Rupert Murdoch: “Reporters are mean to me”; or, Feminéma diagnoses our shame differential

26 April 2012

Is it any surprise I have trouble telling the difference between satire and true stories? Witness the latest from Rupert Murdoch’s trial for phone hacking in London:

Rupert Murdoch described on Thursday being “mobbed” and “harassed” by journalists and paparazzi, in an exchange rich with irony during his testimony at a judicial inquiry on press ethics prompted by criminal behaviour at one of his papers.

The 81-year-old media mogul was facing a second day of grilling at the Leveson Inquiry, which has heard dozens of witnesses give detailed accounts of being harassed by reporters from Murdoch’s own newspapers.

(Reuters, 26 Apr. 2012)

I’m sorry, but how is it possible this man feels no shame for such a statement? These are the questions that keep me awake at night.

Just recently I was utterly fooled by a satirical story about Ann Romney — a story for which I apologized so profusely that several wise commentators left notes telling me to let it go. “Women apologize too much,” Naomi wrote kindly but tersely. She continued: “Rather, women of conscience do that.” She’s right. But I wonder if the shame differential is not just a gender issue, but also a class matter. Why does my middle-class, female shame button get pushed at the slightest error, and Murdoch’s wealthy male shame button appears to be protected by impermeable glass and Secret Service-protected launch codes?

After all, let’s remember the (true) story about Ann Romney of last month, when she pronounced that she doesn’t “consider myself wealthy,” which prompted the ever-astute Jezebel to offer the headline, ZILLIONAIRE ANN ROMNEY DOESN’T CONSIDER HERSELF RICH. Now, Ann Romney can consider herself in whatever way she likes. But it seems to me that if someone who earns $21 million per year on investment income alone — and pays a minuscule $3 million in taxes (ca. 14%) on it — makes such statements out loud during an economic recession, she might feel shame. There is no sign of such.

Thus, I offer you my Social Science-y Insight Of The Month: the Shame Differential©! (Copyright pending.) Let me explain:

The Shame Differential is the sum total of two separate measures tallied by the Shame-O-Meter® and the Shame Ray®, observable on these two tables (and apologies/ compliments to Jessica Hagy’s blog This Is Indexed, from which I borrow her style of graphics):

You see? As this “scientific” graph shows us, the lower your income, the higher your capacity to experience shame. Since women own only 36% of the wealth in the U.S. (and the stats are significantly more dire for Latinas and African-American women), the Shame Burden falls disproportionately on women at the same time that it hits working- and middle-class men hard, too.

Yet to fully assess the Shame Differential©, this “scientific” finding by the Feminéma Institute for Advanced Study must be paired with the equally “scientific” Shame Ray® Index, which measures the eagerness of specific populations to dish out shame to others:

Now you may be infinitely more enlightened by my research, but perhaps you’re wondering: why does it seem that U.S. Republicans seem so eager to shame women, Blacks, Latinos, and/or the poor? Well, duh! The Shame Differential© explains all! Who do you think the GOP represents: the 99%? Ha ha! Moreover, if you’re a woman, a person of color, or not wealthy, you’ve doubtless become quite skilled in feeling ashamed of a whole lot in your lifetime.

One final note: because Feminéma’s Shame Differential© is not merely an index but a diagnosis of a cultural disease — and therefore a social problem to be corrected — I hereby rename it the Breivik Shame Differential© after the Norwegian responsible for last summer’s massacre of 77 left-wing fellow countrymen and women, 69 of whom were teenagers at a summer youth camp. Now, Breivik is not a member of the GOP, nor is he the consummate ideological media mogul asshole criminal that Murdoch allegedly is, but his utter incapacity to feel shame helps us further understand the sociopathic inclinations of the Shame Differential:

OSLO — The self-described anti-Islamic militant [Anders Behring Breivik] who has admitted killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree last July told bereaved families on Monday that he had also lost his family and friends as a result of the massacre.

…“When people say they have lost their most beloved, I also lost my entire family, I lost my friends,” he also said. “It was my choice. I sacrificed them, but I lost my entire family and friends on 22 July. I lost everything. So to a certain extent, I understand.”

(New York Times, 23 Apr. 2012)

So the next time you hear a story that appears so hypocritical as to rattle the teeth in your head, and/or the next time you hear a GOP presidential candidate say that the very poorest in the U.S. are cared for by social services, just remember the Breivik Shame Differential©.

You’re welcome.

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14 Responses to “Rupert Murdoch: “Reporters are mean to me”; or, Feminéma diagnoses our shame differential”

  1. Sally Says:

    I always love visual aids.

    • Didion Says:

      Me too — sadly, as a member of the College of Liberal Arts, I am seldom capable of creating them.

      But then, Rupert inspired me. Thanks, Rupert!

  2. Becky Says:

    Thank you! This explains it perfectly. It was such a perfect explanation that I can’t think of anything else to say!

  3. Didion Says:

    Yup: you can expect to see my research cited widely by leading social scientists. I look forward to seeing my own graphs, with that artful “hipster homemade” look, appear in PowerPoint presentations at annual conferences.

    Damn: Is it too late to trademark my “hipster homemade” style?

  4. servetus Says:

    and now for something completely different: the irony that I found myself thinking about was that the British government is raking him over the coals (IMO justly) for his relationship to this hacking thing, even as the British government (IMO unjustly) is setting up a legal scheme that will allow the British government to hack into just about every private electronic communication there is.

    • Didion Says:

      Too right. And there’s much to be said about various kinds governmental complicity with Murdoch because they benefited from the knowledge he provided.


  5. Didion,
    You knew I would love this article. Great job of addressing the intersections of oppression!

  6. Andy Says:

    Allow me to introduce you to the Yiddish word chutzpah, which can be loosely defined as gall or shamelessness. It doesn’t always have negative connotations, but it usually does. The apocryphal story used to illustrate chutzpah is that of a man killing both his parents and then going before a judge and pleading for clemency because he’s an orphan. I’ve heard that story since I was a kid–but I didn’t think anyone would ever use that defense in REAL LIFE.

    • Didion Says:

      This is now my favorite story, and could not be more apt for the Murdoch/ Breivik vein. Can it be that I’ve been misinterpreting the word chutzpah all this time? or is it possible there’s a popular vein of usage that equates it to “ballsiness” or having big cojones?

      • Andy Says:

        Like I said, it doesn’t always have to have negative connotations :) So, yes, it could also be used to mean ballsiness. The idea is that it TAKES ballsiness to do the things you mentioned in this entry because they’re just so beyond the pale.

  7. tam Says:

    Amazing graph Didion. Couldn’t be more spot on! Might catch on like the Bechdel test :)


  8. [...] or not he has suffered is not the point. (Remember Feminema’s brilliant insight about the Shame Differential© for the rich? See how helpful this is, and only a month after I arrived at those [...]


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