Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Facts or Retraction, Please! Shame on NPR for its Shoddy and Biased Journalism!

My anti-rape stance is well documented in the pages of PhilosFX. It's also known that I have two daughters, one of whom is in college. Thus it should come as no surprise to readers that I would choose to listen closely to the following story about preventing campus rape.

Graphic by Maria Fabrizio for NPR

The Power Of The Peer Group In Preventing Campus Rape

However, what might come as a surprise to some readers--it certainly surprised me!--is my reaction to the following quote from within the cited story, which aired on my local NPR station, WAMU (emphasis added).

"John Foubert, the psychologist in Oklahoma, says it's important to remember that 90 percent of men have never committed a rape. The key is opening their eyes to what's going on with the other 10 percent, so they can see it and intervene."

My jaw hit the floor.... Did NPR's reporter just repeat--as if it were a documented fact--that 10% of all men are rapists?

Rape is a horrible crime. I would not put slander and libel in the same category, but those deliberate misrepresentations of fact are also crimes. What truly offends me, though, is the obvious bias in what should be a bias-free report. The assertion that 10% of all men are rapists fuels an agenda, namely, that men are pigs.

I could not believe my ears, so I searched the Internet for some external validation of my shock and disbelief. I found some confirmation of my observation in the similar reaction of an anonymous writer posting under the name "xPraetorius" at http://praetori.wordpress.com
"They [NPR] report on “rape on college campuses.” Again, it’s a report that throws out there as “fact” or as “news” highly suspect conclusions. NPR’s definition of “rape” is probably something like: “Any time a woman says it’s rape.” Including, by the way, all those times where she said it was rape, but was simply ashamed of her own behavior the next day.
"If a woman doesn't consent to sexual relations and a man forces himself on her, that’s rape.
"If a woman goes to a college frat party where they are serving alcohol, and does everything under the sun to make it seem that she’s available, then has a tryst and is ashamed the next day, that is not rape. 
"The way NPR reported this “story,” incoming freshmen girls in college are nothing more than empty-headed, naïve little does, out there for the plucking by the roving bands of predatory wolves in frat-boy’s clothing.
"Uhhhhhhhh… no." 
And then we get the line that stuck in my brain--and obviously in xP's as well--to wit: "it's important to remember that 90 percent of men have never committed a rape."
"Wait. Whuh? Was that supposed to be reassuring?!? Was that supposed to make us all say to ourselves, “Whew! We thought all men were nothing more than slavering, drooling, leering, rapists! What a relief that it’s only 10% of ‘em! The real truth: 99.99% of all men never commit rape." 
Now I do not know where xPraetorius gets his facts, either, and he offers no citations. I doubt the voracity of his 99.99% claim. My gut tells me that the truth lies between the extremes, that is, somewhere between 0.01% and 10% of all men have committed at least one rape. The fact that many rapists are serial rapists helps account for the high number of rapes, both reported and unreported. Again I have seen credible and disturbing estimates for the occurrence of rape. I am not disputing the fact that rape is a problem. I am disputing the unfounded and unhelpful assertion that one in 10 men are taking part in what could be described as a rape fest.

Perhaps the so-called Praetori are exaggerating to minimize the issue, and if so, that is wrong. However, the Praetori are not NPR. They are not claiming to be objective, merely thought-provoking. And they are taking no public funds for their efforts. I hold NPR to a much higher standard when it comes to fact-checking and objective, bias-free reporting. 

Rape is wrong, full stop. The weapon against evil is the Truth, not bias, hyperbole, fiction, or libel. Therefore, I call upon NPR to either provide the facts to back up the 10% claim, or publish a retraction of the bogus claim made in their story.

Come on, NPR! You are better than this!

I only wish Laura Starecheski or her editor at NPR would have invested a few minutes to check a fact or two before publishing such an onerous and erroneous statistic. I admit, the stats are hard to come by, but that does not justify settling for inflammatory conjecture! 

I joined Academia.edu and followed the William & Mary-trained psychologist, John Foubert, the author of the 90% line. I scanned some of his papers but have not yet found the source of his 10% statistic. But it ought to be his job to produce the evidence, not mine! 

I commented on NPR's post and again on a glowing review of Starecheski's story published in The Oregonian. No responses yet. Why not? 

I searched Laura Starecheski and found many images of her similar to the one shown below. I realize that I may be guilty of Lookism, but I confess that I had some very judging thoughts about her apparent agenda based only on her appearance in published photos. However, combined with this sample of her writing, I think it's credible that she is a man-hater with gender identity issues. And what does her performance say about the editorial stance at NPR on this issue? 

Come on, NPR! 
You are better than this, 
aren't you?

Full disclosure: 

  • I am a proud sustaining member of my local NPR station, and as such I have a right to insist on quality journalism.
  • I do not endorse everything in the xPraetorius post, but I will say that the stunned disbelief he described matched my own feeling. Read the whole post here: http://praetori.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/npr-watch-81814/