Misogyny, Take Two

A side-note on Betty’s post below.  I check in on New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer vertical from time to time, and every now and then old fiend of this blog, Andrew Sullivan, shows up to verbiate at length*.  I don’t usually bother, because past performance is, in this case, a pretty good indicator of future results.  But he promised to tell us why he thinks things are going to get better in 2018, and, I thought, heck, we all need some good cheer, so I opened up the post, and set myself to reading…

And then crashed to a halt, run aground on this ur-Andrewism:

We have a president…installed by his shamelessness, the unique awfulness of Hillary Clinton, and an Electoral College black swan.

That’s where I stopped reading. I just couldn’t go on, so bile-choked by the predictable Sullivan brew of Clinton derangement garnished w. barely obscured misogyny.

To dispose of that sentence’s minor sin first: it’s hard to call Trump’s Electoral College victory a black swan (does he even get the meaning of that term?) when George W. Bush rode the same phenomenon to his own disastrous win just one presidency ago.  This is just laziness, or perhaps rather that sloppiness of argument that has been Andrew’s stock in trade for yonks.

But then, there’s the (I’ll admit, absolutely predictable) major witlessness:  “the unique awfulness of Hillary Clinton.”

For f**ks sake.  I mean, just listen to yourself, meathead.  Hillary Clinton ran a flawed campaign.  So have lots of men.  It wasn’t a wretched one, and she may be, I think, forgiven for not recognizing the hard-to-fathom circumstances she found herself in, in which Trump’s utterly obvious disqualifications did not in fact disqualify him. And, of course, it has to be noted that for any failures in her management of the race, she almost certainly had done well enough to win in even those circumstances, but for Comey’s IED dropping in the last week of the campaign. To Sullivan, all the actual facts and forces of that terrible summer and autumn can be swept under the overarching explanation of Clinton’s awfulness.

I suppose, and perhaps it’s even more likely that the egregious Sullivan is suggesting that Clinton is uniquely awful as a human being.  I don’t know.  Stayed married to the same man for her adult life.  Pursued a career in circumstances where many wouldn’t, and was good at it.  Raised a child who has made it to adult hood w/out diving into trouble, behaving stupidly in front of extraordinary scrutiny, and seems to be basically OK. (Trust me. As the parent of a 17 y.o. about to launch into the world, that seems very, very impressive to this writer).  Acted on her beliefs in and just out of college. Has consistently acted and advocated on behalf of children, especially the most vulnerable.  Managed to retain pretty amazing equilibrium through eight years of her husband’s presidency and relentless attacks on every aspect of her personal and professional life.  Served with distinction and the respect of her colleagues — including Republicans — as a two term senator.  Looks better and better as Secretary of State as we see what happens when, as now, you have someone clearly not up to the job squatting on the 7th floor over at Foggy Bottom.  Offered the American people a detailed and genuinely problem-solving set of policies — and full disclosure on her finances — in the campaign.

Uniquely awful, amirite?

Is she a saint, a flawless avatar of all that is perfectable in humanity?  Not so much, just like all the rest of us staring at the grass from the top down.

We all know what’s going on.  Clinton conducted her run for the presidency last year in the face of all sorts of headwinds, any one of which, had it fallen still, might well have left her and us in the happy alternate time line where she’s running the show.  But of them all, the one that enrages me the most is the fact that overwhelmingly, the media coverage of everything she tried to say, advance, argue was filtered through men who have since been shown to be sexual harassers and abusers.

At the time there were plenty of people, including me and many here, who said, over and over again, that Hillary Clinton’s coverage was obviously, overhelmingly riddled through with simple sexism and its yet more malign sibling, overt misogyny.  That, I think, was perfectly clear — demonstrated — by any attentive reading of the coverage itself.  But now we have the smoking guns, the fact that men at a shockingly sweeping tally of the leading outlets were sexual predating assholes.  I’m going to miss some, because there are so many, but think on the names:  Oreskes at NPR, Thrush at the The New York Times, Lauer on the teevee, Charlie Rose at PBS, Halperin the inexcusable, too many Y chromosomes at Fox to count and so on and on across the entire spectrum of elite American political journalism.

Andrew Sullivan is, of course, on no one’s list of predators of women.  He has a reputation for disdain for any female politician not named Maggie Thatcher, though, and it’s clear that beyond his Clinton derangement, Hillary’s gender was a constant irritant to him.  He reminds again here that one doesn’t have to be an actual sex offender to be a misogynist, and an utterly unreliable narrator of events.

But this we knew.  Who was it I twitted about concision?

*And I mean…LENGTH.  I’d refer our Andrew to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dictum:  “Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”  Also, Chekov:  “Brevity is the sister of talent.”

Images:  Nicholas Poussin, Camille delivers the schoolmaster Flavius to his students, c. 1637

Paolo Veronese, Susanna and the Eldersc. 1580.

Is our totebaggers learning?

Atrios writes:

One difficult thing during the Bush years was that a lot of people who fancied themselves to be pretty liberal still had a hard time abandoning their Totebagger upbringing. You know, compromise is good, if it’s bipartisan it is, by definition, good, we need unity, we need to listen to each other, the truly great politicians are the ones who cross the party aisle, “both sides” have good points, really, if you think about it, those Gangs of Wankers in the Senate are the true saviors of our nation, we must follow our leaders in a time of war, etc. This is mostly style and process stuff, not actual policy, but it’s the bullshit “we just need to come together” version of politics that’s been sold to suckers for decades. Was always just a con game on liberals, of course.

Suckers no more.

I’m not so sure…I see a lot of totebagger friends wringing their hands about Milo Yiannopolus’s right to free speech, about how it would be wrong to filibuster Gorsuch, about how it was the greatest crime ever when some random SNL writer said something mean about Barron Trump on twitter. I’m not defending the rioters in Berkeley or the random SNL writer, but honestly, who gives a fuck? Our nation is under siege. One hundred thousand fucking people have had their visas revoked. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

You don’t see this kind of bullshit on the right. They’re not constantly worried that the “other side” really has a point that should be heard or that “their side” is being too impolite or any of that kind of crap.

Look, in nine ways out of ten, I think liberal culture is infinitely superior to conservative culture. But if Donald Fucking Trump can’t scare the the Vichy out of us, I don’t know what will.

Dear New York Times…

POSTER’S NOTE:  Dear all,

I’ve just done something I essentially never do.  I’ve gone into two comments and redacted a couple of sentences that made what read to me as sexually hostile statements about a specific reporter.

The commenters are long time and respected members of the community, and I not only get that this is a delightfully expressive environment — I’ve certainly had occasion to discuss unnatural acts with oxidized farm tools myself.  But in the real world, reporters are being threatened daily by Trump folks and others — and female reporters get savaged more, and in more horrible ways.  I don’t believe in banning except in true extremis, and the comments edited don’t come close to ban-hammer eligibility.  But I don’t feel OK leaving that particular line of attack up on the blog, or attached to a post under my name.  So I’ve exercised the god-like powers of the blog to take out a couple of lines that hit too close to home, at least for me, in a time and place where women doing difficult jobs have enough to deal with as it is.

If anyone’s bothered by this, write to me, and I’ll make sure you get a full refund —



Hey, folks.  Been spending way too much time on Twitter lately, ranting about coverage and the election, and hence have sucked up all the would-be blogging time.  But in doing so, I’ve managed to begin a conversation with some folks who actually perform such coverage.  One of them asked me to be specific about a charge they found hard to swallow:  that there is a systematic difference between the way Trump is covered and Clinton is in the major venues.

Rockwell fact and fiction

That correspondent and others pointed out, accurately, that at least since May, and in many cases before then, there have been major, damning, utterly critical stories about Trump.  Given that, wouldn’t complaints about, say, stories on Clinton’s emails or the alleged corruption inherent in the Clinton Foundation-State Department nexus suggest more a partisan reaction, hypersensitive about stories critical of the side I favor, rather than a measured accounting of the full coverage record?

My answer was and that while there are indeed such stories, and that many of the Clinton pieces that have enraged me are at some definition of accuracy perfectly on-the-beam.  But then I go on to say that the question of systematic bias is not about each single story.  Rather, it turns on the entire editorial apparatus of campaign coverage: how those stories are assigned, pursued, resourced, and extended past day one or two coverage, and how the facts within them are set up for interpretation.

That argument leads to an obvious and appropriate response:

Prove it.

It’s going to take me some time to do so across the range of questions I’ve actually received.  But there was a piece in today’s New York Times that provides a case study (the fancy name for anecdata) that offers an example of the gap between fine-scale factual accuracy and a truthful exercise in journalism

For the record:  what I’m attempting to do isn’t simply to say “You Suck!” to The New York Times, the first target of my logorrhea below, or anyone else.  It is to help smart and incredibly hard working people realize what’s often hard to notice deep in the weeds and the mud.  That would be exactly where one is in the maze — which would be the first step to navigating to somewhere better.

With that as prologue, here’s what I just wrote to one of my correspondents.  That reporter challenged me on several points, and I began what will be a multipart response by walking back, just a little,  my somewhat incendiary claim that current campaign coverage reminded me of the Times’ Iraq war lead-in coverage — to which I added my own desire to give a specific example of what I meant by a biased approach to a story.  So here goes, in a slightly edited version of what I sent in private:


…The Iraq War mention isn’t a perfect analogy, I’ll agree:  there’s no comparison to Judith Miller in the Times’ current campaign coverage, and there’s no sign I can see of the editorial or management errors that allowed her coverage (and other stuff too, TBH) such impact.

 The Iraq war serves for me, and I think many critics of the Times as a kind of existence proof:  the Times is capable of major failures that have huge consequences, which means, to me, that it’s important to be very vigilant.  I know this seems obvious, and perhaps even insulting to those inside the organization – but from outside the newsroom, it often appears that the NYT has a difficult time admitting errosr, especially those more complicated than a straightforward factual mistake.   A personal anecdote:  I had drinks some years ago with a NYTimes reporter (still there, not on the politics desk) and at one point in our conversation (late, after a number of rounds) he said something like NYTimes reporters don’t write stuff that’s not true; we get more scrutiny than you believe so we make sure it doesn’t happen. (Fallible memory, some years, but that was the gist).  And I’m sure the scrutiny is there (heck – here I am part of it.) But that was not a reassuring statement, as I think you can see. 

 I’ll get into this more below but my broad framework is that with exceptions, the way the thumb is on the scale (from my point of view) in NYT coverage of the campaign is not at the level you work, on the reporting day by day and the production of individual stories.  It is rather on the editorial apparatus that creates the framework for readers to interpret your coverage.

You ask for specifics – let me give you an example from today’s paper, “Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation to State Dept.”

[Edited to add:  Hmmm, didn’t realize how long this sucker was on the page. Continued after the newly inserted jump] Read more

Dumb idea of the week

And this is not even directly related to Trump.

my first response is to ask if Ryan Lizza guzzles anti-freeze for breakfast as this is breathtakingly stupid.

Let’s make a few assumptions that I think are verifiable within reality.

a) Hillary Clinton has in all projection systems been favored to win the White House at all points to varying degrees (except the 538 click-bait now-cast)
b) A Republican appointed or de facto appointed Supreme Court median judge produces significantly different policy and political outcomes than a median Supreme Court justice that represents a typical Democratic nominee.
c) The Clinton campaign is better run than the Trump campaign.

Now let’s make a few more slightly shakier assumptions.

d) The Democratic coalition has good reason to believe it is a dominant Presidential level coalition ( 5 out 6 most recent elections had Dem popular vote pluralities etc)
e) The Republican coalition is a maxed out coalition with significant headwinds due to higher death and lower replacement rates of their core voters compared to Democratic core voting blocks.
f) The Donald is a dumpster fire which excerbates E

In football analytics terms, Clinton is ahead and she can win with a good, productive 8 minute offense of low variance but efficient plays. There is little reason for the Clinton campaign to adopt high variance vertical shots down the field to score when she is already up 9 with a better quarterback and a better defense. Scoring point is nice but running time off the clock and winning field position works almost as well. Interceptions and fumbles would dramatically drop win probability compared to a counterfactual of boring productive plays.

Promising to nominate a typical Republican judge as the median SCOTUS vote in order to try to capture 2% to 5% of the core Republican vote is a high variance play for a Democratic nominee. It could be worth it if the nominee was down 9 points with three months left. But that is not the case. Promising to nominate a Kennedy clone or more likely a Roberts clone may or may not get any Republican votes as a Trump Administration would nominate at least a Roberts if not an Alito clone anyways while it would cause a lot of trouble on the left flank. That could be acceptable if the left flank was legitimately faced with a “this sucks but it is the only chance to avoid the true suckage of four years of Trump” choice but that is not the choice out there.

Therefore this is the stupidest thing I’ve read this week.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Andrew Sullivan, Part [n]

Further to my disdain below, I can’t say anything to gloss what Andrew writes in tonight’s RNC liveblog.

MSKG - De idioot bij de vijver - Frits Van den Berghe (1926)

Truly, all you need to know about Andrew’s political and intellectual honesty is right there:

8:18 p.m. We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry – has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive. Which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Annnnd, Scene!

Have at it, friends.

Image:  Frits Van den Berghe, The Idiot by the Pond1926