been true of the entire profession of mainstream journalism in dealing with the claims made by feminists about the “rape epidemic” on America’s college and university campuses. These claims are as fictional as Jackie’s imaginary boyfriend “Haven Monahan.”
According to the Department of Justice, the incidence of sexual assault in the United States has declined significantly in the past two decades, down 64 percent from 1995 to 2010 and remaining stable at that lower rate. Feminists and their political allies, including both President Obama and Vice President Biden, have repeatedly claimed that 1-in-5 female college students are victims of sexual assault. However, according to DOJ statistics, “the actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or 0.61 percent (instead of 1-in-5, the real number is 0.03-in-5).” And, in fact, female college students are less likely to be raped than are females of the same age who don’t attend college. Feminists have fomented a fictitious crisis because, as Wendy McElroy has explained, “Political careers, administrative jobs, government grants, book and lecture contracts are just some of vast financial benefits that rest upon continuing the ‘rape culture’ crusade on campus.”
Every rape is a tragedy, but no one is arguing otherwise. What happened — the original cause of “the political polarization in rape journalism” that Mrs. Bruenig decries — is that feminists who craved money and power enlisted the assistance of Democrat politicians and liberal journalists to advance a deliberate deceit. They falsely asserted that there was an “epidemic” of sexual assault on U.S. campuses and employed “Statistical Voodoo and Elastic Definitions” (i.e., the bogus 1-in-5 statistic) as “evidence” of this non-existent epidemic. When the falsehood of these statistical claims were exposed, feminists doubled down, calling their critics “rape apologists.” Meanwhile, a number of cases came to light where male students were being denied their due process rights in campus disciplinary tribunals that found these students “responsible” for alleged sexual assault under circumstances where no criminal charge was ever made. Even a courtroom acquittal — a not-guilty verdict — was insufficient to protect male students from being expelled or suspended simply because they had been accused. In any “he-said/she-said” dispute, it seemed that the only thing that mattered was what she said. Despite what appeared to be a set of campus policies heavily tilted against any male student accused of sexual assault, however, feminists were claiming that the system wasn’t tilted far enough against males.
America’s university campuses were in the grip of a “rape culture,” we were told, and administrators were turning a blind eye to this horrific rampage of sexual violence. Anyone who expressed doubt about these extraordinary assertions was denounced as a “misogynist” and, at a time when this feminist campaign was being waged in increasingly strident language, Rolling Stone published Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s lurid tale of Jackie being brutally gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house.
These two things are related, you see. If you are a journalist trying to prove the existence of an “epidemic” that does not actually exist, it is not really an accident when the anecdote by which you “prove” your case turns out to be a hoax. Thus, I am nominating Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig for the inaugural Joyce Trebilcot Award for Bad Feminist Arguments.
This award is named in honor the late (and indisputably crazy) lesbian feminist, Professor Joyce Trebilcot. In addition to authoring the 1994 book Dyke Ideas and co-founding the department of Women’s Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Professor Trebilcot wrote the influential 1974 treatise “Sex Roles: The Argument From Nature,” a landmark work of lunatic feminism. Presuming to address the question of whether male/female sex roles are justified by “natural psychological differences between the sexes,” Professor Trebilcot in effect answered, “So what?” The question to be asked was not “what women and men naturally are, but what kind of society is morally justifiable,” Professor Trebilcot argued. “In order to answer this question, we must appeal to the notions of justice, equality, and liberty. It is these moral concepts, not the empirical issue of sex differences, which should have pride of place in the philosophical discussion of sex roles.”
To translate this into the simplest possible terms: “Facts be damned.”
A deliberate indifference to facts in service to a devotion to egalitarian theory is the philosophical foundation of feminist insanity.
Although I’m sure there will be many other deserving competitors for this year’s Joyce Trebilcot Award, Elizabeth Bruenig has made a strong early bid to capture this prestigious honor.
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