Putting dominance over truth

Discussions are too often about dominance rather than truth seeking, argues Spencer M de Gauthier. That’s why we so often talk past each other.

De Gauthier is a former communist who literally got his ass kicked by “social justice warriors.” In the process of trying to understand what happened he discovered the Youtube videos of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, whom Cathy Newman recently interviewed on the BBC’s Channel 4.

It wasn’t really a discussion, though, because Newman didn’t listen to anything Peterson said. Instead she responded to Peterson’s nuanced statements with, “What you’re really saying is…” And then she’d insert the most simplistic and derogatory statement she could think of.

Peterson, an expert on myth and psychology, became a Youtube star after criticizing a Canadian transgender equality bill (C-16, which eventually became law). Peterson doesn’t oppose civil rights—he opposes the law’s requirement that people use alternative gender pronouns in the workplace. The government compelling you to say something, he argues, is as much an affront to free speech as the government prohibiting you from saying something.

Peterson’s critics called him a bigoted transphobe. And Peterson attracted an alt-right following leading some to incorrectly associate him with the alt-right.

It is fair to say that Peterson hasn’t done enough to denounce the alt-right—if he criticized the right’s identity politics like he does the left’s then his alt-right followers would likely abandon him. The alt-right fails to understand that Peterson’s take down of identity politics also applies to them. After all, he likes to compare Nazis to communists.

But back to Newman’s interview of Peterson. De Gauthier notes that,

What is actually happening is not a conversation or a true argument (the highest form of which is for two persons to work together to earnestly ascertain the truth), but “a dominance hierarchy dispute with an ideological overlay.”

De Gauthier compares modern day efforts to persuade others with rhetoric (or coercive shaming) rather than reason, and the relativistic view that “truth” is not universal but context dependent (and power is usually the context) to the sophists. Socrates often debated and defeated these ancient Greek bullshit artists, arguing instead that truth matters.

Though de Gauthier is talking about social justice warriors, I think the rhetorical aspect is equally true of the right. But rather than relativism the right tends to appeal to religion or an idealized past. The right’s “alternative facts,” however, are as non-rational as relativism.

Newman, like the sophists, is not engaged in a serious quest for truth. She’s engaged in a dominance display. Peterson, however, refuses to play her game. He remains calm and collected. He does not attempt dominance over her. He only tries to correct Newman’s misperceptions. As a result Newman looks foolish, but this is her own doing. Peterson doesn’t catch her when she falls, but that is a reflection of true equality: Peterson neither attacks Newman nor puts her on a pedestal.

The gender wage gap is a particular sticking point for Newman. Peterson states that there are 18 factors attributable to the gap, and while gender discrimination is one it’s not as big of a factor as progressives claim. Newman claims that Peterson was really saying that this is just the way it is and women should put up with it.

But the research backs Peterson up. Politifact states that the claim that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job is “mostly false.” The Economist reports that for the same job, women earn 98 cents. Even the American Association of University Women concedes that their “regression analysis of earnings one year after graduation suggests that a 6.6 percent difference in annual earnings remains between women and men after accounting for all variables known to affect earnings.”

Newman also took issue with Peterson’s reference to research showing cross cultural personality differences between men and women, which interestingly are greater in countries with more gender equal. So biology does play a role with gender, but not the crude biological determinism that some on the right advocate. Peterson compares it to the rules of chess: biology sets the stage, but within that there’s a lot of flexibility.

These research findings contradict progressive ideology. People like Newman resort to personal attacks because they can’t win the argument with facts. But trying to win an argument regardless of the facts places dominance above truth.


“The Fall” and the pedestal

Telegraph Pass Phoenix, Arizona
Telegraph Pass
Phoenix, Arizona

Gillian Anderson’s The Fall keeps generating controversy. Political columnist Cathy Young calls the TV show “fauxminist,” disagreeing with some who call it the most feminist show on TV.

Almost every male character being bad or useless is a tradition of films with female heroes such as Thelma & Louise and Maleficent. But Young notes that even some feminists have wondered if The Fall is misandrist (man hating).

Alyssa Rosenberg writes in the Washington Post that The Fall suggests “all men are capable of terrible things. That’s the sort of sentiment that anti-feminists accuse feminists of using to smear innocent men, and that most U.S. feminists would aggressively deny believing.”

That it’s almost exclusively men who abuse and sexually exploit others is unquestioned. But is that true?

Society puts women on a pedestal. Traditionally, God is a man and Satan is a man. But as former feminist Warren Farrell notes, feminists say God could be a woman but Satan is a man. My take is that that men’s rights activists think God is a man and Satan is a feminist.

Or maybe both God and Satan can be either male or female.

The media, however, often ignore stories that challenge the notion that women are angels and men are devils. The Justice Department found that a significant number of boys in juvenile detention are sexually abused by staff. But it didn’t make headlines. Does the fact that 95% of the perpetrators are women (despite women being a minority of the staff) have anything to do with burying the story?

The Department of Health and Human Services found that a slight majority of child abusers are women. The Centers for Disease Control found that men are almost as likely as women to be emotionally abused by an intimate partner (Tables 4.9 & 4.10). And while 1 in 4 women have experienced severe domestic violence, so have 1 in 7 men  – making men about a third of the victims. And despite an almost exclusive focus on teen girls as victims of dating violence, it turns out that boys are almost as likely to be experience dating violence.

The CDC also found that 1.27 million women have been raped by an intimate partner (Table 2.1) while the figure for men is almost non-existent. But that’s because  a woman forcing a man to have sex isn’t considered rape. However, 1.267 million men have been “made to penetrate” (Table 2.2), and 79.2% of the perpetrators are women (page 24).

None of this means we should vilify women. But we shouldn’t vilify men either. Almost every human being, man or woman, has the potential to be violent in certain circumstances – particularly with their significant other. But acknowledging this means departing from the view of gender dynamics that dominates academia and pop culture today.

Is IMDB a conspiracy against men?

I have a theory: there’s a conspiracy against men on IMDB because women give higher ratings to shows like Sex in the City compared to Breaking Bad.

I know this sounds nuts. And it is. But hear me out.

The latest viral story comes from fivethirtyeight.com, a site that does statistical analysis of all sorts of things. Walt Hickey’s research finds that (surprise!) men give higher ratings to male themed shows and women give higher ratings to female themed shows. But overall women’s shows get lower ratings (though not bad ratings), and this proves that men are deliberately sabotaging women’s shows.

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The media, ever eager to show just how powerless women are, picked up the story with Elle, the Huffington Post, and Salon adding their two cents. The media’s frequent illustrations of how women are oppressed over subtle things strikes me as sexist, even though it’s presented as speaking out against sexism. The constant media theme of men bad/women good empowers neither women nor men. 

Blogger Cathy Young pointed out that the reason women’s shows have lower IMDB averages is that 70% of people rating programs are men. Because the male:female ratio is 2.3:1 rather than 1:1, ratings have a male bias. But this doesn’t prove that men deliberately have it out for women. 

The real question (which fivethirtyeight fails to address) is why men are twice as likely as women to post a rating on IMDB. To get to the root of the issue, IMDB could ask women and men why they do or don’t post ratings. There may be something about the site itself that needs to be adjusted to balance out the male:female ratio.

Man & Wife: Word Origin & Sexism

Why is a happy couple is declared man and wife? Why not man and woman, or wife and husband?

One view is that upon marriage a man retains his personhood while a woman becomes a possession. Similarly, the word mankind implies that only males are people, thus excluding half the population.

Language is fascinating. My interest in the history of the English language began in high school when my English teacher had us listen to a recording of Beowulf‘s prologue in the original Old English:

Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum
þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon
hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.

It’s hard to believe that this is actually English. But English’s Germanic origins were dramatically altered after the Norman French invasion of England in 1066.  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s, six centuries after Beowulf:

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

English has always been a rapidly changing language, and this remains the case today. People sometimes ask when Americans lost their English accents. But reality is that Americans never had a modern British accent. English sounded very different in the early 1600s when the first settlers landed at Jamestown.

But back to the original question of sexism when declaring a couple man and wife.

Originally the phrase simply meant man and woman. The Old English word for an adult female, single or married, was wif (pronounced weef). An adult male was wer (pronounced ware). But wer eventually disappeared (the only form in Modern English is found in werewolf).

And there was a gender neutral word that meant person: mann. Being gender neutral, a female could also be called a mann. The Old English compound word wifmann meant female person, and eventually became woman. But the definition of wif, now wife, narrowed to exclude unmarried women. Wer fell out of use, however, and man became the masculine when referring to a specific person while retaining its gender neutral status when referring to people in general, such mankind.

By the late 20th century man and mankind no longer felt gender neutral and thus were seen as excluding women. And so a new gender neutral word was needed: humankind.

Because the word wife no longer means any woman, married or unmarried, many couples now choose to be pronounced husband and wife. The Old English word husbonda meant head of the household, and usually referred to a married man, though any male head of household could have claimed the name. But the term was always male.

Finally, the word female comes from the Norman French femelle. The Norman French word masle was Anglicized as male to more closely resemble the word female.