(Note, the comparison of Nolte to Finch is not an original idea of mine. Hat tip to an article I read at Big Hollywood, that doesn't seem to be there anymore.) (I also don't want to short-change any other investigators in this story, but Nolte was the most prominent)
I have been a fan of the great John Nolte for a long time. I don't reference him as much on this blog because he is also a political pundit and I've tried very hard to keep politics per se out of the content here. As I've written before I don't want there to be a conflation between my religious and political convictions.
But this blog does follow the ins and outs of the entertainment industry and culture. And John Nolte recently took on one of the most influential (though maybe not popular) people in the popular culture right now: Lena Dunham.
Dunham stars on the very low rated show Girls, but she is loved and adored by most of the major media as a voice of modern women.
She recently wrote in her autobiography Not That Kind of Girl, Duham claims that she was sexually assaulted at Oberlin College by an outspoken college Republican named Barry who was a super senior (5-years college plan) who worked in the library.
I do not know if the assault happened or not. That is not the purpose of this article. In fact, I will go on the assumption that Dunham was attacked. Nolte also has never claimed that she did not survive a horrible assault.
The problem was this: All of the above details about her attacker pointed directly to only one student at Oberlin at the time and he constantly professed his innocence. To be sure there were other details in the book about the attacker that did not describe this Barry. And Dunham never accused this real-life man of being her attacker. But she never denied it either. And even after months of asking both Random House and Dunham to make clear that he was not the attacker, the suspicion remained and he was left in the wind.
Enter John Nolte who actually went down to Oberlin College and did a hands-on investigation of the claims. He interviewed people and investigated records there first-hand. He then published his findings and came to the conclusion that the person who had been proclaiming his innocence was in fact innocent.
For his part, Nolte was not praised for his investigative prowess and going the extra mile to exonerate and innocent man. Instead, he was viewed by some as distasteful. A writer at ebuzznew.com wrote about how Nolte would have to issue an apology and how his investigation was a hindrance to the national conversation on sexual assault. (http://www.ebuzznew.com/lena-dunham-accused-of-lying-about-rape-allegation-by-conservative-website)
It is so interesting to note the similarities between Nolte here and the literary character Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Both Nolte and Finch came to aid of someone falsely accused of sexual assault. And both were looked down upon because they were viewed as heartlessly attacking the real victim. And both faced social pressure to drop the whole matter. As far as I know (and forgive me if I am wrong), no other news organization besides Nolte's that investigated the matter thoroughly.
But Nolte and Finch were motivated by truth. In the novel, an innocent man was arrested and put on trial because of a false accusation. In real life, an innocent man had his life dangling by a thread for weeks because Dunham and her publisher refused to simply exonerate him with a few words. It was only after months of requests and Nolte's investigation that this man got this man's name cleared.
What bothers me most about this whole business and what is so important about what Nolte did was that the truth seemed to take a backseat to an agenda. In the above linked article from ebuzznews, the author says that victims of sexual assault should be able to speak out without being shamed. I agree. But there is a difference between shaming someone for what happened to them and doing the due diligence of investigating if the claims are true.
There seems to be a sense that pointing out Dunham's behavior regarding this innocent man somehow stigmatizes all victims of sexual assault. And therefore for the greater good, the matter should be dropped.
And that would be all well and good if the truth does not matter.
I am not advocating that everyone adopt all of Nolte's ways of thinking. You can read his punditry and make up your own mind.
But people in Hollywood have a powerful influence on the pop culture. And that influences how we as a society are shaped. That's why it is important that no matter how important you are to that establishment, whether you are a Bill Cosby or a Lena Dunham, your words and actions should be subject to basic scrutiny.
Because truth matters. And I'm glad John Nolte agrees.