By now it's clear that the brutal gang rape reported last November in Rolling Stone did not occur. I write that, knowing full well the backlash I could receive from not adding the caveat that something could still have happened to Jackie, the accuser in the story.
Activists have clung to the idea that something probably did happen to make a young woman tell a tale of a brutal gang rape and become a campus activist to keep the hoax claims isolated to a small subset. These same activists bent over backwards following the Charlottesville Police press conference last week to claim that Jackie probably wasn't lying, because such a false accusation "flies in the face of statistics," as one CNN panelist said. Of course, the statistic that only 2 percent of reported rapes are false – doubtful anyway – only applies to rapes actually reported to police, which this one was not.
But in any event, the faint possibility that Jackie may have suffered some other horrific event is not the reason this story will not be labeled a hoax by activists or most in the mainstream media.
No, the reason it will not be labeled a hoax comes from an anonymous McGill University student, using the pseudonym Aurora Dagny, who wrote last year that dogmatism is in part to blame for activists' refusal to accept evidence contrary to their worldview.
"One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs," Dagny wrote. "If someone does question those beliefs, they're not just being stupid or even depraved, they're actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity."
Because the activists behind the Rolling Stone story hold a "sacred belief" that thousands, perhaps even millions, of college students are sexually assaulted each year, any evidence to the contrary is seen as detrimental to the cause.
It's why Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was able to continue calling Jackie a "victim" of a crime for which there is no proof. It's why the University of Virginia's president, Teresa Sullivan, and those responsible for vandalizing the fraternity named in the Rolling Stone article have not had to apologize for their rush to judgment.
And it's why Jackie won't have to answer for the money and time spent by the police investigating her false accusation. "In a sane environment, she would face disciplinary charges and perhaps mandatory counseling," Cathy Young wrote at RealClearPolitics.
"In a climate where saying that a woman is lying about rape is tantamount to 'victim-blaming' and 'rape culture' — and where some of Jackie's fellow students say that even if her story 'wasn't completely true,' it helped bring attention to important issues — she is likely to remain mired in self-destructive false victimhood."
The refusal to call the episode the hoax it is might be good for activists who can't handle the questioning of the doctrine that rape accusers must never be questioned, even when their story sounds too fantastical. But it is not good for real victims, the falsely accused or even the false accusers themselves.