Much has been made about the veracity of the UVA rape article printed in Rolling Stone magazine. Columbia School of Journalism even wrote a scathing report about the sheer incompetence of the reporter and editor in this case. CSJ is adamant that the actions in this case range from out-and-out lying to a refusal to follow the basic rules of journalistic integrity. However, the publisher of RS has already said that noone will be disciplined and noone will be fired.
So here we have adults, whose professional ethics depends upon their own veracity, who violated that oath. They elucidated a lack of moral integrity, thereby holding themselves and their employer up to national and international derision. Yet nothing will happen to them. They will pay no price. They will continue in their jobs. They will continue to write articles.
Now what do we do as parents?
One of the mainstays of parenting is to teach your child not to lie. Yes, lying takes on many different forms and has many different levels; from something rather simple as a child, to teenage hijinks, to adult absolute criminality:
There is the one where a child won't admit that they took an extra cookie.
There is the lie that they didn't surfed the Internet onto forbidden sites.
There is the lie that they were not the bully.
There is the lie that they didn't shoplift.
There is the lie that they did their homework.
There is the lie that they did well on a test.
There is the lie of cheating on a test.
There is the lie of plagiarizing someone else's work (Funny how pundits seem to get away with that one too).
There is the lie that they let others take an important test for them.
There is the lie that they don't do drugs.
There is the lie that they are not sexually active.
There is the lie of getting paid under the table.
There is the lie of not reporting all your income to the government.
There is the lie of saying the check is in the mail.
There is the lie of betraying your country.
...There are as many lies as there are people.
But the reality is that eventually there is some kind of punishment or consequence for a lie told. In life we should have moral and ethical boundaries. We, as parents, work very hard to try to teach our children that lying, whether you get caught or not, is wrong. And no, it is not simply a moral imperative as outlined by religion.
Lying, not telling the truth, is anathema to a working society. You can't lie your way through life and expect everything to function the way it needs to function for everyone, and everything, to be healthy both physically and mentally. Society in order to get things right, needs to know what is happening around it. Communities needs to know that people can count on one another. Communities function on the goodwill of its citizens. When the citizens feel it is OK to lie or cheat their way through life what you end up with is anarchy. And no, anarchy does not lead to a revamping of society. Anarchy leads to despotism, hatred and oppression. Review the downfall of any civilization from the Ancient World, to the Holy Roman Empire, to the Islamic Caliphate, to the colonialism of the European world, to the actions of fascists in the 20th century and today in the breakdown of numerous nation-states throughout the globe; and you will find that the society predicated on lying to one another in order to survive does not in fact survive. Society degenerates into barbarism. So yes, for us to be productive, for us to thrive, there are rights and wrongs in this world, if we want to have a healthy functioning society, whether schools agree or not.
And when a journalist, whose importance is so paramount to a functioning democratic society that their right to exist free of intrusion by the government is enshrined within the First Amendment to the US Constitution, does not follow through on facts, and falsely accuses someone of a heinous crime, that is a lie. This isn't a little ooppsiedaisy that they simply didn't go that one more step to find out the truth. Refusing to follow through on facts is an out-and-out boldface lie.
This is a narrative of destruction as witnessed by the outpouring of rightful condemnation, opprobrium and societal shunning that occurred, following the description of such a vile act. Whether the reporter knew and understood what she was unleashing is a question unanswered. However, she could not have been so naive as to think that society would allow such evil to go unnoticed and unpunished. She could not have thought that her skirting the truth, forgetting the facts, and pushing her narrative was more important despite who would get hurt. If she did then her lie was to harm, endanger and destroy the innocent in order to politicize her ideas and beliefs.
What this reporter did in this case was to ignore the truth for the purpose of a narrative. (It is important to note that I am not one to deny the reality of some form of rape culture in the US.) Her view and the editor's view of society trumped the truth. They did not care whom they hurt. They did not care whose life they put in jeopardy. They did not care about the fraternity without a doubt, but in reality they didn't care about the alleged victim either. For refusing to delve into the real facts, even the victim, whether she was attacked in some other form of terrible crime, or is simply a person with an untreated mental health issue, does not get the real help she needs. The journalist here, used this alleged victim for her own selfish purposes, rather then allowing the purpose to write itself.
We, in society, have seen over the years, many journalists push the righteousness of their narrative to the point that they forget that their raisin d'etre is the truth. When the journalist becomes the narrative then they have lost all perspective and they have lost their truth. Lying to benefit your truth is still a lie. Instead of acknowledging that the facts require reexamining your truth, some decide to rearrange the facts to fit their reality, not vice verse. And that is a lie.
Lies are untenable because they violate the contract we have with one another in society. People do want to know the truth. We may not like the truth, but it is important that we know it. We do not like it colored. We do not like it editorialized. We really don't care what journalists think beyond the facts.
Journalists hold a special place within our society. They used to be highly respected. We knew when they talked they talked from knowing, acknowledging and above all rooting out the truth. That cannot be said anymore about the media, journalists or the mainstream news outlets. It is almost as if journalists are at war with the society that they are supposed to support, educate and ensure. Journalists have little or no regard for the average citizen and have decided that they will shape the world as they see it. This is how a totalitarian news agency behaves, not the descendants of those who inherited a free society.
So journalists have brought this societal condemnation upon themselves. But worse than that is when they receive no consequences for their actions. How are we to teach our children not to lie, not to make up facts to suit their narrative, and not to skirt the real world, when they see adults suffer no consequences for their negative actions? What is society actually teaching our children? How do we ensure that our children will stay on the right path?
We know that we are not our children's only teachers. We may not like it, but that is a fact, and you cannot hide from that fact by homeschooling either. The world at large is out there and our culture has a grip upon our children that is unprecedented. So how do we teach our off springs that it is not OK to lie simply because you have a good cause?
When MrGS was a freshman in college, he took my credit card and charged money to a charity. He had decided that I had not donated enough money. He decided I was being unkind. He then went into my email and removed the acknowledgment of the amount. He thought that he had skirted being in trouble. He tried to hide what he had done. He did not know about bills and how we paid them at the time. So when I checked my bill on-line I saw an expenditure and asked about it. He did try to weasel his way out of it. But eventually owned up to it. The hubby was furious. MrGS admitted that he did try to hide it and that he didn't know about how a bill worked.
"You didn't know we got bills every month?"
"I hadn't paid attention."
"So you are not only a thief and a liar, "hubby said to him," but you are a stupid thief."
MrGS lost whatever money he had in his savings account. Never received allowance again. Had to work off the amount he still owed us by doing chores in the house. He also never was given a video game, gaming cards or anything that he considered "fun" without having earned it through chores or working again. It is called consequences. He also never lied for any reason, even a good one, again. (Remember that the powers-that-be in the professional-autism-world will tell you that your autistic children are not supposed to lie, or empathize with others....it would be nice if they really spent a week in our shoes wouldn't it?)
However, initially he really didn't understand how what he had done was bad in the long run since he was only giving to charity. He thought that even though he had lied, it atleast was for a good cause so he should have been given a pass. Self-righteously he continued to seek out allies.
"Taking what doesn't belong to you even if you have good intentions is still stealing," his aide told him when he tried to elicit her sympathy at the time. When he lost her, his champion, he knew he was wrong. He subsequently gave up trying to find someone to be on his side.
It is an interesting lesson he learned. His narrative was quashed. He couldn't weasel out of it. He didn't have anyone telling him, "since he had been good for years before, he would not have to pay a price." (Which is the excuse for not dismissing the reporter and editor from Rolling Stone.) He suffered consequences, which exist to this day.
Perhaps Rolling Stone needs to have a parent come down and take ahold of their reality for awhile. It might do them some good, set them on the right path again. Perhaps they also need a journalism guild to remind them just how lucky they are to live in the US and how free they are to report the news..... honestly. Their only obligation is to report the facts as they exist, not create facts to suit their personal agenda.
Sadly I fear, too many adolescents are watching this Rolling Stone saga and the lack of consequence in the adult world. Children may be expecting the same outcome when they lie, prevaricate or skirt the truth in the future as well, no matter who it hurts. This does not bode well for those who need support and for those who may be the victims of a modern day witch hunt. Moral ambiguity is not good for society. It is basic that truth is better than lies and liars are punished. Well it used to be anyway.