Blasphemy conquers all: We saw a lot of funky work in the Washington Post this weekend.
That report about the Ferguson police was extremely muddled. Ruth Marcus wrote a column which disappeared large chunks of modern press history.
We were struck by this piece in Outlook, which described a misunderstanding on the Cape May ferry. Last April, something similar happened to us, with an adorable great niece of ours!
(We avoided having a nervous breakdown, since the other parties were trying to do the right thing. Increasingly though, the Post seems to enjoy nervous breakdowns, especially if someone ends up typing the magical R-bomb.)
That said, we saw an intriguing news report in Saturday’s Washington Post. It seems a blasphemy rampage broke out on last Tuesday’s Diane Rehm Show.
In this case, the rampage was triggered by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University. We wouldn’t have said what Trachtenberg said. But we wouldn’t have rampaged either.
We thought the news report was intriguing, but the transcript of Rehm’s program bumped things up a notch. This is the way the Post’s Nick Anderson summarized events:
ANDERSON (8/30/14): The former president of George Washington University—who declared this week that women should be "trained not to drink in excess" so they can "be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave”—said Friday that he did not mean to imply that drunk women should be blamed if they are raped.Question: Did any sane person actually think that Trachtenberg had said or implied that drunk women should be blamed if they are raped? People, we're just asking!
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg…drew criticism for comments he made Tuesday on "The Diane Rehm Show" on the WAMU (88.5 FM) radio station. The show, on the topic of fraternities and sororities, veered into a discussion of sexual misconduct on campus.
"Without making the victims . . . responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women," Trachtenberg said on the show. "They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much. And there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children on that—in that regard."
A few minutes later, another panelist on the show questioned Trachtenberg's remarks. Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for the Atlantic, said she wanted to "take a slight exception or maybe a real exception to what Dr. Trachtenberg is saying about how if young women are sober they have a better chance of protecting themselves from rape by being able to punch the guy in the nose. That's not a realistic strategy for protecting ourselves from rape."
“In ensuing days, many others raised objections to what Trachtenberg said,” Anderson wrote. Anderson quoted “furious” people who objected to Trachtenberg’s remarks.
For ourselves, we wouldn’t have said what Trachtenberg said, for several different reasons. That said, we were a bit surprised by what we found when we reviewed the Rehm transcript.
We were especially puzzled by Flanagan’s exquisite indignation, which she displayed at several points in the program. We were puzzled because the discussion in question started, early on, when Flanagan offered these thoughts about the dangerous tie between alcohol and sexual assault at fraternities:
FLANAGAN (8/26/14): When kids are young men, you know, just out of high school—they're still finding themselves, they've maybe made some mistakes in high school and they're just still figuring out who they are—they can very well end up in a fraternity where things are really, where there is a lot of hazing, where there is extreme alcohol abuse, where there is a strong correlation of young men getting involved in the sexual-assault epidemic. And so fraternities, for a young man who's just as we expect freshmen to be in college—a little open minded, maybe a little naïve, maybe a little eager to sort of experience all that college offers—it can increase the level of danger that he's going to experience and maybe even participate in. So it can be a very mixed bag.In this early exchange, Flanagan introduced the topic of sexual assault. Using appropriate, highly charged language, she discussed the correlation between heavy drinking and sexual assault in fraternities.
REHM: Is the same true of sororities?
FLANAGAN: You know, the big difference with sorority life is that, in sororities, you're not allowed to have alcohol in the house. Now, girls get around that all the time. But they don't throw the big, open parties that fraternities are known for throwing. And they're not known to be able to provide, you know, alcohol experiences. And so you don't have that intensity of dangerous activity, which congregates around heavy drinking.
And one of the authorities I spoke to in the piece, and Pete may disagree with this, but one authority says that, in his opinion, fraternities outside of the family are the single largest provider of alcohol to underage drinkers in the country. That there's an incredible accretion of that incredible deep, heavy alcohol consumption in the fraternity house in a mixed-gender situation, and that can be a real powder keg.
The next person to speak, Andrew Lohse, advanced this theme. After discussing “extreme binge drinking” at fraternities, he discussed the problem of rape and assault:
LOHSE: Nick Syrett, an historian, wrote a book, "The Company He Keeps." It shows that there's a long history of delinquency with fraternities in America. And to leave that on the doorstep of an 18-year-old boy who's joining strikes me as being rather ridiculous. In addition to the connection with sexual assault, another great book, written by Peggy Sanday, UPenn anthropologist, is called “Fraternity Gang Rape.” And in her book, you know, the findings showed that rape culture on most campuses is fueled by fraternities.Flanagan and Lohse seemed to agree—there’s a lot of drinking and sexual assault happening inside fraternities. Quite explicitly, Lohse said you couldn’t really blame the teen-aged men—you had to blame the institutions which allow these cultures to exist.
Somehow, Lohse survived that statement. But after Lohse, along came Trachtenberg. He wouldn’t be so lucky.
We'll present his full remarks:
TRACHTENBERG: Well, my experience is that students that are in fraternities have higher grades on average than unaffiliated students. They get involved in philanthropic activities of one sort or another, providing great numbers of hours of service and fundraising on behalf of good causes. They have the opportunity to get leadership training provided by the fraternities. They get other kinds of training as well, combating sexual misconduct, values-based recruitment—Needless to say, Trachtenberg’s goose was cooked. Flanagan challenged his words on two separate occasions. Later, a caller voiced her undying outrage. The blasphemy rampage was on!
REHM: And you don't see them participating in sexual misconduct?
TRACHTENBERG: I think it turns out that there are good and bad in fraternities and out of fraternities. What we're focusing here on is a general situation. I think what we're doing is creating a false correlation. For example, we point out that the women don't drink—don't have sorority parties which have alcohol. They don't have to. They go to the parties at the fraternities. So it's not as if the women aren't drinking. They are, in fact.
Without taking— Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is, you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much. And there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children on that—in that regard.
Personally, we wouldn’t have said what Trachtenberg said that day. For one thing, we would have known that those words would set off a rampage, with people like Flanagan instructing the world on the scripts we’re allowed to recite.
That said, it’s obvious that young women should be warned about “that intensity of dangerous activity which congregates around heavy drinking” (Flanagan’s term). It’s also obvious that marks like Trachtenberg will find themselves denounced before the central committee when they make statements which deviate in any way from Current Official Scripts and Formulations.
Clarifications won't be permitted. The show trials must begin.
In some ways, Flanagan and Lohse were both more blasphemous than Trachtenberg was this day. Each suggested that you can’t really blame our well-meaning young men when they get drunk and start assaulting young women. After all, they’re very young, perhaps even naive, and various institutions have permitted the noxious culture they find inside their fraternities.
We wouldn’t rampage against those comments either. But Flanagan played the fool this day, and soon the rampage was on. By the end of the week, the Washington Post was treating the rampage as a news event.
Can we talk? Everyone agrees that our nation’s black parents must have The Talk with black boys and young black men. Absolutely no one rampages when this (unfortunate but obvious) necessity is acknowledged.
Based on the scary things Flanagan said, young women should also be getting a Talk, this time about the danger of getting black-out drunk among large numbers of drunken young men. But words like those are blasphemous now. Trachtenberg didn’t seem to know that, and Rehm didn’t want to step in.
Rehm’s three guests all seemed to agree on the dangers involved here. If anything, Flanagan and Lohse were softer on our teen-aged rapists than the traitorous Trachtenberg was.
That said, they all seemed agree that drunken fraternities represent a serious danger to young women. But we the humans love our scripts more than we love life itself.
We the humans love our scripts! On the modern secular pseudo-left, our scripts are now treated like scripture:
ANDERSON: In ensuing days, many others raised objections to what Trachtenberg said. A petition on change.org demanded, among other things, that the former president apologize.Ten out of ten rapes are caused by rapists! You pretty much can’t get dumber than that. Everyone agrees with that. It was the first thing Trachtenberg said.
"I'm furious at his remarks" wrote one person who supported the petition. "Even if he thought he was saying the right thing, he needs to know better."
Another wrote: "10 out of 10 rapes are caused by rapists. Not survivors who were drinking too much, wearing 'too little,' or walking alone at night."
But lord god of Salon, how we do love our scripts! Increasingly on the pseudo-left, we want a narrow list of official things we’re all permitted to say.
Rehm’s guests seemed to agree on the facts. But as it has done through the annals of time, blasphemy conquered all!