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.