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Sour Rago ‘05 Reviews Lohse ‘12

Pulitzer Prize winner Joe Rago ‘05, formerly Editor-in-Cheif of the Review and normally a fine thinker, had a piece (pdf) in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday on Andrew Lohse’s book. Let’s just say that Rago has done better work in the past.

Rago WSJ Comp.jpg

He repeatedly calls Lohse a liar, but declines to say if Lohse’s entire account of hazing is a lie, or just some parts of it. The ad hominen line of argument is without end:

“this putative whistleblower’s harrowing portrait”

“the hazing he claims to have suffered”

“These may be the worst, and least trustworthy, confessions in the 16 centuries since St. Augustine’s.”

“I found his story far-fetched, and anyone ought to question the testimony of an aspiring Bret Easton Ellis.”

“Mr. Lohse’s book is the result of two catastrophes of quality control — the college admissions office’s invitation to Hanover and then Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s decision to give him a bid.”

“Are his confessions honest — or ex post facto baloney meant to serve his political agenda and, by the way, help land a book deal and (fingers crossed) movie treatment? I wonder.”

“Maybe Mr. Lohse is the first person in history to expose the college’s human-rights violations. Or it could be that his gonzo literary flights run contrary to the lived experience of tens of thousands of people.”

The worst hazing rite I can imagine is spending time inside the mind of Mr. Lohse.

Geez. Saying that Lohse should not have been accepted to the College is the twentysomething equivalent of a playground nahnahnahNAHna. Rago’s counterargument is that he knew guys from SAE, and they, Sir, were not the kind of people Lohse describes:

“Nor does violent physical and psychological abuse square with his fraternity’s reputation. I knew the brothers of SAE as student-body-president types with a taste for champagne and pastel critter pants, not sadism.”

Anyone familiar with the members of SAE of the Class of 2012 versus Rago’s Class of 2005 knows that Lohse was in a house under the newfound influence of several brothers from the southern states of the good ol’ USA, a place where the depth of hazing practices makes Dartmouth look like, well, a kiddie pool. These new additions to the house ramped up hazing to levels that Rago would not recognize — as an SAE brother who was present at the festivities confirmed in a lengthy submission to Dartblog more than two years ago. But then Rago knows that. He is way too smart to believe that just because he knew a few SAE brothers way back when, then the house could only behave one way, a nice way, forevermore.

More tellingly, while Rago sings the College’s praises (Has anyone in Admissions taken note? Joe hopes so), at least he doesn’t go so far as to say that he himself was simon-pure as an undergrad. Was there no hazing in his own house, no cocaine, no binge drinking, and no chest-pounding about sexual conquests? If Rago is going to set the record straight, he should clarify things from his own perspective, too. No hazing or binge drinking at Phi Delt, Joe?

Addendum: The D has still not had a word to say about Lohse’s book. (However, if you are interested, last week there was a full-length article announcing that the Coed Council members endorse new constitution.) Too bad. There are a good many members of past D directorates who know first hand what went on in SAE’s basement when Andrew Lohse was present. I imagine that freedom of the press includes the freedom to take the 5th.

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