We always wonder about this script!

TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2012

Clearly, Maddow doesn’t: Whenever pundits voice this script, we wonder what lies behind it.

Sunday morning, on Meet the Press, a former Rhodes Scholar cleared her throat and voiced a familiar script. As things have turned out, it’s fairly clear that she has no doubts or questions about this script—no doubts or questions at all.

Indeed, after watching her program last night, we’d be inclined to put it differently. Dhe has no thoughts about this script. She has no thoughts at all:
GREGORY (4/29/12): How, Rachel, should this conversation actually be framed? I, I made the comment when I've done this topic before. In a lot of ways, you know, men bringing up this question, it's almost a condescending question, "Well, what is it that women want?"

MADDOW: Right.

GREGORY: So what is the right way to be framing this conversation in this debate, which is a very serious debate because we're talking about the real deciders in the race?

MADDOW: Policy. It should be about policy. And all of our best debates are always about policy and it should be about policy that affects women, specifically. The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. The— Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.
Gregory’s comments were unimpressive in various ways. But Maddow high-mindedly swung into action, saying she wanted to talk about policy.

“Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make,” she authoritatively said, reciting with perfect precision. Every 16-year-old knows this script. Maddow is paid to recite it.

Voiced in the way Maddow voiced it, we will assume that this script is technically accurate. But this script is commonly used to suggest that women are discriminated against in the market place, to the tune of 23 cents on the dollar.

We would assume that that understanding is wrong, though we rarely see anyone try to discuss it. Instead, life-forms like Maddow recite this script without any sign of further thought ever having entered their heads.

People, this is TV “news!” Memorization is all! This produces the illusion that a discussion is happening! A discussion that isn't hard work!

Maddow voiced a familiar script; it's straight from the pundit play-book. In the way she initially voiced it, we would assume that her statement was technically accurate. But uh-oh! Something unusual happened on Meet the Press—a fellow pundit rose to challenge her statement.

He was a bit hazy in his remarks. But Maddow’s reaction to his objection was many times worse—much dumber, by far.

In our award-winning series, WHY WE FAIL, we’re reviewing the way liberal readers reacted to Gail Collins’ latest column. For our money, the comment thread to Collins’ piece showcased the liberal world’s fatal flaw—our obvious manifest dumbness.

In many ways, reaction to Maddow’s Meet the Press moment has showcased the same fatal flaw, in ways which are even more striking. Example: For Digby’s reaction, click this.

Question: Did Digby even try to support the claim that Maddow’s statements were accurate? Or did the name-calling begin?

Why can’t we liberals build a serious, winning, progressive politics? We’ll look at Collins’ column all week. But uh-oh:

In many ways, Maddow's performance was worse. On Sunday morning, she struck us as dumb.

Last night, her performance got dumber. But how many liberals could tell? And in the current tribal climate, does anyone care any more?

Tomorrow: Maddow fields an objection


  1. Why do women earn only 77% of what men earn, on average? According to this article, the reason is that women work fewer hours than men and also because women's careers are more often interrupted by childbirth and child rearing.

    From my own experience, another factor is that the effects of discrimination ending haven't yet passed through the entier workforce. In my area, a young doctor is as likely to be female as male. However, the older group of doctors is still predominantly male. I know that the same thing is true of actuaries.

    1. The "women work fewer hours" idea explains part, but not all, of the discrepancy. There's still a 20% differential after controlling for all other factors except for gender.


  2. Bob, Maddow's point about women earning considerably less than men is supported by so much empirical data from so many private and public sources that it is certainly anyting BUT a script. It is the undeniable truth.

    Then we have Castellanos making the absolutely false, outrageous and entirely unsupported claim that Maddow was wrong. Women actually make MORE than men. It was such a lie that it was jaw dropping.

    And no, Bob, this isn't a matter of which one we wanted to believe. This is one time where the data is easy to find, especially in the information age.

    Go ahead. Spend five minutes on the Web looking up women's earnings vs. men's. And find anything, anything at all that refutes Maddow and supports Castellanos' lie.

    But here we are once again getting messages from the new planet that Bob Somerby lives on.

    Which person does he accuse of "reciting script"? The person who told the truth, or the person who made up a bald-faced lie on the spot?

    1. Here you go http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=629469

      Although I would say it is refuted by common sense experience as well. For example, in 2002, I got a part-time job that was previously held by a woman (she moved up to a full time job). The job paid $10.69 an hour. Does ANYBODY really believe that she had only been paid $8.23 an hour for the exact same job? When I was a graduate student studying economics, I got a stipend of $5900 for my first year. Does ANYBODY really believe that the women graduate students were only getting a stipend of $4543?

      Isn't that what the claim says? 77 cents to the dollar, for the exact same job.

      But I think the larger point is that even if it is irrefutably true, a) it is not believed by everybody and b) it should perhaps be argued factually instead of with umbrage and ad hominem.

      Person A: X is true.
      Person B: No, X is false.
      Person A: Bullsh*t. You are a lying piece of excrement.
      Person B: Surprisingly, I remain unconvinced of your point of view.

      Outside observer of tribe A: "Snap. She totally p3wned him."

      Outside observer of tribe B: "There they go again, we have the facts, they have the name calling."

      Yes, I know Rachel did not name call. It has been her online fans who have done that. Rachel only had the umbrage.

    2. Although I would say it is refuted by common sense experience as well. For example, in 2002, I got a part-time job that was previously held by a woman (she moved up to a full time job). The job paid $10.69 an hour. Does ANYBODY really believe that she had only been paid $8.23 an hour for the exact same job? When I was a graduate student studying economics, I got a stipend of $5900 for my first year. Does ANYBODY really believe that the women graduate students were only getting a stipend of $4543?

      Yes, I believe it. As a woman who was paid less than a man for doing the same job, in several different workplaces, I believe it. Excuses given for the pay difference included: "he has a family to support," "he's been employed here longer than you" (not true), "he has more experience than you" (not true), and the best one, given for why a less experienced co-worker was promoted over me, "you got to do what you wanted to do for a while, now it's his turn."

    3. Jeez Louise, Anon @ 8:24, the claim doesn't mean that every single woman by fiat makes exactly 77% of what every single man in the same job makes. It's an average.

      If we're playing The Anecdote Game, well, my wife made WAY less than many men at her office did, including those who ranked below her, because her throwback troglodyte of a boss believed that men should be paid more because they had families to care for. This wasn't _Mad Men_ days, this was 7 years ago.

    4. Touche. I made a weak argument, although the equity of pay seems pretty obvious to me. I would be shocked if female graduate students were not making exactly 100% of what male graduate students were making, at least for the same major. The factories where I worked, the temp services I worked for, had a starting wage. Not one starting wage for men and a lower starting wage for women.

      Anecdotes are not a game, but they are gonna be the way many people evaluate such a claim. If something exists, then I should be able to see it, and all I have ever seen is 100% equality. While the claim says inequality is universal. In all jobs, in all industries.

      Yet down here at the bottom, where I reside, it does not seem to exist.

  3. One does not have to support a claim that the earth is round. One merely asks the random stranger to say the word "shibboleth". If they say it correctly, they are part of the tribe. If they stumble, do not try to reason with them, just pick up the nearest stone and fling it.

    The claim is accepted as true by all members of the tribe. Only fools or sexist jerks would try to dispute it.

    1. Works like this:

      Maddow: The earth is round.

      Castellanos: No, the earth is flat.

      Somerby: There goes Maddow, reciting script.

    2. Here is a better analogy, Anon 7:59AM:

      Maddow: The earth is round.

      Castellanos: No, the earth is flat.

      New York Times: Views differ on shape of earth.

      Poll: 50% of public not convinced earth is round.

      Somerby: Conservatives win again because we progressives have neglected the art of political persuasion. Instead of just reciting the script, we need to develop ways of framing an issue that would help people understand why we are right and they are wrong. For example, the earth is round because a ship sailing over the horizon gradually gets smaller until it disappears instead of just abruptly falling off the edge.

    3. And this is where Somerby is full of baloney.

      You see, he thinks it's really just awful to say that anyone who thinks the earth is flat is a blithering idiot.

      And he also has such a low opinion of people in general that they can't figure out who the blithering idiot in an earth round/flat debate.

    4. My point was not that this shibboleth is as obviously true as the earth being round, but rather that we treat it as if it was.

      Thus we (or they) treat everybody with the gall to disagree with us, or even with the temerity to be unsure, as if they are either a blithering idiot or a slithering snake.

      We have such a low opinion of people that we expect them to genuflect before our superciliousness when we treat them like blithering idiots.

  4. I don't know the facts of the issue, but I could not help but notice that Maddow, after complianing about the guy interrupting her and whining that he should let her finish what she was saying, then proceeded to interrupt everyone who tried to say anything afterward who disagreed with her and shout them down.

  5. Thanks for the link, anonymous. The cover letter says:

    Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the difference in earnings between men and women. Due
    to inherent limitations in the survey data and in statistical analysis, we cannot determine whether this remaining difference is due to discrimination or other factors that may affect earnings. For example, some experts said that some women trade off career advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities.

    In conclusion, while we were able to account for much of the difference in earnings between men and women, we were not able to explain the remaining earnings difference. It is difficult to evaluate this remaining
    portion without a full understanding of what contributes to this difference.

    Specifically, an earnings difference that results from individuals’ decisions about how to manage work and family responsibilities may not necessarily
    indicate a problem unless these decisions are not freely made. On the other hand, an earnings difference may result from discrimination in the workplace or subtler discrimination about what types of career or job choices women can make. Nonetheless, it is difficult, and in some cases, may be impossible, to precisely measure and quantify individual decisions and possible discrimination. Because these factors are not readily measurable, interpreting any remaining earnings difference is problematic.

    1. One need not argue from ignorance, DinC. That the GAO declined to state a cause of the difference in earnings between men and women, while eliminating every other explanation except for gender, doesn't mean you need to ignore the rest of history and fact. There is no shortage of evidence of pay discrimination against women you could consider to fill in this blank.


  6. It simply isn't the case that this study being discussed "eliminated every other difference" than gender.

    They eliminated differences they could control.

    Then they admitted "we cannot determine whether this remaining difference is due to discrimination or other factors that may affect earnings."

    Does this mean there is no gender-based discrimination in pay? No, it obviously does not mean that.

    What it does mean is that it is wiser to argue the policies, as Maddow said she would, but did not, than it is to rely on the force of memorized average statistics.

    Jayhawk observed that Maddow resorted to shouting down and interruption when Castellanos provided contrasting statistics -- statistics which we are insisting are the equivalent of "the earth is flat."

    That's troubling: First, it may well be the case that Castellanos' stats are as "accurate" as Maddow's.

    Just as the single "77 cents" stat doesn't "prove" discrimination, Castellanos' numbers don't "disprove" discrimination. But if you decide to go there with the statistics you're entering a losing game.

    If the policies actually *matter* the way to go is to discuss what the changes are and who will be hurt by them, not to try to prove discrimination with a soundbite.

    The main reason to maintain (and improve!) our so-called safety-net programs is not that we need them to ameliorate discrimination. It's that we just need them to have a healthy society.

    Do we really think that if there was no gender-based discrimination, then we wouldn't need child-care support, food assistance, unemployment benefits, health care, Social Security?

  7. Six months ago a right-wing acquaintance sent me this.

    "What demographic group made the largest income gains over the past 20 years?

    Black women....80%
    white women....78%
    black men.......34%
    white men.....10%"

    Rather than dispute the numbers, which i don't believe, I replied that this demonstrates what demographic groups have been HELD BACK for more than two hundred years, and that it is only recently that they have been able to make substantial gains.

    They listed groups still do not have equal pay as yet.

    How many remember that Justice Scalia allowed Walmart to weasel out of a pay discrimination suit because the women were not discriminated against with a UNIFORM POLICY?
    If each store manager decided on his own to pay women less, there was no Walmart policy of sexual discrimination, only discrimination by men managers.
    The suit was dismissed.

    1. A good idea, not to dispute the numbers. Leave those numbers to the GOP -- it's characteristic of a very old strategy called Divide & Conquer.

      Much better to ask: What Largest Income Gains are you talking about anyway, friend?

      There haven't been *any* income gains at all in purchasing power terms for any but the very richest in our society, for many many years.

      Not only should we fight amongst ourselves for crumbs, it appears we should fight over the illusion of crumbs!

      It's not that the "war against women" is an illusion -- it's very real -- it's that it's only one front; and we are actually desperately losing the war against Humanity.

  8. You see that, we finally bring back Maddow, and it's the best thread in ages! More later.....

  9. You see that, we finally bring back Maddow, and it's the best thread in ages! More later.....

  10. Somerby is right about this. The 77% number is comparing the average year round pay of all full-time jobs of males and females in the country. It doesn't account for what the occupation is, how many hours are worked, experience, position; it is just an average of all of the jobs. It doesn't prove or disprove anything. For her to use this as her only evidence that "women are getting paid less for doing the same work" is really really dumb and misleading.

    Economists dispute how much of the gender gap is actually due to discrimination (some argue that it is negligible.) However, no one with any credibility ever cites this 77% as evidence for it.

  11. Feminists have been abusing this issue for decades and every time they uncritically swallow whole claims of victimization while playing VICTIM OF MISOGYNY when anyone dares examine their claims with open skepticism.


    Oh, and here's a quote from someone from the organization that put out the study that Maddow quotes:

    "Maatz concedes that, following a regression analysis that takes into account the issues that Castellanos raised on Meet The Press, the gender pay gap does shrink. However, she says there is still a gap and therein lies the problem because it is unexplained."


    And, of course, practically no one has pointed out that the study was put out by an organization devoted to painting women as victims and, hence, has a Great Dane-sized dog in this fight.

    Also, you will note that, overall, news coverage of this issue has been overwhelmingly uncritical and supportive. If we have anything like the anti-woman, patriarchal society feminists claim we do, it's clearly lost the lion's share of its Mojo.

    1. Just to be clear, when Maatz admits that the gap isn't the unmitigated 77 cents-to-the-dollar as claimed she is also unambiguously owning up to deliberately promoting a knowingly misleading stat.

      Like Mark Twain said, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

    2. And there are also Republican talking points, which you repeat diligently. Dare we call that "script"?

      Darlings! It just isn't done! Only liberals recite script.

    3. If I don't like a fact, Darlings, I call it a "Republican talking point."

      That should serve to dismiss it, no?