Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things That Make Me Cranky: #269

Oh, New York Times, you've let me down. So seldom do you make me cranky! So frequently do you provide delicious distraction from my work! So comforting do I find the liturgy of the unfolding of your sections!

Why, oh why, in that very interesting article on Marin Alsop (an article which made so many intriguing points I may have to pontificate about them later) did you stoop to the following paragraph:

In the field of early music there seem to be significantly fewer impediments to women [conductors]. Conductors like Jane Glover and Emmanuelle Haim have had busy careers. Ms. Haim is now conducting Handel's "Giulio Cesare" with the Lyric Opera of Chicago...

I could go on, but it hurts too much. Why? Because Anthony Tommasini is perpetrating the kind of malfeasance that's plagued science writing for years, the kind that makes me so irritable my eyes cross. Yes, it's the good ol' evidentiary bait and switch.

Let's look closely at the paragraph in question. It starts with an assertion. In the field of early music there seem to be significantly fewer impediments to women [conductors]. Hmm. OK, interesting assertion; so far so good.

Now, boys and girls, what do we do with assertions? Yes, you're absolutely right: we support assertions with evidence. Most often, we handily position the evidence directly after the assertion so as to idiot-proof our logic.

OK, so inserted neatly after our assertion comes the following: Conductors like Jane Glover and Emmanuelle Haim have had busy careers.

But wait! This isn't evidence, or if it is, it isn't evidence for what Tommasini's asserting. Does he offer numbers, or probing anecdotes, or a disquisition on WHY early music is friendly to women taking the podium. No! He offers us nothing more than names of two female conductors who have conducted early music.

ARG!!!! First of all, I could offer you the names of two female conductors who have conducted modern orchestras; then our numbers would be even. Maybe Tommasini's thinking about proportional representation at the podium (the percentage of conductors in early music who are female vs. the comparable modern percentage) but he doesn't say so. And if he were looking at proportion, he'd have to consider the gender ratios of his pools: does the field of early music attract more women of every stripe? But the real problem is that Tommasini's assertion wasn't about how many female conductors there are in actuality. It was about impediments to female conductors. Sure Glover and Haim are conducting, but that says absolutely nothing about whether or not they faced impediments along the way.

No, Tommasini offers us an assertion and then only PRETENDS to back it up with evidence. What he's actually backing it up with is bilgewater. And thus the evidentiary bait and switch. WHICH HE IS NOT ALLOWED TO PULL BECAUSE HE WRITES FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES!! I can pull that crap if I want, but that's because I write for a blog. My blog. With a readership of seven.

I have to go lie down now. Fie on you, Anthony Tommasini.


Fipher said...

You don't think you're a tiny bit over agitated about this? I understand your complain, it's very reasonable, but I find it odd that you think it merits such a long rant.

Of course you can complain about what you want at any length you want, I just wanted to quickly point out that there are many much worse things in life.

Anne said...

Ah, but it's so much less fun to complain about the important stuff...

Fipher said...

I suppose so.