Friday, April 21, 2006

Seeing What You Want

One of the problems that arises from having strong beliefs in the existence of some misdeed (i.e. liberal bias in the media, sexism, racism, or my personal favorite, corruption and excess in the government) is that once you’ve convinced yourself it’s there, you start seeing it everywhere, thereby further confirming your beliefs. This came to mind while reading a couple of comment threads at Alas, a Blog, where some snippy remarks made by some of the posters (one of whom is Brandon Berg from Catallarchy) who obviously disagree on the growth (or lack thereof) of government spending on social programs over the past 30-odd years were sidetracked by claims that a couple of the (male) commenters were sexist in their comments:

By now it’s hard not to note a consistent pattern:
1) Alsis states an opinion.
2) Male conservatives rush in to correct Alsis, usually in an incredibly condesending manner.
3) Said male conservatives demonstrate that they in fact don’t know what they’re talking about and are incapable of citing even their own chosen statistics correctly.
4) Repeat.
In the thread I’m discussing, Alsis - despite being far more modest about her economic knowledge - displayed a more accurate understanding of the economic statistics under discussion than either Robert or Brandon. (Admittedly, a low bar). And in return, she’s been treated with nothing but condescension.
I consider Robert a friend, and writing this post doesn’t give me any joy. But frankly, the whole exchange stinks of sexism to me. And considering how much they got wrong, I think Brandon and especially Robert both need to buy some fucking humility - and they both owe Alsis an apology for their condescending ways.

Hmm, who's being condescending now? (Personally, I didn't think the orginal criticsms were overly harsh). What is funny is that in all the posts on this thread, the ONLY time I can find any remarks that might be construed as sexist come in rebuttals like the one above that claim sexism on behalf of males. The said male commenters did not leave any comments deriding Alsis for her gender (or even casually linking to it), only her ideas and disputes over various facts. I wasn’t the only one to notice this, as commenter Carla says:

After reading this post and the offending commentary thread in question, I don’t think the condescension is about sexism at all. I believe its conservatism.
Conservatives have become so steeped in their own rightness and its justification at all costs–that their arrogance permeates everything. In my view, that’s the only way they could remain conservative after watching their leaders practice such inept governance.
Had Alsis been a man, its my opinion that the disdainful treatment would have been just as offensive.

Which was pretty clear to me, reading the thread – the liberals want to claim that government services have been gutted, while conservatives want to push the theory that spending is way up. And they each take opposition to that view pretty personally. End of story? No, Alsis responds:

You think that Robert and his idelogical pals would have tried their little game-bordering-on-gangpile if I’d been male ?
I don’t. Nice of you to notice what they were up to, Amp.
Robert, you can issue that apology any time you’re ready. You, too, Brandon.

So now, not only are they sexist, it’s a conspiracy, too! Sigh. First off, if you’re going to post relatively controversial ideas or opinions on a blog, you better be prepared for some personal attacks and condescenion, whether you’re male or female. And second, just because someone criticizes your viewpoint, it doesn’t mean they’re criticizing it because of your gender. This kind of reaction is just as inherently sexist as whatever they are trying to read into the comments made by the males. And thirdly, the assumption that an apology is in order seems a bit over-the-top.

There’s no real point to all of this, other than to pass along this thread that really frustrated me and to point out that once you’ve got an ideology implanted in your brain, it becomes very difficult to dislodge and very easy to find evidence that confirms that belief. I’m definitely not innocent on this point, so I’m not trying to criticize others hypocritically – as I mentioned above, government excess is firmly ensconced as part of my belief system, and now I see it everywhere, rightly or wrongly. It's probably something we should all try to be careful with.


Post a Comment

<< Home