Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Facebook 'rape threat' against activist spurs huge anti-rape culture rally -- but now, police have charged the activist for posting the threat against herself

Monday's 'Rape Culture' Rally
"Rape Threat" Spurs "Rape Culture" Rally

This past Monday, hundreds of students showed up at a "rape culture" rally on the campus of the University of Wyoming in response to an alleged rape threat on the "uw crushes" Facebook page. One week ago today, an anonymous person posted a comment on that Facebook page threatening sexual violence towards a U-W student, an activist named Meg Lanker-Simons. The post, which remained public for several hours before the page was removed, stated: “I want to hatef--- Meg Lanker- so hard.” And: “That chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its hot and it makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b----.”

One of the signs waved at Monday's "rape culture" rally asked the anonymous poster, "What's your name -- I know it's NOT anonymous." (Photo above.)

Lanker-Simons was a speaker at the rally, and she, too, called out the the anonymous poster.

The rally was the lead story on the local news.

Police: Threat Was a Hoax

Now the story has taken a bizarre twist. Following a police interview of Lanker-Simons and a search of her computer equipment pursuant to a search warrant, UW police have obtained substantial evidence verifying that the offending Facebook post came from Lanker-Simons’ computer, while the computer was in her possession. Authorities are alleging that the post was a hoax perpetrated by Lanker-Simons. She has been cited for interference, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine. “Subject admitted to making a controversial post on UW Crushes webpage and then lied about not doing it,” according to the citation.

A Lanker-Simons Defender Cries "Victim Blaming"

But, Lanker-Simons' defenders aren't letting the matter rest. Last week, after the social media post went public, Pamela Kandt, co-convener of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and a Casper activist, lobbied university officials for a “swift response to this outrage.” Now that police have obtained evidence showing that the rape threat was concocted by Lanker-Simons, Kandt is saying that the university's investigation was too swift.

“(UW Police) are saying they cracked a case in two days that only the FBI could,” Kandt clucked. The citation against Lanker-Simons is a “classic case of blaming the victim,” Kandt proclaimed. UW Police “have bullied her and they have pulled a bluff.” She said: “This is the worst episode of ‘Law & Order’ you can imagine."

For her part, Lanker-Simons now says she's innocent. She’s retained legal counsel and will enter a not-guilty plea when she is expected to appear in court on May 13.

All of this controversy comes during finals week at UW.

UW: Good Came From the Hoax

UW released a statement Tuesday afternoon about the citation. “This episode has sparked an important discussion reaffirming that the UW community has no tolerance for sexual violence or violence of any type,” UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said. “The fact that the Facebook post apparently was a fabrication does not change the necessity for continued vigilance in reassuring that we have a campus where everyone feels safe. It’s important that this event does not undermine the progress that has been made in this area.”

But it does undermine whatever progress has been made. Every lie about rape undermines the perceived integrity of every rape victim, and every time a rape lie isn't dealt with seriously, it undermines the public's confidence in the way rape is handled. The public loathes and detests rapists, but it recoils at the thought of punishing an innocent man or boy. If college administrators and victims' activists want rape to be taken seriously, they need to insure that false accusations are not trivialized. (Of course, this includes not accusing the police of "victim blaming" the false accuser!) Rape should be such a serious thing that every misuse of the word "rape" -- every rape lie -- should be treated as a serious crime.  In this case, the activist who made the apparent false claim played into a vile stereotype that views men as predators.

As an aside, my guess is that the authorities suspected something was amiss from the actual "threat." It is more than a tad peculiar that a would-be rapist would identify with a political party. It must have sounded like a ham-handed attempt to score political points.

How widespread is Lanker-Simons' victim mentality, especially among activists like her? We shudder to think.

Finally, as a footnote: Lanker-Simons made headlines in 2010 when she was a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against the University of Wyoming. The University was sued after it had disinvited controversial figure William Ayers from speaking on campus. In the 1970s, Ayers was a member of the radical domestic terrorist organization, the Weatherman, or Weather Underground, which was responsible for blowing things up.