April 21, 2015
We’ve had a lot of rape accusations involving college football and basketball players over the years, but the players seldom look like Haven Monahan, so media attention has been tepid. After all, when, say, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback on the national championship football team is accused of raping a coed, is that really a very interesting news story? Who really wants to read about rape charges against football players at Florida State, USC, Notre Dame, or Navy? I mean, do liberals want to read about blacks raping whites? Do conservatives want to read about how maybe big time college football isn’t such a hot idea? (The easiest way to win as a recruiter is by scraping the bottom of the academic and criminal behavior barrels harder than the other coaches dare to unleash on campus.)
But how does all this push the Hunt for the Great White Defendant? That’s the important thing, right?
In contrast, rape accusations against college lacrosse players were massive national news, not because anybody cares about college lacrosse, but because lacrosse players tend to be white and the stripper and future murderer making up the charges was black.
Ace newshound Jon Krakauer, however, has finally solved the problem by finding a minor league, fairly white college football program in the middle of nowhere: the U. of Montana in Missoula, which plays in what used to be called Division I-AA along with Appalachian State, Eastern Washington, and other teams you probably don’t care about.
Granted, the news in Krakauer’s Missoula isn’t very new. The New York Times was more enthusiastic about covering the rape charge against the U. of Montana quarterback than it was for a long time in covering the rape charge against Florida St. Heisman trophy frontrunner Jameis Winston. The NYT ran three stories about the rape culture crisis at the U. of Montana tied to the allegations against the QB, but then had to run a fourth story noting that the quarterback had been acquitted after only 2.5 hours of deliberation. In fact, the prosecutor resigned in the middle of the case and joined the defense team.
So with the highest profile case in Missoula involving the quarterback turning into a dud, Krakauer fell back to writing about a second case involving a white football player, in which the jock was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. Which doesn’t sound like the system isn’t working …
And then Krakauer discovered that the rape rate in Missoula is below the national average, which was disappointing.
Did Krakauer ever use his journalistic skills to figure out why he shouldn’t have been surprised by the disproportion between the rape rate in Missoula and the intensity of New York Times and Time coverage? (Hint: Missoula is a mostly white town, so it’s more both more law-abiding and more likely to attract the Eye of Sauron.)
But the point is that we can finally obsess over a bunch of Haven Monahan-lookalike rapist football players, so Krakauer’s publisher has printed up 500,000 copies and rushed it into print to counter the UVA fallout. Krakauer explained to NPR:
The Rolling Stone fiasco really discouraged me. You know, I have written for Rolling Stone; these are good people.
No, they are not.
It’s a good magazine, and how they could have made so many blunders, this cascade of easily avoidable mistakes. …
I guess it will just have to remain one of those insoluble mysteries, Jon.
The sad thing is there’s a lot of doubters and haters out there who think women lie about rape and, you know, there isn’t a problem, and this is ammunition for them. And you know, the fact that my book was rushed into print — it originally wasn’t going to come out until next fall but my publisher and I decided, in part because of the Rolling Stone mess, that it’d be a good time to show this book …