The Winner of the 2008 Award for Political Incorrectness is...
The man who took on feminist lies about aggression
It's that time of the year -- Christmas carols, shiny-wrapped presents, surprise visits by long-lost in-laws. And of course, our announcement of the annual Award for Political Incorrectness. Previous winners of this highly-sought after prize include California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who took up the dicey issue of paternity fraud; columnist Phyllis Schlafly ("Shame on members of Congress who lack the courage to stand up to feminist outrages."); and Mark Inglis, the double-amputee who conquered Mt. Everest.
Last year's unanimous winners were Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty, the former Duke lacrosse players who bravely overcame a firestorm of rape hysteria unconscionably fanned by the media and university activists. Let's open the envelope for 2008.
This year's award goes to an unassuming university professor who has devoted his career to the understanding and remedy of family violence. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and was elected president of the National Council on Family Relations and the Eastern Sociological Society. Needless to say, his resume is lengthy and impressive. When he began his research in the 1970s, the public was well-acquainted with the stereotype of beer-swilling men who bullied their wives. That was the good professor's assumption, as well. But when he published his research findings in 1975, everyone was amazed -- women were just as likely as men to engage in partner violence. When he did follow-up surveys over the following 20 years, the gender-equal results confirmed his original research. More surprising, when other researchers studied homosexual relationships, they found lesbians had the highest rates of partner aggression.
There was a problem, but not with the research itself. The burgeoning feminist movement had staked out the domestic violence issue as its cri de coeur. The feminists had ginned up their own theory: Domestic violence is a hate crime perpetrated against women. Gloria Steinem said it best: "The patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself."
But what if all the research paints a completely different picture, showing heterosexual women are equally likely to aggress, and the highest rates of battering are found among lesbians? Obviously the hate crime theory goes out the window, and Steinem's breathless claim seems pretty far-fetched, as well.
So what's a good feminist to do about the good professor's research? Well, why not start a whispering campaign? Anything for the cause of female empowerment, right? So feminists at his university organized telephone ring accusing him of being a misogynist. He was picketed repeatedly. At the University of Massachusetts, a group of shouting and stomping women prevented him from delivering a guest lecture. (Yes, these are the same women who claim to be working for a more peaceful and tolerant society.)
In Canada, Pat Marshall, chairwoman of the Commission on Violence Against Women, made this charge to a reporter about her meeting with the professor's wife: "I have never met a woman who looked so victimized." But when the writer called the woman, she said she had never been struck. Marshall was later forced to apologize.
When the professor was elected president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, a group of feminists stood up and walked out as he began his presidential address. And the threats continue to this day -- recently one of his PhD students was told she would never find a job if she did her doctoral research with him.
In the face of such opposition, many academics would go into another line of research, or begin to skew their data to be politically acceptable. But he would have none of that. Rather than being cowed by the threats, he opted to expose the motivations behind the attacks. In one interview, he charged the criticisms of his work are "justifications of violence by women in the guise of feminism. This is a betrayal of the feminist ideal of a nonviolent world."
Then he went on to shed the light of truth on their tactics. Writing last year in the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, he cast the spotlight on how feminist academics conceal, deny, and distort the evidence. Then he detailed the ways in which feminists have corrupted the research on female-perpetrated abuse, even scheming to obstruct research funds that might identify female offenders. Finally he took aim at researchers who have "let their ideological commitments overrule their scientific commitments." Interested persons can read this no-holds-barred paper here. (pdf)
Congratulations, Dr. Murray Straus, director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. You are the winner of the 2008 Award for Political Incorrectness.
Photographers criminalised as British police abuse anti-terror laws
Fury as stop-and-search powers are used to block and confiscate legal pictures
Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years. With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home - currently the site of Europe's largest regeneration project. But to the police officers who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.
"The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act," he recalled.
For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.
But Powell's experience is far from uncommon. Every week photographers wielding their cameras in public find themselves on the receiving end of warnings either by police, who stop them under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, or from over-eager officials who believe that photography in a public area is somehow against the law. Groups from journalists to trainspotters have found themselves on the receiving end of this unwanted attention, with many photographers now fearing that their job or hobby could be under threat.
So serious has the situation become that the MP and keen photographer Austin Mitchell, chairman of the Parliamentary All-Party Photography Group, tabled an early day motion last March deploring the "officious interference or unjustified suspicion" facing camera enthusiasts around public buildings, where they are increasingly told that it is against the law to photograph public servants at all - especially police officers or community support officers - or that members of the public cannot be photographed without their written permission. The Labour MP is now calling for a photography code for officers so that snappers can continue going about their rightful business.
Yet, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the law is straightforward. "Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places," a spokeswoman said.
But still the harassment goes on. Philip Haigh, the business editor of Rail magazine, said the bullying of enthusiasts on railway platforms has become an unwelcome fact of life in Britain. "It is a problem that doesn't ever seem to go away. We get complaints from railway photographers all the time that they are told to stop what they are doing, mainly by railway staff but also by the police. It usually results in an apologetic letter from a rail company," he said.
In the summer, armed police swooped on a group of trainspotters known as the Steam Boys as they waited with high-powered photographic equipment to capture a 1950s engine called The Great Marquess as it crossed the Forth Bridge near Gordon Brown's constituency home in Fife.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also taken up the cause, highlighting the case last month of the photographer Jess Hurd, whose camera was taken from her when she was detained for 45 minutes under Section 44 while documenting a traveller wedding in London's Docklands. Last week police were filmed obstructing photographers covering a protest at the Greek embassy in London. Scotland Yard promised to investigate. Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the NUJ, said: "It's time the police realised that taking photographs doesn't automatically mean you're a terrorist. Every month the NUJ finds itself dealing with yet more cases of officers infringing journalistic freedoms and, very often, exceeding their legal powers.
"Even the police's own guidance makes it clear that there's nothing in the Terrorism Act that can be used to prohibit the taking of photos in a public place. The authorities have got to do more to ensure that those people charged with upholding the law don't keep on contravening it by trampling over well-established civil liberties."
Media deception about Christianity and teenage sex
The chain reaction was something out of central casting. A medical journal starts it off by announcing a study comparing teens who take a pledge of virginity until marriage with those who don't. Lo and behold, when they crunch the numbers, they find not much difference between pledgers and nonpledgers: most do not make it to the marriage bed as virgins.
Like a pack of randy 15-year-old boys, the press dives right in. "Virginity Pledges Don't Stop Teen Sex," screams CBS News. "Virginity pledges don't mean much," adds CNN. "Study questions virginity pledges," says the Chicago Tribune. "Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds," heralds the Washington Post. "Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data," reports Bloomberg. And on it goes. In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: "Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study."
Here's the rub: It just isn't true. In fact, the only way the study's author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers. The study is called "Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers," and it was published in the Jan. 1 edition of Pediatrics.
The first to notice something lost in the translation was Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of both the Red Cross and the National Institutes of Health. Today she serves as health editor for U.S. News & World Report. And in her dispatch on this study, Dr. Healy pointed out that "virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general -- a fact that many media reports have missed cold."
What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:
- These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.
- These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.
- These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.
- When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 -- compared to 17 for the typical American teen.
- And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste -- amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.
Let's put this another way. The real headline from this study is this: "Religious Teens Differ Little in Sexual Behavior Whether or Not They Take a Pledge."
Now, whatever the shock that might occasion at CBS or the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise to parents. Most parents appreciate that a pledge of virginity -- a one-time event that might be made at an emotional moment in a teen's life -- is not some talisman that will magically shield their sons and daughters from the strong and normal desires that grow as they discover their sexuality. What these parents hope to do is direct these desires in a way that recognizes sex as a great gift, which in the right circumstances fosters genuine intimacy between a man and a woman and at its freest offers the possibility of new life.
This is not the prevailing view, of course. And these parents know it. Far from conformists living in a comfortable world where their beliefs are never challenged, these families live in an environment where most everything that is popular -- television, the movies, the Internet -- encourages children to grow up as quickly as possible while adults remain locked in perpetual adolescence.
Nor do these families believe their children are better than other kids. Unlike the majority of health experts and their supporters in the press, however, they don't believe that the proper use of the condom is the be all and end all. For these parents, the good news here is that the striking behavioral differences between the average American teen and the two teen groups in this study show that homes and families still exert a powerful influence.
That, alas, is not something you're likely to read in the headlines. For when it comes to challenging the conventional wisdom on issues of sexuality, the American media suddenly become as coy as a cloistered virgin.
Caution needed in criminalizing spanking
A lawyer attempts a middling approach to the spanking debate below. Mirko Bagaric says that any harm in it needs to be proven before it is banned but that it is in principle bad -- so should be resorted to only when smacking clearly seems the lesser of two evils. I think that those comments come close to a justification of the status quo in most places
To smack or not to smack children? The issue will continue to divide the community until a reasoned and informed policy is adopted. Is a zero-tolerance approach to child discipline the mother of all nanny laws, constituting an unreasonable incursion into family matters, or should the law step in to "save" children subjected to any degree of physical chastisement?
The strongest arguments against any type of smacking are that it leads to serious forms of abuse and teaches children that violence is acceptable. However, these arguments have not been empirically validated.
There is a vast difference between the occasional controlled, strategic disciplinary tap on the bottom and an uncontrolled violent assault. It is absurd to think that adults aren't morally sophisticated enough to recognise this difference. The law recognises that it is acceptable to use reasonable and moderate force to chastise children, and while there is no firm line between acceptable and excessive force, few parents are investigated, let alone convicted of child assault.
There is surprisingly little concrete information about how smacking affects children in the long term. There is strong evidence suggesting that violent criminals are disproportionately subjected to smacking as children. However, nearly all adults who were smacked as children don't grow up to be murderers, rapists or even road ragers.
About three-quarters of Australians were smacked as children and it is incontestable that we live in a society which strongly disapproves of demonstrably harmful violence.
The only way to sensibly deal with the smacking issue is to rationally look at the interests of all parties concerned against the backdrop of accepted moral principles and empirical data regarding the effects of smacking. We need reliable, wide-ranging objective data on the long-term effects on children of minor levels of chastisement. Data about the impact of serious assaults on children is useless (unless it shows that small taps lead to two big whacks). That is already illegal and will remain so. If the research shows that children who are subjected to mild levels of smacking do not disproportionately experience psychological or behavioural problems, then smacking should be permissible.
However, until such data is available the default position is that smacking is morally wrong. Smacking proponents have not rebutted the starting principles that we should avoid intentionally inflicting pain and that certain (physical) pain carries more weight than remoter forms of harm (in the form of the distress caused by out-of-control children to parents). Still, like all moral principles, the prohibition against smacking is not absolute. There are worse forms of physical harm than smacking and no kid is more important than the next. It follows that it is OK to smack where it is the only way to protect the child or another person from serious physical harm.
In the meantime, both sides of the smacking debate need to make sure that they stick to the facts and don't abuse the rest of us with their spin - for this, no amount of smacking would be too great.
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 readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.