Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Mainstream Journalist Discovers MRAs

[Content note: MRA shit, misogyny]

R. Tod Kelly at The Daily Beast has written a piece on the men's right movement. 

It's always interesting to me to see how those who are relatively new to men's rights activists (MRAs), as Kelly is, comprehend and then present the movement to their audience.

In all, I think Kelly does an ...okay job of representing the men's rights movement, noting that the aggressive extremists tend to detract from any valid points MRAs make. And, although Kelly doesn't outright say so, the reader can infer that the number one MRA strategy seems to be to destroy feminism and cut uppity women down as opposed to doing anything that will actually tangibly benefit men.

Of course, feminists, the targets of MRAs, have been noting all of that for years, so. No newsflash here, when Kelly notes at the end of his piece:
"What the MRM doesn’t seem to realize is that every time they lionize someone who says a four-year-old girl drowning is a good thing, or giggle over a leader bragging about taking sexual advantage of a woman who’s too drunk to understand what’s happening to her, or theorize that fat women want to be forcibly raped, or float a preposterous claim that women’s brains are physically incapable of comprehending morality, they only put those resources that much further out of reach. It is telling to note that of the professional male-victim advocacy organizations I spoke with, every single one specifically asked that I not allow readers to think they were in any way related to the MRM."
Ding ding ding! And there we have the dominant action item coming straight from the so-called manosphere: Calling women cunts for male victims of assault!

If you choose to read the entire article, which in general is too easy and forgiving of MRAs in my opinion, you'll notice that Kelly chooses to highlight a purported "superstar" of the movement.  It's not a very flattering portrayal of the this Next Big MRA Dude, as Kelly claims that he "relies on easily debunked male-pill conspiracy theories and reflexively labels anyone who question his conclusions a liar, idiot or psychopath."

Yet, oddly, if you a follow a link within Kelly's piece to the guy's forum, the guy seems to be very impressed by the quality of Kelly's article and depiction of himself - calling the piece the "best" on the men's rights movement that's ever been done in a mainstream publication and "very well done." He also boasts that he and Kelly are going to "grab some beers" in an upcoming weekend.

How neat for them.

It's also weird, right, that like no major feminists were interviewed in an article in which Kelly admits that the men's rights movement is built upon "the foundation of despising feminism"?  Feminists, unlike Kelly, actually have been dealing and interacting with MRAs for decades and, again, it's interesting to read a piece that seems to echo feminist complaints without explicitly referencing or including feminist critiques.

Like dominant conversations about same-sex marriage that are largely men talking to other men about an issue that is uniquely gender-based, I'm wary of "mainstream" conversations about and with MRAs being mostly same-sex conversations.

I mean, we're talking about a movement in which The Handmaid's Tale is largely taken for granted as a utopian fantasy rather than a dystopian nightmare.  Grabbing beers with MRA superstars isn't a luxury I'm particularly invested in, as a woman.

ABC Story on MRA Aggression Sparks MRA Bias in Comments

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ABC Story on MRA Aggression Sparks MRA Bias in Comments

[Content note: MRA shit, misogyny]

Tomorrow, October 18th, ABC's 20/20 is running a story on the so-called "manosphere" and its inhabitants' aggression toward women.

The comment section to the article previewing the story seem to have been swiftly infiltrated by MRAs and Paul Elam* fanboys, giving the "conversation" in the comments a noticeable, problematic "MRAs rah rah rah" bias.

Note that the article discusses the thousands of rape and death threats that MRAs have inflicted upon women who speak out.  The MRA slant of the comment section speaks directly to that point.

I hope ABC is taking note of that, as well.

I have considered asking readers to consider stopping by to add a dose of feminist reason to the convo, if you're up for it.  The ABC site uses DISQUS as its commenting system.  So, speaking out would involve potentially making yourself, or your online profile, a target of MRA aggression.

I'm hesitant to chime in there, myself. Nearly every time I've been involved in some sort of MRA interaction, I've received some sort of veiled or direct threat either via email or on this blog as a result.

*The same Paul Elam who has written:
"...[O]ur current gender zeitgeist is one that has promoted and enabled such a degree of female narcissism and entitlement that it has now produced two generations of women that are for the most part, shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Allen Study on Children of Same-Sex Couples

Let's start with the under-stated question that Allen asks near the end of his recently-published study, "High school graduation rates among children of same-sex couples" --  "the question is: why?"

I begin my discussion of economics professor and Ruth Institute board member Doug Allen's study with this question because, despite explicitly asking this question and thereby acknowledging that gaps exist in this area of inquiry, many of those promoting this study act, through their promotion of discriminatory policies, as though this knowledge is, in fact, certain.

As you may remember, the National Organization and Mark Regnerus, writing at The Witherspoon Institute's Public Forum, have promoted this study uttering variations of the platitude that moms and dads matter!  That's why!

True, the soundbite itself is so broad as to be largely uninformative.

Although it suggests that pro-gay forces might actually be claiming that parents are unimportant to the lives of their children, an absurd argument that has never actually been on the table, it is premised upon the more specific notion that mothers as women, and fathers as men, each provide unique, separate, and vital traits to parenting that same-sex couples, by their very nature of excluding one gender, cannot and do not provide to children. Indeed, Allen notes this theory in a footnote by citing an episode of Modern Family in which a gay male couple take their daughter to her aunt to discuss "girl issues" because they, being men, ostensibly are physically incapable of talking about "girl issues."

That premise is going to be important for same-sex marriage advocates to understand as they read and critique this study, as it's an argument about the inferiority of same-sex parents that is gender-based, rather than sexual-orientation-based. Women, it is argued, are inferior at the act of being a father - whatever that tangibly consists of -  than men are.  And likewise, men are inferior at the act of being a mother - whatever that tangibly consists of - than women are.  (What each role tangibly consists of is rarely clearly articulated. I guess proponents of this argument "know it when they see it.")

Now that we have anti-equality advocates' "why" articulated as a context for this study, we can progress to the overarching conclusion Allen puts forth, which is that "the odds of a child with gay or lesbian parents completing high school are lower, by a considerable margin, compared to children of married opposite sex parents."

To reach this conclusion, Allen used a limited data file from the Canada Census, from which Allen selected data for a percentage of children aged 17-22 living with their parents. Sociologist Phillip Cohen estimates that the sample probably contains 85 kids of gay fathers and 194 kids of lesbian mothers. Allen himself says that Canadian law doesn't permit him to release the sample size.

In his analysis, with our "why?" in mind, we can further note Allen's terminology. Throughout, he uses the phrase "opposite sex" couples to refer to couples comprised of a woman and a man, suggesting an assumption about the purportedly "opposite" and/or "complementary" nature of women and men.

For instance, following his Table 4, which estimates population averages of certain variables, he includes this explanation in a footnote:
"For gay and lesbian households the 'father' is the survey respondent who self-identified as the household head"
Telling. But on the bright side, we do have one tangible characteristic of "being a father" clearly articulated.

In his general discussion of Table 4, Allen highlights some of the results he finds particularly "fascinating." For instance, he finds it "striking" how few same-sex couples with children within the 17-22 age range are living in Canada, estimating that such couples make up 1% of all couples with children within that particular age range.

That factoid prompts me to ask a different why: Why then are such massive amounts of resources, time, and effort to deny such a fascinatingly-small percentage of the population equal rights?

I suspect that this why is substantially related to the first why.  Namely, that same-sex marriage poses a threat to the notion that men and women are complementary, "opposite" beings who, by their very inherent nature, fulfill separate roles in marriage and parenting - with fathers, as men- being the head of it all. Secondly, it's also politically safer for researchers to espouse sexist "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" stereotypes than for them to reference explicitly anti-gay "homosexual predators are a danger to children" stereotypes in today's political climate.

Moving along, Allen goes on to discuss his data in Table 4:
"There are a higher number of visible minority children for gay households (28 % compared to 13 % for common law couples), and a higher number of disabled children (13 % compared to 6 % for opposite sex married parents)."
Oddly, he somewhat hand-waives away the possibility that this discrepancy might be explained by gay couples choosing to adopt children who might experience more challenges, saying, "This may imply a high number of adopted children in gay households, but interestingly there are no cases of inter-racial same-sex families within the 20 % sample."

Well, sure, okay - but he still doesn't know adoption rates because that information wasn't included in his data set. So, if we ignore the whiff of racial wedge-creating in his statement, it's still true that gay couples likely adopt more frequently than male-female couples, you know, since most gay couples can't generally procreate together.  It's actually quite odd to see a researcher of Allen's ilk minimize that reality given that it's often a Top 3 Talking Point that purportedly-civil "marriage defenders" use to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples.

What I find interesting is that Allen doesn't highlight how other large discrepancies might also be "interesting" or "fascinating" in this section- like how children living with lesbian couples and children living with single mothers are far more likely, at 91% and 88% respectively, to live in urban settings than children living with hetero married couples (78%), common law male female couples (74%), gay couples (72%), and single fathers (79%). In addition, both lesbian mothers and single parents have quite lower average incomes than other family types, ranging from $49,874 for single mothers, $88,600 for lesbian couples, and a whopping $119,172 for heterosexual married couples.

As another interesting point, he also skims over the part where, once all controls are used, children of cohabiting (ie- unmarried) male-female couples seem to do the best of all when it comes to high school graduation - even better than the much-touted "married opposite sex" so-called Gold Standard Family.

He buries that lead by acknowledging that point in a footnote diss of same-sex couples: "Compared to children of opposite sex cohabitating parents, the children of same-sex parents do even worse." Well, yes, because compared to children of "opposite sex cohabitating parents," children of all other parent types do worse. But saying that would be highly damning to prominent "marriage defense" narratives.

From an analytical/discussion standpoint, I don't see a ton to this study, and it's disappointing that Allen only raises mostly one uninspired direction for future research, writing:
"This study suggests further work is necessary to narrow down the source of this difference. This will require an exceptional data set that not only identifies sexual orientation of parents, but also has a retrospective or panel design to completely control for marital history."
Well, yes, further work is indeed necessary, as this paper seems to raise more questions than it answers, although opponents of marriage equality certainly won't treat it as such. Indeed, if I were approaching the question "why" might we be seeing any disparities between children of same-sex couples, I would be asking many questions and positing many more directions for future work.

  • Allen's sample is only of children between the age of 17-22 and who are living with their parents.  Yet, what is the average age of high school graduation in Canada? I really don't know much about the Canadian education system (so chime in here if you do!), but trusty Wikipedia notes that ages at graduation can vary by province and can range from between 17-21. Given that his data set notes an average younger age of children of lesbian couples, might it be that some children have not yet, due to their age, had the opportunity to graduate?  
  • Relatedly, let's think for a second about the population of 17-22 who are living with their parents? Would such people be more or less likely to have graduated from high school than 17-22 year olds who are not living with their parents? What would happen to the graduation rates if we included the population of 17-22 year-olds who are not living with their parents, a population that would presumably be more independent and likely to have graduated high school?  By only including 17-22 year-olds who are living with their parents, Allen's sample seems as though it would disproportionately include non-high-school graduates.
  • What are the differences among the children, when accounting for the circumstances of their birth and possible adoption? Might same-sex couples adopt children, and adopt older children, who have more challenges or disabilities than those raised by their biological parents? Might that contingency account for differences? What about children of same-sex couples who were created through alternative reproductive technologies, or who are the product of failed heterosexual unions? How do these variances impact child outcomes? 
  • How might living in a society that privileges heterosexuality and marginalizes homosexuality contribute to any differences among children of same-sex couples? It's true that Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, but given that the children in this study ranged in age from 17-22, they also lived in a country in which their parents were second-class citizens during most of the children's early, formative years. Social justice doesn't work in a way such that once same-sex couples have marriage equality 100% of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice is entirely erased from society. I question the informativeness of comparing same-sex couples to heterosexual couples in a way that erases a social context in which these families are not, in reality, given the same social, moral, and familial supports to thrive.
  • Since this study only looks at children of same-sex couples who are married, what proportion of same-sex couples in Canada, especially those with children, are legally married? Could the numbers be different if children of cohabitating same-sex couples were included? For most same-sex couples in Canada of the legal age to marry, same-sex marriage wasn't even a cultural norm, let alone allowed, until very recently. It still seems early to start drawing conclusions about same-sex couples and their children. 
  • If these differences in high school graduation rates are legitimate, what can be done to better support same-sex families, given that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people exist in the real world, establish same-sex relationships, and raise children?  What is the impact on child outcomes when organizations like National Organization for Marriage and The Witherspoon Institute publicly favor policies that promote the marginalization of same-sex families and families other than married hetero so-called Gold Standard?
  • If we take these findings as legit, what's up with children of cohabiting heterosexual parents doing better than children of the so-called married hetero gold standard?  Maybe Team Opposite Sex Is The Best should get on that finding STAT!
I'm sure others could include many more questions, as well.

As a final note, I want to draw attention to Allen's footnote 24, where he discusses how small sample sizes in previous studies result from low response rates to surveys of gay parents:
"Often the problem of small sample size comes from low response rates. Many of the fifty-two studies are silent on the question of response rates to their surveys, but when information is provided it often shows that response rates are very low. For example, in Bos (2010) the gay males were recruited from an Internet mail list for gay parents. Although the list had 1,000 names, only 36 replied and participated in the study. This amounts to a 3.6 % response rate. Other studies (e.g., Chan et al. and Fulcher et al.) have reductions in their samples similar in relative size to Rosenfeld. Response rates lower than 60 % are usually taken to mean the presence of a strong selection bias—even when the initial list is random."

I purport that when some researchers seem hell-bent on determining that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples, results that will eventually be promoted as reasons to deny same-sex couples rights and further marginalize and malign us in society, I can imagine that many same-sex couples would be reluctant to respond to surveys, thereby impacting the quality of many studies about same-sex families.

Sociologist Philip Cohen's Critique of Allen's Study
Same-Sex Marriage, Feminism, and Women
Regnerus: Same-Sex Marriage Will Change Hetero Marriage

Friday, October 11, 2013

Being a Young Single Lesbian

For me, often meant feeling elated when famous women I admired turned out to be lesbians too, followed almost immediately by the disappointed realization that I still had no chance with them, ever.

All joking aside - after all, I am now older, wiser, and happily civil union'ed - congratulations to the couple!

Women's World Cup Final Sets Records
League Shuts Down Abby Wambach's Team

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Regnerus Promoting New Family Study

Mark Regnerus has taken to Internet to promote another study that purportedly proves the popular anti-equality platitude that "a married mom and dad really do matter," a platitude that's supposed to imply that therefore same-sex couples should not raise children or have equal marriage rights.

Regnerus' promotion of this study is posted at  the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse blog, where Regnerus has posted his anti-equality opinions previously.

The Witherspoon Institute is the organization that recruited and funded Regnerus to run his widely-critiqued New Family Structures Study and that, contrary to claims otherwise, was later revealed to have played a role in the study's design and timing.

This past summer, Mark Regnerus spoke at The Ruth Institute's "It Takes a Family" conference.

The study Regnerus is promoting is by Douglas Allen, who sits on the board of the Ruth Institute (tagline: "One Man One Woman For Life").

Douglas Allen has also spoken at the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) conference in 2012, where he opined that women's menstrual cycles make lesbian relationships particularly unstable.

This week, the National Organization for Marriage has been promoting Allen's study, as well as Regnerus' promotion of the study.

And just so you know, it's the homosexualists who are alleged to have the coordinated agenda. Heh.

I will be posting my full review of the study shortly to see the extent to which these folks have or have not fairly represented it thus far.

Journal Audit Finds Severe Flaws in Regnerus Study
Scholars Critique Regnerus Study
Bryan Fischer: Regnerus Shows that "Underground Railroad" Needed to Rescue Kids in Gay Families
American College of Pediatricians Misuses Regnerus Study in Amicus Brief

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scalia In a Nutshell

I've spared all of you the trouble of reading New York Magazine Jennifer Senior's recent interview with conservative US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Here's my summary of important tidbits:
His primary source of news is "talk guys" on the radio, he literally believes in the entity called "the Devil," he especially disapproves of "ladies" saying the "f word," he finds the "soup Nazi" thing in Seinfeld "hilarious," and he suspects he has some "homosexual friends" but they haven't, for some reason, come out to him yet even though he doesn't hate gays or anything.   
He also proclaims, with an air of intellectual superiority, that "words mean things" within the same conversation in which he uses only the masculine pronoun to refer to all attorneys, law students, and law clerks. And, finally, he definitely doesn't care about his potential legacy as being on the wrong side of history. He has Absolute Truth on his side.
What a neat guy.

A few months ago, I noted my glee with how the anti-gay right's attempts to sway the Supreme Court via the much-critiqued Regnerus study didn't work all that well in this past summer's DOMA case.

As I read the above interview with Scalia and his attendant affirmation of conservative dude culture, and reflected upon his especially bitter, scathing dissent in Windsor, I once again admit that I am glad - like really glad and probably more glad than I politely should be - that this guy lost a case he seems to have cared greatly about.  That likely means something importantly progressive actually did happen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Angry, Concerned Student is Angry, Concerned

[Content note: trans bigotry]

You might have seen some conservative "anti-PC" types enthusiastically praising University of Wisconsin grad student Jason Morgan for his rant against, basically, political correctness gone awry.

His letter to the University's Graduate Director, which he (in true conservative outrage, shit-stirring style!) also sent to various news outlets, seems to have been inspired by the University's mandated diversity trainings that teaching assistants have to attend.

So, you can imagine it already.

In addition to railing against rampant leftism and expressing outrage at the trainings' "overriding presumption" that attendees might be racist, he takes particular issue with the sessions on transgender issues.  He writes:
"At the end of yesterday’s diversity 're-education,' we were told that our next session would include a presentation on 'Trans Students'. At that coming session, according to the handout we were given, we will learn how to let students ‘choose their own pronouns’, how to correct other students who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, and how to ask people which pronouns they prefer ('I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?'). Also on the agenda for next week are 'important trans struggles, as well as those of the intersexed and other gender-variant communities,' 'stand[ing] up to the rules of gender,' and a very helpful glossary of related terms and acronyms, to wit: 'Trans': for those who 'identify along the gender-variant spectrum,' and 'Genderqueer': 'for those who consider their gender outside the binary gender system'. I hasten to reiterate that I am quoting from diversity handouts; I am not making any of this up. 
.... It is an honor and a great joy to teach students the history of Japan. I take my job very seriously, and I look forward to coming to work each day. 
It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion. I am not in graduate school to learn how to encourage poor souls in their sexual experimentation, nor am I receiving generous stipends of taxpayer monies from the good people of the Great State of Wisconsin to play along with fantasies or accommodate public cross-dressing.
In this instance, while Morgan may get lots of standing o's from like-minded, close-minded types, he actually, quite sadly, demonstrates pretty well why such trainings are and should be required for public employees who have to interact with a diverse student body.

I mean, the very way he discusses gender issues is largely an ignorant mischaracterization. Referring to transgender and/or genderqueer people (it's not super clear how or whether he even distinguishes the two) as "poor souls" who engage in "cross-dressing" "fantasies" does a pretty good job of diminishing his credibility as an informed academic who is so enlighteningly-above needing to learn more about gender.

Wanna-be intellectual freedom crusaders further lose credibility when they treat discussions that in any way diverge from their own provincial "Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"  thinking about gender as so self-evidently absurd that they don't even require rebuttal.  With his sneering "I am not making any of this up," it's as though he's confronted, for perhaps the very first time, thoughts about gender that differ from his own and that, mistakenly, everyone else is a n00b to gender issues as well.

Yet, transgender people actually exist in the real world even if Jason Morgan doesn't know, doesn't want to know, or doesn't think he knows, any!

Genderqueer people actually exist in the real world even if Jason Morgan doesn't know, doesn't want to know, or doesn't think he knows, any!

Most people want to be addressed by the gender pronouns they identify with and it's generally good manners to call people what they want to be called.

So, what's the fucking problem, dude?

The other day, I read a piece at Salon about (other easily-offended white people might want to close their eyes now) white privilege in the debate about naming mascots after Native American caricatures. In it, Steven Salaita (or his editor) notes in the sub-title that there's "nothing scarier than a nervous white man."


The way that white people angrily defend certain mascots of their ballsports' teams seems similar to the way that some people angrily defend their "intellectual freedom" to remain ignorant and close-minded about diversity and transgender issues. To be a white cisgender man in the US used to be something very, extremely important compared to being other types of people. At least, that seems to have been the promise made to many such folks: that they were, would be, and deserved to be the real movers and shakers in the world, with other people relegated mostly to supporting, subordinate, and awestruck roles.

As white cisgender men increasingly confront the brokenness of that promise in an era of increasing civil rights and awareness, everyone else has to increasingly deal with the angry, anxious white man fallout of them periodically stamping their feet about it while other dudes cheer them on at, say, the Wall Street Journal.

Salaita continues that the perpetuation of offensive mascots are "products of an American will to name what has been conquered and to maintain power through a refusal to reconsider traditions of naming." Just as masses of white people scream, and I do mean scream, about PC gone awry in the mascot debate, cisgender people often refuse to reconsider naming transgender people what transgender people want to be named even as these cisgender people evidence not even an iota of understanding of transgender issues.

Again, I reference Morgan's "I am not making this up" snark as though he, rather than transgender people or people who study gender for a living, is the real namer of whether transgender lives are authentic or not.

Men who cheer on Morgan's rant are likely those who treat diversity training as though it viscerally pains them, and is an assault on their intellectual freedom, to be confronted with the reality that people who aren't like them both exist and do not all go waiving around "White Men Are #1" foam fingers all day long 24/7/365. From reading his letter, one might think that the diversity training is mandating that he personally clothe transgender women in poodle skirts each morning, whilst then donning pom-pons and megaphones, perhaps with the added humiliation of being forced to apply a couple of layers of mascara as well.

Yet, all he, or anyone, really has to do to be even just a halfway okay person is call someone by their preferred pronoun and not, like, physically assault someone because they're trans. And that's a pretty fucking low bar when you think about it.

His letter doesn't seek so-called intellectual freedom. It demands the power to name reality and asks the rest of us to participate in the charade of white male supremacy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Haters Next Door

I'm not surprised by this man's white supremacist views. They're shared by many, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly.

What I find interesting about the above-cited article is its framing:
"Richard Spencer sat sipping his chai latte at the Red Caboose, a train-themed coffee shop in downtown Whitefish, Mont. Clean-cut and restrained, he reminded me of a hundred outdoors-obsessed people I had known growing up here in the Flathead Valley, a resort area nestled in the shadows of Glacier National Park.
But Spencer’s tidy appearance is about more than his sense of propriety; it’s a recruitment tool. Spencer advocates for white separatism and he wants to shake his movement’s reputation for brutality and backwardness. 
'We have to look good,' Spencer said, adding that if his movement means 'being part of something that is crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid, no one is going to want to be a part of it.' Those stereotypes of 'redneck, tattooed, illiterate, no-teeth' people, Spencer said, are blocking his progress. Organizations that monitor domestic hate groups say it’s just this unthreatening approachability that makes Spencer so insidious.
The lesson isn't just that nice-seeming people, like the good-neighborly-seeming Westboro members, can hold incredibly-problematic views and that organizations can be awful even if they aren't, say, explicitly named the Institute For Arch Villainry.  It's that those who are problematic often carefully, precisely, and mindfully cultivate an image that suggests exactly the opposite about themselves, their views, and their activity. 

They know what the stereotypes are about those who hold bigoted views and they consciously try to subvert those stereotypes. They aren't haters, they say, they just want what's best for the kinds of people who really matter.

We see this PR/image cultivation not just with racists, but with all sorts of bigots and abusers. Other examples that come to my mind, of course, are some of the professional outfits who oppose LGBT equality.

Any others?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quote of the Day

"A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to 'debate' on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science."  -Suzanne LaBarre, Popular Science, "Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments"
Here, I particularly like the image of comment sections being a "grotesque reflection" of the media culture. US media culture seems to particularly value angry, binary, and certain opinions while devaluing and even outright mocking civil, nuanced, and thoughtful discourse.  And that's certainly reflected in comment sections of, especially, large media outlets. 

I'm not sure if commenters take their cues from popular political commentators or whether political commentators take their cues from their viewers. Maybe it's both and cyclical.

Whatever the case, I'm once again reminded that comment moderation takes actual work. Actual resources have to be put into creating a forum in which thoughtful, civil conversation in which people are able to set, and must also respect, boundaries of the conversation. While some folks huff and puff about a so-called silencing effect of comment moderation, laud the purported virtues of Anything Goes Forums, and express annoyance at meta-conversations about civility, civil discourse does not actually just spontaneously happen on Internet without effort and mindfulness.

Also - as a related FYI, comment moderation is restored to its regular status here in Fannie's Room, meaning comments will appear without having to be pre-approved.