Megan McArdle, gender discrimination, and Blue Blogistan

The treatment of Red-team females on the Net isn’t something the Blue Team should be proud of.

I’m not going to bother to refute the “Democrats do it too!” responses to my earlier post about Republicans’ addiction to violent hate speech. That sh*t just won’t wash.

But the fact that your neighbor actually has a beam in his eye doesn’t mean that you don’t have a mote in yours. While eliminationism is pretty damned rare on the Blue team, rudeness, intolerance and abusive misreprentation – the semi-deliberate misreading of opposing views to make them seem less valid – aren’t as rare as they should be, in a community that prides itself on non-judgementalism, open-mindedness, and a basis in reality. “We’re better than Bill O’Reilly” isn’t really a very high standard.

One example that has come up on this blog is the treatment of Megan McArdle, now at Bloomberg. Megan is a friend, and a far more subtle and nuanced thinker than many of her libertarian confreres. She is perfectly capable, for example, of recognizing that social insurance can facilitate entrepreneurship and other forms of socially desirable risk-taking. Her book on failure, which I read in manuscript, is superb.

That’s not to say that Megan isn’t an opinionated libertarian, or that she doesn’t sometimes overestimate how much economics she understands in ways that justly outrage professional economists. But it has long seemed to me that the contempt with which she is sometimes treated, both in comments here and elsewhere, is far out of proportion to her actual offenses. And it seems to me that I’ve deteced a trace of gender bias. In particular, there have been hints that my promotion of her work, and defense of her against attack, must be based not just on friendship but on erotic attraction. (The same happened when I defended Ana Marie Cox, whom I’ve only met twice. In each case, the visual evidence provides some apparent basis for the charge, but it simply wouldn’t come up in the case of an equivalently attractive male blogger – assuming that such a creature exists – if the person doing the defending were female, or a gay male.)

Following up on Amanda Hess’s complaint, McArdle has now posted a well-crafted essay on the extreme abuse to which female participants in internet discourse are routlinely subjected (to which Conor Friedsdorf, having guest-blogged for Megan, also testifies) and an even better essay on why accusations of sexism (or, as she does not say, racism) are so likely to be counter-productive.

It seems to me that progressives in particular ought to take this set of problems seriously, and that the two McArdle essays linked to above fully justify my claim that she is someone worth reading even if you come from an utterly different ideological place.

That won’t keep me from making merciless fun of Megan if, as I hope, her gleeful predictions about the demise of Obamacare are falsified by experience. (Megan hates it mostly for the same reasons I love it: without any consideration of its virtues as health care reform, it’s a massive downward redistribution of income, and it’s a signature accomplishment of a President and a party I support and she opposes. Of course I still think that her own point about failure strongly supports the decoupling of health insurance from employment.) But enough with the gendered personal abuse already.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

125 thoughts on “Megan McArdle, gender discrimination, and Blue Blogistan”

  1. You obviously think more highly of her work than I do, but she isn’t always wrong. I read her a lot more five years ago, but in my view whether she is worth following depends upon your standard for signal-to-noise ratio in your reading, and in general she doesn’t make it past my filter, although I sometimes read things she writes when they are pointed out to me specifically.

    Of course she should not be subjected to abuse, and I think there is ample evidence female bloggers are often treated horribly. Without denying that women are treated even less well than men, the standard of civility for internet comments in general is absurdly low. I’m glad that there are people willing to put up with it, but no doubt our public discourse would be enhanced if they had to put up with less.

    1. In my experience, comments moderation is dominated by two models- no moderation at all and shutting down substantive disagreement. Only a few website operators take seriously the idea that incivility should be policed but a party line not enforced.

      But I think the sexism problem exists outside of this and is a product of males who get to be anonymous. If the consequence of public outing were a serious threat, a lot of guys would realize that it wasn’t in their best interest to threaten rapes.

  2. I tend to really enjoy McArdle’s stuff outside of health care, where I think she’s on the whole “Obamacare is failing . . . now! Wait . . . now! ” thing. Her piece about why pilot projects often don’t scale well is still one of my favorite political reads.

    You probably know better than I could ever hope to, but I get the impression that McArdle’s biggest fear is that universal health care will kill off medical innovation. Meaning that she buys into the idea that the US is the biggest pharmaceutical purchaser, our high prices subsidize new drug research, etc, and if we ever start putting major downward pressure like other countries with UHC, we’ll choke off incentives to make new drugs and treatments.

    1. “You probably know better than I could ever hope to, but I get the impression that McArdle’s biggest fear is that universal health care will kill off medical innovation. Meaning that she buys into the idea that the US is the biggest pharmaceutical purchaser, our high prices subsidize new drug research, etc, and if we ever start putting major downward pressure like other countries with UHC, we’ll choke off incentives to make new drugs and treatments.”

      And when somebody asked her where she got one of the numbers she used in an article about this, she admitted that it was pulled out of her *ss ‘a hypothetical’.

        1. Wrong, but do keep on going.

          For others – if you want to know more about her, go to these sites:

 (search for ‘McArdle’)

          (this author also posts on Balloon Juice, so there will be some overlap in posts)

          (has a lot on her background, which is typical privileged kid who’ll never admit it)

          1. I can’t find the search box on Brad DeLong’s blog, but he’s had some tussles with her – readers, judge for yourselves who’s right, wrong, honest and dishonest:

            (google “brad delong’s blog megan McArdle”)

            One of those posts led to Eric Rauchway, a historian of the Great Depression, having a go with/at Megan:


            On his old blog, ‘Edge of the American West’, ISTR him having quite a lot of trouble with both Megan’s economic analysis and history.

        2. I don’t understand the way in which it proves your point. It seems to be a sexually neutral attack on Megan as a thinker and writer.

          Not snark, not being hostile. I just don’t see it and I’m looking for an explanation that can be analyzed and debated.

          1. Some people, when they don’t have an actual rebuttal, go after the tone (like the many attacks against Krugman for being ‘shrill’). And if there’s no solid grounds to attack the tone, some people will grab something which doesn’t exist, and make an issue of it.

        3. Mark: “Thanks, Barry, for illustrating my point”


          “McArdle Admits Her Anti-Health Care Argument Is Based On “Hypothetical” Number
          In today’s Washington Post live question and answer, Megan McArdle admitted that her entire argument against health care is based on a “hypothetical” statistic.

          Anonymous: You said that medical innovation will be wiped out if we have a type of national health care, because European drug companies get 80% of their revenue from Americans. Where did you get this statistic?

          Megan McArdle: It wasn’t a statistic–it was a hypothetical.

          However, whenever I have been able to find pharma financial statements that break down their profits by region, the lion’s share always comes from the US.

          A hypothetical is not a statistic. A statistic is a fact that can be verified, not a guess, and McArdle just admitted she made a guess. That guess was the entire basis for her argument against health care reform.

          I don’t think Matt understands what worries me about national health care, or else he doesn’t actually understand how the system in the Netherlands works underneath his interaction with an insurance company. It isn’t the cost. It isn’t the taxes. It isn’t the redistribution. It isn’t even the mandate, which is borderline plausible to me in the way that mandatory auto insurance is, and forced retirement savings might be: the moral hazard is huge, because your neighbors won’t let you die.

          My objection is primarily, as I’ve said numerous times, that the government will destroy innovation. It will do this by deciding what constitutes an acceptable standard of care, and refusing to fund treatment above that. It will also start controlling prices.

          McArdle made up a number based on a balance sheet she might or might not have seen at some time. Like so much of her evidence, it is part guess and part wishful thinking. As a pundit McArdle is inept. As a journalist she is hopelessly out of her league, a simple fact that doesn’t seem to bother The Atlantic at all. ”

          (there are links to Megan’s post and the criticisms in the original text)

  3. The criticisms of McArdle that I most often encounter are about her lackadaisical approach to factual accuracy and correct statistics, and her incredible air of unthinking entitlement. I don’t in the slightest doubt that she has been subjected to sexist treatment on the internet, including obnoxious or worse statements in the comment sections of blog posts making informed and unbiased denunciations of her; that such abusive comments are wrong need hardly be said. Still, there are a lot of blog posts making informed and unbiased denunciations of her, because she frequently posts on the internet writings whose errors and/or whose attitude towards her ideological opponents or towards society’s unfortunates merit informed and unbiased denunciations. Overt sexism aside, does she get picked on more frequently and more energetically than do many far more egregious writers? Yes, perhaps – but, then, she has been part of a social, blogging, and linking circle that includes bloggers of the center and the left, and she has published her writings under the imprimatur of publications traditionally seen as centrist and as being respectable, even authoritative; all of this makes her more visible and more of an irritant to bloggers of the center and the left.

  4. A long time ago (in blog terms), I read a lot of back and forth between MM and Henry at Crooked Timber.

    I have a friend who’s now a lobbyist and used to be a Republican operative; back in the day he tried to argue that Dan Quayle’s spelling of potato was an acceptable one because it was widely used in very old texts, and that Quayle himself knew this.

    MM’s arguments reminded me a lot of my Quayle-defending friend’s. That is, if you stood on your head and closed one eye and squinted and blinked the other, you could almost see things from the perspective being offered, but partisan hackery was a much simpler (conservative, if you will) explanation. That’s how she earned her 100% discount rate in my book.

  5. The blogosphere is a male dominated medium, and I suspect if one did a systematic content analysis of comments one would prove the basic point that women bloggers are more commonly attacked, even when they say the same thing as male bloggers.

    It also has to be said that here at RBC, when the subject of rape/sexism/harassment has been discussed, there have been a number of putatively progressive male commenters who have instinctively, disturbingly, run to the side of the male perps in such cases. And a number of our loudest libertarians become strangely silent when women’s freedoms are being discussed (e.g., the freedom not to have sex with a man if they don’t want to).

    1. I agree. I’m a little alarmed by how few people see the irony of what is going on in this thread. The ire for McArdle is disproportionate to her influence, and there’s a strong undercurrent of condescension and personal attacks to a lot of it that frankly I just don’t see for someone like Friedersdorf, who has a roughly similar set of views on a similar platform.

      (And yes, I do understand that there is a shot at Friedersdorf in this thread, but I don’t think that undermines my point.)

      1. As I tried to say above, I think the large part of the difference that causes McArdle to come in for special treatment (sexist attacks excluded) is that people worry McArdle might be convincing, or at least she tries to be convincing and she publishes in mainstream outlets, and so they are motivated to take potshots at her when they think her arguments are especially risible; by contrast, essentially no-one takes Friersdorf seriously,and so he is usually ignored. This also explains the level of vitriol directed at the likes of David Brooks and Richard Cohen, utterly execrable opinionators who are important only for the position in society and public discourse they occupy.

      2. Well I don’t remember the last kind thing Mark Kleiman said about Connor Friersdorf, and ten seconds of Google didn’t bring much up.

    2. “It also has to be said that here at RBC, when the subject of rape/sexism/harassment has been discussed, there have been a number of putatively progressive male commenters who have instinctively, disturbingly, run to the side of the male perps in such cases. And a number of our loudest libertarians become strangely silent when women’s freedoms are being discussed (e.g., the freedom not to have sex with a man if they don’t want to).”

      Frankly, I don’t recall too many such cases, where the progressives sided with the male perps.

  6. The same happened when I defended Ana Marie Cox, whom I’ve only met twice. In each case, the visual evidence provides some apparent basis for the charge, but it simply wouldn’t come up in the case of an equivalently attractive male blogger – assuming that such a creature exists – if the person doing the defending were female, or a gay male.

    You genuinely don’t believe that a female blogger defending a much-derided but attractive male blogger would be accused of sexual attraction to that blogger? That strikes me as uncharacteristically naive.

      1. Isn’t this implicit in the dismissal of Ezra Klein as “youthful” and “hipstery” or some (certainly not all) of the attacks made on Chris Hayes over the years from the liberal and left quarters?

        How about Maureen Dowd?

        And it’s bog standard to accuse conservative bloggers of having man- or fem- crushes on male authoritarian figures. The only exception in recent years was the spate of con-pundits (Kristol fils, et al) who gushed over Sarah Palin. (Previous exemplar was Thatcher, famously the crush of a certain annoying hypocritical serious Burkean gay British ex-pat. Otherwise, it’s daddy figures all the way down.)

        Granted, Jane Hamsher was, to the best of my knowledge, never accused of being sexually attracted to Grover Norquist, but, yeah, Maureen Dowd. And presumably any much more minor female pundits who effused over men that liberals love to hate.

        Heck, remember the gawdawful Naomi Wolf and her comments about Al Gore? Remember the reaction? More proof of why feminism is still needed, even if imho Naomi Wolf’s prescriptions for it need to go straight in the round file.

  7. This strikes me as pretty weak tea. Megan McArdle is simply not very smart. Her prose is awful and her political and policy analysis is more often than not significantly uninformed (and it makes it worse she is so confident in it).

    1. I disagree; she’s very smart – she’s making a living at a job that many others would like.

      The problem is that she’s a stone cold liar. She’s been caught at it again and again and again.

      Mark can say what he likes, but her record speaks for itself.

    2. Her prose is awful

      Now, see? Here’s where you get in trouble. McArdle is an unusually lucid writer.

      1. Agreed, her sentence-by-sentence prose is of high quality. I doubt any of us could do better in that department on a regular basis. It’s precisely the clarity of her expression that exacerbates the irritating qualities that Warren Terra refers to, particularly when she denies writing what she wrote and complains that her critics don’t read her charitably enough.

          1. OK, I did. I still say the reasoning is batty but the prose is fine. E.g.:

            “That leaves us with the big one, the argument I’ve been circling around for 2,000 words: ban guns. Ban them all.

            I’m not going to insult your intelligence by arguing that this wouldn’t work. Guns do not create homicidal intent, as some people have argued, but they do make homicidal intent more lethal. A bullet is harder to stop, requires less physical strength to deploy, and does a huge amount of damage. And shooting someone takes a lot less time than stabbing or bludgeoning them. That is why we now arm the US military with rifles instead of big knives. Conservatives who argue that a total ban wouldn’t lower the homicide rate are being ridiculous.”

  8. I am aware of all internet traditions, and certainly abuse of women is a deeply ingrained one. This doesn’t let McArdle off the hook for her weakly reasoned, tendentious and factually inaccurate statements.

    1. I want to withdraw this comment. McArdle acknowledges that she is subject to legitimate disagreement, and Kleiman doesn’t ignore or downplay this fact, so I’m not contributing anything here by saying the same thing.

  9. Remember when she tried to claim health insurance was worthless? PS Conor Friedersdorf gooey libertarianism also comes in for a drubbing so I don’t think its sexism.

      1. And oneo f the links in The Incidental Economist article is to a TNR article by a ‘Harold Harold Pollack’. Mark, maybe talking with your co-bloggers would be informative.

  10. Megan McArdle may well be “far more subtle and nuanced thinker than many of her libertarian confreres,” but that “isn’t really a very high standard” either, to use your own phrase.

    Glib entitlement, lazy a priori philosophizing, an astonishingly poor grasp of the nuts and bolts of economics (search Brad DeLong’s site, for instance, for places she’s popped her head up over time), and Panglossian naivete are the hallmarks of her intellecutal style. If she finds a nut once in a while, that’s no more than many a blind squirrel can boast.

    As far as I can tell, her personal motto is “comfort the comfortable, and afflict the afflicted.” Sorry to say mean things about a friend of yours. I assume she’s a wonderful person, in her personal life and among friends. I am speaking of her public role and her public works, which I think are pretty vile.

    1. Totally agree, but Mark and Megan’s points about sexism are also true. I think that constant viscious personal attacks make it harder for a person to consider the merits of legitimate criticism and gets in the way of their potential growth. Maybe we’d see a better Megan without all that.

      There’s also a certain amount of entitlement involved in male bloggers insisting on making this post about those legitimate criticisms and not about the sexism that is the point of the post. Hats off to politicalfootball for recognizing that dynamic.

      In my experience, moderation can be quite effective. This blog and ObWi are good examples.It’s very easy to remove postings that suggest or threaten bodily harm without resort to an ideological filter. Some posters are very good at being abusive without crossing that line, of course. In my experience, removing the opportunity for anonymity can work to quash that as well.

      1. With respect, I disagree. The original post defended McArdle’s work on its merits: “a subtle and nuanced thinker,” with a “superb” manuscript. (With, to be sure, a “to be sure” paragraph for handwaving contrary evidence. See how easy that is?) Kleiman then asserts her critics blow her faults all out of proportion, and why? Seems like sexism.

        And that’s supposed to automatically settle the argument and change the subject?

        No. I can’t and won’t speak for everyone, everywhere, who has ever said a cross word about or to Megan McArdle. But a lot of people have been criticizing her for very substantial reasons, for a very long time, even while writers like Yglesias and Kleiman defend and promote her. Kleiman can’t expect to deliver his assessment of McArdle’s work and then close down the debate, tarring people like me with a very ugly brush in the process. That’s offensive and toxic.

        1. I sign onto this comment wholeheartedly.

          McArdle may well be “subtle and nuanced”. She is also frequently wrong, as many people have noted already. But a worse flaw, which our esteemed host continually ignores when defending her, is her habit of committing egregious faux-pas (both intellectual and personal) and then refusing to back down from them. Quite frankly, she’s said her share of things that are not just wrong but offensive and deserving of contempt. I think her critics have generally been well within their rights to be harsh.

          More to the point, there’s a certain irony here in our esteemed host citing a McArdle piece that attacks the habit of making accusations of sexism in a post in which he accuses others of sexism. Indeed, this post amounts to an ad hominem attack aimed at no one in particular, since he hasn’t bothered to actually cite any examples of what he would consider poor conduct towards McArdle. By failing to offer any substantive evidence for his contentions, Mark opens himself to the accusation of personal bias.

          1. This comment rubs me the wrong way. I urge you to read Conor’s article regarding the comments Megan McCardle would receive while he worked for her. Mark and Conor are not talking about someone vigorously debating an idea. Instead, they are talking about threats and personal attack Megan must endure because of her gender. The problem is that women are routinely attacked with sexist and violent language on the internet in way that men are not. When you shift the conversation to attacking Megan McCardle’s ideas and do not acknowledge its existence, you are contributing to the stunning silence most people have about this issue.

            You are simply moving the conversation away from the current topic (the way women are treated online) to a tangential topic where you score points (Megan McCardle presents false facts and makes wrong conclusions). Do we ignore the problem because Megan McCardle deserves it? Do you honestly think that Conor Friedersdorf is making up his assertions? Is this just something women have to learn to endure if they are going to write online? Do men get a pass? Is it not possible for us to acknowledge that the problem is real and should be mitigated?

          2. This comment rubbed me the wrong way a bit too:

            == So I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, a propos of the fact that everyone I know in New York is a) more frightened than they’ve been since mid-September 2001 and b) madly working on keeping up the who-the-hell-caresif -Iget-hit-by-a-truck? insouciance that New Yorkers feel is their sole civic obligation. Said friend was, two short years ago, an avowed pacifist and also a little bit to the left of Ho Chi Minh. And do you know what he said? “Bring it on.”

            I can’t be mad at these little dweebs. I’m too busy laughing. And I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it’s applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner. == Jane Galt aka Megan McArdle

          3. Jack: This is, to a degree, fair. I don’t condone sexual harassment, threats of violence, or gender-based ad hominem attacks towards anyone, and it does disappoint me deeply whenever I see fellow lefties engage in that (I do see it at times on the blogs I frequent, such as LGM, though I also usually see others stepping in very quickly to slap it down). The type of conduct described by CF is likewise vile and don’t belong on the left at all.

            OTOH, what rubs me the wrong way about Mark’s OP is the way he intertwines his attack on sexism with his defense of McArdle as a thinker and writer. He complains of “the semi-deliberate misreading of opposing views to make them seem less valid” and writes that “it has long seemed to me that the contempt with which [MM] is sometimes treated, both in comments here and elsewhere, is far out of proportion to her actual offenses,” which goes beyond simply condemning the vileness of gendered attacks on MM to imply that her principled critics are in fact intellectually dishonest and exaggerate her errors in a way that is implicitly sexist. He a) fails to clearly distinguish between the two separate issues of explicit sexist harassment and implicit sexism-by-double-standard, and b) fails to offer any evidence in favor of the latter, more subtle charge. I would be open to a serious argument for such a charge, but it will require him to do a lot more.

    2. “Glib entitlement, lazy a priori philosophizing, an astonishingly poor grasp of the nuts and bolts of economics … and Panglossian naivete … ”

      That’s a pretty good description of l/Libertarians in general, ime. They are an extremely annoying group of people for debate purposes.

      But we still shouldn’t throw rocks at them. That is not nice.

      1. Enthusiastic agreement!

        I know it’s off topic, but I *have* to ask; how *does* one deal with l/Libertarians? I am forever tripping over them in discussions of substance, and they derail the conversation in ways I don’t know how to avoid or mitigate.


        I wish everyone had economic literacy with high school graduation.

        For the main topic, I think sexism and ad hominem attacks–just as bad as lying and deliberately misleading commentary.

  11. Thank you for including the link to Amanda Hess’s piece at Pacific Standard. I’d looked at the link several times before I followed it and found it well worthwhile. I recommend it to everyone; good thing I’m not busy today.

    1. Don’t limit your reading of Pacific Standard to that piece, either; it’s generally excellent.

      As for McArdle, my main impressions of her public writing are that:

      1) She regularly makes “mistakes” that all coincidentally work out quite well for her argument, and she pleads ignorance of such things as how to operate a computer calculator when she gets caught out.

      2) She deeply identifies with the FIRE sector, which leads her to take Wall Street’s side over not just government but also individual investors and homeowners. The embarrassing series of posts on strategic foreclosure was just the most obvious example.

      1. Thank you. She frequently excuses her miscues with “dog-ate-my-homework” excuses–and then exhorts those who are consternated or offended to go and kick a dog. Megan is a lightning rod for criticism because she is, IMO, a writer of impenetrable and tendentious prose; intellectually dishonest; and remarkably brittle.

        This does not excuse her critics that resort to boilerplate sexist ad hominems. But nor does it make the vast literature of Megan critiques a body motivated by sexism

  12. I’ll happily agree that McArdle (formerly “Jane Galt” IIRC, which just begs for mockery) is less wrong than many other libertarians. I include Young Connor as well. And I always give Balko a pass for his work on police brutality.

    But these folks have huge blindspots, and it can lead them to say things that are emminently mockable. McMegan in particular seems to have quite a bit of unexamined privilege.

    Anyway – agreed on the need to keep an eye out for sexism. But I actually think one reason McArdle takes a lot of heat on liberal blogs is that lots of other liberal bloggers link to her and engage her, so the liberal commentariat is aware of her. Yglesias, you, Drum sometimes… and this may actually be because she’s genuinely a better thinker than other libertarians (thus meritting said linkage). Could sexism be amplifying that? Probably, yeah.

    1. I both think McArdle’s work-product averages out to ghastly (she’s a clear and engaging writer whose facts are absolutely unreliable in a self-serving way), and that people do get hostile to her in a way driven by sexism. But I also think this is right:

      one reason McArdle takes a lot of heat on liberal blogs is that lots of other liberal bloggers link to her and engage her, so the liberal commentariat is aware of her.

      She gets a lot of negative attention from leftish bloggers and commenters partially because she gets an unusual amount of positive attention (or did, more in the past) from leftish bloggers. And I think that gets personalized partially because some of the attention is (or again, was more in the past — I’m thinking like 2006 or around then) driven a bit by real world social relationships; that DC crowd of young mostly lefty political bloggers, with Yglesias and the rest, which she was a part of.

      1. I agree with this. And I think there is, perhaps, some unexamined privilege demonstrated by her liberal defenders such as Mark. The vast majority of us, those of us who don’t move in such elite circles, will never find out whether McCardle is as lovely a dinner companion as Kleiman and Yglesias assure us she is. We unwashed are left to judge her on the basis of her glibness and dishonesty as it is presented on the page.

        As long as we’re playing the beam/mote game, perhaps Mark could generate a list of right wing women we are allowed to call “dumb,” “ignorant,” and “crazy.”

        1. That’s certainly one thing that gets people’s goats about Megan McArdle: she’s always been the Right Kind of Person, from the Right Kind of School, with the Right Kinds of Friends. And her friends have shown this remarkable and enduring willingness to defend and promote her and the glibertarian tripe she peddles. And we’re a bunch of sexists for pointing this out. There’s something closer to classism than sexism in the Megan McArdle Story, frankly.

        2. I’m in a somewhat questionable position here, because I’m one degree of separation, socially, from the relevant crowd, I have chatted with McArdle at a party, and can therefore state from personal knowledge that she is interpersonally friendly and charming, even in the absence of any possible professional benefit.

          And I don’t think there’s anything particularly surprising or all that wrongful that writers pay more attention professionally to other writers that they know socially, it’s just unusually noticeable when, as here, it’s both across ideological lines and in a medium like blogging where the social relationships are more overt than they would be in a more formal genre.

        3. As Keith mentioned, sexism is not limited to conservatives, however, some women (and men) are dumb, ignorant and/or crazy.

          Mocking them for those qualities is impolite and sometimes sexist, but is not equivalent to suggesting an individual deserves to be raped, shot or beaten.

      2. Megan is one of the first generation of bloggers to hit it big, and one of the few to break very successfully into the mainstream media. This means that in the blogsphere, she’s a Founder. That brings fame/infamy harder to get for later entrants.

        And IMHO what really ticks people off about her is that her rise was powered by a combination of being able to crank our blithe prose *and* extreme dishonesty. Not despite the latter, because of the latter. Many outlets needed a right-winger who could crank out the right-wing line, no matter how truthful; the Economist and The Atlantic Monthly are two of those.

        A comparison I make is that the majority of corrupt pundits are well-beyond middle age; they’ve been corrupt and blithely ignoring facts for longer than most people remember. Megan McArdle is like a young politician, just getting her start, and clearly corrupt and on the take from year 1. We’re watching the story from the beginning, and also seeing how somebody can have a sweet and prosperous online media career, despite the alleged self-correcting nature of the internet.

      3. “a clear and engaging writer whose facts are absolutely unreliable in a self-serving way”

        Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

        (Not to self: Never bring B-Game to Unfogged.)

  13. Given that you just recently reposted your comment policy, I will refrain from saying anything more than that I disagree with your assessment.

  14. Regarding the criticism of women on the web, the snark directed toward McArdle is rarely (never?) based on how she looks or that her problem is that she is a woman. I cannot say the same for criticism of other women by less, um, moderate folks.

    Also, too, she says some demonstrably stupid things sometimes…and gets roundly roasted by lefties for them. But that criticism is not gender based IMO. At least not what I have read.

      1. I think most of the regular commenters here read all of the linked posts. Clearly, there is a problem with the way that women are treated on the internet. It’s disturbing and needs to be addressed, possibly by reducing anonymity on the assumption that these trolls wouldn’t say such disgusting things if they had to sign there own names.

        Nevertheless, one theme running through this thread is that Mark is conflating the widespread and deeply felt hostility and intense criticism directed specifically at Megan with the sort a vile, sexually charged comments and threats that were discussed in the articles.

        I haven’t seen any discussion in this thread of that nature and I think everything said about Megan in this thread would have been said, and said in exactly the same way, if she were a man.

        As you may have noticed, a lot of commenters here are becoming very dismissive of “libertarianism” and very hostile towards “libertarians”. I would say that when she has participated here, she has been roundly (and occasionally uncivilly) attacked for what she has said and, perhaps unfairly, for the baggage she carries with her. But I don’t think she’s been attacked here in the ways described in the articles.

        1. mr. guthman, you have but to look at the comments to youtube videos to see that merely having to sign in with one’s real name does not prevent people from saying the most revolting and/or inane things.

  15. Continuing on, here’s Brad DeLong ( schooling Megan ‘Chicago MBA’ McArdle about interest rates. Paul Krugman ( makes the comment “Brad DeLong reads Megan McArdle getting confused about interest rates; he’s a better man than I am. But I think there’s a bit more to say about the subject.”

    To repeat (if this is not sexist) – Megan holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, one of the top several B-schools in the entire world. Which means that she should have a basic understanding of this stuff, and certainly that she has a lot of contacts on her phone who can explain it anywhere from simply to mind-blowingly complexly.

    But she gets it wrong, and as in every example I’ve read of her errors, wrong in the direction her ideology and paycheck require.

    1. Ok, but it’s worth noting that being called out in such a way by Krugman & Co doesn’t distinguish McCardle. A lot of people, including the most recent winner or the Nobel Prize in Economics as well as Harvard economist Robert Barro, have been subjected to this treatment.

      That’s because Krugman is leading a war to purge his field of ideologues and other non-empiricists. These days he focused like laser on defending the Keyenes (specifically the textbook response to a depressed economy) from Austerian voodoo, of which McCardle is a Doctor. But it doesn’t stop there.

      Krugman has spent a good deal of time on an uphill battle to educate the public on textbook econ. He believes that economists are not listened to on the very subjects that happen to enjoy a large consensus in his field: Rent Control (generally bad), Free Trade (generally good). And he has been similarly cruel to folks like William Greider, comparing opponents of free trade to creationists. Socialist? Marxists? All Voodoo Doctors, and there’s not shortage of intellectuals in those groups.

      So , it’s not really a McCardle thing. Also worth noting, he thinks Fama’s Nobel is justified. So, it’s complex.

    2. there’s a tag at Balloon Juice (“gastritis broke my calculator”) that refers to her inability to understand putting numbers in exponential notation.

      that dust up is but one of many where she demonstrates her math weakness and occasional total cluelessness. BTW Megan and I are both women. but i’m quite a bit better at math than she is. ;=)

  16. As long as we’re playing the beam/mote game, perhaps Mark could generate a list of right wing women we are allowed to call “dumb,” “ignorant,” and “crazy.”

    Well, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Christine O’Donnell, Dana Perino, Pamela Geller, and Sharon “Obtuse” Angle all come to mind. Ann Coulter is another story.

    1. S.E.cupp, jan brewer, Jenny McCarthy, … and for sociopathy, Liz Cheney.

      The dumb crazy ignorant and sociopathic men on the right still vastly outnumber them, tho.

    2. I don’t know if we’re really too far into the weeds now, but I would say that of those terms, only “crazy” carries sexism baggage.

      Of course, it would be more polite if we all learned to say, “that was an ignorant remark,” instead of “you are an ignorant fool,” which is a bit categorical imo.

      But I think it is the “crazy” accusation that gets tossed at women a bit more easily. And of course, some of us are! But, there’s crazy and then there’s crazy. Plus, soon, the mental health treatment community will probably start telling us we can’t say that word anymore anyhow.

      So, maybe we can all resolve to think again the next time we use the cray-cray term.

  17. I’m not going to bother reading all that, since I have no doubt of sexism being basically universal and all over the effing place. So why would it not be on the web???? And if someone has taken the trouble to explain to men why they don’t hear more complaints about it, great. (Short version: who ever thanks you for telling the truth?)

    But I am sooo happy to hear McArdle pisses off economists!!!! See, now you’ve given me a reason to like her. Maybe I will bother to read her once in a while now.

    1. Oops, I went and read one of them. Hmm. I’m not sure where she gets the idea that our society has decided that sexism is bad. I think a lot of the most egregious forms have been formally eliminated, and there is lip service, and a few lawsuits when there is enough hard evidence. And that’s mostly it, far as I can tell.

      So, I’m not sure what she’s on about when she seems to be saying that people make accusations of sexism too often. If that *was* her point? Frankly, I’m not sure what exactly it was. Probably because she isn’t talking about a specific example. Oh well.

      1. You know what though? I never see or read any of these horrible remarks. I don’t pay attention to haters and nutbars. This is maybe one of two blogs I read regularly, so I am oblivious to what she is talking about in terms of Internet abuse.

        So I guess it won’t hurt to say, nothing she could say could justify namecalling or threats of violence.

        Do we really need to be reminded of that? Well, no one who hangs out here does.

        Maybe someone can invent an app to deal with haters. I guess they’d get rich!

        But Mark, exactly what could “the Left” do to stop idiots from being idiots? Without specific examples, I am at a loss. I do remember once, on that now-dead liberal radio station, someone called Cathy Crowley mean names. I never listened again, and now it’s gone! So, hurrah.

        1. You know what though? I never see or read any of these horrible remarks. I don’t pay attention to haters and nutbars. This is maybe one of two blogs I read regularly, so I am oblivious to what she is talking about in terms of Internet abuse.

          This link should give you an idea (careful, the trigger warning at the top is there for a reason 🙁 ).

          1. Hi Katja!

            I did go and read the Conor piece (got curious). That *is* some grisly stuff. I wonder what ought to be done about it, besides the moderators spanking them, which I am in favor of. (Sorry about the grammar — it’s an allergy day today.)

          2. Well, I was thinking, I think it would be too harsh to use someone’s real name who made these horrible threats, b/c then they could lose their job, which imo, is too harsh. (Though, I bet we could argue a long time about it.)

            But, I think it would be only fair, or at least arguably possibly fair, to put up their email address and let the other commenters have at them. I hope that only a really rare and silly person would use an email that had their real name in it?

            Then, they could get a taste of their own medicine and I hope learn from the experience?

            Of course, you’d have to put a big warning about this up somewhere prominent, to be fair. Not buried in the legalese. Maybe this would help cut down on some of this.

  18. 1. We at the RBC could make a marginal improvement to civility by allowing commenters to correct or delete their comments. As a blogger I frequently use my privileges to correct typos; I’ve only once deleted anything significant, as it happens an unjustified slur on Megan McArdle – I also have made plenty of rude remarks on her arguments, which stand.

    2. Sexism is a problem with male bloggers of all political persuasions. McArdle hangs out with people who deny there’s a problem. Our side admits it.

  19. I’ve written some pretty harsh comments on McArdle’s work, though the harshest were probably when she was writing for herself as Jane Galt. Sexist? I don’t think so, but I’ll be glad to hear what she has to say on the question.

    In most cases I thought she was simply being dishonest. She way too often cited “some friends in the business,” or “an old prof – a Democrat!” as support for her arguments.

    I still think she is way too glib, in the libertarian manner, though I will say she seems to have matured somewhat.

  20. I think that to a certain extent our discussion of the important issues raised by Amanda Hess have been hijacked by our debate about Megan. To some extent this was, I believe, an error in framing by Mark that made it seem as though this was a discussion of minor boorishness and incivility directed at Megan and also a similar framing error by Megan in her post that, I think, sent people off in a wrong direction. If you read these articles, it’s clear that we’re talking about truly vile sexually explicit threats, including threats of physical harm.

    What I think has been obscured by the focus on Megan and her history as a writer is the nature of the harassment these woman are experiencing, the toll it has taken on them and the way in which it has forced them to limit their participation on the internet. I think we have largely been talking about an entirely different category of commentary from the abuse and cyberbullying that is being discussed in these three posts.

    This is an amalgamation of what I gather were Twitter messages directed at Amanda Hess by a Twitter user:

    “I see you are physically not very attractive. Figured,” the first said. Then: “You suck a lot of drunk and drug f****d guys cocks.”

    “I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, I’m going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

    She quotes from some other comments directed at her or other female writers on the Internet:

    “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?”

    “you are clearly retarded, i hope someone shoots then rapes you.”

    “i hope someone slits your throat and cums down your gob.”

    “If I lived in Boston I’d put a bullet in your brain.”

    I would like to suggest that we spend less time and energy discussing Megan’s failings as writer and thinker on political and economic issues, and begin to address the sort of extreme on-line abuse that is being directed at women online. As I suggested earlier, I think that the anonymity and psychological distance provided by the Internet somehow liberates people who are probably jerks in real life to be really vile, scary trolls on the Internet.

    There is also the question raised by Amanda Hess about whether this kind of threat is being taken seriously enough by law enforcement. Should such threats be forwarded to the police? Should they be prosecuted as criminal threats? What are the legal and social issues raised by such an approach?

    1. Moderators might be justified at the very least in removing anonymity from the authors of clear-cut abusive speech. It’s a limited measure – nothing stops a troll from setting up a new email account with an alias. But it would make one email account unusable. Compare the rule that’s been suggested for journalists granting anonymity to sources: if they are shown to be lying, the anonymity is lost.

      Maybe the blogs collectively could set up a Detrolling Centre. It would have to be paid for; sewage experts don’t come cheap.

      Trolls is perhaps the wrong word and we need a distinction. Typical trolls parrot talking points supplied by others, make ad hominem attacks on post authors and other commenters, and try to derail comment threads; annoying and disruptive incivilities, sometimes meriting bans, but not crimes. Men who issue threats, even fantasised, of rape and murder are ogres.

    2. Fair enough – I’ve read so many of these “how women are treated on the ‘net” articles that I admit I was pretty quick to jump past what is, for me, the obvious thing: vile sexualized rants, threats, etc. are: a) unacceptable, even if the target is someone whose political views you abhor; and b) sadly ubiquitous, and thus a serious issue that needs attention. I went off on what is, I guess, a bit of a tangent: the reason McArdle irritates lots of folks who do not, in fact, send her rape threats or anything of that nature.

    3. The problem is that Mark seems to be conflating harsh criticism of McCardle’s work with the vile sorts of threats and insults documented by Hess. In his only contribution the comments thread, Mark accused another poster of illustrating Mark’s point about McCardle. Here is what the offending poster said:

      “And when somebody asked her where she got one of the numbers she used in an article about this, she admitted that it was pulled out of her *ss ‘a hypothetical’.”

      While I guess the poster used a moderately bad word, it’s also a pretty common and gender-neutral phrase. This comment isn’t even in the same universe as rape and murder threats. So, I don’t think anyone is misreading Mark’s point. He rather plainly seems to conflate pointed but non-threatening criticism of Megan McCardle with the worst sort of nonsense documented by Hess. And, as I noted above, this standard does not appear to be uniform. Mark has no problem calling Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin dumb, crazy, and ignorant (and that’s fine, they are!), but thinks that much less personal criticism of McCardle is beyond the pale. As with all of Kleiman’s posts about McCardle, it all comes back to the notion that we should presume McCardle is writing in good faith, despite so much written evidence to the contrary, and should do so because she is so delightful at cocktail parties.

      1. yes, this! dr. kleiman has now been called out multiple times by several commenters for his remarkably defensive response to barry correctly calling out ms. mcardle for making sh*t up. to this point he has neither owned up to his erroneous designation of valid criticism as a sexist attack nor explained why he thought such a designation would be valid. this represents one of the poorest performances on dr. kleiman’s part in the years i’ve read this blog.

        1. It’s as if Dr. Kleiman is simply uttering the la-la-la-can’t hear-you regarding his friend/colleague. His conflation is in need of a response… only crickets, so far.

  21. BTW, here are some comments by other bloggers about what Megan recently wrote:

    From bspencer at Lawyers, Guns and Money (

    “This is what happens when you have you have a tiger by the tail, but you made the tiger. And you made it out of poop-flinging piranhas. How do piranhas fling poop? I don’t know. I’m not the one who Dr. Frankenmcardled the piranhatiger. Please quit asking me stupid questions.

    What I’m saying is that Megan McArdle gets the commentariat she deserves, the one she created. And so when she wrote an inane advice column telling eminently rapeable and deaththreatable feminists to man up and expect abuse also liberal men are mean too, she got pushback. Why, I don’t know, as her column basically boils down to “guys, could you maybe not be so mean, even if feminists are kind of legitimately awful?” But she did. Because her readership is, well, her readership. So she had to write this in response.

    Let me sum it up for you in case you’re too afeart to click: She basically says it’s conversation-stopper to call people sexist. To which I say, No, it’s not. Sweet fancy Moses, I wish it were, but it’s not. It never is. Furthermore, I really don’t care if calling people sexist is a conversation-stopper. If people are that sensitive about the label, perhaps they need to man up*.

    The comments are vile. Enjoy!”

    From Whiskey Fire (

    “Megan McArdle —

    Yeah, I know, it’s probably pointless, but what the hey.

    Megan McArdle delivers herself of a 59,000-word blog post (give or take) wherein she McSplains that while sexism exists, nobody, especially girls, should ever ever ever call anyone a sexist, no matter how sexist their behavior, because that is like shooting them with a gun, a gun that might cause hurt feelings. (Literal guns of course are harmless and everyone should have like nine of them, to go with their artisinal Moroccan fig-basters and stainless steel Syosset heritage goose denipplers.)

    In our society, accusing a specific person of sexism is now a very, very powerful weapon. And there is no such thing as a “conversation” at gunpoint. You can have a conversation or you can have a forced confession. You cannot have both.

    This is such horseshit. McArdle references an earlier emanation of hers, wherein she explains that it’s gol-durned hard out there on the lonesome Internets prairies for the menfolk, just as ’tis for the womenfolk. She presents as Scientific Fact to support this contention a highly rigorous Scientific Study that involves her asking stupid questions of certain Internetty dimwits who unaccountably take her seriously. Her Very Scientific results, she informs us, “may surprise you, or not.”

    Well, not.

    To back up a bit, McArdle was of course responding to Amanda Hess’s article about what it’s like to get lots of rape-murder threats.

    So now let’s fast-forward a bit, and compare exactly what Hess describes to McArdle’s account of How Tough It Is based on her Science.”
    (read the rest of the post; it’s good)

    1. It may be worth pointing that author of the LGM post (which is hilarious) is by bspencer, is a woman who writes frequently on gender issues.

  22. Obviously, people sending death and/or rape threats are disturbed, and disturbing, and it would be a really good thing if they were to stop it. I don’t know what Mark think I should do about this. (1) Stop denying that anyone makes vile threats? I haven’t done so. (2) Recognize that there are people making vile threats, and that women on the internet are overwhelmingly the object of them? Ok, yes, it’s awful. (3) Call it out when I see it? I’m not privy to anyone’s private email, and consciously avoid unmoderated comment sections — life is kind of short — so there’s not really much opportunity for this. And when it does come up, one has to weigh whether the diversion from the subject at hand (whatever it is) to the acceptability of some asswipe’s random comment is a net plus, or is just giving a disturbed person the attention they seem to be craving. (4) Refrain from criticizing Ms. McArdle on the merits, or for sloppy thinking? That’s a non sequitor.

    Is the claim that people who say that Ms. McArdle is not intellectually honest are somehow legitimizing vile behavior? I think that’s more than a reach.

  23. I suspect that what really burns people when it comes to McArdle is that she makes a very pretty living by being a moderately crappy blogger. It’s what burns me, anyway.

    McArdle presents as an ordinary, nice, upper-middle class person. She’s reasonably bright, not particularly talented, curious, or insightful, and not terribly motivated. She has no particular expertise in any area. She doesn’t do much homework. She doesn’t analyze or criticize her own ideas: if she thinks it, she writes it. Her style is not crisp, clever, compelling, memorable, or moving. In years of blogging, she has not developed a recognizable voice.

    But big corporate entities are willing to pay her to write! How can that be? Most bloggers either scrape by on ads and donations,, or they are academics (often tenured) who write for free.

    Look at other bloggers who have salaried jobs, say Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias. These guys are very different from each other, but in both cases they are light-years ahead of McArdle in intellectual firepower, writing style, and productivity.

    So the suspicion is strong, to me at least, that McArdle is a genuine token, valuable to enterprises that fear being attacked as being part of the “main-stream liberal media.” She’s on the right, but not crazy right, so she provides “balance” without risk of embarrassment. And she’s a woman, which adds just a bit of unconventionality (a right wing woman in New York!) to the masthead.

    And she gets paid a nice salary for doing crappy work when people who do the same sort of thing only much better get paid nothing and work for love.

    1. Anonymous says

      “I suspect that what really burns people when it comes to McArdle is that she makes a very pretty living by being a moderately crappy blogger. It’s what burns me, anyway.”

      I’d only call her ‘moderately crappy’ in the sense that there’s some real whackjobs out there. In the end (and the beginning and the middle), she’s a liar. She just throws some blitheness and pretend intellectualism over her lies.

    2. Exactly — my problem with McCardle is that in two areas that I believe I hold particular expertise (one area where I’ve made my living for a very long time, and the other where I have graduate level education from some of the top people in the field), she is consistently and easily wrong. It is not wrong in the matter of “I understand the model/argument she is making but disagree with its applicability” type of wrong. It is wrong at the basic factual level of assembling an arugment within a model/system that I understand.

      And when she is called on this, repeatedly, there is no change in behavior or arugment. And yet, she still occupies a fairly valuable piece of real estate in the public discourse.

  24. There’s also a certain amount of entitlement involved in male bloggers insisting on making this post about those legitimate criticisms and not about the sexism that is the point of the post.

    There’s an interesting conversation that we’re not having here, in part because the subject of McArdle’s writing/thinking is distracting, and Prof. Kleiman’s provocative praise of her work has led some of us astray. (I’ll have to ponder the issue of male entitlement, but I prefer to think my misguided initial response was the result of being successfully trolled*.)

    I’d propose a general framework for the conversation-we’re-not-having along these lines:

    -Criticism of women can be valid, invalid, or just plain vile.
    -All of these types of criticism can be motivated by misogyny.
    -It’s tricky to attribute valid criticism to misogyny, because we believe that validity itself is a legitimate motivation for criticism. The fact that it’s tough to identify misogynist-but-valid criticism doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
    -Discussing invalid criticism is easier, because we can rule out validity as a motive.
    -Describing McArdle as a poor prose stylist seems self-evidently incorrect, so we are compelled to discount validity as a motive for that critique.
    -But what is the motive? There are still several to choose from besides misogyny.
    -When we move from the invalid to the crazy, on the other hand, the crazy folks are usually pretty clear on their motive, and even when they aren’t, the misogynist effect of their craziness is clear.

    And from there …

    -Saying that you’re not aware that McArdle is subject to extraordinarily nasty, misogynist abuse is a completely invalid approach to the topic – especially if you go on from there to try to draw some conclusion from that lack of awareness. People with the most rudimentary acquaintance with the web and some minimal level of sympathy for women are aware of this phenomenon – or if not aware, could become aware by clicking the links that are helpfully provided here. So in this forum, at least, ignorance of this phenomenon is prima facie evidence of a dismissive attitude toward women.
    -There are a gazillion interesting questions to be asked about how and why the phenomenon of misogyny manifests the way that it does on the web. McArdle raises a particularly interesting issue when she suggests that abusive misogyny on the web is largely unrelated to feminism. Personally, I think she fails to make her case, and moreover, I’d argue that her failure is symptomatic of larger problems with her work. But as a male myself, and a liberal one, and one who only comments pseudonymously, I’m a couple of steps removed from this phenomenon. I’d like to hear more from folks more closely acquainted with the issue. (Read: women.)

    *I use the word with utmost respect. I realize our host is offering his sincere and carefully considered opinion of McArdle’s work, and the fact that some of us find his opinion a bit, well, controversial is our own responsibility.

    1. I’ve never had a problem with McArdle as a prose stylist, though I admit that I read her only when some blogger is complaining about her and has linked the offending post or article.

      On the other hand: on many occasions McArdle has written things that appear to be blitheringly idiotic, and over the course of time has retreated to a defensive position that amounts to claiming she was unable clearly to convey her intended meaning – that she was a bad writer, if you will – rather than someone so defective of logical thought process as to have intended the meaning her actual writings managed to convey. I don’t believe that defense – but it is her defense.

      1. An amusing observation, but one that I anticipated in my comment when I said that invalid observations regarding McArdle aren’t necessarily misogynistic.

        In fact, I’m inclined to suppose that the denigrations of McArdle’s prose style we see here are largely based on an uninformed idea of what constitutes good writing, augmented by general hostility to McArdle.

        I’m always comfortable that I know exactly what McArdle is saying. For contrast, consider the word salad of Thomas Friedman, who has a reputation for evocative prose style that is entirely undeserved – a reputation that, one suspects, could never be attained by a woman of similar ability. (At least, I can’t think of a female peer of his.)

          1. I haven’t read enough Noonan to have a confident opinion, but what I’ve read puts her more in the McArdle category than the Friedman category – clear and awful. I was thinking about Maureen Dowd, too, but her loathsome shtick is actually rather artfully composed.

            It’s possible that I’m making an unfair argument, though, because let’s face it, Friedman is kind of sui generis. I mean, what other professional writer – male or female – writes that badly?

        1. Thomas Friedman is also am idiot. What’s your point? If you want good prose read Chait or Lemieux or for a woman Maia Svalevitz or Bryce Covert or Michelle Goldberg. Or anyone but Jane Galt. PS her pseudonym is a knockoff on Rand. Is there any need to say more?

  25. Jon Chait in his latest column tells us about a debate with Megan McArdle when she asserted that she does not oppose National Health Insurance. Chait refers us to a column she wrote saying “Why I oppose National Health Insurance.” It’s pretty simple. Megan McArdle is stupid. Her writing is a verbose string of words. She is uninformed. And she is a liar. It is not sexist to say these things.

  26. I would like to once again express my feeling that many of my fellow commenters are missing the point. I appreciate that both Mark and Megan may have framed their arguments imperfectly but the discussion of Megan’s inadequacy as an thinker and writer represent either a category error or an embarrassing failure of reading comprehension by many of my fellow commenters.

    I think most of Megan’s critics are correct on the merits but even a casual reading of her article makes clear that these are critiques are not even remotely what she and the others are complaining about. The category we should be discussing involves things like threats of rape, torture and death. Comments directed at women containing the crudest and most vile sexual imagery seem to be so pervasive that woman are dissuaded from writing on certain subject and, indeed, from participating on the Internet at all.

    I really feel that we’ve pretty much exhausted the subject of Megan McArdle’s failings and I propose that we give some thought to the topic, which is that many women don’t want to work in certain tech related jobs or blog or write for internet publications because they don’t want to be forced to endure the abuse.

    On the substance of the topic,I’m wondering whether it’s really a question of blue or red blogistan. Maybe we should be looking at these people in football terms. I’ve often noticed, in connection with articles on hooliganism, that while these hooligans purport to be followers of a particular team and dress in the team’s colors, they don’t seem to watch the games or even really care about football. In looking at these people, they seem to be more hooligans than political partisans. Can these methods for reduction of hooliganism be applied to the internet?

    1. and yet dr kleiman, in what i believe is his only comment after the original post so far, treats sharp criticism of ms. mcardle by barry as illustrating his point. which statement undermined his point as far as i was concerned.

  27. First, to get the McArdle issue out of the way: no, I don’t read her, even though she may sometimes write something good. Same reason that I don’t consult a stopped clock, even though I know it will be right two times a day.

    Now to the important issue: online threats. Has anyone mentioned that the problem is that law enforcement just doesn’t take them seriously? Probably because legislatures don’t either, and don’t give law enforcement the tools they need to go after the criminals. [If someone has already mentioned this, consider this post an “I agree”.

    1. An important point. People have to earn the right to be on the list of people I read. Life is short.

    2. Excellent point.

      Nobody deserves that kind of vicious, misogynistic, violent abuse, no matter how stupid they are.

      When bad, illegal (threats of bodily harm) behavior is never prosecuted, then it becomes standard operating procedure and expected behavior: “everybody does it.” It becomes ever harder to prosecute, because doing so requires singling a perp out and “making an example of,” er, him. Shakespeare’s Duke had just that problem in “Measure for Measure.”

      Want fewer vicious, misogynistic, violent threats? Punish a few of their makers. Want less financial fraud? Hold a few top executives personally responsible: Jail a CEO or CFO.

      I thought Barry’s “she admitted that it was pulled out of her *ss ‘a hypothetical’.” comment was jarring, not funny, and unpleasantly distracting from the excellent point he wanted to make.

      But I also think the other commenters have made some legitimate criticisms of Mark Kleiman’s reaction to it.

  28. On the tonal continuum between, say, P.Z. Myers, and Mark Kleiman, I probably came down pretty close to the latter some seven or so years ago. In the intervening time, I have come to hate conservatism of all kinds with an intensity I wouldn’t have believed possible in 2001. That hatred is based, in my view, on a well-founded moral judgment. But libertarianism infuriates me even more than most other conservative ideologies because it is so obviously a sophistical whitewash of some of the worst impulses human beings have. It is a whitewash of actual harm to countless numbers of often defenseless people. It is, to use old-fashioned language, a species of wickedness (or, if you prefer, willful moral obtuseness) to be a libertarian.

    Calling wickedness by its correct name, in my view (and again i concede this is a moral judgment and contestable like all such judgments), has to trump any obligation to be civil. Whether it is counter-productive in some ways to call racism racism, or sexism sexism, is beside the point. You probably won’t convince your adversary by attaching such hurtful names to her opinions; but you may convince others, and you’ll be telling the truth. Truthfulness, and the possibility that others will be convinced, are good enough for me.

  29. MCarglebargle’s biggest problem is that she considers her prejudices to be fact, she doesn’t research, and she doesn’t take earned criticism in at all. She resorts first to ad hominem insult when she is proven wrong, and has earned no more consideration that an ignorant emo 14 year old, as the logic and construction of her arguments, are no better than that emo 14 year old.

  30. I think people are justified in hating McCardle. Any writers who shamelessly dissembles about her own writing and her own past comments has zero integrity.

    1. I don’t hate her. I don’t even hate her writing. I just think her thinking is sloppy and tilted in a particular direction which I think is flawed. She is imminently mockable…so that happens a lot. And I laugh when I read some of the takedowns (which as i mentioned before are NOT focused on her gender).

      If someone wants to discuss the issue of women on the ‘tubes being targets of truly VILE comments, etc, OK, I’ll play along. I have a male “handle” here and at other sites because I don’t want to wonder if negative remarks directed toward me are somehow influenced by being perceived as female. I work in a male dominated profession and have learned that SOME guys can’t help themselves when it comes to dealing with women. So I have always tried to avoid pushing their buttons. It is so tiresome to be held back by someone else’s idea of you which is based solely on knowledge of gender. Anonymity on the internet lets me participate in debates without anyone knowing my gender so that variable is controlled. It makes online life lots easier for me.

      Of course the filth that is often/sometimes directed at women who dare to own their views is disturbing. But that is a problem in society in general, not limited specifically to the internet. The same threats of violence (sexual and otherwise) can be heard on voicemails left by men. The same denigration can be heard on the Rush Limbaugh show. It’s human nature (sadly) to say nasty and creepy things sometimes and anonymity makes it easy to indulge this shortcoming. But I don’t think that means that anonymity is bad. After all….as per the old New Yorker cartoon: On the internet, no one knows you are a dog (or a woman).

      We need to change things by educating men AND women but that is a very slow process. I try to do it in my personal life but I will not expose myself online to the crap I frequently see thrown at women there.

      1. Well said. Anonymity, that double edged sword, allows you to duck out of the misogynistic line of fire. It also saves many people from their stalkers (but means they can’t use social media that requires real names.)

        But it also means those women who have public personalities, like McCardle, are deprived of the support of their closeted peers, and they can’t go back into the closet and post anonymously without losing any hard-earned reputation.

        I think gay rights were helped as much by “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Will and Grace,” “Glee,” and friends and neighbors who came out of the closet, as they were by the martyrdom of Harvey Milk, court decisions, and political actions.

        I respect Ralph’s right to hide her gender, I understand why she would do it, but I so wistfully wish she didn’t feel she needed to. As it is, her intelligent, reasoned voice is automatically assumed to be male, so women lose credit for her example.

        I haven’t been troubled by much overt sexism in my long, privileged, heterosexual, upper-middle class life, even on the net. It’s the subtle play of cultural expectations and unthinking privilege (that I had to *learn* to notice) that does the most damage I see. And the most vicious form of unthinking privilege I see is class/economic privilege. I think the attitude, “Don’t take my tax money for those lazy ‘takers’ –they deserve what they get,” does more harm than racism, sexism, and homophobia combined.

  31. Part of what’s confusing this discussion is that McArdle’s linked essay explicitly minimizes the explicit harassment as something that happens but isn’t the real problem:

    This strikes me as the real problem with “women on the Internet.” We’re big girls now, and we know how to use the delete button. But we don’t have a button for the people who automatically delete us from the list of grown-ups who should be taken seriously.

    I think she’s wrong about that — that the explicit harassment is, and should be treated as, a significant problem. But if you go with her in putting harassment to one side, and think about dismissiveness or disagreement directed toward women as motivated by sexism, even when it’s not in the form of harassment or abuse, it gets very hard to pick apart.

    I think her writing deserves a great deal of valid criticism. I also kind of think that she probably gets more, and more heated, criticism because she’s a woman and because she’s got a high profile among people who strongly disagree with her. I have no idea how to tell whether a substantively well-founded criticism of her work is motivated partially by sexism, even though I am genuinely certain that it happens sometimes.

    1. “This strikes me as the real problem with “women on the Internet.” We’re big girls now, and we know how to use the delete button. But we don’t have a button for the people who automatically delete us from the list of grown-ups who should be taken seriously.”

      Aside from the fact that the second and third sentences are related (in a way which Megan doesn’t acknowledge), see the article on Crooked Timber ( ‘Redditor Convinced Women “Have it Easy” on OKCupid Poses as Woman, Lasts Two Hours’.

      Basically a guy from Reddit, who hangs out on 4chan (ie., he’s familiar with the more unsavory side of the internet) tries playing a woman on OK Cupid. He lasts two hours, can’t take it anymore, and comes away feeling depressed and unclean.

  32. Mitch Guthman, you say, “The category we should be discussing involves things like threats of rape, torture and death.”

    I don’t think so. Prof Kleiman is not deploring the crazed misogynists who attack any woman who writes on the internet. Such men are a horrible problem, but they are not the targets of Kleiman’s attack. Kleiman is attacking people who criticize McArdle on the merits of her work without any overt trace of sexism. Nonetheless, he thinks they are motivated by disguised sexism, and he is intent on calling them out:

    “But it has long seemed to me that the contempt with which she is sometimes treated, both in comments here and elsewhere, is far out of proportion to her actual offenses. And it seems to me that I’ve deteced [sic] a trace of gender bias.”

    Well, perhaps. But I have a different theory. I think that McArdle gets more than her share of contempt because she is a terrible blogger who gets paid for doing bad work.

    There are lots of bloggers who write stuff that has errors, is self-indulgent, is repetitive, contains contradictions, etc. But most of these people are writing in their spare time. They are, in effect, chatting with the world at large. If their work sounds like some folks on bar stools, that’s because that’s what it is.

    But McArdle, who is a third-rater even among people who does this stuff for free, is a bona fide journalist previously at the Atlantic and now at Bloomberg! It’s mind-boggling that this is the case. It’s infuriating. It’s an indication of everything that is wrong with the world of journalism.

    When McArdle was a blogger at the Atlantic, I “detected more than a trace” of a possibility that she was a token woman among a group of men, because she didn’t come close to the level of talent that the other bloggers there represented. And it was pretty obvious that her co-bloggers had been told to link to her as often as they could. Why didn’t the Atlantic hire a woman with the same skills as the men? Presumably because they preferred a third-rate right-wing woman to a first-rate liberal woman. That way they killed two birds with one stone. And it was important to get a right-winger who was a consistent follower of the conventional wisdom, so they could be assured of not being embarrassed. (See Ross Douthat for another example of a safe conservative who’s no good at what he does.)

    That’s the issue that Mark raised. He’s called me and people like me sexist in our dislike of McArdle, and I want to let him know that he’s wrong about that. And I don’t want to be diverted to the unrelated topic of how disgusting men are to women on the internet.

    1. Might there be a new thread for discussing the issues raised in the Amanda Hess article?

      This thread, because of its initial framing, is unalterably and irretrievably about McCardle.

  33. Good lord…

    “I’m not going to bother to refute the “Democrats do it too!” responses to my earlier post about Republicans’ addiction to violent hate speech. That sh*t just won’t wash.”

    Actually, no. That is exactly the “my ‘stuff’ don’t stink”argument that the fellow in the Jan. 13 post accused you of. The right gets routinely painted as the party of hate because the left has appointed itself the arbiter of what is unacceptably hateful. The truth is that huge portions of both sides’ bases hate one another for their opposing views. By asserting that the right celebrates violence &/or that the right’s hatefulness is really motivated by prejudice toward members of the left’s coalition (rather than disgust for the beliefs of the coalition), the left can consider its hate to be acceptable or even righteous.

    Anyone remember Palin getting accused of using violent rhetoric for saying with regard to Obamacare, “don’t retreat, reload” on FOX? What about the fact that earlier Tumulty on ABC said with regard to the ACA, that the Democrats were going to “lock and load.” How about that a current Democratic Senator once attacked a heckler at a campaign rally and challenged a National Review writer to a fistfight?

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