Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Marginal Revolution used to be a good blog

"I vote every day by not having children" - Blake Butler 

I have read Marginal Revolution for years. The writers (mostly Tyler Cowen but also Alex Tabarrok) write multiple posts per day, and they are usually on the short side, posing provocative or puzzling questions and often simply dumping in a link, quote or excerpt of potential interest without further commentary. Half the value, for this reason, was always in the comments, and I thought of the frequent readers/commenters as generally pretty smart and interesting.

Lately, on the rare occasion that I click through from my blog reader to view the comments on a post, I come away feeling like they're largely a bunch of assholes. Today Cowen linked to this Susan Sontag sampler in the NYT and quoted a couple of lines from it (without comment, beyond the title: "True, false, or uncertain?"). Here are some of the gems his readers left in response:

"It’s very unfashionable nowadays to say 'Silly woman!'"

"The second part, okay, but the first part is completely vacuous, like something a freshman girl would say in a humanities class."

"some feminist wackjob"

"What she likes and dislikes reads like the average single girl’s okcupid profile."

"Worthless cvnt."

One guy, a Matt, wrote: "I used to think MR had an impressively high quality comments section. Was I wrong or did MR’s readers become considerably more vile in the last couple of years?" It's usually good policy to stay out of comment streams where you're going to be despised by default, but I think it's valuable to side with dissenters sometimes. I wrote: "Agreed. The misogyny factor is way up (and general angry intolerance). Might as well read the comments on Salon."

One "Lords of Lies" responded: "sorry, stupidity and sophistry don’t deserve tolerance. and misogyny is not a synonym for ridiculing a feminist’s delusions and lies, no matter how badly you want it to be."

Actually, LoL, "misogyny" kind of is a synonym (though I wouldn't use the word "synonym" that way) for "ridiculing" a feminist and calling her opinions "delusions and lies." I wonder what he thinks "misogyny" and "feminist" mean? And "lies" for that matter; his screen name is sending mixed messages.

There were similarly disheartening comments on a recent post on why women don't file patents (this time by Tabarrok). They weren't as blatantly offensive as the comments on Sontag, and there were some definite voices of reason in the mix, but you could almost feel the collective eyeroll of the contingent that thinks it's obvious why women don't file patents (because they don't have good ideas, natch). For example: "This can’t be because men are better at and more interested in certain things than women. This has to be some insidious discriminatory conspiracy. We need gender quotas for patents to fight this injustice, or maybe we should just award patents earned by men to women." (If there was any doubt, his other comments make it clear he is being sarcastic. This is "Miley Cyrax," the gent who compared Sontag to a "freshman girl.")

Tabarrok himself writes, "Predictably, the authors do not ask why women might self-select into non patent-intensive fields, perhaps because this would require at least a discussion of politically incorrect questions." I'm sure he thinks if there's any gender imbalance in his own economics department or in the readership of his blog, it's purely due to self-selection. Women just aren't interested in economics! Nothing wrong with having different hobbies. Except maybe your economics department is like your blog: Women are interested in economics, but they just aren't interested in being called stupid cunts.

12 comments:

  1. Sontag says she doesn't like ketchup. Isn't that game over?

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    1. Or baked beans or Coca-Cola, which all kind of taste similar. She's being consistent here, isn't that inconsistent with her claims to personal inconsistency? No, actually, I guess that's consistent.

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  2. Only female freshmen say vacuous things in humanities class.

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    1. Especially the girl females. Who let them into college?

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  3. This makes me so sad! I used to love that blog... now it just makes me want to vomit. It's the same 5 or 6 people all the time too, don't they have anything better to do?

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    1. Yeah, it sucks for sure. I have such a mixed emotional reaction to those comments. On the one hand their attitudes are embarrassing and laughable ... but it's not that funny when you realize it's not just an isolated corner of the Internet, these people are everywhere.

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  4. You seem to be going through a rather mysoginist period in the US.
    I see different topics cropping up on blogs regarding the strong and hostile treatment of women who decide to speak up, both for themselves and the rest.
    What's up with that?

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    1. Ines, it definitely feels like we're in a period of extreme backlash. I'm not sure exactly when it started. There's definitely been a regression to to the right ever since 9/11, a sort of fear-based hateful conservatism taking over. And rights for women are being threatened all over the place. We're getting into battles over *birth control* now, never mind abortions. What's next, suffrage?

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    2. Incredible really. In a very strange way I mean.
      My country has some huge problems to deal with and I always thought as we're a "loudly" Catholic country with a strong patriarchal tinge, I kept thinking women wouldn't have as many rights as elsewhere in the world.
      But I believe there's a strong communist legacy in what I perceive as my normal life today, just to mention birth control - you could always get it for free if you went to your gynecologist.

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    3. Even being insured, I have spent a LOT on birth control over the past ten years (costs that were not shared with the men in my life). That bleeds into other issues with the costs of health care and insurance, which are equally infuriating.

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  5. Just wanted to applaud this post (as well as its epigraph!). You've articulated how I often feel reading the comments sections on articles in my local newspaper doing anything to defend or even just...record the news w/regards to womens'/reproductive rights (as an example http://journalstar.com/news/opinion/cartoons/cartoon/image_19b37978-2281-5cc3-8f34-4570504f95bf.html ) You want to laugh it off, but then...these are peoples' convictions. As firmly held as your own.

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    1. Thanks very much for the support, Jessica! It gets harder and harder to laugh this stuff off. Basically, it's not fucking funny.

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