It has become impossible not to argue that the mainstream media is conspiring against the right wing. Charlotte Allen’s wondrous piece in the Washington Post — arguing (mostly without irony) that women are “dumb” — clinches it. Most of us should have become aware of this pernicious conspiracy when the New York Times hired Bill Kristol. The more perceptive might even have caught on when David Brooks achieved tenure at the Gray Lady.
The plot is simple, but nefarious: give conservatives a voice in the MSM, but make sure that you hire only those who can’t actually write.Certainly one can make the case that the conservative movement has run out of ideas (or never had particularly exciting ideas from the start). To test that thesis, however, you’d have to weigh the best and the brightest, and find them wanting. Putting lightweights on the scale is not good science.And oh how very much lighter than air they are. Brooks offers us fluff upon fluff: one breezy sociological conceit after another, each cutely named, each less substantial than the last — it’s like watching one of those machines that generates candy floss. Bill Kristol manages to fail Journalism 101 in his very first piece for the Times: he misattributes a quotation. And then, as if it couldn’t get any less impressive, we get Charlotte.
Charlotte Allen is certainly in a very good position to demonstrate the inferiority of the female intellect. The more rigorous among us wonder what might have happened, however, if she’d studied a larger sample of women than the magnificent ditz who stares back at her from the mirror.
Take her statistical acumen: “A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men’s 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.”
The crucial words here — call it the nexus of stupidity — are “even though.” Um, Charlotte? We’re talking about accidents per million miles. Hence, Charlotte, the extra miles driven are *irrelevant.* If you were to derive any meaning from that extra 74 percent, it would be this: men drive more, hence practice their skills more, hence drive with greater skill — a classic case of nurture over nature.
Another exquisite Allen observation: “The theory that women are the dumber sex — or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents — is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence.”
Well now. Which is it, Charlotte? That women get into more car accidents — trivial — or that women are the dumber sex — not quite so trivial? I accept that you’re being “witty” here, but inquiring minds do in fact want to know. Say, the kind of mind borne by the average WaPo reader — of either sex — who is confronted with intelligent liberals, page after page, before being whacked in the temple by you.
The tests, in fact, are not quite so cut-and-dried when it comes to the less trivial question. “I have coasted through life and academia on the basis of an excellent memory and superior verbal skills, two areas where, researchers agree, women consistently outpace men.” Only a creature of Allen’s peerless intellect would insist that “superior verbal skills” are unimportant in the evaluation of genius. (And only a creature of Allen’s exquisite vanity would imagine that her writing is evidence of superior verbal skills.)
Ms. Allen is capable of the occasional big word or two: “parietal cortex” is apparently something she looked up for this article. The size of this bit of brain — related to visual and spatial capabilities — differs between the sexes. Einstein’s brain was an average size, but his inferior parietal lobe was about 15 percent wider than normal. This excited researchers, yes (particularly Sandra Witelson, the very brilliant woman who made the discovery), and they found that male brains tended to have larger IPL’s. On the other hand, women tend to have 23 percent more volume in Broca’s area, and 13 percent more in the superior temporal cortex: both areas associated with linguistic skills. This kind of research, it has to be pointed out, is essentially phrenology, a long discredited science: it may mean something; it may mean nothing. The correlation between size and capability, neurologically, remains annoyingly mysterious.
But let’s grant that these differences exist. Now, Allen’s argument seems to be that women, by virtue of their inferior spatial skills, are more likely to swoon at the sight of Obama. They’re more likely to act stupidly in their choice of entertainment. Etc. Excuse me, Charlotte — you surpassing neuroscientist, you — wouldn’t this sort of behavior, if it were sexually divergent, depend more upon language-oriented skills than, say, mathematical and spatial capacity? Just sayin’.
As for those spatial skills… well, Charl, many in history have shared your casual bigotry. Bobby Fischer, the greatest chess player who ever lived, had soaring contempt for women’s abilities in this department: he insisted that he could go without his queen and still beat any female alive. Nice, huh? Unfortunately for you, Charlotte, there’s a coda to this story: Fischer then decided to personally tutor a friend’s daughter, Judit Polgár, who went on to become the world’s youngest Grandmaster.
Anyway, this isn’t really about women’s intelligence. It’s about Charlotte’s gifts. Were she not the victim of a clever affirmative action policy on the part of the mainstream media, designed to offer prominent gigs only to second-rate conservatives, she’d be hard-pressed to publish anywhere not subsidized by Dick Scaife.