Monday, August 24, 2009

Bob Herbert's Fact-Free Op-ed: Women Uniquely at Risk of Violent Crime

August 10th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

It's predictable as the sunrise. No sooner had the echoes of George Sodini's gunshots died away than they were replaced by the diligent tap-tap-tapping of keyboards. Feminists and their apologists leapt as one to their desks and began churning out the same sermon we've heard for years now: George Sodini's brutal slaying of three women in a Pennsylvania exercise class was not the act of a lone deranged man, it was the act of all men; it was the act of a male-dominated culture that so loathes women it turns a blind eye to their injury and death. Women are uniquely victims, uniquely threatened by ravening men who prowl the land searching for the next one who shows a weakness or errs in judgment. Here endeth the lesson.

The latest to commit the requisite public auto da fe is Bob Herbert here (New York Times, 8/8/09). An intelligent space alien, reading his op-ed would never guess that, far from being uniquely targeted by crime, women and girls are uniquely protected from it. A two-minute jaunt through the Bureau of Justice Statistics website shows that 61% of violent crime victims are men. Our space traveller would never imagine that incidents of violent crime of all kinds have been plunging over the past 16 years to their lowest rate since we began gathering data. How would he know that a woman's chance of being raped is one-fifth what it was in 1973?

The space alien wouldn't know these things because Bob Herbert doesn't mention them. He doesn't because the facts don't fit with the false yarn he's spinning. Herbert seeks to instruct us and he uses mythology to do it.

That's clear enough to even a casual reader, because the facts Herbert relies on to make his case...well...don't. Take a look. The article consists mostly of that time-honored rhetorical crutch of high school students everywhere - the unsupported assertion. For example,

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny

Really? Killing women and girls is a "cornerstone of our nation's entertainment?" The "barbaric treatment of women and girls" is "more or less expected?" There hasn't been "thunderous outrage" at the Sodini killings? Herbert provides no support for these frankly loony claims for the good and sufficient reason that he has none.

Perhaps realizing that an actual fact might serve his cause, he searches for one, but alas, in vain. He tries the mass murder in 2007 at Virginia Tech University, but even his misrepresentation of the facts of that tragedy don't do the job. The fact that Seung Hui Cho shot both men and women, completely at random, deflects Herbert from his mission not at all. The fact that Cho, at the time of his rampage, had been diagnosed for many years as so mentally ill as to require medication and hospitalization goes unmentioned. Nor does Herbert tell us that the targets of Cho's violent anger were not women, but "rich kids" and "deceitful charlatans," according to Cho's diary.

That Herbert wants us to believe that Cho's slaughter has something to do with misogynistic culture only shows how desperate he is for material. Does it occur to him that, if this culture is as dominated by men who are as violently hateful toward women as he would have us believe, that our misogyny isn't very effective? How does he square those beliefs with the fact that women are now and, as far as our data show, always have been, far less likely to be hurt or killed in any way than are men? I guess men must be as incompetent as the commercials say we are.

Claims of collective guilt for the wrongdoing of single, deranged individuals is a dangerous game indeed. As an African-American male, you'd think Bob Herbert would understand that. How can a man who's appropriately criticized racial profiling by the police, turn on a dime and engage in gender-profiling himself. Herbert wants us to believe that not just George Sodini, but men in general, are guilty for his crime. Someone should remind Herbert that that includes him.

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