Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Victimization Of Megan McArdle

I am finally starting to make progress on my book but, as always, once you look horror in the face you cannot force yourself to look away.

Megan McArdle read an article against sexism in the media and felt something deep inside her stir uncomfortably. Being Megan McArdle, she whafted over to her keyboard and unloaded the contents of her uneasy brain directly into the willing arms of her devoted followers.

Ms. McArdle tells us that she can relate to the sexists attacks against Amanda Hess, who writes about feminism and sex, as well as other topics. In reality she cannot, since attacks against women who write about the place of women in society anger men in ways McArdle will never accomplish. Men who feel powerless will find it absolutely necessary to goad women into displaying signs of weakness in order to reestablish their imaginary social dominance. They threaten and insult in the hopes of women showing womanly weaknesses such as any emotion whatsoever, or hoping to force women to back down intellectually, if the bully is especially proud of his imaginary male intellectual dominance.

McArdle no doubt gets as many sexist threats and insults as any other prominent woman on the internet. They are disgusting and should not be tolerated by anyone. However, we have seen many instances in which McArdle did not hesitate to go on the attack when she felt she was being impugned; she is no weakling. But she is cunning and she has gained a lot of mileage out of wrapping herself in the flag of victimization, and not all attacks are easily dismissed as sexism. Number One and Number Two in the long list of her personal suffering are her connections to the Koches, no doubt an extremely sore subject. McArdle just happened to leave The Atlantic right after she was caught lying by omission on her conflict-of-interest disclosures, leaving out or underplaying most of her extensive connections to Koch-created and fed institutions.

1. People talking about how you perform oral sex on various powerful or rich conservatives, usually the Kochs, but could be anyone.
2. People asking you how it feels to do same.

 We all know how much the right is outraged by the mere mention of oral sex, right? But McArdle eventually concludes that the internet is mean to everyone and the sexual comments don't worry her nearly as much as other issues. For instance, she easily dismisses the crazies who are just haters.

I’ll be honest: This stuff is really unpleasant; my mother finds it hard to read my articles because such comments upset her too much. And yet, it’s actually not as dispiriting as the broader abuse one gets on the Internet, because the people who write it are just obviously crazy, and it’s hard to get worked up about the fact that an obviously crazy person doesn’t like you very much.  
(If any of the obviously crazy people who write such things are reading this, take note: Not only are you failing to change your targets' terrible opinions, but you also aren’t even having the intended effect of making them feel bad about themselves. Play another game of computer solitaire instead.)  
What’s actually much harder to deal with is the overreactions, the uncharitable misreadings of sentences with a perfectly innocent meaning, and all the other tools that both sides use to whip their fellow travelers into a feeding frenzy.

Ah, the uncharitable misreadings of sentences with perfectly innocent meanings, such as those crazy folk who mocked her statement that we should train our children to rush gunmen who are blowing them away with a gun. Or her perfectly innocent giggle about hoping the cops stove in the heads of innocent protesters with a 2x4. You'd have to be crazy, to be guilty of overreaction and lack of charity, to take umbrage against McArdle's attempts to support bank-friendly legislation and destroy consumer-friendly regulation.

Now that we have dismissed the sexist and crazy criticism of McArdle we are left with the critiques that are important to McArdle. She reprints part of an older post regarding the same problem:

[People] get very uncomfortable when [women] contest men on skill: when they are arguing, in essence, "I'm smarter than you" or "I've thought this through better" or "My ideas are more compelling" or just "I'm in charge, and we're going to do it my way". It's not just that the women may be wrong -- 50% of the time, they probably are. There's a real anger that the women are daring to put themselves out there, to declaim in a space where they have no right to be. Politics seems to me to be very definitely one of those arenas. When Stephanie Cutter does her job right, she wins the news cycle -- and the people who have lost take a double blow. They were beaten, and they were beaten by a woman. It's galling. Which is why Rush Limbaugh garners outrage and fear, while Michelle Malkin garners a sort of hysterical contempt, incredulity mixed with horror mixed with "How dare that uppity [expletive deleted] state her stupid opinions!" And why the reaction to both Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin was somewhat out of proportion to their actual faults.
The real problem with sexism in the media is that nobody respects the intellectual heft of one Megan McArdle. People who disagree with her won't take her appeals to authority seriously. So what if she's wrong half of the time? She has a place of authority, dammit, and nobody will make the public displays of submission which are due her by virtue of her class, breeding and education. Why, oh why, can't you just tell everyone that you have thoroughly thought through the matter and are absolutely positive that you know the correct course of action for everyone but yourself to take? But noooooo, they want proof, they want facts, they want charts and pies and graphs. They want source material and peer-reviewed studies and dialogue. It just never freaking ends! Why won't they just take her word for it?

And because people who disagree with one are just meanies, people on the left are also too mean to link to certain deserving bloggers.

In my experience, what’s the first thing anyone says about a woman who disagrees with them on an issue? “She’s such an idiot.” I’ll be honest and say I’ve caught myself doing it. Yes, undoubtedly some of them are idiots. But it seems statistically unlikely that all the women on the other side are idiots, and your side happened to get all the good ones. Men get accused of a wide range of sins, from deliberate mendacity to wanting to maintain their privilege, but almost all of the women are foolish and should shut their mouths. Their hysterical mouths. To see what I mean, consider this. I frequently see lists of “writers I like” or “bloggers I like” or what have you, and there’s usually a spot for “Folks on the other side who I enjoy.” Sometimes that’s a whole post or article of its own. These are staples of blogging. And in the decade-plus I’ve been writing on the Internet, I have almost never seen a woman in those slots. Not never-never: I think I made Kevin Drum’s list once, and I am sure I am not the only one who has crossed the aisle in that way. But it’s really rare, either in proportion to the number of women writers, or the number of other women on these lists. Though it’s true that political writing and blogging trend heavily male, these lists usually do contain women -- just very rarely in that slot. I think the same holds true for minority writers, though I am less sure of that. And what are the odds of this happening by chance? This strikes me as the real problem with “women on the Internet.” We’re big girls now, and we know how to use the delete button. But we don’t have a button for the people who automatically delete us from the list of grown-ups who should be taken seriously.
Yes, people think Megan McArdle is an idiot because they disagree with her and they think only idiots will not agree with them. And (possibly unconscious) sexism might be the reason she is not blogrolled by liberal or left-leaning bloggers who have risen above her in the ranks. McArdle does not need to defend her work, of course; it speaks for herself. Loudly.

Because hitting herself in the head with a hammer once is never enough, McArdle brings up the subject again. McArdle's audience does not take kindly to the suggestion that they are sexist.
But while “Here’s how guys need to fix their behavior” may not be exactly what I said, that’s what a bunch of guys in the comments section heard. Here’s what one reader wrote in response:
You've got it entirely backward. Megan. If I trash a white male politician in public, i will not be called either a racist or a sexist. If I trash a minority and / or female politician, I will be, regardless of what I'm saying. Just look at all the leftist whiners who attack every anti-Obama person as being "racist". This corrosive double standard has effects, one of which is what you're seeing here: "I'm going to be called racist no matter what, might as well be guilty." Further, those on the left seem to encourage this "racist" / "sexist" "defense" ("you're just attacking me because I'm a women"). Which often causes this reply to come to mind: "no, I'm attacking your ideas because they suck, as I said. I'm attacking you because you're a dishonest whiny feminist who refuses to engage in honest intellectual discussion."
That's telling her, faithful reader! And we have finally found common ground with McArdle's readers; we both think that it is her ideas that suck. McArdle is stuck; she must pacify her right-wing commentariat while not giving up her main point: We all need to sit down and think of more ways to advance the career of Megan McArdle.
I think that we need to have a conversation about subtle structural sexism. But it actually needs to be a conversation, because the best hope of changing behavior is for well-meaning people to do a little gut check before they go on a tear against an opinionated woman. And the only way to do that is to actually convince them that this is real. So really, guys: It’s not you, it’s me. It’s us. It’s everyone. But like Smokey Bear says, only you, and me, and everyone else can prevent flame wars.
'Fess up, guys. Who has been tearing into McArdle lately, and can I have all the links?