Skip to content
Megan McArdle

Moral Panics Won't End Campus Rape

When people are in the grip of a moral panic, going up against them to question the extent of a threat, even by doubting so much as a single case, can become dangerous.
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Updated on

T. Rees Shapiro, the Washington Post reporter who has done an amazing job covering the debacle of Rolling Stone's story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, has gotten an interview with members of Phi Kappa Psi. This is the fraternity that was accused in the article of staging some sort of gang-rape initiation ritual. And the story its members tell is more than a little worrying.

The most striking moment for me: when the fraternity brothers say they knew within 24 hours that the Rolling Stone story was false -- provably false, because their internal records and bank statements showed no party on the weekend in question, and no brothers matched the description of the alleged rapist. Yet the brothers kept quiet because they thought that fighting the story in the news media "would only make things more difficult."