Comment Of The Day: “Catching Up On “Instersectionality,” And Finally Paying Attention”

These do not exist.

My heart sank when the I saw that the extremely lively debate following yesterday’s post about “intersectionality” had sparked a posting of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Paula McIntosh, who either was time traveling  from 1947 or who was awakened from a coma in 1988 and set it to paper.  The list was out of date then, and it is 29 years old now: one of my favorite aspects of perpetual victim-mongers is that they always pretend that no progress has been made in ethics and human relations, because progress puts them out of business. 

I had to debunk this thing, but there were other priorities hanging over me. Fortunately, reader Isaac took up the challenge. This is often the case in Ethics Alarms, where the remarkable reader base either assists me in doing my job, or, as in this case, does it for me, often better than I could. Isaac chose humor to do the job here, and looking over the material, that might have been the kindest course.

Here is Isaac’s epic Comment of the Day on the post, “Catching Up On “Instersectionality And Finally Paying Attention.” (I’ll have a few comments at the end.)

I wish to thank Deery for sharing about the “Invisible Knapsack” of 26 White Privileges invented by someone named McIntosh. I had never heard of it and am eager to unpack all of unseen ways that the White-spiracy has gifted me with an implicit advantage over my colored people friends. By knowing what my white privilege affords me, I can now exploit it and achieve my highest potential! Let’s dive in.

—-“1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”—-

That can’t be right, and I don’t just mean the sentence structure. My neighborhood in Riverside County, California is about 65% Latino and 15% Black. And I can’t afford to move. I like it here. But if I did want to move to Orange County or Malibu or whatever and hang around fellow Whites all day, I can’t afford it. Maybe McIntosh can connect me to the secret White Privilege Office that will hook me up with a McMansion in Irvine.

—-“2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”—–

Seriously, McIntosh? I just went over this. If it costs more than a one-bedroom apartment in Perris, I CAN’T afford it. Who is McIntosh and why does she believe that being White gets you real-estate discounts?

—-“3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.”—-

My neighbors have been pretty cool except for the three or four people who have robbed me or smashed some of my property. Is this the realization of my White privilege or do I still have untapped benefits?

—-“4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”—-

I got kicked out of a gift store once as a teenager, but to be fair, I WAS shoplifting at the time.

I’ve only been unfairly followed or harassed while shopping a few times. But I checked with some of my Brown and Black friends, and they ALSO had only been followed or harassed while shopping a few times. That number should be WAY higher for them than for me. What kind of white privilege is this? Why are my benefits not notable?

—-5. “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”—-

To check my privilege in this area I turned on the television and looked at a newspaper, and was surprised to find that yes, there were quite a few white people there. Sweet, privilege! But it gets better! I checked Wikipedia and found out that White people make up almost two thirds of the population of America! Wow! How can a group of people that make up 63% of a country’s population also be seen on the television and newspapers constantly? It’s gotta be a conspiracy, baby! A sweet, sweet, white conspiracy.

—-“6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”—- Continue reading

Update: Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

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Yij = β0j + β1jX1ij + β2j Zij + Eij

Reader and commenter Alexander Cheezem issued an energetic objection to my post about another happiness study, which you can read, along with my rebuttal, in the comment threads to the post, here. His main two complaints were that I didn’t read the study itself, and that I unfairly called it  policy advocacy disguised as objective social science research.

I didn’t read the study itself because the only link the Post provided was not accessible without joining a service I didn’t care to join, or take the time trying. Alexander kept referring to a “direct link,” an unfortunate and misleading description of a link that goes to a page with a link to the study that doesn’t respond when you click on it, and are directed to “register.” [ CORRECTION: This is what I thought at the time. It has been pointed out to me that the first time the reporter linked to “research,” it wasn’t the study she was writing about, but another, behind a paywall. The second link on “research” did go to a live link to the actual study. Having been frustrated once, I assumed that the second link would also be to the same  inaccessible link. My error—though I’m furious at the Posts’s incompetence—and I apologize to Alexander.]

Other Bill, who flagged the Washington Post headline and story initially, has provided a free and direct link It is here.

I am relieved to find that reading the entire study revealed nothing that I didn’t discern from what the Post reporter wrote, and checking the accessible links she provided. (Obviously, it would have been preferable to read the whole study initially, and I would have, if a functioning link was provided, as it should have been.). Let me take that back a bit: the study itself was worse than I thought.

Here’s why: Continue reading

Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam...

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam…

[An UPDATE is HERE]

On the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Ana Swenson breathlessly writes “that research suggests …[p]eople who have kids in the United States and in many countries around the world report being less happy than people who don’t have kids.”

Ah-HA! This must be why DirecTV is certain that promoting a device that it facetiously suggests would make your kid disappear will appeal to its customers!

Except that Swenson’s headline is click-bait, her article is irresponsible and incompetent, and the study is politically motivated junk, as such things usually are.

“Research” doesn’t suggest this politically manufactured finding.  A single dubious study may suggest it to those who already are inclined to be dubious about parenthood, and who could also be persuaded to buy valuable swampland property in Florida. If you aren’t smart enough to bale on both the “study” and Swenson after this statement central to the issue, I have little hope for you:

“On average, an American parent reports being 12 percent unhappier than a non-parent in America – the biggest gap in the 22 countries the researchers looked at, followed distantly by Ireland.”  

What (the hell) does it mean to be “12 per cent unhappier,” or “12 per cent happier”? Happiness is not quantifiable like that, nor can it be measured with that kind of precision, or any kind of precision. Gee, what is the margin of error in that 12 %? Is it 12%, +/- 3%? I’m trying to think of two states of happiness I have experienced in which I could say with any certainty that I was 12% happier/ 47% happier or 71% happier  in one more than the other, and if I can’t determine that, how are a bunch or researches going to do it?

Let’s see—did discovering I had to undergo a circumcision at the age of 30 make me 12% more unhappy than I was when the Red Sox lost Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Did watching the T-Rex beat the Indominus Rex in the dino-showdown in “Jurassic World” make me 12% happier than when bought our home for a bargain, or 12% less? You know, I really can’t answer that. Both made me happy in different ways. Did my happiness that my dad died the way he wanted, with dignity and in his sleep just short of his 90th birthday, exceed by 12% the happiness I felt when my final performance at my theater company got a deserved standing ovation, though I was also saddened that my dad wasn’t there to see it?

Please, O Wise and Researchers, enlighten me! They can’t. Of course they can’t. Nor can they tell me how to quantify the happiness my son has given his mother and me, even though he has driven and almost certainly will continue to drive us out of our minds with worry and worse on a regular basis, and has cost us a lot of money we will surely miss when we are dreaming about finally seeing Paris. Am I 12 % less happy than I would have been with a son more like I was, a non-rebellious, conventionally obedient, healthy and lucky kid who sailed through school and never got in any serious trouble? No, because then my son wouldn’t be the unique, amazing, gutsy and original individual he is.

Swenson’s report is filled with statements that make it clear that this is politically motivated  entitlement and anti-child propaganda (and thus pro-abortion propaganda). The smoking gun comes early: Continue reading

The Fake Fight, the Injured Officer, and the Forgotten Fable

In the wake of a high-profile case in which a black teen was apparently beaten by an arresting police officer, an Indianapolis African-American minister decided that a simulation of an arrest situation might be revealing. James Harrington, a pastor at Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, asked Police Sgt. Matthew Grimes to speak at an anti-violence symposium, but he had a surprise for the officer. Harrington had arranged for actors to stage a fight in the crowd—a test, Harrington said later, of Grimes’ response to a fight between two black men. Grimes attempted to break up the faux fight, and seriously injured his back. Continue reading

Dubious Ethics Studies, Part II

There are good reasons to be skeptical of all studies purporting to analyze what people think according to how they fit into common ideological categories. In 2003, a study purported to portray conservatism as a kind of mental disorder. In 2008, another series of studies was packaged to make the case that liberals were compassionate in words only, that when it came to putting one’s money where one’s conscience was, it was those mean old conservatives who opened their wallets. Now comes a study called “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?”published in the latest edition of the “Journal of Psychological Science.” Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, did a series of experiments comparing the behavior of patrons of “green” products and the conduct of the less environmentally correct. Continue reading

Dubious Ethics Studies, Part I.

Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell (Blink) and the one-word titled books he has inspired, we are being exposed to more social science research than ever before, much of it with relevance to ethics. I’ll admit to using some of these when they support my point of view, and that is the problem: what such studies supposedly signify often tell us more about the biases of the analysts than the behavior of the subjects. Two recent studies illustrate the point. Continue reading