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A Media Smear

Noxious gender politics go mainstream.

Apr 22, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 30 • By CATHY YOUNG
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Nevertheless, this hardly adds up to a case against a sweeping, all-American “rape culture.” Indeed, the boys’ own words rebut the feminist-propagated claim that most American males don’t see sex with an unconscious woman as rape: The word “rape” was used repeatedly in the video and in the text messages between Mays and his friends (one of whom called Mays “a felon”). The boys also seemed well aware of the likelihood of legal trouble if the girl and her parents went to the police.

Yet the “rape culture” narrative was given plenty of space. In Time magazine, novelist Peter Smith chided his fellow men for failing to break ranks with their sex and “say something” against rape (never mind the male judge who “said something” by sending the boys to prison). New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof preposterously invoked the Steubenville case as proof that America has as bad a problem with the mistreatment of women as do Third World nations where rape is rarely punished. For Kristof and some other pundits, Steubenville became the American counterpart to New Delhi, India, where a young woman’s death from injuries sustained in a brutal gang rape had recently shocked the world. Yet, if anything, the successful prosecution in Steubenville showed that the American justice system punishes perpetrators of sexual coercion even in circumstances that, in many countries, would have condemned the victim to dishonor, prison, or even sometimes death.

In an ironic twist, CNN—which had given largely uncritical attention to the “rape culture” crusaders—became their final target at the trial’s close. Reporting on the sentencing, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow observed that it was “incredibly difficult” to watch the 16- and 17-year-old defendants sob as their lives fell apart, and host Candy Crowley commented on their youth. Sympathy for juvenile offenders, even in murder cases, is hardly rare. Yet the report was denounced, with the usual falsehoods and distortions, as a prime example of a rape-supportive culture: Left-wing blogs and an online petition asserted that the CNN segment never once mentioned the victim, when in fact Harlow and Crowley had spent some time discussing her and noted that “her life will never be the same.” The CNN journalists, reportedly dismayed at being branded apologists for rape, were getting a small taste of the smears directed so recklessly at Steubenville residents—including women like Hanlin—in the name of championing women.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor to Reason magazine and a columnist for Real Clear Politics.

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