Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Problem of Moral Panic

Megan McArdle has a piece worth reading talking about the UVA rape case (in which a Rolling Stone story describing an alleged gang rape and the hands of fraternity brothers turned out to be a fabrication which the reporter had not bothered to check) as an example of what she describes as moral panic:
There are a lot of definitions of moral panic running around, but here's mine: It's when a community becomes hysterical about some problem -- often, but not always, a real one -- that becomes defined as an existential threat to public safety and moral order. In such a climate, questioning how big the threat actually is, or contesting any particular example, is not a matter of rational discussion, but of heresy.

While the moral panic is raging, ludicrous and improbable stories suddenly become convincing, and it's dangerous to question them, because why are you defending witches? Are YOU a witch?
When people are in the grip of a moral panic, going up against them to question the extent of a threat, even by doubting so much as a single case, can become dangerous. Questioning any expression of the panic is not seen as a logical debate over statistics or the details of a particular instance, but as somehow defending the threatening behavior.
It's a piece worth reading, and her point is amplified by the fact that after reading the post and thinking it a good one, I hesitated to post it because "well, one doesn't want to seem like one of those people who insists there is no problem". Once I recognized that hesitation, I knew I had to post it.


Bah said...

The story has not "turned out to be a hoax." As of right now no one is sure what happened except the people who were there. What an irresponsible thing to write.

Darwin said...


I used the word "fabrication" rather than "hoax", but I'm prepared to stand by the word that I used, and I don't think that it's irresponsible. Based on the Washington Post reporting that I've read, it sounds like while it's quite possible that something traumatic of some sort happened to "Jackie" at some point in her life (if only because the pattern of behavior that has appeared in subsequent stories is so weird it suggests some sort of history of trama), none of the details of the incident presented in the Rolling Stone piece appear to be correct as reported.

As noted in the last of the links below, at this point author and advocate Liz Seccuro (who actually was gang raped in the Phi Kappa Psi frat house at UVA back in 1984) now herself doubts the Rolling Stone account and has at least some suspicion that "Jackie" to some extent invented her story based on reading Seccuro's book or hearing one of her talks.