WHO IS NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Lazy and possibly not super-honest?

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2015

Part 1—The latest cut-and-paste:
Consider it the latest chance to learn more about Nicholas Kristof—possibly to broaden our sense of who Nicholas Kristof is.

In yesterday’s New York Times,
the former Rhodes scholar was reciting some of the liberal world’s most familiar scripts.

We assume his basic claims are basically valid. That said, people like Kristof remind us of the need to demand evidence and proof, even for claims which may seem tribally obvious.

As often seems to be the case, Kristof’s column took maybe ten minutes to write. As usual, it sat beneath a headline which, through its exquisite condescension, was guaranteed to drive tribal wedges across the land.

Increasingly, Kristof is Our Own Mr. Collins. Midway through yesterday’s exercise in condescension, he offered this passage to show the way unconscious bias works against female professors:
KRISTOF (2/22/15): White men sometimes feel besieged and baffled by these suggestions of systematic advantage. When I wrote a series last year, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” the reaction from white men was often indignant: It’s an equal playing field now! Get off our case!

Yet the evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias remains widespread in ways that systematically benefit both whites and men. So white men get a double dividend, a payoff from both racial and gender biases.

Consider a huge interactive exploration of 14 million reviews on RateMyProfessors.com that recently suggested that male professors are disproportionately likely to be described as a “star” or “genius.” Female professors are disproportionately described as “nasty,” “ugly,” “bossy” or “disorganized.”
Gack! When college students rate their professors, are female professors “disproportionately described” as “nasty,” as “ugly,” as “bossy?”

It seems that this may be the case. We’d exercise some caution, though, in part because of the limits of the investigative tool to which Kristof links in his column.

The interactive site to which Kristof links is able to tell us what words students used in their reviews of their professors. It isn’t able to provide or evaluate the context in which those words were used, a point which should be kept in mind when using the site.

Still and all, Kristof was telling us pseudo-liberals one of our favorite stories. Female professors are disproportionately described as “bossy?” Within our pseudo-liberal tents, we love it when that happens!

Here are a couple of things Kristof didn’t tell you:

First, the term “bossy” is almost never used in these student reviews. As you can see for yourself at the interactive site in question, the term was used in the student reviews of female professors about two times per million words of text!

We liberals are thrilled to hear that students are calling their female professors “bossy.” In fact, that very rarely happened in these student reviews.

(As best one can tell from the site, the term “bossy” was used in reviews of male professors about one time per million words of text. In fact, neither male nor female professors are being wisely denounced as “bossy.” The term is almost never used in the student reviews.)

Why would Kristof cite a term which was so rarely used? We’ll answer that question before we’re done. For now, let’s consider other unflattering terms which students used much more often.

Let’s consider these unflattering terms: Arrogant, pompous, conceited.

Good grief! According to the interactive tool, students used the term “arrogant” about one hundred times more often than Kristof’s featured term, “bossy.” And uh-oh! This unflattering term was disproportionately used in their reviews of their male professors.

“Arrogant” was used in reviews of male professors about two hundred times per million words of text. It was used in reviews of female professors about one-fourth as often.

“Pompous” and “conceited” seem to have been disproportionately applied to male professors too. “Pompous” was used in reviews of male professors about fifty times per million words. The term was used in reviews of female professors about one-fifth as often.

The students’ use of “arrogant” and “pompous” dwarfs their use of “bossy.” Why did Kristof speak about the one term but not about the others?

Presumably, the answer is clear to anyone breathing air. But in closing for today, let’s add a note about the way our lazier “journalists” copy off each other’s papers.

This new interactive tool hit the scene a few weeks ago. On February 6, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times offered a ham-handed, sometimes mistaken summary under this headline:
“Is the Professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender
Miller headlined the claim that students are calling their female professors “bossy.” She didn't note that the term is almost never used in the student reviews in question.

Miller was showcasing her own “unconscious biases” as much as those of the students in question. But she seemed to set the framework for subsequent, copycat pseudo-liberal discussion of this useful new site.

On February 9, ThinkProgress offered a copycat post under this headline while linking to Miller:
“Students See Male Professors As Brilliant Geniuses, Female Professors As Bossy And Annoying
The story was starting to spread. On February 9, Feministing went there too:
CHART OF THE DAY: MALE PROFS ARE “GENIUSES,” FEMALE ONES ARE “BOSSY”
The kids are calling their female professors “bossy!” Before long, even Kristof, the mighty wind, was cutting and pasting the treasured new theme, pleasuring readers who praised his work in comments.

If you want to know what you’re talking about, that new interactive tool must be used with great caution. If you want to write a quickie column, you’ll use it as Kristof did.

Tomorrow, we’ll resume at this point. We’ll look at other parts of Kristof’s new column, whose basic premises may well be perfectly right.

But all this week, we will suggest that you might want to apply certain terms to this vaunted New York Times columnist. “Lazy” would be one such term. “Possibly a tad dishonest” would perhaps be another.

Who is Nicholas Kristof? Increasingly, we think he’s a bit of “a creep.” We're more than eager to explain our reasons.

But if Nicholas Kristof is a creep, he increasingly seems to be a creep of the One Percent. That's a point we’ll discuss all week.

Who the heck is Nicholas Kristof? If we want to understand our world, the time has come to ask.

Tomorrow: Back to “ugly,” looking ahead to “uncaring” and “cruel”

50 comments:

  1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: An indicator of why interested "other" readers of this blog hold the blog author in high esteem:

      "We assume his basic claims are basically valid. That said, people like Kristof remind us of the need to demand evidence and proof, even for claims which may seem tribally obvious."

      And remember, when hedging, check to see if there is a hedge, and if so, use it as an excuse to stay put.

      Delete
    2. Warning to casual readers of this blog: An indicator of the validity of the content posted:

      "people like Kristof remind us of the need to demand evidence and proof" Esteemed Blogger 2/23


      "Is Nicholas Kristof losing his soul? We wouldn’t rush to deny it!" Esteemed Bolgger 2/12

      Delete
    3. Hello Everyone I am Daniel Steve from Texas, USA. I will like to share the goodness of God in my life after so many months of trying to get a loan on the internet and was been scammed so i became restless and desperate in getting a loan from a legit lender online. But as God would have it, i saw a comment from a friend called William Ken and he talked about this legit loan company where he got his loan fast and easy without any stress so he introduced me to a man called Mr Mason Diego who controls a firm called Diego Loan Company, So i applied for a loan sum of ($170,000.00USD) with low interest rate of 2%, so the loan was approved and deposited into my bank account in less than 48hrs, that was how i was able to get back on my feet to keep my broken business running and also to pay off my bills so i am advising everyone of you who is interested in getting a loan without collateral, no credit check, no co signer with just 2% interest rate and better repayment plans/ schedule, to please contact Mr Mason Diego. You can contact him through his email: diegoloancompany@yahoo.com

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  2. I think Somerby's point about this word-counting tool and the issue over the use of the term "bossy" is well-taken, but there exists a literature exploring student evaluations of professors that shows that female professors are given less positive evaluations than male professors, even when delivering the same material (in a controlled experiment). Women receive more comments on their appearance on student evaluations. Kristof's choice of proof is flawed but the existence of bias against female professors is otherwise well-documented in a variety of ways that would stand critical scrutiny.

    This hurts female professors because student evaluations are used in both hiring and promotion decisions. In academia there is an ongoing debate about whether student evaluations should be used at all, but as universities adopt a consumerist model of education, students are seen as "consumers" and thus their input is used in decisions where it should probably be excluded.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Men will always evaluate the appearance of women, often without thinking about it. The only possibility for mitigating any issues caused by it is women and gay men ceasing promotion of appearance obsession through women's magazines and fashion. Women and gay men will continue to take no responsibility themselves and choose the course of crying victimization by white straight males.

      Delete
    2. You might want to go to a larger hat size. Your brain is leaking.

      Delete
    3. Men often evaluate without thinking. And quite often think with parts they erroneously self evaluate.

      Delete
    4. 2:45 -- Women do the same thing, and apparently to about the same extent. Try the word "hot." On traditionally male-dominated" courses -- math, physics, business, accounting and especially engineering -- women professors are more likely to be rated as hot. It's the reverse -- male teacher more likely to be rated as hot -- in courses like anthropology, health sciences, fine arts or English with more female students.

      Delete
    5. Except the "tool" you are using doesn't evaluate whether the word being counted has any rating connotation, much less a sexual one. It only counts usage. Try "MILF" or "stud muffin" instead.

      Of course we all know what the coed in Professor Jones's class had written on her eyelids.

      Delete
    6. It is the rating scales that affect job evaluations, not the written comments. The ratings are consistently lower for women compared to men, even when teaching the same material in the same manner (in controlled experiments). That is bias.

      Delete
  3. Kristof implies that women professors are discriminated against. There might be some truth to that. My wife had undue difficulty (IMHO) in getting tenure at NJ Medical School. However, that was a point in time when the administration was trying to reduce the number of tenured faculty, so maybe her sex had nothing to do with it. And, she did get tenure eventually.

    However, Kristof's approach is a preposterous way to evaluate the existence of gender bias. Apparently Kristof happened to have some data, so he threw it into a column without really making an effort to see what the implications were. As Bob said: Lazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristof implies that women professors are discriminated against. There might be some truth to that. My wife had undue difficulty (IMHO) in getting tenure at NJ Medical School....

      I'm kinda surprised you entertained that possibility. Well maybe not, this would have been a case of a your own family member being discriminated against because of a possible institutional bias other than reverse racism or reverse sexism. This then might have been of those rare and temporary exceptions that proves the rule that opportunity abounds in this society for anyone who wants to succeed more than they want to whine. In any event, it's good to hear that justice won out in the end and that, therefore, we don't need any stinkin' EEOC after all.

      Delete
    2. Kristof's way of evaluating gender bias is preposterous. Dinky's way is to ask his wife.

      Delete
  4. This was hairy, Bob.

    http://www.academiaobscura.com/category/academic-humour/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems that whereas female professors are judged to be as "fair" as male professors, female professors are seen to be much more "unfair" than their gender counterparts.

      Delete
    2. Do you know who Rose Mary Woods is in the pantheons of political history?

      Delete
  5. Did Kristof mention the fact that there are 8x as many male geniuses as female?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doesn't he know "Mensa" begins with "men"? Of course, unless I am showing symptoms of brain injury, so does "mental illness".

      Delete
  6. I don't care if the 'b' word is uttered twice every BILLION words, that's two times too many. When are white males ever going to learn?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently we don't know the sex of the respondents, so we don't know who is using the "b" word (whatever that is). Or any of the words.

      Delete
    2. Or in what context (e.g.: "this professor wasn't nearly as bossy as the type I'm used to getting").

      Delete
  7. Increasingly Bob Somerby offers us chances to find out who Nicholas Kristof is.

    "The latest cut and paste" is the subtitle.

    In today's post Somerby cuts and pastes:

    "In yesterday's New York Times" (8 pages of usage hits using Somerby's search engine) "the former Rhodes scholar" (8 pages of usage hits using Somerby's search engine) "was reciting some of the liberal world’s most familiar scripts." (4 pages of hits with some version of script reciting by liberals).

    Kristof wrote 750 or some words on bias. There were 79 lines in all, divided into 18 paragraphs. Somerby countered with 1050 or so words in 122 lines, but only 934 words if you take out those he cut and pasted from Kristof.

    And what of the substance of Somerby's focus as we move from Kristof, our own moral scold who has morphed from Dimmesdale to Collins?

    Well it seems Somerby has focused almost all of his longer work on only 49 words of our Collinesque Dimmesdale's scripted scolding.

    Oh Boy! It seems, based on his tease for tomorrow, we'll all be back for another look at these 49 words from "Yesterday's New York Times."

    That way we can continue to ignore the other "basic claims" Somerby assumes "are basically valid."

    ReplyDelete
  8. At a session on the progress of women in academia organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, former Harvard University professor Lawrence H. Summers suggested that the shortage of elite female scientists may stem in part from "innate" differences between men and women. In attendance The reaction of Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT, was to stumble out of the room in what she described as a physical sense of disgust.
    .

    "My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow. I was extremely upset." Nancy Hopkins January, 2005

    Considering the topic for discussion, Summers might have imagined the sound of his ideas would induce swooning in some of the female professors in attendance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A biology professor at MIT couldn't figure out that there are innate differences between males and females that likely to manifest as a much larger proportion of male scientists?

      Delete
    2. A male Engineering professor is 10 times more likely to be called an "asshole" by students than a male English professor. Women professors, regardless of discipline, never are. Many female faculty are called jackasses, however, indicating progress on that front.

      In a finding that will surprise many, while male academicians enjoy a huge lead in being called a "dickhead" by their students, women in biology and English have cracked through this body parts linguistic ceiling.

      Delete
    3. The sound of his ideas? Take another bong hit Cheech.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. Obama and NPR must be hitting the pipe.

      http://www.unitedliberty.org/articles/14414-obama-reporters-think-my-ideas-sound-great

      http://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444698/the-sound-of-ideas

      Delete
    6. united liberty = bottom of the barrel

      Troll on, fluffer.

      Delete
    7. "The hills are alive, with the song of his ideas"

      Delete
    8. Hey Cheech, when you throw NPR out as "a liberal voice", think GWB appointee and former NPR President Kenny "Boy" Tomlinson.

      You wingers are tooooo much!

      Delete
    9. Cicero's BFF:

      Matthew DesOrmeaux

      Contributor
      Married, father of two, atheist, libertarian Republican, introvert, Louisianian by birth, Texan by choice.

      Delete
  9. Unless I am mistaken, one must go all the way back to Jan. 31 and Tom Brady and the deflated footballs to find a Howler post that was NOT about either Nicholas Kristof or Brian Williams.

    It almost makes one long for the days when "Selma" and its director weren't snubbed.

    Meanwhile, the crises in the Middle East and Ukraine continue to boil with plenty of media coverage of both. And the right-wing noise machine is in a lather over how much the President of the United States loves his country.

    Guess our "liberal media" has done a fine job covering all that. Isn't even worth a mention in Howlerland so far THIS YEAR!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assume your basic date is basically valid. I need evidence and proof for your claim to move from tribally obvious to journalistically proven.

      Unfortunately,there are only Bob's postings to go on and he is in complete control of them. I remember from lessons bitterly learned what happened when guild tools like Kurtz relied only on favorite stories of the subject in question.

      Delete
    2. I think you are not giving Somerby full credit. He touched on the hot issue of vaccination with Rand Paul, and the Polish miracle with John Paul II.

      Plus, in this crazy mixed up world we'll always have Haiti.

      Delete
    3. @4:47

      Meanwhile the left wing noise machine remains nonplussed regarding Patricia Arquette complaining about equal pay for women, yet donating the maximum to Obama campaigns when the Obama White House institutes a 13% gender wage gap.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/male-female-pay-gap-remains-entrenched-at-white-house/2014/07/01/dbc6c088-0155-11e4-8fd0-3a663dfa68ac_story.html

      http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/search.php?name=Patricia+Arquette&cycle=All&sort=N&state=&zip=&employ=&cand=&submit=Submit

      Delete
    4. Meanwhile, Brent Bozell's lead fluffer trolls off topic with the paid dittohead's latest version of Benghazi!!Benghazi!!

      What's the Gatway Pundit's take, Cheech?

      Delete
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  11. Your Howler ReadersFebruary 24, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    Comments TL? DR?

    Much hot air, but basically there's no denying it: Kristof's really cheating here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure there is, YHR.

      Kristof in his column employs what I consider to be the Highest Standard of Holy Howler Discourse (HSHHD).

      I don't consider it cheating to Be Like Bob (BLB).

      From harping on old familiar themes, to using dubious studies, to dividing his readership, his column can truly be seen as nothing less than a Song of Somerby.

      Together the two of them have done much to prove that liberals and white males are conspiring together to disprove Aristotle.

      I just wish Somerby had quoted Kristof's excellent takedown
      of that dumb Greek: "So, come on, white men! Let’s just acknowledge that we’re all flawed, biased and sometimes irrational.

      Gack! I just realized Kristof did not give either Aristotle or Somerby credit for both the original thought and the ultimate takedown.

      Alas, YHR, you seem to be on to suggesting something.

      Delete
    2. So, yes, there is agreement. Kristof's work is hackery.

      BUT, Somerby's just as bad, at least according to a guy who can't really explain why very well.

      Delete
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