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OPINION

Can The Left Come Up With One True Story?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Yesterday, up on the stair,

I saw a rape that wasn't there,

It wasn't there again today!

Oh why, oh why did it go away ...

From the Duke lacrosse team, the Columbia mattress girl and the University of Virginia, the left has not been able to produce one actual rape on a college campus. It's beginning to look as if the rape of the Sabine women never happened, either. Someone's going to have to go back and investigate.

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The big finale to the latest college rape fable, Rolling Stone's whimsical "A Rape on Campus," about a fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia that never happened, is the Columbia Journalism Review's "investigation" of the story, released Sunday night. It's more of a house of mirrors than a finale, inasmuch as CJR's report is so preposterous that it demands its own investigation.

The CJR treats "reporting" as if it is some sort of learned craft, requiring years of study, as opposed to basic common sense. For example, if someone has an incredible story that he's dying for you to publicize, but loses interest every time you try to confirm any of the facts, a normal person would say: Oh, that's because it's probably a lie.

Without even knowing that the rape accuser, "Jackie," had refused to let Rolling Stone check the most basic elements of her narrative, every human being who read Sabrina Rubin Erdely's piece knew it was nonsense by around the second paragraph. It was like a Lifetime TV version of a fraternity rape.

The Washington Post knew. Slate magazine knew. Much-maligned journalist Richard Bradley knew.

But the CJR diligently ticks off Rolling Stone's failures to follow the "essential practices of reporting," including "editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking." Rolling Stone's Reporter of the Year, Erdely told CJR, "I wish somebody had pushed me harder." Her managing editor, Will Dana, admitted that he should have "pull(ed) the strings a little harder ... question(ed) things a little more deeply."

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Yes, maybe the editors were just not pushing hard enough.

It's as if a doctor attacked his patient with an ax, and the Columbia Medical Review responded with a forensic report concluding that the procedure failed to follow clinical protocols on hand hygiene, scrubs and restricted areas, while the doctor gallantly admitted that mistakes were made.

How about not allowing reporters to go off on politically driven crusades against liberal hate-objects, like fraternities, the military and athletes? How about not basing entire stories on the uncorroborated dream sequences of fantasists?

The false rape accuser, Jackie, had been trying to get the attention of a guy she liked by inventing a fake boyfriend. His name was "Haven Monahan." Wouldn't a person in his right mind drop the story right there?

Jackie had developed a whole online presence for her imaginary boyfriend, using the photo of some guy from her high school who had never spoken to her, and creating a fictitious text message account for her nonexistent boyfriend, replete with dialogue lifted directly from the TV show "Dawson's Creek."

For these among other reasons, the entire world has known the truth about the Rolling Stone rape since about eight minutes after the story was published. The CJR's report was only necessary for The New York Times to find out the truth.

The report lamented that Rolling Stone's "journalistic failure" would encourage "the idea that many women invent rape allegations." To dispel this danger, the CJR quickly cited a handout from a Violence Against Women symposium alleging only 2 to 8 percent of rape claims are false. In fact, all serious studies of false rape claims put that figure at 27 to 40 percent.

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If the CJR followed its own recommendations of "fact-checking," they'd know that.

Erdely's editor, Sean Woods, bemoaned the "disservice" Rolling Stone's article had done to Jackie -- the woman who made up the story about being raped.

You know who else Rolling Stone's story kind of did a disservice to? I think, personally -- as long as we're ranking victims -- a very close second to the woman who lied about being raped, as well as all the unnamed college rape victims who might have their claims taken less seriously in the future, are THE INNOCENT FRATERNITY MEMBERS WHO WERE FALSELY ACCUSED OF A VIOLENT GANG RAPE.

The UVA fake rape is even worse than the Duke lacrosse team fake rape. The accused fraternity hadn't even courted danger by hiring a stripper. They were going about their lives, minding their own business, when, out of the blue, Rolling Stone, the president of their university, and a fiendish coed decided to accuse them of a monstrous crime.

If UVA's much vaunted "honor code" means anything, it ought to mean the permanent expulsion of a girl who was willing to ruin the lives of men she had never met by accusing them of gang-rape -- just to get the attention of a guy she liked.

To the contrary, even after this unprovoked attack on blameless UVA students, the associate dean of students, Nicole Eramo, said that college rape accusations required "balancing respect for the wishes of survivors while also providing for the safety of our communities."

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Again, isn't someone missing from all that delicate "balancing"? I'm thinking of: the men falsely accused of rape. Colleges might want to consider adopting a concept that's been around since the second century: "innocent until proved guilty."

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