The Rolling Stone college rape campus piece is already a complicated mess. The alleged rape victim, however, has to contend with another aspect of media and platform.
As Isha Aran notes:
Charles C. Johnson, a former Daily Caller writer and founder of GotNews (a conservative site rife with racist and Islamophobic content parading as “Independent, Unbiased & Unafraid”) has claimed that multiple sources have confirmed to him the identity of “Jackie,” the woman whose alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia was recounted in the Rolling Stone piece “A Rape on Campus.”
What, then, is the ethical response? (Emphasis mine.)
in an absolutely disgusting move, Johnson has published her name, or what he thinks her name is.
The details of the original case are already being heavily scrutinised, there is a lot of clarity still required; given the lack of clarity, how can Johnson release details? What purpose does releasing the name of a woman serve? Further, why not, as a media person, focus on the actual media space – Rolling Stone – that is central to this confusion? Even then, you’d have to engage in very specific, complicated arguments with some sensitivity to rape survivors and the climate itself.
This seems to be nothing but another reason to shame women, fueled by the the MRA fantasy of women crying rape at every opportunity. This is unethical journalism and is vile. Such a focus must be considered in an environment that regularly disbelieves rape survivors; that punishes them for silence and for speaking out. Indeed, such a move isn’t merely about the woman he wishes to reveal, but many others who will see – and know – that this is the price for speaking out.
Of course we should care about allegations that turn out to be false – but even to this, Johnson is doing damage. Even if Johnson was correct, there is nothing ethical in his response. You don’t get moral immunity, even if you’re fighting for a moral cause. What makes a cause moral isn’t merely its stated ideals, but how we promote, communicate and defend it.
And releasing the name of a woman online to people who already dislike women can’t possibly have good consequences. This is the Internet, after all.
This is a failing of using one’s platform and media information; there are complicated moral issues involved in targeting people with your platform. And I see no reason anyone should support Johnson’s disgusting move.
The Washington Post‘s Terrence McCoy asked Johnson what his endgame is, specifically when it comes to outing “Jackie”.
So what’s the end game? What does he hope to achieve from publicly shaming a young woman he claims to be Jackie? Who would that benefit? Johnson has an immediate answer.
He wants revenge for what he perceives to be a rupture in the public trust, inflicted by writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article. “I want [Rolling Stone Managing Editor] Will Dana to resign. I want the people who control Rolling Stone to go over all of Sabrina’s stories. And I want Jackie to get psychological help. I want all the fraternities, suspended under these dubious stories, to be reinstated.” Then, because why not: “I want the [University of Virginia] president to resign. I would like some truth.”
And he intends to get it.
Yes, I’m sure the only and most moral way to achieve these lofty goals is to reveal the identity of a young woman at the centre of an alleged rape.