In the press, complexities disappear: As we noted on Tuesday, we were struck by the way the New York Times described what happened that night.
In late September, Concepcion de Leon wrote the paper's profile of Chanel Miller's forthcoming book, Know My Name: A Memoir. What happened on the night in January 2015 when Miller was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner after a Stanford frat party?
In her profile of Miller's new book, de Leon offered this cleaned-up account:
DE LEON (9/23/19): On Jan. 17, 2015, Chanel Miller was seven months out of college and working at an educational technology start-up when she decided to accompany her younger sister to a Stanford fraternity party. She remembers going, having some drinks and, hours later, regaining consciousness in the hospital.Miller remembers "having some drinks!" That's what the New York Times said!
What happened in between she pieced together primarily from news reports...
For all we know, de Leon may have submitted a less bowdlerized account of the evening's events, only to have her copy adjusted by some unnamed editor who understands the tribal narrative involved in this unfortunate case. At any rate, that account in the glorious Times struck us as highly misleading.
In fact, assuming basic journalistic competence, that passage strikes us as deceptive. In fact, Miller had so many "drinks" that night that, by her own account, she was "blackout drunk" by roughly midnight.
According to an estimate offered by the prosecutor who charged Turner with sexual assault, Miller's blood alcohol content was 0.25 at the time of the assault—three times the so-called legal limit. At some point, she lost consciousness because she was so drunk.
There's nothing "wrong" with being drunk, even with being publicly drunk, although, as everyone knows, extreme levels of public drunkenness can lead to a wide array of very bad outcomes. For that reason, bartenders are expected to stop serving people of whatever age when they become excessively drunk.
As Stanford's president slept that night, the children overseeing a drunken frat party didn't perform such duties. They let a 19-year-old college freshman and a 22-year-old college graduate become extremely drunk, then head off into the night.
Within our scripted "liberal" tribe, such basic facts have been widely suppressed in discussions of this high-profile matter. By the time The New Yorker got hold of the topic, it seemed that alcohol had made no appearance, none at all, in the events of that night.
Alas! We currently live in the (journalistic) Age of the Novel—an era in which basic facts and logic will be disappeared to produce the kinds of morality tales which constitute the official knowledge of our nation's various tribes. That includes our hapless "liberal" tribe, which is committed to certain ways of approaching and describing destructive events of this particular type.
Miller was three times the legal limit that night. De Leon sanded that off with a silly representation in which Miller "remembers having some drinks."
Miller became unconscious because she was extremely drunk. De Leon's report left the question of cause and effect to the reader's imagination. In this way, the Times presented the type of cartoonized story which makes tribal hearts glad.
We were struck by the fact that the New York Timers didn't include two basic numbers in its news report. According to the prosecution's estimates, Miller would have blown a 0.25 that night. Turner would have blown a 0.171.
Each young person was very drunk as they were sent off into the night. Later, widely-respected Stanford authorities feigned shock and surprise, and expressed faux concern, about what happened next.
That pair of numbers didn't appear in the New York Times report. Nor did the numbers appear in Jennifer Weiner's glowing review of Miller's well-written book.
In each case, we were struck by the omission, but news reports and book reviews contain only so many words. When we read the fascinating book in question, a book of some 328 pages, we were struck by the fact that those basic numbers don't appear there either.
Don't get us wrong! In her book, Miller does convey the fact that she was blackout drunk on the deeply unfortunate night in question. That said, among her many skills as a writer, Miller possesses an inordinate amount of skill at couching certain types of facts inside a blizzard of misdirections and advertisements-for-self.
Have we ever read a major text whose author was so determined to consider no possible point of view other than her own? We're not sure, but this relentless shaping by Miller is one of the several qualities which make her book so fascinating.
Perhaps understandably, Miller seems determined to insist that nothing she did that night played any role to the events which ensued. Did it matter that she was so drunk that she blacked out, starting roughly at midnight, then later lapsed into unconsciouness? Did her extreme drunkenness play any role in what happened that night?
Miller is a very young person. Beyond that, she was the victim of what has plainly been a life-altering act of assault.
That said, her dismissiveness concerning her own drunkenness is one of the many remarkable features of a distraction-filled book. Below, for example, you see the way Miller starts Chapter 8, the chapter in which she describes some of her own time on the witness stand during Turner's trial.
"Tiffany" is Miller's sister—the sister who had to leave the drunken frat party to help another drunken friend find her way back to her dorm room. The italics are Miller's own:
MILLER (page 189): The trial would continue for the rest of the week, though I wasn't allowed inside the courtroom. I lived inside my strange parallel universe; all day I'd putter around aimlessly and at night I'd check coverage of the local news. On Tuesday, Tiffany finished her testimony and I asked my DA who was next. A blackout expert, she said. I waited a beat for her to tell me she was kidding. I wanted to say, I'm the real blackout expert am I right. The expert, Dr. Fromme, had been paid ten thousand dollars by Brock's side to testify. She claimed I could have been ready, willing and able to consent even if I could not remember it.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Based on her previous four or five blackouts while in college, Miller herself was the real blackout expert, not this absurd Dr. Fromme!
Fromme actually is an academic specialist on matters of blackout drinking. To peruse an intriguing Buzzfeed interview with Fromme, you can just click here.
At trial, Fromme introduced a basic distinction. As we noted yesterday, the fact that someone is "blackout drunk" doesn't mean that they're "unconscious," though that may come to pass later.
As we noted yesterday, people who are "blackout drunk" are up and walking around. They're saying and doing various things, none of which they'll recall.
They're making various decisions, some of which may be extremely unwise. After all, they're very drunk, though other people may not be able to discern this fact.
These basic, elementary facts create a logical problem. At trial, Turner testified that he and Miller left the frat party together, and that Miller consented to engage in sexual behavior once they got outside.
Did Miller voice some such consent? We have no way of knowing, but then again, neither does Miller! By her own account, she doesn't remember anything she said and did after roughly midnight that night, and the assault occurred at roughly 1 A.M.
Miller doesn't remember making some phone calls she plainly made that night. She doesn't remember leaving at least one voice message, a message she plainly left.
This doesn't mean she didn't make those calls and leave that voice message. It simply means she was blackout drunk when she did those things.
That said, Miller also doesn't remember anything about the way she exited the frat house that night. She doesn't remember anything she said to Turner. She doesn't remember anything either one of them said or did.
This creates the difficult type of situation which has increasingly appeared in high-profile campus cases involving allegations of sexual assault. In these cases, we've moved beyond the already difficult "he said/she said" dynamic to a different state of affairs, in which "he says/she can't remember."
In such cases, it's clear that sexual conduct has occurred. But the woman has no recollection of the way such conduct occurred.
At various points in her book, Miller seems to say, suggest and insist that she didn't voice any type of consent to Turner. That said, it's hard to know how she can possibly make such a claim since she acknowledges that she doesn't remember any of the events in question.
For this reason, we'd always been puzzled by the logic of the Turner jury's unanimous guilty verdict:
Turner said Miller voiced consent; Miller said she had no memory of the events in question. How does a jury convict the accused in a case like that? How does a prosecutor bring such a case to trial?
After the trial, one juror emerged to explain the logic of the jury's unanimous guilty verdict. We'd say that logic makes a type of perfect sense.
We'd also say that logic may be a bit strained, for a reason we haven't yet mentioned. But so is the quality of mercy, or so the bard once declared.
Turner says that Miller consented; Miller can't remember. Miller was extremely drunk, but Turner was very drunk too.
As we noted yesterday, people who are blackout drunk will sometimes end up having sex, perhaps with perfect strangers. By what logic did the jury convict in this terrible, horrible case?
Tomorrow, we'll describe that juror's logic. Also, we'll return to the conduct of the people who enabled this destructive event.
We think the juror's logic makes good sense, but then again it possibly doesn't. But of one thing you can be certain:
In this, The (ongoing) Age of The Novel, tribal sachems will shield you from the need to peruse these nagging complications. You'll be pleasured by the way these tribals keep it simple.
At the Times, you'll be told that Miller "remembers having some drinks." Soon, all reference to such complications will wholly disappear.
Tomorrow: When both young people are drunk...