Camille Reyes

Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

There is No Wage Gap? Think Again, Ms. Summers.

In Culture, Policy on February 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm
My friend Deirdre Dougherty wrote a wicked (side note: when did I move to Boston?) response to a shameful article in the Daily Beast.  In fact, it was such a skilled (and sarcastic) take down of the author’s argument that I asked if she would like to guest post it here at gorditamedia.  She said no.  Kidding.  Feel free to comment; I’m sure Dee will appreciate any engagement on the subject.

 

(Guest Post by Deirdre Dougherty)

I have many things to say about this piece of shit article and apologize in advance to my family for swearing. I rarely ever post comments this long or this political.

 

1. While I can buy that the “77 cents” rhetoric might be an exaggerated way of simplifying and drawing attention the issue of pay inequity, there is a wage gap. Apparently, people believe that this is the result of a choice, or of a difference in hard wiring. The post says: “There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons.” Choices? Really? Interesting. At first glance, “choice” seems like it’s a great leveler and strikingly allows us to avoid a discussion of more complex structural issues. Choices are tricky things though; depending on the different kinds of privilege one might happen to have, choices have different effects and are made within different constraints. Way to individualize responsibility and thus leave sexism unquestioned. Thanks.

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2. The author’s conversation about the “10 most remunerative majors” as a basis for her argument is sickening. Instead of looking at college majors and seeing which majors attract women and which attract men and linking that to a larger bullshit idea of women “choosing” to pick majors that result in lower-paying jobs, why don’t we question why certain professions are accorded respect and compensation in the first place? Isn’t it interesting that the professions that men tend to be drawn to are the most well-paid? Could this not be symptomatic of a larger, historically constituted structural inequality where occupations are gendered and historically “feminine” occupations are undervalued in a world that has (arbitrarily) accepted western ideas of science and progress and empiricism above all else?

 

3. “Have these groups noticed that American women are now among the most educated, autonomous, opportunity-rich women in history?” Interesting. “American” women, you say? While the author wanted to disaggregate the fuck out of the statistics about “77 cents,” claiming that the wage gap statistics were unfair because they compared women’s and men’s salaries across all occupations, it’s super interesting that “American” women emerge as a monolithic category. Do poor women enjoy the same “autonomous, opportunity-rich” experience as the author does?

 

4. “To say that these women remain helplessly in thrall to sexist stereotypes, and manipulated into life choices by forces beyond their control, is divorced from reality—and demeaning to boot. If a woman wants to be a teacher rather than a miner, or a veterinarian rather than a petroleum engineer, more power to her.” Clearly, you’ve not read anything about the k-12 education system and how tracking, microgressions, and other subtle systemic phenomena direct women in certain ways. Again, I guess it’s all about “choice.” I guess this is “America” and we can do anything we really “choose” to do.

 

5. But wait: “The White House should stop using women’s choices to construct a false claim about social inequality that is poisoning our gender debates.” Yes. Choices are totally made outside of structures of inequality. Thanks, author. I forgot that.

Big Bird Wants You

In Culture, Policy on February 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Alan Mutter is a veteran media executive, and runs a blog called Newsosaur.  He recently wrote a blog post arguing that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) should lose all federal funding because: a. there are more important things to fund, and b. NPR and PBS are rich enough already.

FAIR AND BALANCED?

First, let’s challenge the notion that all the other media outlets do not receive federal subsidies.  This is, admittedly, outside of the scope of his argument, but since he (and the Republicans) only wants to defund CPB, I think it is relevant.  Those public airwaves are actually sold by our government on our behalf.  “Since 1993, the government has given to private interests as much as $480 billion in spectrum usage rights without public compensation” (Snider 1).  Mutter, as a veteran media executive, probably knows at least the rough value of spectrum, but he doesn’t bother telling you.  That would make his unfair argument a little fairer.  Remember that figure, $480 bbbb-billion to private interests.  (I stutter when I’m being robbed.) Funny, that money might have helped a few unemployed people.

BUT THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN IN HOBOKEN

Second, call me silly, but I think a roughly $420 million subsidy that helps deliver high quality, relatively independent (relative to those other commercial guys swimming in a sea of “fair” market values) information to the nation free of charge sounds better than silos of excess corn.  Mutter says,

“At a time when health, welfare and education programs are being slashed and burned at the federal, state and local levels, it is illogical, if not to say offensive, to argue that the large and well-heeled public broadcasting infrastructure needs government help more than hungry children, ailing seniors and unemployed people freezing in their homes.”

Public information is not a widget.  It should not be subjected to the same eyeball lusting demands of commercial media.  Is that unfair?  Yes.  Is it morally correct?  Yes.  Is CPB free from criticism?  No.  (In fact, Mutter gives a great synopsis of its detractors both right and left.) But the work they do should, in fact, be placed in the same bucket of stuff he says is more important to fund, like food and healthcare.  And I agree with him there, those things are very important.  So why not take that paltry $420 million for CPB from a new jet engine in the defense budget, or the elimination of a tax cut for the uber-wealthy?  Or maybe those spectrum subsidies?  That way those unemployed people freezing in their homes can get some cold comfort from their radios because, newsflash, they can’t afford cable television and they deserve quality journalism.

VIEWERS LIKE YOU (Not really, Alan)

Ah, but Freezing Joe will still get his CPB content because the CPB doesn’t need the federal money, plus, the CPB will actually gain something according to Mutter…

“But it would be worth it [to defund], because public broadcasters would gain the independence they – and viewers and listeners like us – deserve. Once and for all, the broadcasters could concentrate on broadcasting, instead of worrying about the next budgetary challenge from Capitol Hill or the White House.”

Here Mutter tries to have it both ways.  He praises the quality of the CPB repeatedly, but then says the “independence” from federal funds would free them up to focus on broadcasting.  Seems like they’ve been pretty focused.  It is laughable to suggest that worrying about the next public fund drive (now more frequent by his own admission) would divert any less attention than federal lobbying.

MORE SHOE POLISH

As for the “well-heeled” Gucci toting brass of CPB, Mutter’s criticism is misplaced.  Those top executives could make vastly more money working for the bastion of high quality journalism that is Fox News, yet they choose not to do so.  I wonder why?  Perhaps they think the CPB is more independent from gross ideology and shameless pandering for ratings, you know, the kinds of problems CPB faces less, thanks in part, to that federal funding.

I want to emphasize how disingenuous it is for Mutter to frame his argument in this way, in particular the characterization of the salaries of CPB executives.  He cites that the President of PBS made more than $632k in 2008.  This is offered as damning evidence of the excess of the CPB.  Take a guess how much Roger Ailes, the Chairman of Fox News, made in 2005?  Ready?  Try $7.1 million on for size (New York Magazine).  That’s $7.1 mmmm-million.  That is more than 10x more gold in the foot than the well-heeled exec at PBS.  Ah, but this is justifiable because Fox is a for-profit company?  Remember, Fox operates on loads of broadcast licenses throughout the U.S.  And those licenses are called what?  Federal subsidies.  But this is only fair.

FUND THE STUFF THAT HELPS…HIM

Finally, Mutter pulls a surprise in the end.  It turns out he’s not against funding for ALL public media, just the CPB.  This is an argument actually worth exploring because the CPB should not enjoy a monopoly. However, rather than encouraging a discussion on the purpose of public media and those communities which are being more or less served by it, Mutter takes the easy road trying to cast CPB as the rich socialite who no longer needs Uncle Sam.  This is a less surprising move when you read about Mutter…

“Mutter now is a consultant specializing in corporate initiatives and new media ventures involving journalism and technology. He ordinarily does not write about clients or subjects that will affect their interests. In the rare event he does, this will be fully disclosed.”

That’s fff-funny; I missed the disclosure on this post.  I guess getting rid of federal funding for the CPB would not further “corporate initiatives and new media ventures involving journalism and technology.”

Sources:

Snider, J.H., THE ART OF SPECTRUM LOBBYING: America’s $480 Billion Spectrum Giveaway, How it Happened, and How to Prevent it From Recurring. New America Foundation. 2007

New York Magazine.  Who Makes How Much: New York’s Salary Guide.  2005

Freedom, Not Fairness

In Advertising, Culture, Policy on February 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Just read a great article from Craig Aaron at Free Press on HuffPo about the brouhaha over the Fairness Doctrine.  The federal Fairness Doctrine said that opposing viewpoints had to be given broadcast time and it was rightfully tossed out in 1987.  Do you want the government monitoring our media- playing referee in that manner?  I surely do not.  There are better ways to promote a public sphere full of viewpoints galore, as Craig suggests.

Turns out, Republicans are brilliantly trying to call upon their rich history of deceptive rhetoric to bring the ghost of the Fairness Doctrine back to life.  I think Democrats obfuscate too; the recent track record of the Rove kids is just the stuff of shock and awe.  The Republicans have better “strategery.”  Better twirlly-bar mustaches and villain laughs.  I’m a little jealous, but I’m praying for less evil tactics on all sides.  I digress.

So this FD ghost is really going to take net neutrality out back and, well, I can’t speak of it in polite circles. Republicans will dress any attempt at regulating the Internet so that it remains a neutral space in tattered, Scrooge scary clothing with heavy chains not worthy of Lady Gaga.

This is why I’m suggesting a strategy of my own for those in favor of net neutrality, which should be every single one of us who doesn’t work for a telephone company or major media conglomerate (and even some people at those places with souls–shhhh, we need them to stay hidden!).  My suggestion: change the name!  Call it Net Freedom.

I’m not kidding.  People feel funny voting against freedom.

I’m stealing this idea from Fox News actually, which makes it all the more poetic.  They called the invasion of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Maybe they took this directly from Rove.  Regardless, Fox certainly popularized it and most of us, including me, bought it.  Okay, so I personally looked at is as Operation Save Our American Asses Because Colin Says They Have Nukes–that’s why I bought it, but that’s not catchy and someone knew they needed to ahem, “reframe” the war.  Thus, freedom for the other guy emerged.  How noble.  I digress.

Back to net neutrality.  Most people in this country who hear the word neutrality think of Switzerland.  This is the only other time we see this word–from our history text books.  They stayed out of the war.  Regardless of authorial intent or historical accuracy, we hear neutral and we think of the land of chocolate, Swatch watches, bank accounts and really nice rich people. Neutrality equals Swiss!  This is far better to the American than say, oh, France.  Ack!  Give me back my freedom fry you French, life loving type!  Yet, Swiss is still not American and if there is anything that stands for American values, it is the Internet!  So says Hillary.  And now Google in China.  Groan.  I digress.

Neutrality does not equal some messiah network of routers and switches teeming with information (porn!) that will magically liberate the globe.  (I’ve just upset the techno-utopians and worse, Cisco.)  Neutrality, among other things, means that Comcast can’t turn internet speed into a secret packet auction where some of us only get a fraction of access for what we paid.  Comcast or any company shouldn’t get to rob us blind like a giant peacock picking our pocket at the zoo.  Scary.  Yet, this has already happened and the FCC has already slapped their hand.  Comcast will soon get to own a major content provider, NBC, because why would Comcast do anything wrong with such a sterling property?  Hmmm, because they robbed the masses at least once already?  Speaking of rhetoric, I have a suggestion for Comcast, too.  Try out the tag line: We did some evil, only a little evil.

Neutrality is the idea that will keep your mom and pop equivalents running because they can’t be pushed out by the big guys any faster than you stop patronizing them online (or, eeek!, in person).  Neutrality is good for Powell’s Bookstore, Bitch Media, eetsy and Britton’s Archery.  (I had a great interaction with the latter store when Ted Nugent came to town and I did a cross-promotion with them to get butts in seats.)  I’m not a fan of killing deer, but I am a fan of the friendly shop owners and their freedoms which include Net, say it with me now, Freedom.

To sum it up, we should advocate for less Switzerland; no Fairness Doctrine; more red, white and blue (without the brie); and more Braveheart.  And remember, in the wonderful words of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, “the Internet is for Porn!”  Net Neutrality = Net Freedom.  Freedom is not fair.  Freedom has been regulated in this country since 1787.