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Calling George Will A ‘Rape Apologist’ Is Defamation And Bad For Rape Survivors


Fresh off an orchestrated hit campaign against Fox News stars including Bill O’Reilly, lefty attack organization UltraViolet has begun banging the drum against George Will in response to news NBC and MSNBC have hired the Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist as a contributor.

A Monday press release from the organization dredges up a 2014 Washington Post column Will penned that disputes statistics claiming one in five college women are victims of sexual assault. In the ensuing fracas, Scripps College disinvited Will from a campus speaking engagement and the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch discontinued his column. The Washington Post, however, stuck by Will, calling his column “within the realm of legitimate debate.”

We’ll get to the column itself in a minute, but first I want to reprint in full the statement from Ultraviolet “Chief Campaigns Officer” Karin Roland, because it should instantly discredit her and her organization. Not only is it mean-spirited, it is contemptuous of truth and makes what she knows full well should be a career-ending accusation — if it were true. But, of course, it’s not. Repeated purveyors of bad-faith character assassination should be dropped to the level of what they are: disreputable gossip rags.

George Will, a notorious rape apologist, has no business being on television, and the fact that NBC News and MSNBC are giving a platform for his hateful views towards women, particularly survivors of sexual assault, is beyond shameful.

For more than two decades, Will has attacked sexual assault survivors, mocked attempts to codify consent on college campuses and targeted advocates fighting sexual harassment and assault as ‘rape crisis feminists.’ Will’s unrepentant attacks on women have gotten him kicked off college campuses and led to multiple newspapers dropping his column, which is why it is so disgusting and insulting to see MSNBC and NBC News offer him a regular contributing role.

Will’s viewpoints aren’t clever or contrarian, they’re dangerous – they undermine women and contribute to a culture where our society excuses and normalizes sexual violence against women. NBC should fire George Will and make clear his views have no place on television.

What undermines women and normalizes sexual violence is calling people who dispute methods of collecting crime statistics “rape apologists.” The broader and therefore more trivial the term “sexual assualt” becomes, the more it is used to delegitimize ideological opponents as inhuman monsters, the less likely rape and assault victims will be heard, believed, and able to get justice.

When a column that disparages rape but criticizes expanding its definition to include “nonconsensual touching” is suddenly a “hateful” “rape apology,” what we have here is people trying to use rape victims as a shield for advancing their political priorities. Which is despicable. Into projection much, Ultraviolet?

So Let’s Talk About that Column

It’s not time-efficient to go through the entire column that provided the unhinged Left an occasion for slamming Will with a fake “rape apologist” label, so I encourage you to read the whole thing at the Washington Post here. I will just point out a few noteworthy things.

First, those who found in the column a convenient occasion to whip people into emotional frenzies on social media selectively edited a portion near the top to make Will look like a cad. Media Matters’ hit file on Will says “In a June 2014 column, Will suggested that college sexual assault victims — and people Will suggested were pretending to be victims — enjoyed “a coveted status that confers privileges.”

ThinkProgress senior editor Tara Culp-Ressler also wrote at the time that Will made a “claim that the attention to campus rape has ensured that rape victims have somewhat of a ‘coveted status,’ an assertion that inspired thousands of sexual assault victims to push back under the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege.” False. Read those two words in context yourself:

Now, I realize that distinctions may be difficult to see for someone salivating over the prospect of outing a white male conservative as a real-life version of the Commanders in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but such doings ought to be based on actual facts. In the tradition of column writers everywhere, Will opens placing his discussion of the particular — campus rape — in context of the general: the victimhood culture of the New New Left.

Even if one argues that Will uses the “campus rape epidemic” as an instance of the general victim privileging habit, Will neither implies nor says what ThinkProgress implies and says: that women want to be rape victims for the prestige. (Although that may indeed have been the case for high-profile exploiters of society’s revulsion at rape, such as “Mattress Girl.”) Indeed, his example in the very same sentence is of “microaggressions.” Now, while I have heard the unhinged Left — like a Harvard Law dean, say — compare and connect microaggressions to sexual assault, thinking people still know the difference between someone wondering if Taylor is a boy or girl versus forced intercourse.

Thinking people also know there is a big difference between what might happen when two sexually attracted people are drunk or drugged (or both) late at night on a college campus versus what can happen to a woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time despite clearly rejecting sexual activity. This is precisely Will’s point in the 2014 column, which reasonably points out “the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.”

This is not rape apology. This is concern for accurate data and justice for all people involved in disputed events, which includes people (usually men but also sometimes women) accused of rape who thought their interaction was consensual. Do not all people deserve due process? Whatever happened to equal protection under the law, a crucial keystone to our legal system and justice itself? What about presumption of innocence, the requirement of due conviction in a court of law after having the opportunity to present and examine the evidence for and against you? All of these equal protections of justice are often malleable in campus rape cases, which not only has increasingly led to horrific injustices but also the growing and dangerous societal perception that the word “rape” does not mean what we all thought it meant.

A big contributor to this weakening link between the words “rape” or “sexual assault” and an immediate implication of a horrific crime is the weaponization of these terms by organizations like Ultraviolet to serve political ends. The people who will end up being hurt most are the silenced and trivialized victims, who after being violated by their assailants are exploited by the very organizations that most loudly and disgustingly proclaim themselves these survivors’ champions and thus reduce their chances at genuine justice and healing.