For good measure, Yoffe doubles down on her “drunken hussy” argument (“The prohibition about discussing the connection between alcohol and sexual assault should be lifted”), longs for “a return to a standard of ‘clear and convincing evidence’” (as though such a thing weren’t, at best, a nebulous concept in cases of sexual assault), and insists “we bring some healthy skepticism” to campus rape numbers.
If you’ve read either of those pieces, it’s hard to imagine how anyone at Slate determined this was the right voice to appraise The Hunting Ground, director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering’s scorching, powerful investigation of the issue. Then again, maybe it’s not hard; who needs the mediocre traffic of a (positive) review when you can get the hate-reads prompted by the head-shaking that follows each Yoffe manifesto?
“The film traffics in alarmist statistics and terrifying assertions,” Yoffe writes, “but fails to acknowledge both the recent changes in the way the government and universities approach sexual assault charges and the critiques that those changes go too far. By refusing to engage the current conversation about this issue, the film does its subjects—and us all — a disservice.” In other words, this film is a dishonest failure because it’s not having the same conversation — i.e., trafficking in the same cynicism and excuse-making — that Yoffe is.
You know that drill by now: defending the question of alcohol consumption (“presenting such questions as prima facie insensitivity is unfair”), dismissing the campus rape issue (she quotes a researcher who complains of “assertions of ‘an epidemic where one does not exist’”), dismissing the legal issues surrounding it (she criticizes the film for not including “one dramatic counterexample” of a reported and prosecuted gang rape on the Vanderbilt campus), and despairing for the poor, unfortunate accused (“The Hunting Ground never even makes a feint at acknowledging that dozens of young men like John Doe have filed similar lawsuits…”).
And, as usual, Yoffe counters Dick and company’s statistics with a data dump of her own. But one set does not cancel out the other, no matter how stridently she pushes them. Like comparing coverage of a news story on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, it becomes a question of credibility — of whose numbers you trust, and the narrative that they’re using them in service of. And this, I’m sorry, is where Kirby Dick trumps Emily Yoffe; she just doesn’t have any credibility on this issue, particularly when her “reporting” is so transparently devoted to puncturing coverage and concern over this issue, for the purposes of… well, I’m not entirely sure.
But the fact that we now have another “The Hunting Ground is lies!” piece, three months after the film’s release and pegged to nothing in particular (beyond the film’s “outsized influence”), speaks volumes about Yoffe’s motivation, and her bizarre obsession with perpetrating an “NBD” #hottake on campus rape. This new “closer look” seeks to discredit Kamilah Willingham, one of The Hunting Ground’s interview subjects, via an extensive and detailed investigation of the “voluminous record” surrounding the Willingham case. In doing so, she falls back on her usual crutches of substance-abuse smearing (“In a detail left out of The Hunting Ground, Willingham brought out cocaine”), continues to insist we’re making mountains out of molehills (she slams the filmmakers for attempting “to sound an alarm about what they believe to be rampant college rape,” emphasis ours), and engages in skin-crawling understatement (“Brandon Winston was hardly a perfect gentleman on the night of Jan. 15, 2011,” she charitably admits).
Duly noted: Yoffe discovers some inconsistencies in Willingham’s story — though, to be fair, when you are dealing with intoxication and sex, there are the built-in complications of incomplete memories and differing interpretations of intent and consent; not my words, Emily Yoffe’s — and with The Hunting Ground’s reporting of its aftermath. She also makes great hay of the recent acquittal (on most charges) of the man Willingham accused. These problems are all worth noting, and contemplating.
But it’s also worth contemplating what drove this writer and this outlet to attempt to discredit, with such dogged intensity, The Hunting Ground in particular and the campus rape issue in general. I can’t begin to guess at Yoffe’s personal motivations, but give her this much: she’s consistent, and when you ask her to write on this subject, or take her pitches on it, you know what you’re gonna get.
So why does Slate keep providing her with a soapbox for these noxious views? Well, the #Slatepitch hashtag wasn’t borne out of thin air, and hate-clicks are still clicks. The “stop getting drunk, college women” piece boasts 61.5k Facebook shares, 2.3k tweets, and 3.6k comments; the “college rape overcorrection” missive was shared 23.4k times, tweeted 2.6k times, and commented on 5.7k times. As of this writing, barely 24 hours after its publication, her Hunting Ground takedown registers over 300 tweets, nearly a thousand shares, and over a thousand comments.