WHO IS NICHOLAS KRISTOF: An embarrassment and a hack?


Part 3—In support of The Raleigh 43:
Where do “journalists” like Nicholas Kristof acquire their various “facts?”

For those who find such questions intriguing, the former Rhodes scholar’s most recent column constitutes a fecund case study. Let’s examine a few more “facts” the pundit advanced in that piece.


Do college students disproportionately describe their female professors as “nasty?” If they do, does this represent a situation in which female professors must overcome a stereotypical “unconscious bias?”

Plainly, Kristof advanced both ideas in last Sunday’s column. These are the statements in question:

“[T]he evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias remains widespread in ways that systematically benefit both whites and men...Female professors are disproportionately described as ‘nasty,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘bossy’ or ‘disorganized.’ ”

The first idea we cite above seems to be factually accurate, based on the new research tool to which Kristof linked in his column.

(To access that tool, click here.)

It’s true! When college students rate their professors at RateMyProfessors.com, the word “nasty” appears more often in reviews of female professors. This fact advances a notion which pleases Kristof, so he types it for his readers.

(Quite possibly, he draws on the work of a “research assistant” even more clueless than he is.)

It’s true! In their reviews at RateMyProfessors.com, college students use the word “nasty” more often in reviews of female professors, by a ratio of roughly two-to-one.

Kristof looks on their work and is pleased, so he puts this fact in his column. Here’s what his column didn’t tell you:

College students also use the word “pleasant” more often in reviews of female professors. In that case, the ratio is closer to three-to-one—and the word “pleasant” is used two to three times as often as “nasty.”

(Neither term is used especially often. The word “nasty” appears in reviews of female professors about ten times in each million words of text.)

Why did Kristof tell you this: “Female professors are disproportionately described as “nasty?” The most likely answer would seem to be fairly clear.

The notion that female professors are disproportionately described as “nasty” (and “bossy”) fits a pleasing preconception. For that reason, Kristof presented those facts.

He didn’t give you other facts—facts which would have made his picture cloudy:

He didn’t tell you that female professors are almost never described as “bossy” in those reviews. (The word appears less than once in every million words of text.)

He didn’t tell you that male professors seem to be described as “blowhards” substantially more often than that. (Tthough still not especially often.)

This part of Kristof’s most recent column should go straight to the Smithsonian. It’s one of the best examples we’ve ever seen of the way a certain type of “journalist” will pick and choose the facts you are allowed to encounter.

This doesn’t mean that female professors don’t confront punishing stereotypes which could even harm their careers. Consider where Kristof’s column went next, after he finished pretending to discuss the words These Kids Today use.

Are female professors damaged by stereotypes? In our view, it’s certainly possible. Kristof continued his typing:
KRISTOF (2/22/15): 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.”

One reaction from men was: Well, maybe women professors are more disorganized!

But researchers at North Carolina State conducted an experiment in which they asked students to rate teachers of an online course (the students never saw the teachers). To some of the students, a male teacher claimed to be female and vice versa.

When students were taking the class from someone they believed to be male, they rated the teacher more highly. The very same teacher, when believed to be female, was rated significantly lower.

In the highlighted passages, Kristof describes a troubling situation. Students were asked to rate teachers of an on-line course. Ratings for the very same teachers were higher or lower depending on whether the students thought the unobserved teacher in question was actually female or male.

Is that really the way the world works? We don’t doubt the possibility!

On the other hand, we clicked the link from Kristof’s column to that experiment at North Carolina State. When we did, we found it was based on a very small “N” and seemed to have other possible methodological problems.

Can we trust the findings derived from The Raleigh 43? Especially given that very small N, no serious person would regard this “experiment” as settled science. When an account of the experiment was posted at the official “NC State News” site to which Kristof linked, commenters responded as shown below.

There weren’t a lot of comments. We can’t vouch for the apparent gender of the commenters:
Jill says: December 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm
Oh please.

Jane says: December 9, 2014 at 5:58 pm
How on earth did this get published? The methodological errors in this are dreadful! Sample sizes of 8-12 students and 2 professors are woefully small, for starters...Then, why weren’t the professors blinded to the gender they were presenting to the students? How do we know they didn’t (even subconsciously) bias the results in their interactions? It’s poor science like this that lets the rest of us in sociology down, and makes us look like poor scientists when compared with our colleagues…

Dan says: December 27, 2014 at 5:57 pm
So true, Jane. Ridiculous that the professors were fully aware of their “perceived gender” in each scenario.

Rebecca says: December 9, 2014 at 6:02 pm
Do you have something substantive to say, Jill?

NAG says: February 23, 2015 at 1:06 am
It’s been said above by Jane. This is a terrible example of “scholarly” work.

James Driscoll says: December 10, 2014 at 9:33 am
Serious scientists at respectable institutions would be embarrassed if they published conclusions based on such a small sample size. Do your homework. Readers must feel that you got the result that you wanted, so you stopped. We try to teach students to wait and publish only what is statistically meaningful, and there are mathematical rules that define meaningful.

Real Scientist says: December 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm
Yikes if I have an N of less than 1000 for this kind of loosy goosy study, I would be embarrassed to talk about it. Woah!

Morgan Leigh says: December 10, 2014 at 5:36 pm
I agree that this study is way too small a sample size to be useful on its own. However it does raise the important issue of teaching assessment in universities. In my institution, student feedback is the only measure of teaching performance. Hiring and firing decisions are based on it...
We agree with the view expressed by one additional commenter. She said the troubling outcome of this experiment suggests a strong need for further study.

That said, further study will rarely be sought when high-minded scribes of a certain type assemble their ten-minute columns. Their research assistants span the globe, looking for studies which seem to support pre-selected conclusions. The pundits jam these studies and “experiments” into their piece, thus providing their target audience with a pleasurable reading experience.

No concern will be expressed about an N which many be strikingly small. Although many small studies can’t be replicated, no questions will be raised about this well-known problem.

Quite routinely, Nicholas Kristof stitches his columns together in these ways. He then appends a haughty headline, fleshed out with a condescending framework which has been designed to flatter his tribal readers while driving wedges everywhere else.

Liberal commenters rush to thank him for his high ideals and his magnificent work. In these and similar ways, bogus facts become known by all and international brands get established.

There’s a great deal more a person can say about The Columns of Kristof County. We often think back on the pandering columns he wrote about the role of great teachers in our public schools—columns in which he pandered to conservative experts about a set of concerns he seems to know nothing about.

In recent months, Kristof seems to be flipping on a range of issues—although even now, he can’t bring himself to stop sliming public school teachers through his comments about their infernal unions.

As he flips, he talks down to us, his liberal readers. And we his readers love it:

(Last week, he told us that he has just realized, at age 55, that corporate tycoons can be greedy too. We liberals are so eager to accept tribal flattery that we rushed into comments to praise him for this obvious pap.)

In our view, Kristof’s columns in recent months have bordered on the journalistically obscene. In fairness, Sunday’s column did provide a wonderful study on where our “facts” may come from.

That said, we’ve been trying to move ahead to a discussion of Kristof’s recent PBS series, A Path Appears. We were puzzled by various things we saw in the segment from Port-au-Prince.

On a purely journalistic basis, how in the world can PBS get away with the story it told?

Tomorrow: Puzzled, but also disgusted, by various things we saw

Where do “facts” come from: If you click the link Kristof provided, you’ll find the comments we posted above about that NC State “experiment.”

Sadly, you’ll also see this recent Pingback amid the comments:
Pingback: Students See Male Professors As Brilliant Geniuses, Female Professors As Bossy And Annoying—Trendingnewsz.com.
Students see female professors as bossy! Thanks to the efforts of people like Kristof, this is becoming a “fact.”

Does reality “have a well-known liberal bias?” Steven Colbert offered that as a comment about phony pseudo-conservative claims.

Thanks to the efforts of people like Kristof, Brother Colbert’s comical world seems to be fading out fast.


  1. "Yesterday, we were happy to give you the news—college students almost never describe their female professors as “bossy!”.... the term appears less than once in every million words of text when students review their female professors." B. Somerby

    Yesterday, we are happy to report, Bob Somerby, in his review of the work of female Professor Bartlett (we assume she has a first name but Somerby forgot to mention it so we can't really say for sure) broke gender stereotypes in describing her as a hack.

    Somerby used the term "hack" or its derivative "hackistry" 5 times in a 1,500 word piece. According to a useless online tool popular with hacks and pseudo-journalists, the term "hack" is most often used to describe male college professors, in some fields 4.5 times more than the word "bossy" is used to describe female professors, which, as Somerby has noted, is used less than 1 time per million words.

    Bob has used some form of "hack" at a rate of 33,333.33 times per million words. Clearly Professor Bartlett's first name must be Hack.

    Later: That said, creep and creepy.

  2. 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.

    1. From one of those "casual readers of this blog" who once upon a time wasn't so casual.

      A long time ago, I got tired of Somerby slogging through the same damned thing day after day. So I learned to scroll down and click onto the comments, which are far more informative, not to mention more succinct, entertaining, and at times, humorous.

    2. I'm sorry, Anonymous, but that's hard to believe. I can believe that you got tired of reading this blog (though I haven't -- I look forward to it), but in that case, wouldn't you just leave it behind and do something else instead? I can't believe you would prefer to read this mishmash of comments.

      Oh, and thanks, other Anonymous, for taking the trouble to add your disclaimer to every comments section.

    3. Why? You too dumb to figure out and remember that comments come in all shapes and sizes from all sorts of people and need the daily disclaimer to remind you?

      As for "this mishmash of comments," that's what I find amusing -- reading all sorts of people and all sorts of opinions.

      It is surely far more informative and entertaining that trying to wade through Somerby's "mishmash" of poorly conceived, poorly constructed, poorly written and endlessly repetitious defenses of sexism and racism in any form.

      But then again, if you think he's brilliant, more power to you. That makes at least two people who think so. Three if his mother is a reader.

    4. Observations over several days indicate Other Anonymous is becoming much like Somerby.

    5. Anonymous @ 3:14: "defenses of sexism and racism"?

      Reading comprehension seems to be a weak skill for you.

      Yes, clearly others are "too dumb" for your keen intellect.

    6. Well, Horace, Bob and his merry followers sure set the bar low.

      Like with the ol' "reading comprehension" insult. Didn't people in way over their heads wear that one out at least 15 years ago?

    7. the comments are "far more informative" (!)

      You can't make lunacy like that up, you simply *have* to see it for yourself.

    8. I think having imaginary analysts on an imaginary campus is either a little bit nutty or a Rachel Maddow like effort to endear oneselves (TD is plural after all) with readers. You may differ.

    9. You can't make lunacy like that up, you simply *have* to see it for yourself."

      Project much?

    10. Dicky in DorkylvaniaFebruary 25, 2015 at 9:52 PM

      8:50 PM: there's no real way of telling.

      We just can't say.

    11. Dicky, you can take Bob's word for it. Nobody in the press has passed along or debunked any false stories he ever made up about himself and they have no guild rules prohibiting them from exposing him if he did.

  3. "Can we trust the findings derived from The Raleigh 43? Especially given that very small N, no serious person would regard this “experiment” as settled science."

    Too bad that nobody, including Kristof, called it "settled science." Otherwise, you'd have a point instead of baring your backside once again and putting not only that, but your ignorance of the scientific process on full display.

    You see, if you did, you'd know the difference between an "experiment" and a full-blown study. It is explained in a couple of sentences from the very link Kristof provided that you "disappear", Bob.

    To wit: "The researchers view this study as a pilot, and plan to do additional research using online courses as a “natural laboratory.”

    ""We’re hoping to expand this approach to additional courses, and different types of courses, to determine the size of this effect and whether it varies across disciplines,' MacNell says."

    If you weren't so anxious to score political points against Kristof, you would also know that it is in the best interests of further study to publicize your preliminary findings in order to attract the money necessary for further study.

    So why lie to your readers, Bob, and tell them that anyone, including Kristof, considers this anything more than a preliminary experiment that yielded results that should be studied more deeply?

    1. Someone with the label "Realscientist" said he would be embarrassed to publish a study with less than 1000 subjects. Sample sizes vary across disciplines. 1000 might be a minimum for survey research or sociological studies but it is so large as to make findings statistically trivial in psychology. Many studies in psychophysics have N's of 3 (but thousands of observations or trials per subject). Knee jerk reactions to sample sizes without any consideration of the effect size reflect ignorance about statistics. You need a sample large enough for an effect of a given size to emerge given the variability existing in the data. Analysis of this is called Power analysis. Power determines sample size and it can be measured so that the adequacy of the sample can be determined.

      Researchers don't care whether Kristof focuses on this or not, and their funding comes from government sources that have nothing to do with Kristof. However, preliminary results are part of a grant application. I wouldn't have published the study but today's academic workplace is "publish or perish" so perhaps these researchers needed to beef up their vita for a tenure or promotion decision.

      The problem here is much like Somerby's criticisms of education reporting. People who don't know anything about social science grab findings from the literature and don't know how to interpret them. It is like when every small advance in cancer research is touted as a breakthrough by the media. The press inflates this stuff.

      In the meantime, there are already many other studies of gender bias in student evaluations in the literature. The possibility of removing visible cues to gender via online teaching is what made this study important, not its findings. Kristof and the public are chasing the wrong point and criticizing obvious weaknesses in this study will not change the large body of research already showing that female professors are treated in biased ways in student evaluations.

      For one thing, if you are expected to be "nice" and you are not, the backlash from the student is harsher than if a "strict" professor were to behave similarly. It would motivate that student to go to RateMyProfessor and post a review about what a bitch that professor was, when the student of the male professor might take the response in stride and never visit the website at all.

  4. Here's an example of Kristof's racial and gender bias. He writes, "Those studies are a reminder that we humans are perhaps less rational than we would like to think, and more prone to the buffeting of unconscious influences. That’s something for those of us who are white men to reflect on when we’re accused of “privilege.” (Italics added)

    Note the jump from '"humans" to "white men". The studies question the rationality of ALL humans. Aren't people of color and women "humans"?

    If you don't agree that Kristof is racist, try reversing the subgroups. Suppose Kristof pointed to studies showing that humans aren't always fully rational and then went on to discuss the irrationality of women and blacks, but ignored the presumed irrationality of men.

    1. Here you make the same point I did yesterday when talking about how pronouns matter. So, when it lets you score points you will use findings from gender studies, while simultaneously ridiculing the field. That makes you a troll because you have no ideological consistency or intellectual integrity. It is only about stirring things up.

    2. But it also fits the theory advanced sometime back that DinC, deadrat, and KZ are either one and the same or shared the same father as Somerby's analysts. Which has not been disproven journalistically. Which is why I have to mention it.

    3. Anon 1:23 -- You and I are talking about different things. You think that in fighting sexism it's important what generic pronouns are used. You might be right. The fact that "man" means both "human" and :"male human" can unconsciously imply that male humans are more important than female humans.

      However, your point is different from the points I was making yesterday and today. Today, I was pointing out the bigotry in ascribing a particular human fallacy to white men only, The words "white" and "men" are not pronouns.

    4. You know as well as I do that a woman or a person of color would NOT use "bossy" or any of those other horrible words when evaluating women college professors. This is clearly a case of white male racism.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Kristof is addressing the issue of "white male privilege" and the responses of white males to the assertion that they are beneficiaries of white man privilege. That's why he refers to "us" "white men." The whole fricken' premise of the column (entitled "Straignt Talk for White Men") is that he's addressing white men who don't recognize the privileges that come from being white men, by pointing that all humans don't fully recognize the realities of their own situations.

      Surely you're not as stupid as your argument suggests.

    7. This I agree with (Thx Tommy B of Crown Heights aka "little Sao Paulo"):

      The problem, of course, is that circular firing squads are counter-productive and to assert such an obvious point is to somehow retreat into “white privilege” and therefore not worthy of consideration.

      And that is bullshit (He wrote, knowing full well he will be accused of “male white privilege” and told to “check it”).

      Change comes when we all pull together and, yes, change comes way too slowly in this big stupid lumbering dumbass country of ours. But it comes even more slowly when it becomes mired in petty squabbles over terminology or “that person said it wrong; here is what I would have said.”

      And that is why we can’t have nice things.

    8. Re: Dinky's Feb. 25 offerings: every time you think he's finally reached the pinnacle of pretentious obtuseness, he somehow manages to top himself.

    9. Roger -- Fair comment but I don't fully agree. You say Kristof points that all humans don't fully recognize the realities of their own situations. From that premise, Kristof might have argued that blacks who think they perceive white privilege are just wrong. Being human, they're not recognizing the reality of their own situation. If Kristof had written that, you and I would respond, "Wait a minute! How do you know it's the blacks who are being unrealistic. Maybe white privilege is real. Maybe the whites who don't see white privilege are the ones who are failing to recognize reality."

      IMHO if Kristof had noted this human failing but then assumed that it applied only to blacks, that would have been racist. In any event, the fact that humans sometimes fail to recognize reality doesn't prove whether or not white male privilege exists.

      P.S. I appreciate living in Silicon Valley, where there's a large, successful Asian population. Their success refutes the idea of white privilege. If you want to argue that blacks (on average) have greater burdens, I would agree with you. However, we might not agree as to what those burdens consist of.

    10. Months ago in reply to this assertion I posted a link to a report about the bamboo ceiling for Asian American workers. Their supposed success is only at the lower levels of employment, including in the tech industry. Why do you persist in these stereotypes in the face of evidence that you are mistaken?

    11. How come women get glass and Asians bamboo?

      And don't ignore the brave white men who broke down the Iron Curtain so you whiners could complain about what's on the ceiling.

    12. Anon 10:49 -- If you look for cherry-picked statistics and cherry-picked comparisons, you can find evidence that any group of people are under-represented in some area. Asian household income is around 20% above white household income. That statistic objectively shows that Asians are doing very well indeed.

  5. GACK! An Embarassment and a Hack

    or Where is the Casual Reader Lady When Bob Really Needs Her?

    "Can we trust the findings derived from The Raleigh 43? Especially given that very small N, no serious person would regard this “experiment” as settled science." Somerby 2/25/15

    43???? Uh Oh!

    "Concerning the 30 million words: Where do our achievement gaps come from? In a remarkable bit of research published in 1995, Hart and Risley attempted to tackle that topic. They described a 30-35 million word gap which is in place by age 3." Somerby 6/6/2014

    Hart and Risely's study comprised 42 families. Somerby devoted at least 8 posts to their work. When Hillary Clinton mentioned the 30 million word gap. Somerby attacked the press for ignoring it.

    Free the Kansas City 42!

    1. Thank you for reading my previous response to your idiocy. The 42 families do not represent 42 measurements (as the North Carolina study does). Each family was observed in many interactions, for hundreds or thousands of measurements, not just one per family. The sample sizes of the two studies are not comparable.

    2. Hmmmm. Wonder how Bob determined "42" to be an adequate sample, but "43" was too small?

      Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the narrative he was trying to sell his few remaining rubes in each case, could it?

    3. "The sample sizes of the two studies are not comparable."

      No wonder you're such a loyal Bob fan. You don't have a single clue either about research in social science, so you'll just lap up whatever Somerby is regurgitating.

      Not only are "sample sizes" of 42 and 43 "comparable," but neither you nor Somberby know the difference between a pilot experiment and "settled science."

    4. You are welcome @ 12:12

      But wait, that said, there's more:

      "There were 6 families from poverty (all of them Black) whose language was compared to the other classes, especially the professional White upper/middle class. Six. It is from these six families that we have perpetuated the “30 million WORD GAP”


      Uh oh! Even more:


      Alas! Still another:


      I could hack around the web and find more for you. Am I saying that Hart and Risley's findings were wrong. Not necessarily. I don't know. But Somerby sure did disappear any criticism while praising their work.

    5. Do we also know whether the NC State "settled science" experiment was conducted in the spring or fall? That could make all the difference!

    6. Math for dummies:

      42 x 1 = 42
      42 x 100 = 4200

      Which study would have the larger number of observations (pieces of data) to base its conclusions on?

      That is why sample size is not the whole story. You also have to look at what was measured and how.

    7. Do we know if NC State students who take online courses do so because of fear of on campus sexual assault? That could
      bias responses.

    8. OOps! This somehow got into the wrong spot:

      If you asked the same 43 NC State students the same questions 100 times, you'd get better results?

      That seems to be the defense of the 42 families in the "study" that reached extremely broad cultural conclusions that happened to fit the pleasing story Somerby wanted to sell.

      The question is, no matter how long or how many "observations" were made, would the results be duplicated by a second set of 42 families? Or even a third?

      And realize that their "observations" about the "word gap" was based on just six "poor" families.

    9. Yes, but all six were black, on welfare, and happy to allow eager graduate students to sit in their home for an hour at a time recording their every word for three years.

    10. It would be better to have more poor families, but if you make enough observations of the 6 families, you can make a valid comparison. Your question hinges on whether there would be enough differences among those 6 to raise questions about the findings. I can see how differences would lessen a gap but what kind of differences would widen one? How would such difference be non-typical or non-representative of poor families? For example, if all of the poor families contained parents who were non-native speakers or mentally deficient, then the 6 poor families would not be typical of poverty but of some other condition. If you read the study, I'm sure they discuss their selection of the families and explain whether they inquired about and excluded other explanations besides poverty in selecting their families (for both groups).

    11. Oh, I see. These were typical, representative six poor families, from which broad conclusions can be drawn about ALL poor families!


    12. Why should I read the study if you are already sure?

    13. if you make enough observations of the 6 families, you can make a valid comparison.

      I'm not sure what you mean, but it sounds like a common statistical mistake, namely to treat a small amount of data as if it were a large amount of data. E.g., suppose someone sets up a model based on 100 years of hurricane information. Now, he projects into the future using 1000 iterations of the model. Some might mistakenly think that the model can therefore predict the value of a 1-in-1000 year loss. But, it can't, because all the model knows is 100 years of actual losses.

    14. No, that is not what I mean. I mean watching the same family in 100 conversations to produce 100 observations (data points) instead of watching 1 family once, producing one observation.

    15. Well, if you watched little Bob Somerby over and over again from age 1 to age 3, would it surprise you if his mother said "Gack" a lot?

    16. Cicero's Mother-in-LawFebruary 25, 2015 at 9:36 PM

      Shorter Dinky: when the Hubble telescope is viewing space day in and day out, it is only looking at one thing. Therefore, it is a mistake to treat the data it accumulates as a lot of data.
      [as tiny cartoon birds flit and fly around his head seeking substance and finding nothing]

    17. Shorter Kristof : If people thought Dinky was a woman they would guess he was even shorter.

      Shorter Somerby. That said, with a name like Dinky we assume people probably wouldn't make that mistake. But we can't be sure. People are dumber every day since we first began telling you how dumb their leaders are. We have been following Dinky for some time now, and he probably spends less that 10 minutes reviewing his assistant's work before comments are uploaded. It is troubling and possibly obscene. Especially because she is younger and maybe female. We've been trying for some time to get back to how obscene this is. And where did he get those facts? Can we talk?

  6. That North Carolina study is far from the only exploration of bias in student evaluations. Criticizing it doesn't make the issue of gender bias in student evals go away. It was interesting largely because it used an online methodology that entirely eliminated any differences between the teachers compared, something difficult to do when presenting actual lecturers.

    Somerby seems to think that the "study" involving word-counting (which does not claim to be any kind of scientific experiment) is about comparing the number and type of negative terms applied to men compared to women. It isn't. It is about noticing how the words applied to women fit female stereotypes existing in our culture, while those applied to men fit male stereotypes. The term "nice" is positive but it is also entirely consistent with how women are supposed to behave and be in our society. The term "brilliant" is not. A woman is breaking social stereotypes simply by being in front of a class presenting herself as an expert. It would be a mark of progress if women were described as tough or hard-nosed or demanding (things professors like to be called).

    Treating these two recent studies as if they were the sum total of all research on gender bias in student evaluations is wrong. There is a literature on what student evals do and do not mean. It is unfair that such evaluations are the basis for job decisions. It hurts women's advancement that they are used that way. They measure student satisfaction and closely track the expected (and actual) grades students receive. They do not measure learning, nor the competence of the instructor.

    Kristof is an idiot to write about this stuff without understanding what it means. But so is Somerby. Cue the trolls to stomp all over any meaningful discussion and to call women incompetent just to get a rise from someone.

    1. One small point -- Kristof calls the NC State experiment nothing more than it was -- an "experiment."

      By rushing to his keyboard to type "settled science," Somerby is placing words in Kristof's column that he never even intended, much less wrote.

    2. I agree with all you say, except for lumping Kristof and Somerby together. Kristof is writing to "inform" his readers and (at least Somerby feels) has a responsibility to know what he is talking about and to present the facts fairly. Someby is not intending on "informing" his readers about anything. Somerby is just trying to point out that, in his opinion, that Kristof should be criticized for failing to meet up to his responsibilities. Criticizing Somerby for not understanding the issues or misinforming his readers about them does not address the central concern about whether Kristof is doing his job or not. Was Kristof's presentation of this issue factually correct and fairly made? If not, then you agree with Somerby, although you may still have issues with what Somerby said about it. I think in general if you focus on the point Somerby is trying to make about media coverage of issues, and can block out the off-topic ranting and name calling by trolls and others, you will find that Somerby is usually on target.

    3. Excuse me, but I don't see Kristof misrepresenting the NC State experiment in any way. He even provides the link to it so you can evaluate it yourself.

      It is Somerby who misrepresents what Kristof wrote by rushing to build the "settled science" strawman.

    4. ". . . you will find that Somerby is usually on target."

      Let's see. What has happened in the month of February 2015 besides Kristof and Williams? If you depend on "usually on target" Somerby to tell you, nothing.

      Such insightful and "usually on target" analysis of today's media can be found nowhere else!

    5. So if you asked the same 43 students at NC State the same questions 100 times, you'd get better results?

    6. No, that's why some studies are done with 1000 subjects instead of 43. A study of perception involving reaction times would be better if the same judgment were made 100 times. That's why you have to consider the type of study, not just the sample size. I am addressing the person above who claimed Somerby was hypocritical because he accepted results of one study with 42 families while criticizing the one with 43 students. The families involved many observations per family over a period of time, not one.

    7. Except, this wasn't a "study" and never claimed to be. It was a "pilot experiment."

      Again, no matter how long or how many times you "observed" each of the 42 families, would the same results be replicated in another set of 42 families and produce the same conclusions of a "word gap"?

      The only honest answer, and the one you won't give, is "Maybe, maybe not." Which means the claims of the "word gap "maybe, maybe not" true.

      But not in Somerby's mind. To him, that's "settled science" because it fits his script.

      What also fits his script is to pretend that anyone called a "pilot experiment" "settled science" because it fits his script to attack it.

      And no, that's not hypocrisy. That's flat-out dishonesty.

    8. So @ 1:46 you agree with the observation that if Kristof is Nike, then Somerby is Croc?

    9. The answer I would give is, we have a 95% probability of getting the same results if the study were replicated. That means 95 out of a hundred such replications should produce a result leading to the same conclusion. That is a lot more certainty than "maybe, maybe not". Ain't statistics grand!

      Somerby has a bachelors degree in philosophy. He takes his cue about criticizing sample sizes from Kevin Drum, who also has no science training. When he mistakenly uses the term "settled science" I would chalk it up to ignorance before I assumed hypocrisy or dishonesty. I'll give you the same benefit of the doubt.

    10. Somerby has channeled Socrates and proven what a twit Aristotle truly was.

      And did I mention he claims to have known, or even roomed with Al Gore, depending of which unverified version of the stories he tells is used?

    11. And I submit that there is a 95 percent probablility that you pulled "95% probablility" right out your hindquarters.

      You do realized that all six of the poor families that were observed were black, and all of the wealthy families observed were white.

      Does that raise any questions in your mind about the probability of getting the same results with sample large enough to observe a racially, economically and demographically accurate sample?

    12. Although the study was conducted in Kansas, none of the families reported children being displaced during tornado season, leading to the absence of the words "lions, tigers, and bears" in three year old vocabularies. In one household the word "pusillanimous" was used, but only in a positve, reinforcing way.

    13. The study was conducted in Kansas City. That could be Kansas or Missouri.

    14. 95% is the cutoff for statistical significance used by everyone doing this research.

    15. @ 4:17 It was Kansas City, Kansas.


    16. Whether noted as an experiment or not, results of an "experiment" published in a NYT column are likely to be viewed as "settled science" by a large proportion of Times readers. Especially those who already have an axe to grind and hope to see their victimology verified.

    17. There is a 95% probability the number of those with both an axe to grind AND who hope to see their victimology verified is larger than those who merely already have an axe to grind.

      Chances are those already with the axe have long been busy victimizing someone else with or without verification. We cannot say for sure what those chances are. But one picture of a boss is worth a million words.

    18. Kansas or Missouri? We are told Brian Williams worked for a TV station In Kansas but he said he lived in Missouri. His Dodge Dart dies in a Kansas cornfield about the time the 30 million word gap is observed. He later earns a salary of 10 million. Somehow, when I hear pinging, these become facts.

    19. @9:16, I have no idea what conclusion "a large proportion of Times readers" jumped to when they read Kristof's column about the NC State experiment, and neither do you.

      But I guess you can always speculate and read minds if that's the only way to fit it into Somerby's pleasing tale.

    20. Toto, thanks for the link. Too bad they didn't cross the border to the Missouri side to see if such interventions as "Parents As Teachers" -- widely in place in Missouri -- had any effect.

      But reading this rather brief report, it is no wonder that the Hart-Risley study has been slammed every way to Sunday by serious social researches.

      They observed their 42 familes for one hour, once a month, for 30 months or so. And of course, even though the hour was of the parent's choosing, the presence of the observer had no effect whatsoever. It was just a typical hour like all others, in which a complete stranger was present, taking notes about "everything" that happened.

      So by observing these kids 30 times over 2.5 years, we can predict exactly how that kid will perform in school at age 9-10.

      No wonder Somerby finds that study so comforting. It wasn't his fault, the teacher, that his inner-city Baltimore fifth graders couldn't learn a damned thing from a teacher with a B.A. in philosophy, and no formal training in education except a six-week boot camp.

      Nope. It was the fault of those damned KC, Kansas, poor parents who didn't talk to their kids enough and use enough big words when the did while they were babies.

      Nothing he could possibly do about that, and by golly, he's got the "study" to prove it!

      After all, they assembled the stunning mountain of data from 30 hours of "observation" of six welfare families.

    21. Another diatribe whose main purpose is to attack Somerby.

      30 hours x 6 families is a great deal of data. Try transcribing those interactions and you'll see how much it is.

      If a result is statistically significant with 6 families, why do you think it would not be with more? Usually the problem with small samples is the difficulty getting a statistically significant result. That one exists with 6 families suggests this is a strong effect, a big difference between the groups.

      No one has claimed they can "predict exactly" how kids will perform at age 9-10 and no one has said that the kids Somerby taught learned nothing. This is all you and it is ridiculous.

      If you think literacy has nothing to do with the demonstrated gap between poor kids and middle class ones, what do you think explains it? It cannot be all those philosophy majors without training, because they are only a small % of the teachers. On his best day, Somerby only taught 30 kids (give or take). What do you think accounts for the gap in test scores?

    22. Gack, another panegyric praising the philosopher king of Harvard yard and classroom champion of the underclass.

      We advise you not to unlearn the lesson of NBC.

      You have bought the tale of the poor boy with his BA fleeing to Baltimore from the oppression of an unpopular war and forced conscription. You have repeated the myth of the man who could see through ancient Greeks and pompous professors and, with tattered volume of Kozol in hand fought for the hearts and minds of fifth graders.

      Who tells this story? Why Somerby himself. But it conflicts with other stories he has told. How he is the descendant of two generations of showmen. Well connected men who knew show biz giants like P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb, and perhaps even Gypsy Rose Lee! Do those connections explain how he suddenly burst from the classroom to national fame on the comedy circuit and television appearances? What was he paid? That has not been told.

      He mysteriously appeared for a while in middle school. Was it in a real class or a rubber room? Can that explain the vehemence displayed against Kristof? Perhaps. But remember your lesson. Seek answers from real, not pseudo-journalists. Ask for independent verification.

    23. "No one has claimed they can "predict exactly" how kids will perform at age 9-10 . . ."

      Except, of course, for Hart and Risley. And Somerby.

      What do you think the whole "30 million word gap" was about anyway?

      I urge you, before you continue to make a fool of yourself by swallowing whole whatever chum Somerby throws your way, to read the Hart-Risley study for yourself, then read the library of peer criticism of it, then apply your own critical thinking skills.

      Assuming you have any left. Which is doubtful, since you think "meaningful" results can be obtained by observing for one hour a month 6 welfare families, 13 upper-income families, then extrapolate from that how ALL poor families and ALL rich families interact with their children in the presence of a stranger taking down "everything" (Hart-Risley's term).

  7. If I were transgendered, and you were a member of my family, I could understand why the suicide rate would be high.

    Nice attempt to hijack the thread, though. Could you please move along to where transgender issues are being discussed? Or did you already get your tailbone chased out of such sites?

  8. Dear Bob:

    Dude, thanks for "copy-catting" my comments. Yikes, I should have said "cut and paste." Anyhoo I'll pass your post along to Jane, Jill and Dan down at Rum Runners.

    Wolfpack rule!

    Real Scientist

    Um, do you like, read your own comments? Dude! Just sayin.

    1. Funny how Bob read those comments and failed to see this one:

      "Melvin Chan says: February 25, 2015 at 1:23 am
      You are almost correct. There aren’t “mathematical rules” per se that define what meaningful is, as those rules are mathematical theorems and axioms… I believe you are intending to say “statistics”, which actually does define what is statistically significant. And this isn’t case of “to-may-to, to-mah-to” – the two fields are pretty distinct, even though there is considerable overlap.
      "That being said, just because something is not statistically significant doesn’t mean that it’s not meaningful. There’s lots of research that’s published where the null hypothesis isn’t rejected. That doesn’t mean that this research is any less valuable than studies that did reject their null hypotheses. Also keep in mind that there are standard procedures when working with small sample sizes. In fact, people research this and teach methodology courses on how to do it. Further, a lot of research begins with small sample sizes because it’s super experimental. Once you get a general idea, only then can the study be ramped up.
      "As for this study, they could have not written an immediate release, but remember that when an exciting result is found (e.g. the Higgs boson being discovered), researchers will want to share this with others in the academic community. I don’t think you can fault these guys for sharing."

      Or this one:

      "Melvin Chan says: February 25, 2015 at 1:29 am
      What study would you run? Keep in mind that social science research (especially with human subjects) takes a long time to complete. They’re not experimenting with flies here…
      Also, how “loosy goosy” was it when Dr. Neil Barlett discovered that the so-called inert gases (particularly xenon) weren’t actually inert and could undergo reactions? I’m sure people thought he was crazy, but then he truly revolutionized how chemists view the noble gases. The best research often starts with some crazy idea, but often, the idea develops along the way into something that’s actually quite interesting."

    2. Melvin sounds like one of them damn Asian Tigers Bob keeps talking about. You know, the one's who are so smart Bob won't even show their PISA test results.

      For casual readers, the PISA tests are the international tests on which, only a decade or two ago, Americans could outscore the Poles.

    3. Melvin Chan could be 4th generation American born and raised in New York City. You can't judge by names. He sounds like someone with some actual research training. You don't have to be an "Asian Tiger" for that. But look how you went straight for the stereotype!

    4. Some people are certainly humorless. Kinda like the audience at one of Somerby's rare stand-up gigs.

    5. You so right @ 1:30.

    6. Thank you, Charlie!

    7. Can't you take a joke -- the refuge of every bigot. Why should you get the benefit of any doubt.

      @1:48 -- had to show people you are old enough to remember movies from the 40's didn't you. I think Dennis Miller is looking for his audience.

    8. You are truly a poor Bob fan! Have you not learned that the refuge of every pseudo-liberal scoundrel is to scream "bigot" because they are too lazy and dumb to say anything else?

    9. Warner Somerby OlandFebruary 25, 2015 at 2:17 PM

      Anything possible.

    10. @ 1:51 Easy to criticize, more difficult to be correct.

  9. Realize there is no allegation of either racism or sexism that Somerby can't automatically dismiss.

    1. As this Month of Kristof and Williams draws to a close, my guess is that he will spend March defending Rudy Giuliani.

    2. That is unfair. It is not automatic.

      It takes him about ten minutes to time up the first post. Then he spends the next three or four days cutting and pasting and copy catting himself while the little analysts sprawl around the spacious campus pretending to wail, screech, and pull their hair out.

    3. Automatic? It took him three days to get to the second example of the five cited by Kristof.

      A boatload of refugees can be returned from Key Biscayne to Haiti in less time than that.

      But at least he is methodically refuting those who say he has disappeared all of Kristof's examples.

    4. You can find hundreds of racism and sexism allegations that Somerby did not dismiss, automatically or not.

    5. Ummm, no I can't. Can you point me to at least 200?

    6. "It took him three days to get to the second example of the five cited by Kristof."

      Remember Edgar Buchanan on Petticoat Junction?

      "That's Uncle Joe, he's a-movin' kinda slow at the Junction."

    7. No. I don't remember.

    8. 9:14 PM: great 2nd-term Reagan impression!

    9. Bonzo was a professional. Always knew his lines and kept his poo flinging to his own trailer.

  10. The topic of gender stereotyping is very much the subject here, and "transgenderism" reinforces it more than any words on Rate My Professor.

    If I were a member of your family I would recognize you were mentally ill if you were considering an operation to alter your genitals to conform externally to a social expectation of a "matching" sex and gender.

    Those who support this barbarism presumably support procedures such as bleaching one's skin if black and "conversion therapy" if gay, similarly intended to change a surface appearance or orientation in order to reduce the psychological effects of minority status.

    Civilized people understand acceptance is the humane approach and encouragement of surgical mutilation is sick.

  11. I see. Civilized people understand that acceptance has its limits, which of course are determined by the so-called "civilized person."

    Glad to see your bigotry doesn't extend all the way to homophobia, but their suicide rate is also quite high, especially among gay teens.

    Wonder why?

  12. The trolls have used the word "pleasant" a number of zero times in this comments section. That's understandable since women were referred to as "pleasant" 3 times more frequently than men; and trolls don't want to pick the wrong cherries.

    1. Stumbling, hurling, and dumb haven't made much of an appearance today either. Thanks for reminding us.

    2. The word "pleasant" did not appear in Anonymous' response to my post noting that trolls don't want to use the word "pleasant". LOL. Somerby hurled a hot potato at you guys, didn't he. Catch the hot potato, Anonymous. It's ok!

    3. Have a pleasant day.

      And no. The taters were the same temperature as the rest of what you hurl up when you stumble around.

    4. A. Perez, the most interesting man in the world that drinks only Dos Equis. Today is his fruit & root day for elucidation.

    5. Can fallen fruit return to branch?

    6. Thanks for your update and for showing your feminine side. It was a pleasant break from the usual trolling around here.

  13. I see. So given that acceptance has its limits, you support sexual orientation conversion therapy, attempts to turn black skin white, and attempts to make a male look like a female externally. Diane Sawyer should interview those who went through "sex change" "race change" and "gay change" procedures while progressives applaud their "journey." Glad to see your lack of sanity extends to race and orientation and isn 't limited to demanding that society pretend a male can become a female.

    We don't know the extent to which being gay causes gay teens to commit suicide, or being confused causes teens to become gay, or being teenaged causes teens to be depressed but if being born gay causes teen suicides as you suggest, and you don't include conversion therapy in your list of acceptable remedies for them, you are inconsistent unless your goal is to support anything that isn't the norm regardless of consequences to the person. Which either reflects inclination toward the perverse more than it reflects a social conscience, or a sheep like tendency to get on board with something insane before you fully considered it.

  14. 72 comments so far... Hot, hot, hot intersection on the Venn diagrams:

    Popular NYT Columnist x Cliche anti-woman tropes

    The problem MUST be Somerby, of course!

    1. Is that really the way the world works? Self proclaimed Maoists like Somerby have it coming if you ask me.

    2. When you add it up and divide by two, it's all about the liberals slumbering on the far side of Neptune while Gore is gored, or they're flinging poo at "the others" instead of persuading them to see the light with stuff like facts and not icky things like narratives.

      We just really don't know.

    3. Joe, if it weren't for Chris Matthews, you could be in your second term. Saying hello to Bibi when he dropped in on his way over to get a medal on Capitol Hill.

    4. Joe would have put an end to journalistic obscenity in his first term and would not have resorted to wedgies to make the tribes get along.

  15. I get it. You love gays. You hate transgenders.

    And you are frothing at the mouth over this so badly that you can no longer construct a coherent sentence.

  16. Orientation is fluid, sex is not, so orientation therapy is arguably ethical while transsexual medical procedures are not.

  17. This was my kind of loosy goosy post.

    Jill has nothing else substantive to say, and Rebecca is all hot about it.

    Night y'all.

  18. Kristof and that gender studies professor are worrying about occasional use of words like "bossy". Meanwhile, truly horrible things are happening to some women. E.g.
    Girls in Rotherham are still being groomed by sex gangs, warns MP
    Sarah Champion, who is seeking improved support and protection for sex-grooming victims, said that vulnerable children in the South Yorkshire town continued to fall victim to the same pattern of abuse that had led to the pimping and trafficking of hundreds of girls...

  19. As Bob continues to hammer on Kristof far beyond the point anyone could be much interested, a new wrinkle has emerged for The Daily Howler to brazen out.

    They've got O"Reilly dead to rights, and he's threaten his critics in a way far, far beyond the pale of acceptable decency. It's not the first time he's done this, mind you, but it's the first time it's really been noticed.

    Bob has been soft on O"Reilly for years, even forgetting his attempt to have Al Gore indited during the endlessly referenced "War On Gore!" Has "It wasn't just Fox News" morphed into "It's never Fox Nexs?"

    1. The latest O'Reilly story started with "Uncle" Corn, who tickles the fancy of Somerby's analysts from time to time. It now involves CNN and the New York Times/ Throwing the tarnished image of NBC aside, Rachel Maddow jumped in head first last night. Clearly its a story about discourse and involves Howler friends and foes alike.

      Surely Bob Somerby would have at least a wry observation or two.

      "That said, we’ve been trying to move ahead to a discussion of Kristof’s recent PBS series, A Path Appears. We were puzzled by various things we saw in the segment from Port-au-Prince.

      On a purely journalistic basis, how in the world can PBS get away with the story it told?" Somerby

      Think we will get a story promised back before Valentine's Day instead? How on earth could this have been delayed?

      What actually happened in Haiti in 2013?

    2. You think this is trivial and you use it to mock Somerby. In one segment, the girl is forced to return to her mother who clearly doesn't want her. In the other, the girl is returned to a group home where she is greeted warmly. Which is true? Shouldn't this be clear? The two stories are incompatible. Are these children merely pawns in our entertainment industry where "news" serves only to arouse emotion, or do their lives matter?

    3. Never liked Kristof, agree with the Daily Howler about the very low level of all NY Times Op Eders. But if Brian Williams was a big deal, O"Reilly is bigger. I would expect Bob to simply stonewall that which doesn't fit into his his overview, we've seen it before, I expect we will see it here.

    4. O'Reilly is not liberal. If Somerby were to chase all the idiocies on the right, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day. Media Matters is already doing a fine job of documenting O'Reilly's lies. Why should Somerby reinvent the wheel when there is no one looking at the left from the left? That is his niche.

    5. "You think this is trivial and you use it to mock Somerby."

      Truth be told, @ 10:35 Somerby is being mocked. He works hard to earn it. That does not mean we think the story of the girl in Haiti is trivial to her and other girls in her situation.

      But whatever did happen in Haiti happened over a year ago (Somerby made an error in reporting when Kristof first wrote about it). And I predicted, when Bob first posted about it, that he would delay his follow up post until long after the PBS video disappeared from the web so he could, as he often does, misrepresent facts about it and force his few readers he has and who watched it to rely on fading memory of what they saw to refute his misrepresentation. Your comment is a perfect example.

    6. You are right @ 11:06.

      Throughout the seventeen years Somerby has been blogging, carefully fine tuning his message while keeping his website current with the incredible changes in web technology, he has managed to find his niche.

      No need to savage the lies of the broad spectrum of print, broadcast. and internet based journalism like he did in the early years. He is no longer a young energetic middle aged man. He needed to find his niche.

      Just focus on the pseudo-liberals with their Maoist tendencies driving wedges that enabled Reagan and who stood by silently while poor Al Gore lost an election in which he got more votes. Without the courage of Somerby who knows what further damage they will be capable of. We need him to keep slugging it out on behalf of progressive interests, holding down his niche.

      One day our grandchildren will sing the Song of Somerby. He stopped the meltdown of our intellectual culture. He held Ft. Howler. Last bastion against the horde of hacks.

  20. You dumb lazy commenters are debating the trees and missing the forest.

    "Where do “facts” come from?" Bob Somerby asks sadly at the end of his third post on a single Kristof column. (Each really bad Kristof column deserves a least three posts).

    Bob refers to a Pingback pop-up link from Trendingnewz.com amidst a comment section of a website which references the topic at hand.

    Throughout the post Somerby has been hinting that the answer is the vile Kristof. At the end he hedges: Students see female professors as bossy! Thanks to the efforts of people like Kristof, this is becoming a “fact.”

    "People like" Kristof. If you trace the Pingback to its source it is not Kristof, it is the Think Progress post of February 9, the one which Kristof (or his assistant) cut and pasted. The one Bob referred to as "copying off the papers of other pseudo-journalists, including those who are many years younger than he is." (No unconscious age bias from Bob there, just necessary demographic facts).

    Is misinfromation spreading instantaneously across the globe in bad web articles based on bad research? Are pop-ups. Tweets, Facebook on the Internet replacing Elvis and his Negro infected music on the radio as the death virus threatening our culture?

    Turn back with Bob, readers, to a simpler, less tribal time. Back before Al Gore took the intiative in creating the Internet. Back to when news was filtered by The Gatekeepers. Walter. David. Anchors selected carefully by the corporate suits at places like NBC.

    1. The General Studies Left doesn't like Bob because Bob ridicules their idols. They learned new ways of looking at things in community college and the key to universal happiness is everyone agreeing not to say the wrong words or think the wrong thoughts. It's all right there in "Imagine."

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