Friday, June 27, 2008

Media bias against men

The image of fathers and fatherhood has taken a beating over the past several decades, and the media has been part of the problem. While there has been some improvement in the past few years, fathers are still frequently unfairly stereotyped. For example, in April the Council on Contemporary Families issued a report on men and housework. CNN's headline to the story was typical of most media- "Report: Men still not pulling weight on chores."

In reality, studies which account for the total amount of work that husbands and wives contribute to their households-including housework, child care, and employment-confirm that men contribute at least as much to their families as women do. What the CCF study actually said was that the amount of child care fathers provide has tripled over the past four decades, and the amount of housework men do has doubled. Moreover, men have accomplished this in an era where the average workweek has significantly expanded. The papers reporting the story barely noticed.

Ex-NBA Player Jason Caffey was widely vilified in April for being behind in his child support. Caffey had paid over 90% of what he was ordered to pay, but fell behind when his post-career income dropped, and was threatened with jail. Neither CNN commentator Nancy Grace nor Caffey's other critics stopped to ponder the absurdity of calling a father who had already paid millions of dollars in child support a "deadbeat dad."

Similarly, in April Chandra Myers made national headlines when she took the unusual step of suing New York bakery worker Robert Sean Myers' employers Sara Lee Bakeries and Bimbo Bakeries for allegedly failing to garnish his wages. Yet while Robert was labeled a "deadbeat dad," the media didn't even notice that a court had obligated Myers to pay $2,000 a month in child support for one child-on an income of only $1,600 a month.

USA Today financial columnist Sandra Block recently explained that widows receive significantly more social security benefits if their husbands delay retirement. She could have written, "Men, we know your wives and children appreciate the sacrifices you've made as family breadwinner, and delaying retirement will help ensure your loved ones are provided for." Instead, Block wrote:

"If you want to make up for all the times you came home with beer on your breath, left your socks on the bathroom floor or gave your wife a DustBuster for Valentine's Day, hold off on filing for your Social Security benefits." She then adds, with some understatement, "Many men who are eager to retire may chafe at this suggestion." You think?

In 2002, Clara Harris repeatedly ran over her husband David as his daughter begged Clara not to kill her father. She recently filed a suit against her former attorney, triggering a round of media reports on her case. Media outlets consistently referred to David simply as "Cheating Husband" or "Cheating Spouse." At one point, 233 of the 354 news stories indexed on Google News, referred to David Harris as Clara Harris' "cheating husband." If an unfaithful woman was murdered by her husband, it's doubtful that newspapers would disparage this victim of domestic violence by referring to her simply as "cheating wife."

The reporting of the Britney Spears-Kevin Federline child custody battle also had some low points. Many headlines were similar to Yahoo News' "Court awards Spears' kids to K-Fed." Funny, we thought "Spears' kids" had two parents, not just one.

Research shows that dads matter. The rates of the four major youth pathologies-teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, school dropouts and juvenile crime-are tightly correlated with fatherlessness, often more so than with any other socioeconomic factor.

The public portrayal of fathers is fairer now than it was a few years ago, and much fairer than it was during the 1980s and 1990s. Still, too much of the media reflexively buys into unfair, destructive stereotypes of dads as slackers, deadbeats, deserters, and louts.


British Tories back have-a-go citizens

The public should be able to use physical force to restrain yobs without fear of being prosecuted for assault, according to a new Conservative policy. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "We have a duty to prevent crime, and law-abiding citizens should not be discouraged by either the state or the police."

It was necessary to clarify the law in order to "reignite the citizenry", he said. "If you grab a 12-year-old by the scruff of the neck now, you might be in trouble and this is something that we should be looking at. "People should act sensibly, but they can do a lot to stop crime."

Grieve believes people have become wary of intervening to stop delinquency after a series of cases in which members of the public and teachers have been charged with assault for trying to restrain violent teenagers. The disappearance of traditional reprimands by parents, teachers and neighbours, he said, meant many teenagers were being dealt with unnecessarily by the criminal justice system.

To redress the balance, Grieve wants the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to be given new guidelines for dealing with people who intervene to prevent crime. He argued that it was often better in the long run for teenagers to be tackled by an authority figure than to end up in court with a criminal record, which could start them on the path to serious crime.

Many teenagers who got into trouble, he said, went on to lead law-abiding lives. To illustrate the point, Grieve admitted that when he was 12, he and a friend broke into an abandoned house and smashed it up, shooting out the windows with an air rifle.


The "incorrect" Carlin

Carlin's comedy was not simply about dirty words; it was about the English language, and our collective fear of it. He used more expletives than Howard Stern, but his obsession was linguistics, not lasciviousness. As Carlin told CNN in 2004, "[I]f I hadn't chosen the career of being a performer, I think linguistics would have been a natural area that I'd have loved-to teach it, probably...Language has always fascinated me."

He was especially fascinated with the blunting of language for comfort's sake. Carlin ridiculed our watering-down of sexual descriptions and ethnic categories, not to mention our mourning clich‚s, all of which he believed were the real-life manifestations of George Orwell's "Newspeak," utilized to obscure reality, numb the mind, and discourage criticism. As much as Carlin loathed theology, war, greed, and hypersensitivity, he was most disgusted when religous puritans, the military, corporations, and P.C. "classroom liberals" mangled the language for the purpose of soothing the masses. When I saw Carlin perform in the `90s, the biggest laugh of the night came from his observation that "the unlikely event of a water landing," discussed in every preflight safety lecture, sounds suspiciously like "crashing into the f*cking ocean."

In fact, Carlin was disgusted with the mangling of English for any reason. He hated anyone who pronounced forte as "for-tay," insisted that "no comment is a comment," and advised us that "unique needs no modifier; very unique, quite unique, more unique, real unique, fairly unique, and extremely unique are wrong and they mark you as dumb, although certainly not unique." For all of his lifelong ranting against conservatism, Carlin was a diehard traditionalist when it came to grammar and vocabulary.

This mastery of the language allowed Carlin to craft his puns ("Soft rock music isn't rock, and it ain't's just soft," "I thought it would be nice to get a job at a duty-free shop, but it doesn't sound like there's a whole lot to do in a place like that"), but also gave him the ability to see how we pad our existences with pleasant lies. In Carlin's mind, language should not be safe, and neither should life. Children, he argued in his final HBO special, this year's It's Bad for Ya, should play with sticks, not have "play dates" under the ever-watchful eyes of overprotective, micro-managing parents. (He had previously complained, with his trademark growl, "We've taken all the fun out of childhood just in the interest of saving a few lives.")

Near the end of his career, Carlin was more bitter than funny-It's Bad for Ya is a righteous tirade that provokes more nods than laughs-but he never lost his unparalleled ability to play with words. He deconstructed the phrases that we use absentmindedly, exposing our hypocrisies-and our human condition-in the process. He was a comic genius because he was a linguistic master. As Carlin said in his most famous routine: "I thank you for hearing my words... They're my work, they're my play, they're my passion. Words are all we have, really."


Of the clueless, by the clueless and for the clueless

Our old buddy Haroon Sidiqqui is back with another op-ed in the Toronto Star trying to make the case that hate-crime laws are a "reasonable limit" on free speech. You may remember Mr. Sadiqqui from his last feeble attempt to sell this load of malarkey. His new approach? Well, it's not about the concept of "rights" this time - it's about the process. Canada, you see, marches to the sound of a different drummer:
Canada has followed a different path on free speech than the United States, where there are no anti-hate laws because the U.S. Bill of Rights says "Congress shall make no laws ... abridging freedom of speech or of the press."

The Canadian Charter of Rights, too, guarantees "freedom of the press," but it places "reasonable limits" on it. That's why the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the anti-hate provisions of both the Criminal Code and human rights statutes.
Canada, you see, has decided that "legality" is much more important that a concept of inalienable rights which limits government's action. Or said another way, it is government which has to last say, not the people. How else do you explain this:
What constitutes hate is up to the commissions and, ultimately, the courts to decide. But this being Canada, different jurisdictions tackle the issue differently.
So, if the commission in Ontario decides what someone from Alberta says in Alberta constitutes a hate-crime (even if the Alberta commission finds nothing hateful at all about the speech), Ontario can take the Albertan to court.

After all, instead of a matter of rights, this is all a matter of arbitrary opinion. And in Mr. Sadiqqui's world, arbitrary opinion that agrees with him is much more important than establishing a right which limits government. Nope, he'd much rather see government limit a right.

He produces a whole list of "anomalies" which should make you cringe, but seems to find nothing fundamentally wrong with their arbitrariness since they serve his purpose of seeing hate speech laws supported. Defense number two.
The federal commission gets up to 15,000 inquiries a year, says Jennifer Lynch, chair. "We take up only about 700 and refer only about 70 or 80 to the tribunal.

"Hate cases are only 2 per cent of that stream. The tribunal has dealt with only about 15 hate cases, so far. And not a single one of them has been overturned by the courts." So, why the hue and cry?
If you have to ask, it is clear you don't get it at all. But still - the old "its only 2% of whatever" defense? What's next? The old "if you don't say anything hateful, you have nothing to worry about" line? And why would the courts overturn anything - we've just been schooled in the fact that the commissions get to decide what constitutes hate - they make it up on the fly and the courts have little room to dispute their decisions, do they? Sadiqqui then lets out the big dog:
Karim Karim, chair of Carleton University's School of Journalism, says journalists are "fixated on their own right and privileges.

"What about the rights of people to be free of discriminatory and hateful speech? Journalists talk about one principle, and not the other."
One of the premises of the right of free speech has to do with that right being so important that a society must allow its free exercise at all times, with very few exceptions (and the US outlined its exception as the incitement to violence not being a part of free speech). And as I pointed out previously, acts of violence are factual evidence of such incitement.

When you further limit speech through arbitrarily defined means such as "discriminatory or hateful speech" you put a very real chill on free speech, to the point that you kill the debate that is necessary to the maintenance of liberty and freedom.

You don't talk about race, because such a discussion could be construed by some as "discriminatory or hate speech". You don't talk about religion, because such a discussion could be construed by some as "discriminatory or hate speech." You don't talk about gender because such a discussion could be considered by "discriminatory or hate speech."

In fact, you don't debate much of anything when you really have no idea who might take it wrong and haul you up in front of some commission on hate-speech charges do you? Vague and arbitrary hate-speech laws have then triumphed over the concept of free speech.

In his conclusion, Saddiqqui seems to retreat a bit from his defense of hate-speech laws but if you read it carefully, you'll see he's still all for hate-speech laws and not at all for free speech:
Anti-hate laws could be made consistent across Canada by exempting the media, as in Ontario, or axing the anti-hate provisions altogether. We may even adopt the American system and remove the anti-hate section from the Criminal Code as well.

Many disagree, including the Canadian Jewish Congress. Its head, Bernie Farber, says the anti-hate laws have helped make Canada "the warm, tolerant and accepting nation that it has become."

Beyond the law, there's self-restraint. Most media exercise it, every day. We do not publish racist cartoons and anti-Semitic rants. That Maclean's published a series of virulent articles about Muslims itself speaks volumes.
Note his first line - who is he pandering too? You bet - the media. Get them on board and this is a done deal. More importantly, though, notice who is left out his pandering altogether - the rest of Canada.

As for Mr. Farber's claim as echoed by Saddiqqui - a nation which puts its own people's speech on trial based in arbitrary definitions of "hate" is neither warm, friendly or accepting as I see it. Nor is it free.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: