www.tidewaterreview.com/features/parenting/ct-george-will-rape-column-balancing-20140610,0,1632633.column

tidewaterreview.com

Balancing Act

George Will's column on rape strips him of all credibility

Heidi Stevens

Balancing Act

11:25 AM EDT, June 10, 2014

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I don't see how George Will can keep his job.

I realize he's likely receiving the loud and myriad calls for his firing as further evidence of the "speech codes" he wrote about in the very column that kicked up this controversy in the first place.

But this has nothing to do with punishing unpopular speech and everything to do with losing all credibility when you join the ranks of people who deny the existence of other people's trauma.

Will is helping spread misinformation. He's no better than Holocaust deniers, Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists and the monsters who tell parents of school shooting victims that the massacres that robbed them of their children were a hoax.

If you deny the truth because it doesn't fit your agenda, you're not a journalist. You're a propagandist.

In his June 6 column, Will wrote that by addressing the climate of sexual assault, colleges and universities have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." He questioned government rape statistics and called "the 20 percent assault rate preposterous." He repeatedly put the words sexual assault in quotes, which, as Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan points out, is the written equivalent of saying "So-called sexual assault. Quote unquote sexual assault. Lolrape."

It's been a while — though not long enough — since an out-of-touch conservative said something idiotic about rape. (Check out this handy chart for some of the more heinous examples, including Missouri congressman Todd Akin's 2012 gem, "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," and this 1990 doozy from Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams, "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.")

We've been here before. Too many times before. We'll go here again.

Fine. Free speech is a beautiful, messy, invaluable thing. When politicians and writers and pop stars and athletes and heck, our own family members exercise it to say things we disagree with, we have an obligation to hear them out — and a right to view them forever in the context of those words.

I'm not suggesting Will's right to free speech should be curbed. He can go around as an American citizen saying whatever nonsense he wants to about rape victims, and plenty of places will be happy to hand him a microphone.

He's no longer credible as a journalist, whose first job, above all others, is to tell the truth.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13