Damn! She beat me to it. But I should’ve known she would. The instant the news came out that the UK was battening down the hatches for a wave of domestic violence connected to World Cup soccer matches, I knew for certain I’d be checking up on the reality of the situation. After all, here in the U.S. we pioneered the whole “sports-increases-DV-because-men-get-all-worked-up-and-we-know-what-happens-then” genre.
That came about when certain feminist commentators and their mouthpieces in the news media announced that an academic study showed that incidents of domestic violence spiked after the Super Bowl. That was headline news across the country and television and radio picked it up too. The only problem was that the whole thing was made up. An actual journalist who did that odd journalistic thing-y of going to an informed source and finding out the facts of the matter learned that the study showed no such thing. He talked to the author of the study and she disavowed the whole SuperBowl/DV connection.
So, when a similar announcement was made about the World Cup and DV, I was all ears. But sadly (for me), Christina Hoff Sommers beat me to the punch (er, no pun intended) here (National Review, 7/10/10).
Back in May, the Association of Chief Police Officers warned Britons of a 30% increase in DV on days England played a match. And it should come as no surprise that they were relying on a study to support their claim. Not only that, it was a study done by the British Home Office, so you’d think it might carry some weight. But you’d be mistaken. Here’s Sommers on that topic:
“A stunt based on misleading figures,’ is the verdict of BBC legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg and producer Wesley Stephenson. They recently investigated the alleged link between the televised World Cup games and violence in the home for their weekly program Law in Action. On June 22 — day twelve of the 2010 World Cup — they aired the story. It included an interview with a prominent Cambridge University statistician, Sheila Bird, whom they had asked to review the Home Office study and its finding of a 30 percent increase in domestic abuse. She found it to be so amateurish and riddled with flaws that it could not be taken seriously. The 30 percent claim was based on a cherry-picked sample of police districts; it failed to correct for seasonal differences and essentially ignored match days that showed little or no increase in domestic violence…
The BBC Law in Action program also unearthed a serious study by the London Metropolitan Police Authority that contradicted the “official’ 30 percent finding. But thanks to a sensational media campaign sanctioned by the Home Office, the reasonable and credible findings of the Metropolitan Police went unnoticed.
Sound familiar? “A stunt based on misleading figures” would be an accurate, albeit charitable, description of the Great Super Bowl Hoax.
Sommers goes on to make some good points about why it’s such a bad idea to peddle falsehoods about domestic violence. Inflated figures can make DV look more normal in the eyes of potential perpetrators and can therefore enhance the possibility of aggression. And it seems that leaders in countries like Iran, in which women truly are discriminated against, have repeated the falsehoods as true to justify their own oppression. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
I must take Sommers to task on a minor point, though. She wonders why the myths perpetrated by DV advocates have such staying power and compares the U.S. of the Super Bowl Hoax era with today’s England.
It is easy to understand why the American version resonated so powerfully in 1993. At the time, the “women are victims, men are brutes’ style of feminism was all the rage…
The motives behind the British scare are harder to fathom. It was not the work of feminist hard-liners but rather of a network of government bureaucrats, social-service workers, police personnel, and public officials — including the new home secretary, Theresa May.
From where I sit, the motives of the British purveyors of the myth aren’t hard to fathom at all. They are in fact the same motives that spurred American feminists and “journalists” to action. But now it’s 17 years later and “women are victims and men are brutes” has moved up the food chain. The people who peddled that nonsense years ago and their disciples now occupy positions of power in government from whose proud towers they look down on the rest of us. What was once fringe-element ranting is now public policy. That’s what happens when we give a pass to lies.
How would it be otherwise? DV is big business. In the U.S. billions of dollars are spent yearly on anything that even arguably relates to domestic violence, and the U.K. follows suit. So why would the very people who benefit from the notion that women are in constant peril from men do anything to dissuade the public of that notion? Put simply, it’s not in their interest; much that they view as good flows from the concept of a never-ending “epidemic” of DV.
I’m hopeful that some day, people will start to wake up to the obvious contradiction in the DV industry’s claims. We’re asked to simultaneously believe that DV continues unabated and that only the DV industry knows how to fix the problem. But of course if it did, wouldn’t it start showing results at some point? Don’t we have the right to expect the true believers who receive our largesse to actually accomplish something towards diminishing DV? They’ve been at it for almost 40 years. When do the taxpayers start to get something for our investment?
The answer is that the DV industry will never reduce DV. That’s because (a) it has always failed to understand who commits DV and why, and therefore (b) it has no clue about how to address the problem. Until we start demanding results, we’ll keep getting “studies” that are best described as “stunts.” We’ll keep getting mythology dressed up as science. Why wouldn’t we? We’ve never demanded that these people do better.