Sex, Lies, and Media Bias: A Chronicle of Censorship on Campus
Editor's Note: Alex will be appearing on "The Early Show" on CBS tomorrow to discuss his story and situation.
Even before Monday morning, I had already acquired a reputation as American University's resident anti-feminist bomb-thrower. The campus community -- which, as is typical for expensive, East Coast universities, tilts strongly progressive -- had already seen me criticize the idea of a Women's Resource Center and bash the identity-based victim politics of the cultural-Marxist left. I never hid the fact that I enjoy acting as a provocateur. So when I penned my most recent piece, "Dealing with AU's anti-sex brigade" for the campus paper the Eagle, I figured that, like with my other columns, there would be some heated arguments, but that the piece would come and go. Early Monday morning, the piece was published online.
Still asleep early Monday afternoon, I received a wake-up call from the Washington City Paper's Amanda Hess, asking me for my response to the fact that the hard copies of the Eagle had been rounded up, thrown back at the main office, and replaced with signs stating "NO ROOM FOR RAPE APOLOGISTS." Still woozy from sleep during the phone call, I was at once confused and amused. I told her I'd call her back once I'd truly woken up.
What compelled these "womyn" to round up the papers? Behold, the offending passages:
Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [an unrecognized fraternity on campus] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy's room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry "date rape" after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone's head and then later claiming that you didn't ever actually intend to pull the trigger.
"Date rape" is an incoherent concept. There's rape and there's not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It's not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex-especially anonymous sex-can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don't jump into the sexual arena if you can't handle the volatility of its practice!
In the eyes of Women's Initiative, the campus feminist organization, this view makes me a "rape advocate" who must be punished. Say what you will about the argument -- it is designed to elicit strong responses and spur a spirited debate. But the reaction from the campus left, and feminist groups in particular, has been simply beyond the pale of reasoned debate and does a supreme disservice to the notion of a liberal education. It is an attempt at de facto censorship.
Scanning my Facebook feed, I discovered that anonymous members of the cultural-Marxist campus "social justice" organization CASJ (Community Action and Social Justice) and Women's Initiative were responsible for the deed. It was they who had planned this -- and the ensuing media explosion.
That evening, CASJ held a special meeting on the "Alex Knepper Question." Roughly thirty people attended, and, along with a friend of mine, I decided to attend, both to listen and to answer any questions that offended parties may have had. As a public columnist who stirred up controversy, I figured that I could certainly be bothered to answer a few questions from ideological opponents.
Or not. Almost immediately after sitting down, one of the organizers approached me and asked me to leave, for "safety reasons." Do you think I'm going to hurt someone?, I asked, to which the organizer replied, solemnly: "I think you've hurt enough people already." One feminist, who identified herself as a rape victim, asked me to look her in the eyes and tell her that she deserved to be raped. Almost in disbelief I told her calmly that this of course was not the case. (As I would later tell the feminist blog Jezebel.com: I remain convinced that approximately five people have actually read the column in full.)
This is the kind of twisted Stalinist attitude that campus feminists adopt. It doesn't matter if one has to manipulate rape victims, assassinate people's characters, or misrepresent a person's work. The aim is to force one's opponent to submit to political pressure by any means neccesary. People not used to this MO -- or simply ignorant of it -- may mistake it for misguided but well-meaning activism. It's not. It's political and psychological warfare.
That unfamiliar pressure was felt by my editors, both of whom -- the editor-in-chief and the editor-in-chief-elect -- had shown up to face the Inquisition. CASJ members asked them why they would print a pro-rape column, what they had to say to rape victims, and whether I'd be fired. At the end of the meeting -- and over the next twenty-four hours -- they put forward an ever-growing list of demands: fire me, publish the university's sexual harassment code in the next issue of the paper, apologize for printing the column, delete it from the archives, and resign as editor-in-chief. Students who'd not cared one whit about the university paper for years now declared that they were in an epic battle to "take it back."
The next day, I received a call from the editor-in-chief asking me to resign. Her life had become a nightmare, she explained, and the harassment from people accusing her of being a rape advocate had become too much. I firmly refused, saying that I'd sooner be fired than send the message that CASJ has a free-reigning veto over the rest of the campus' behavior. After some discussion, we agreed that I would finish out the year, but not apply for a position as a columnist next semester. This was certainly okay with me, for I was also told that there would be a new editorial policy meant to weed out provocative columns. I simply cannot morally sanction an institution that equivocates on the principle of free-reigning discussion.
The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson, whom I found to be obviously hostile to my ideas, ran a piece riddled with out-of-context statements of mine. My definition of rape was mischaracterized as the insertion of sexual contact into a non-sexual situation -- which blatantly disregarded the fact that I'd made it explicitly clear to her in a phone interview that once the woman says 'No,' any implicit consent is immediately revoked and an encounter degenerates into rape. I spoke of that kind of rape as the most heinous situation in which rape can occur.
Regional television networks, including Fox, NBC, and ABC, interviewed me for television segments that aired Tuesday night. In each of them, the editing is almost sublime in its mediocrity; in the NBC interview, my statement is literally halved to the point where context is lost. I make the point that we hold drunken men and drunken women to different standards: we tell only the man that he is supposed to be held responsible for his actions while drunk, but infantilize the woman by telling her that she wasn't at her full mental capacity and can't be held responsible for stupid behavior. The NBC segment, though, only shows me speaking of what we tell women -- which ruins the punch of the argument. Media bias, or media stupidity? I honestly don't know.
As I write this, the whirlwind continues. The controversy was picked up by the Huffington Post, and ABC News' national office has informed me that a story about it will hit the Internet Thursday. I will sit down with DC's News Channel 8 at noon to discuss the controversy. The Eagle, in the meantime, has suspended all opinion columns and has issued a lukewarm apology for printing the piece in its current form -- claiming that it should have been further toned down.
As I write this, night is quickly turning into morning. When I wake up, the daily whirlwind will start all over again. The fight against campus Stalinism will proceed -- and as more and more media pick up on this, the more we can expose what's happening on college campuses all over America.