In Defense of Breitbart

It may seem odd that a liberal/progressive Bernie supporter (including voting for him as a write-in on November 8) like me would defend the so-called Alt Right publication Breitbart News. But to me — alas, I am a rarity these days — fair is fair. Though I am not a regular reader of Breitbart by any means (see this and other disclaimers at the end of this posting), I must say that the mainstream media seems to be egregiously unfair in reporting on Breitbart, especially now that its former CEO Steve Bannon is now under controversy over a pending key White House position.

For instance, take one of the mainstream media (MM)’s favorite examples in its trashing of Breitbart since the election, an article titled “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” The MM have presented this article as “obvious” evidence of sexism. Oh, really? What IS obvious is that MM never read past the article’s headline. Actually, the content of the article is quite interesting and important.

The Breitbart piece reports on a serious experiment, conducted by a firm that helps job seekers improve their interviewing skills. The experiment involved phone interviews in which the voices of the job seekers were electronically modified so as to appear of the opposite gender. It turned out that the female applicants were rated lower even when the interviewers thought they were men.

This is quite consistent with what I have observed and discussed here before. What Silicon Valley managers like (consciously or not) in applicants is over-the-top enthusiasm about tech, something along the lines of

The next version of the gcc compiler will enable OpenACC directives, and wow, that will be SWEET! I’ve got a high-end NVIDIA card on my Linux box, and now it will be easy to port the awesome games I plan to write.

Actually, very few female OR male applicants are like this, but among the ones who are, almost all are male. Hence the differential hiring rates regarding gender.

In other words, far from being misogynistic, Breitbart has brought to readers’ attention an experiment that should give the tech world pause for thought.

As I wrote in that blog post, this doesn’t mean that this selection criterion by the managers is justified in terms of job effectiveness. And Breitbart was sloppy to jump to the flat conclusion that there is no gender bias, based on the interviewing experiment. But this sloppiness is what I see in the MM every day, including in the most prestigious MM news outlets.

Indeed, on the issue of the H-1B work visa, I have found Breitbart to be far more reliable — AND LESS BIASED — than the New York Times. Note carefully that the the Times has actually admitted its deep bias. Where is the outrage on this?

Another MM favorite lately has been the Breitbart piece, “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” To me, the article is silly, and as the late journalist Herb Caen used to say, Unclear in Purpose. As a fan of Billy Crystal rather than Bill Kristol, I am no defender of the latter, but to me the article missed the mark.

But the MM again focused on the title, presenting it as evidence that Breitbart is anti-semitic. Really? Not only is the author of the piece Jewish, but Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alexander Marlow, is also Jewish. Indeed, another Breitbart editor, Joel Pollock, pointed out to NPR last week that he is not just Jewish, but even Orthodox Jewish. Nu, MM?

None of this is to imply that Steve Bannon is suitable for a high position in the Trump White House. I know nothing about the man. For what it’s worth, Marlow mentioned that every Friday Bannon wishes Pollock Shabbat Shalom (Happy Jewish Sabbath).

Similarly, none of this is to imply that Breitbart does not run some objectionable articles. Since I read it only when someone calls my attention to a piece on H-1B, I simply cannot say what they do in general. And yes, it tends to be raunchy. But at least from the little I know about the publication, they make me glad we have a free press. If we were to only have the New York Times to inform us, we should all say Oy vei iz mir.

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “In Defense of Breitbart

  1. Personally, I don’t care who wrote that headline about Bill Kristol. I don’t like the guy’s politics, and I also didn’t read the article, but that’s all besides the point. Bridebart elected to bring ethnicity and/or religion into the conversation, and as far as I’m concerned that is both inappropriate and beyond the pale. They could have just called Kristol a “renegade” and left it at that, but they elected, like their canditate, to throw a flaming Molotov cocktail into what otherwise could have been a serious and useful discussion. So at the very least, I hold them responsible for “media malpractice” in that they have clearly been practicing shabby yellow journalism in pursuit of higher hit counts.

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  2. Breitbart and Malkin have provided good information on H1-Bs. But I only think they are covering a legitimate issue because they only want to use it as an issue for Republicans to run on, which is where Trump’s whole “populist” (and racist) campaign came from.

    To paraphrase Sam Wang, if Donald Trump or the GOP actually ever do anything to fix the H1-B problem, I will eat a bug. I don’t think the Democrats will do anything either. I don’t know where that leaves us.

    As far as Bannon goes, SPLC says he’s a white supremacist and that’s good enough for me:

    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2016/11/14/splc-bannon-must-go

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    • I have a real problem with the SPLC. They were established initially to help poor blacks, which is great, but apparently found that they could get a lot more funding if they became an immigrant rights group. They have actively harassed two people whom I have enormous respect for, Roy Beck and Mark Krikorian.

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      • Yes, this is not your father’s SPLC, this new SPLC is itself a terrorist group.

        Things are just so different now than 30+ years ago, and most people just never update their dictionaries. Things turn upside-down, and people end up backing exactly the opposite of what they think they’re doing.

        You see this in software, you know, things cycle back and forth, people reinvent the wheel, there’s some kind of urge in every generation to do it the other way around.

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      • I remember back in the 1990’s that the SPLC went around to every black church that they could speak at on a Sunday morning telling folks that the SPLC was nearly broke and that lynches and church burnings would be on the uptick if the church goers did not give them a lot of money. We are talking about 70+ year old pensioners that worked worked as janitors and/or cooks. All of this was a scheme to build up an endowment that could be used to run SPLC permanently off of the interest. Ditto on little truly being done by the SPLC in the last 20 years. Roy Moore and Ben Carson are two that have been harassed by the SPLC for no good reason.

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    • Here is the SPLC’s modus operandi: Using its own criteria, which have a trigger level of essentially zero, SPLC names Person P a “racist.” Person P publishes an article in Journal X. Then if Person Q also publishes in Journal X, Person Q is a “racist” too. It’s an open-and-shut case of guilt by association.

      In recent years, the SPLC has been labeling as “hate groups” organizations advocating systematic enforcement of our immigration laws and reduced legal immigration — e.g., the Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR]. Poll after poll shows that huge majorities of Americans agree with FAIR, but the SPLC would put this vast swath of public policy, with its enormous implications for our national future, out of bounds for public discussion.

      Yet the SPLC shows no heartburn over MEChA (Spanish acronym for the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, with Aztlan the mythical ancestral home of the Aztecs). With chapters at hundreds of American colleges and high schools nationwide, MEChA has a governing document, El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, that includes such ethnocentrisms as “We are a bronze people with a bronze culture.” And the group’s motto is “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada,” (“For our Race, everything, outside our Race, nothing”). That’s apparently too brazen to attract SPLC’s attention as it sleuths everywhere for “white supremacists.”

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  3. Breitbart is great for getting the other side of a story, especially on issues where pompous tech firms try to talk down to the plebs. As far as I know, they were the first to highlight twitter’s financial problems, for example.

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  4. I miss Andrew Breitbart, he was a thoughtful, considerate conservative.
    And he warned us about Donald Trump five years ago. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/andrew-breitbart-in-2011-donald-trump-is-not-a-conservative/

    Under Bannon, the contributors have been given a free rein and yes, the site still does get some things right.

    However, it also provides a nearly mainstream media outlet for disgusting alt-right rants. And for that, I can’t forgive it.

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  5. I can respect the liberal/progressive opinions of someone who is open minded to others opinions. I find the closed minded ones doing the name calling as modern day Bolsheviks. Only power matters not the facts. They also seem to be very angry at Russia since they were thrown out of power after the Cold War ended. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new coalition of sane people.

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  6. I am concerned about reported attempts to silence some media outlets. Censorship is unacceptable.

    I am disappointed that Mr Obama was allowed to select advisors who were contrary to the beliefs of many and people are irate that Mr Trump should have the same opportunity. I doubt he will have reported communists and ISIS sympathizers among them.

    I will read anything – Breitbart, Huffington Post, UK news sites, Pravda, Times of India, … I believe information from different viewpoints is essential. I learn more on US H-1B immigration from the TOI than US MM. Immigration issues in the UK are of interest as they may be a glimpse into our future.

    I am concerned that universities now have such broad harassment policies that exercising the right to free speech can result in expulsion from school. This has happened three times recently at universities in my state (public and private). The policies are not applied uniformly. Much offensive speech is permitted by law. Students should be fearful of what they say or write.

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  7. Excellent analysis Norm.

    BTW I never knew how extreme some liberals can be until this election and Facebook – every post and complaint is an “-ism” – and anyone with a differing perspective (e.g. that we should give preference to foreigners who entered illegally over those that have filed legal papers are waiting) is an “-ist.”

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  8. Amen.

    All of us are a product of our environment.
    We also are a product of what we read.

    If people would read rather than skimming, I think we would be a lot better off.

    I believe Breitbart writes what they write for the most part because they understand what is happening in these 4 charts and they believe that is wrong for the future of our children and our country.

    http://keepamericaatwork.com/the-ignorance-of-yahoo-finance-astounds-me/

    I titled that article “Immigration vs Non-Immigration” and I watch the google stats daily.

    People will not attempt to comprehend what I am showing there.

    They would rather point fingers at the opposing side no matter which side they are on.

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  9. Let me say this about that.
    1. There is effectively no such thing as the “alt-right”, at least not as suggested by Hillary.
    2. Even if there were, it would not be illegal according to anything like American tradition. However, PC these days wants to convict people of thought crimes. It’s this neo-Fascist left which is the real danger to the American tradition.
    3. The Breitbart site is a little too harsh – and a little too busy – for me. Actually I read and comment on other sites that have far more blatant anti-Semitic content and certainly commenters, but also has some excellent stuff. There is certainly anti-Semitism out there, in volumes a hundred times greater than twenty years ago, but it comes from left, right, and other, in roughly equal volumes.
    4. This leftist jihad against Bannon is neo-Fascism, it’s 99% false, but if it were 100% true it would still be neo-Fascism. The news media has hate “ten minutes of hate” against Donald Trump, on all the major networks, for about two months now. It is continuing now past the election, but some of it has now been turned to Bannon. If you don’t know what this is all about, you need to (re)read the classic book “1984” right now, because you’re living in it.

    Thanks Norm for being on the right side of this. Our country is currently in a situation I never imagined would come about in my lifetime, or ever. This is reminiscent of the whole H-1B situation. That too is much, much, MUCH worse than most people know, because they were brought up think “hey, this is America, it’s all good”. Well, it’s not, but people can’t break their conditioning to even start to imagine the plain facts of the matter. Of course the H-1B situation has been that bad for twenty years now – and frankly, America lost that battle. It’s over. It’s bad. The only thing that could happen now is that the victors press forward with something like TPP and make it five times worse. After that, there wouldn’t be much more required to simply institute slavery. And no, I am not exaggerating, as much as you might think so. This is what certain forces will do when the public simply cannot imagine they are being so abused. And, why shouldn’t they?

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  10. So, I doubt Breitbart got it’s bad reputation based just on it’s headlines. And maybe this suggests Breitbart should clean up it’s headlines, at a minimum. Otherwise the reputation probably is justified, or maybe they’re just looking for clicks. Racism beats porn for this purpose, I’ve heard.

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    • Great article, thanks for the link. One *obvious* reason why Trump’s victory cannot possibly be a “whitelash” is that it did NOT happen in 2012. If 2016 was really a racist rejection of Obama, then 2012 would surely have turned out with a Romney victory.

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  11. And the reason more men than women speak about high-tech with exuberant enthusiasm is simple: It’s hard-wired. It’s NOT a cultural issue.

    We know this is true because even apes show this behavior. Bring young male chimps into a room filled with both dolls and trucks, the the males will gravitate to the trucks. Bring young female chimps into an identical room, and they will gravitate to the dolls. If this is true in the animal kingdom — where no “politically incorrect” culture exists — then it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that similar differences between male and female exist among humans.

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  12. I agree. I misjudged Breitbart. I believed the MM calling it alt-right hate news. However, the few articles that I have read, which were all H-1B related, contained links to reputable reports and their numbers were consistent with academic papers.

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