Gender equality and the conservative press

Neil Newton: Blogger and author of the novel “The Railroad” on Amazon.com.


Recently  Fox aired a segment that examined a Pew Research report that found mothers to be the primary or sole breadwinners in 40% of American households with children. Lou Dobbs, Juan Williams and RedState blog founder Erick Erickson weighed in on the social ramifications of the study and gender equality in the workplace.

Needless to say the Fox trio did not support that level of power for women. Of course women doing well by their families and bringing in money during a recession is bad thing. Right?

As you’ll see, according to Dobbs, Williams, and Erickson gender equality in the workplace is slap in the face to all  men and anyone who holds traditional values dear. Between the three of them their journalistic analysis degenerated quickly into a lot of sound bite phrases designed to stir the emotions, instead of the brain, a clear sign that it’s time to go back to your favorite reruns. Though the new era of yellow, mud-slinging journalism has been with us for years now, I am still amazed that any journalist on either side of the partisan divide can put on such an unintelligent performance without feeling incredibly embarrassed.

Why do I say this? I’ve lived long enough to remember when there were some standards for journalism to follow. Like today, there was no end to editorials. While these were designed to be less factual then a purely “who, what where, when” news piece, they still dealt with important issues and aired various viewpoints in an attempts to come to a consensus. Unlike the keystone cops performance of the Fox News Trio, there was some attempt to make a point, to defend one side of an issue using some form of meaningful argument.

When I was younger, living in my home town of New York City, we had an institution that we called The Old Man Bar. Mind you that this was at least thirty years ago and politics and party affiliation were different. These bars were dives that had been around for years and had hosted the same set of gentlemen since they were young. These same men had once been aware of current events. But when I was just coming into my manhood their political views had become limited to what it was easiest to believe and what they picked up in the bar. A typical Sunday would begin quietly. But as the beer flowed and the television blared, they would become more and more reactionary and angry. On one memorable day a reporter on the television was discussing the Soviet threat (yes I am that old). As the “old men” watched the news report they became more and more agitated. Finally, out of the blue, one of the men blurted, “It’s the pipeline. That’s the problem.”

The “pipeline” was a scandalous Russian operation in the 1980’s to develop an oil pipeline that would be run by using software stolen from a Canadian firm. It certainly was an important issue of the day. But it had nothing to do with either the news report on the television or the discussion that had gone on for the past hour at the bar. It was a typical simplification of a complex issue to whatever was on the man’s mind at the moment.

Despite the fact that this fox news segment features three experienced journalists I found it hard to not compare it to “the old man bar”. In a two minute segment, the coverage began with a very general description of the Pew report and it’s “startling” factoid that there was growth in gender equality in the workplace. This was followed immediately by an unexpected but impassioned testament by Juan Williams regarding the horrors of allowing women to catch up as the main breadwinners and how men are “taking it in the neck”, not only due to gender equality in the workplace, but also due to the recession. Without missing a beat Williams ties it all up in a bow, declaring that this new gender equality in the work place is clearly at the bottom of the disintegration of the nuclear family.

All that in on a couple of minutes. Political Analysis is certainly a lot simpler than it used to be. How much easier it is when things don’t have to make sense?

But there is more. Quick cut to Dobbs who throws in the horrors of abortion since Roe vs. Wade. According to him this is part of this evil liberal cabal that works to destroy all of our most sacred American institutions. And have something to do with gender equality in the workplace. And the recession. And the nuclear family. I guess.

But of course there’s more. Clearly this must be leading somewhere meaningful!  Finally we are treated to Erick Erickson “explaining that liberals are unscientific. It seems that leftists have missed the fact that “all” of nature gives the dominant role to the male, thus supporting the argument that women should remain barefoot and pregnant as it was in “days of yore”. I’ll admit that his one caught me off guard. Certainly tying together abortion, gender equality in the workplace, and  the demise of the nuclear family seemed amazingly clever. But to add with assurance that we had failed to emulate nature by keeping women in a subservient role was a master stroke. Certainly by pointing out that male Orangutans are physically and sexually dominant it follows as night follows day that no women should not be given the role of CFO.  The logic is impeccable!

From a Judeo-Christian point of view we are separate from the animals and hold dominion over them, something significant because Erickson has already discussed his strong faith in earlier blogs. From a scientific point of view…well there is no clear scientific conclusion that we emulate nature or that we should, especially in our social structure. Nor is there any proof that even in nature the male is always dominant. And, of course there is the black widow spider….

Let’s revisit what has been a newsworthy issue for the last few decades: the decline of the nuclear family. We are all touched by divorce, domestic violence and countless other signs that our ability to raise a family is eroding. Anyone who is a true journalist and researcher would know that the decline of the nuclear family has been an issue for years. In the seventies the main culprit was considered to be the geographical separation of the larger extended family, which includes grandparents, in favor of relocation to increase job opportunities. There have been a thousand theories put forth, none of which completely explains what has become a real problem for many families in the U.S. But in the end, like any other social issue, the causes are legion and vary between households. There is no clear link between women’s place in the workforce and the decline of the nuclear family, nor do Dobbs, Williams and Erickson even make a feeble attempt to prove that there is a link. Rather than call this a news show, it would be more accurate to call it a right wing bitching session.

There is no doubt that the destruction of the nuclear family is an important issue, one that has been a cause for concern for decades. Journalistic ethics would dictate that the only thing that would do this subject justice is to accurately analyze the issues and discuss possible solutions. This is the type of thing we count on true journalists to do. And true journalism is a vital part of our national dialogue, not something to be tossed aside for the sake of partisan muck-raking. That type of poor journalism simply distracts us from solving the real problems that have plagued us for years. While I hate the phrase “man up”, I have to admit that it applies completely to the childish tirades of journalists like this.

Exactly what type of journalists roam the halls of the Fox news network is in doubt. But I can say, without fear of exaggeration that they would have done the older gentlemen in that bar in my old neighborhood proud.  Welcome to the new journalism.


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