Stupid Pundits Being Stupid

Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money had nominated this David Brooks column as the dumbest article you’ll read today, but then he found a Richard Cohen column that is even dumber. These columns are self-evidently stupid enough to not need further commentary from me explaining why they are stupid.

If the prize is not yet awarded, I’d also like to nominate this William Saletan column as the dumbest article you’ll read today. Really, Saletan should stick to concern trolling about abortion and stop revealing how oblivious he can be about other issues as well. See Steve M for explanatory snark.

But my real purpose here is to nominate a blog post by Ross Douthat, called “Why French Women Don’t Get Promoted,” as at least a runner-up for the dumbest article you’ll read today. He presents data showing that U.S. career women have a higher glass ceiling than women in other developed countries, which may be true. But he thinks the reason for this is that those other countries have governments that provide more support for families, including working mothers — what Douthat calls “family-friendly socialism” — than in the U.S., where working mothers are on their own to patch together whatever arrangements they can make to balance office and home. He writes that family-friendly socialism . . .

helps explain the persistence of “the glass ceilings, as well as stubbornly large wage gaps in more progressive countries,” because working women tend to be shunted more decisively onto a mommy track than they are in the United States.

… but at no point does he attempt to explain why that would be true. And the sources he cites, the ones available online, don’t really explain why that would be true, either. It’s a correlation-must-be-causation argument.

One of the sources cited explains that women get so much maternity leave in France it makes employers nervous about hiring them. But it’s not like women here don’t get pregnant and choose to cut back hours or leave their jobs altogether. And, anyway, the same source says later that French companies find ways to punish excessive maternity-leave taking.

Basically, though, Douthat blames France for providing women with all these incentives to stay home and have more children, and he says that’s why they are less successful in their careers. The thing is, though, that women who really want to be a success in business are not going to have four or five babies to get more maternity leave and receive a government stipend. I suspect the women who most take advantage of France’s family-friendly socialism to spend more time with their children are the ones who choose to do that, whereas here low-wage service jobs are mostly filled up by women who have to work to earn the money but who would rather be home with their kids.

I’ve got two words for Douthat: Affirmative Action. People forget that Affirmative Action was and is as much about ending gender discrimination as racial discrimination. And early on, probably the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action were younger college-educated women, mostly white, who no longer were being sidetracked into secretarial jobs just because they were girls while young men with exactly the same qualifications started up the career ladder. Now, after 40 years, it has made a huge difference.

Have any of these other developed countries with lower glass ceilings attempted anything as rigorous as Affirmative Action to address gender discrimination? I doubt it. If the glass ceilings are lower in France, I suspect the real culprit is old-fashioned sexism.

10 thoughts on “Stupid Pundits Being Stupid

  1. Well, in all fairness to Douthat, Cohen, and Saletan, when you start with your predetermined conclusion, it’s not that difficult to be drawn to it in your writing.

  2. On a scale of 0 (Fox News) to 5 (NYT), Douthat’s ability to speak in complete sentences scores him a “1”. Bobo, able to sometimes make valid leaps of logic,scores maybe a “2”. Douthat should really, really thank the Times for allowing him to fill out their obligatory “conservative quota”.

  3. I didn’t even get past the first sentence of the Brooks column:

    As every discerning person knows, “The Searchers” is the greatest movie ever made.

    No it’s not. It isn’t even John Ford’s greatest movie. I would rank both “Stagecoach” and “My Darling Clementine” higher. (All right, not the most pressing issue of the day. But David Brooks has this way of trying to sound erudite that I find particularly irritating for some reason.)

    • Well, come to think of it, I can’t say I’m a big John Ford fan. I can kind of tolerate The Grapes of Wrath. I’m not sure if I ever saw The Searchers or My Darling Clementine.

  4. “family-friendly socialism”

    Douthat is of course an imbecile but “family-friendly socialism” is right wing genius stuff. Who but the teabaggets could take one of their tried and true slogans ““family-friendly” and exclude the moderates and liberals by adding “socialism”. They just can’t help themselves!

  5. I think Stephen Stralka has it correct that Stagecoach and My Darling Clementine are both better movies than The Searchers. But, Casablanca is the best movie ever made IMHO. As an American Indian, I had to give up watching westerners especially John Wayne movies–the Indians were always the bad guys and it never did much for my self-esteem.

  6. Richard Cohen’s column is the one I found most offensive. His defense of NYC’s stop and frisk policy is near perfect in logic but ignores the injustice and damage it does to a society.. Unfortunately I can’t articulate exactly what the nature of my objections are, but I know whatever good result is claimed by that policy it is greatly outweighed by the bad that it produces.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a policy that reinforces racism and gives racism the opportunity to flourish under the guise of public safety. It’s not like airport security where everyone is subjected to the same scrutiny and the elements of bias or racism can’t get a toe hold.
    It is a policy that separates and divides. It’s a cancerous plight on the American pubic that further erodes any attempt to bring unity to us as a nation.
    The message is…You’re really not one of us. Society sees you as different.

  7. I thought France was one of those European countries that needed its women to have more babies, that enough white babies weren’t being born and too many Arab babies were being born. Am I wrong?

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