Monday, October 01, 2007

Confirming Yer Priors

First, more Get Your War On (via).

Second, relatively mild bitching about MediaLens. I've written before about the difficulties of reporting on politically controversial matters - as if there might be much else that's worth reporting on, I suppose - and although I think MediaLens is an often useful source of information, their stance towards what they call the corporate media is one that seems to see any departure from a politically controversial and quite tightly structured set of views as deliberately mendacious. That is, as Gavin Esler says and MediaLens ridicules him for, a kind of totalitarianism, at least in the sense that totalitarianism is manichean and intolerant of diversity, and more so, I think, than a corporate media which, for example, publishes George Monbiot's books and gives him a relatively regular column in a national newspaper. You can see this in the way Esler's reporting on the surge is criticised. For example, when Esler is criticised for allegedly faux-innocently swallowing a line about the aims of the surge by asking whether it is disappointing for a member of the Bush administration that the security of the civilian population in Iraq cannot by guaranteed, the standard against which Esler is being judged is seems to be one where if you don't call Bush administration officials war-criminals at least every other sentence, you lose your claim to be a functioning moral agent. Esler's question does not presuppose anything about the aims of the surge, and neither do the aims of the surge given by MediaLens mean that the presupposition, were it made, would be ridiculous, since it is possible to hold more than one goal at the same time: I can constrain, for example, my pursuit of a goal by refusing to break the law. Indeed, it seems reasonable on the evidence MediaLens present to think that Esler is setting Burns up for a classic one-two: if he is disappointed, then why isn't more being done, and if he isn't, then what the hell is wrong with him?

Third, on the Today programme this morning, sometime after 8.30 (well, about 8.41, if you want to listen here), they had an economist on talking about some research he'd done on the effects of Weber's Protestant Work Ethic, who had found that there was an average difference of 6% between employment levels in Protestant and non-Protestant countries. Interestingly, he said that women's levels of workforce participation in particular were 11% lower in non-Protestant countries. That would mean women's failure to get out of the home in non-Protestant accounts for almost all the average difference in levels of workforce participation between Protestant and non-Protestant countries. Because I misheard him describe his dataset, I thought he was only dealing with Europe, and so when I heard him say this, I instantly thought, the dread southern-European-family-structure strikes again! Actually, in the accompanying press release, he mentions the hostility to paid work by women, even if it wasn't the story for the Today programme, so it's not just a confirmation bias on my part.

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