Roxane Gay Killed My Puppy
August 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — No, she didn’t. I’ve never even owned a puppy. Had I written the title of this post in earnest instead of satirically, Roxane Gay could have sued for me libel and won. But that doesn’t matter, you see, because I made the accusation. And as Chris Seaton pointed out (also satirically, though it seems to have gone over some readers’ heads), we must always believe the accuser, regardless of circumstances. Even if they’re quite literally plagiarizing a sex novel.
Gay wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that detailed her disapproval of Nate Parker, the director of Birth of a Nation, which apparently took Sundance by storm. Parker and his co-writer, Jean Celestin, were teammates on the Penn State wrestling team in 1999 when they were accused of rape by another student. It was pretty standard stuff, in that they both had sex with another student who had been drinking. She accused them rape, and both were tried for the offense in 2001. Parker was acquitted. Celestin was convicted but had his conviction overturned; and the prosecutor declined to proceed with a new trial. Both Parker and Celestin contended that the sex was consensual. In 2012, the complainant committed suicide.
Gay’s editorial is prime example of the muddle-headed thinking that results from a flawed premise.
It is my gut instinct to believe the victim because there is nothing at all to be gained by going public with a rape accusation except the humiliations of the justice system and public scorn. Only an estimated 2 to 10 percent of rape accusations are false.
Gay has missed the fact that going public with a rape accusation could also result in, you know, the conviction and imprisonment of the rapist. As for the “2-10%” statistic, another way of summarizing the same data is that “only 1-8% of rape accusations are true.” Which still isn’t the point. Gay has no way of knowing on her own whether the accusation is true or false. What about the jury, you ask? She don’t need no stinking jury!
[T]o have sex with a woman who said she was blackout drunk, to do so with a friend — that is a crime, whether the justice system agrees or not.
Parse that sentence carefully. It’s not having sex with a woman was blackout drunk that’s a crime…it’s having sex with a woman who said she was blackout drunk. And it’s a crime, “whether or not the justice system agrees.” In reality, something is only a crime if the justice system, a/k/a “the law,” says it is. Reduced to essentials, Gay is replacing the jury’s judgment with her own omniscience, and that extends to reading Parker’s mind:
On Aug. 16, Mr. Parker posted a statement on Facebook, an inadequate act of contrition. […]On the surface, the statement seems heartfelt enough, but it also feels hollow, like a parroting of what Nate Parker thinks he is supposed to say to redeem himself.
What would be an “adequate” act of contrition for Gay? And as for the statement, Parker maintains that he did not rape her but that he was saddened by her death, and regrets not behaving more responsibly. Is Parker sincere or not? I don’t know, and neither do you. No one does, except Parker. And apparently, Roxanne Gay.
He would have us believe that he made bad decisions at 19, and has learned from them. We have all made our fair share of bad decisions. There is a canyon of difference, however, between bad decisions and allegations of rape.
Again, the canyon is not between ordinary stupidity and rape, it’s between ordinary stupidity and the allegation of rape. Gay goes on to detail other ways that someone who was acquitted by a jury has failed to measure up to her standards:
I also wonder how much Mr. Parker has really changed when he continues to befriend the man with whom he shared what he terms one of the most painful moments in his life. Mr. Celestin shares a story credit on “The Birth of a Nation,” a detail that continues to stun me.
Well, Celestin did write the story the movie was based on. But if Parker had simply cut ties with his friend and screwed Celestin out of whatever compensation he was owed, apparently that would demonstrate “contrition.”
To be fair, Gay’s op-ed isn’t about the legal aspects of Parker’s case, but rather about her inability to separate Parker’s movie from what Parker is accused of doing. Which is fine, the presumption of innocence which Gay so cavalierly discards only applies in criminal court. Gay has gone even further than that, though, leaving “innocent till proven guilty” in the dust and ending up at “guilty no matter what was proven.” But when stuff like this makes it on the docket of the New York Times editorial page, the most prominent division of the court of public opinion, maybe it’s time to switch to The Economist.
 If you have some time, I highly recommend reading the linked articles. The tl;dr version is that the study that came with the 2-10% number only counts an accusation as “false” if the complainant actually confessed to a false accusation and the falsity was confirmed by independent investigation. But one could just as plausibly argue that the only “true” accusations are ones that result in a conviction. As the article points out, though, both interpretations are “horseshit,” and about the only thing one can state with certainty on the topic is “in reality, no one knows—and in fact no one can possibly know—exactly how many sexual assault reports are false.”