Battery and rape are crimes that shatter lives; those who suffer must be cared for, and those who cause their suffering must be rendered incapable of doing further harm. But in all we do to help, the most loyal ally is truth. Truth brought to public light recruits the best of us to work for change. On the other hand, even the best-intentioned "noble lie" ultimately discredits the finest of causes.The chapter then proceeds to debunk the claim that "more women are victims of domestic abuse on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year." While it's true that Professor Sommers is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, she's still right about truth and the "noble lie".
Writing as someone who routinely works to undermine wingnut advocacy by unearthing the misinformation being used to support its positions, it was sad to see a local dispute erupt between a pair of bloggers both of whom I admire and respect.
For those who don't know, Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania CEO Heather Arnet recently had a letter in the P-G in which she applauded Pitt's decision to fire Michael Haywood, Pitt's newly hired football coach, after his arrest in Indiana on domestic abuse charges. In the letter (it's the beginning of the second paragraph, by the way) she wrote:
Domestic abuse is the number two killer of women in this country.Setting aside the worthwhile discussion of the wisdom of Haywood's firing - on the one hand Haywood's only been accused, not convicted, of any crime but on the other had Pitt not fired him, the PR nightmares would have continued at least until he was either convicted or fired - it's Arnet's claim above that triggered the local blogger dispute.
First, my friend Chad Hermann responded with a fact-check and found that Arnet's claim was simply wrong.
Turns out that according to the FBI, there are about 1,200 deaths of women per year due to domestic violence and (extrapolating from the CDC's numbers) there's 264,000 or so deaths of women per year from Cancer (their #2 cause). With about 314,000 Heart Disease was the CDC's #1 cause of deaths of women per year. Chad recapped:
Cancer – 264,000In response to one friend's fact-check, another friend, Ms Mon at Ms Mon's Salon, responded. While admitting that Arnet's facts are "soft" and that many of Chad's points are "valid" she, quickly and unfortunately, departs from the argument at hand:
Domestic Violence – 1,200
The numbers are so close, you can see how Ms. Arnet might have gotten them confused. I mean, what’s a little factor of 220 among friends and advocates and peddlers of inveterate poppycock?
But his determined discrediting of the statistics are so palpable, they seem more like his own desperate attempts to prove that women are full of hokum, instead of, say, offering illumination as to why women are a tad sensitive about the subject. I guess when you have to make up for so many thousands of years of privileged, white, male subjugation, you can't be bothered with those kinds of details.Looking at his blog post, I am not sure I see the same things Ms. Mon sees (that he's attempting to prove that women are full of hokum) - but that's OK. There's no reason in the world why my reading of his blog post should take precedence over anyone else's.
However, she effectively changed the subject from the one Chad was making, which was that Arnet's assertion that domestic violence was the number two cause of death among women in this country was simply wrong.
And he was right. One can argue with the tone of his blog post but one can't argue with the facts he's presented there. She was simply wrong about the cause of death among women and I'd have to agree with Chad that the error was so wrong that it undermines the credibility of the letter as a whole and, unfortunately, the letter writer.
Domestic violence is very very bad. It is a serious problem that always requires serious attention. Its victims need to be cared for and treated respectfully and its perpetrators need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. A truly civilized society should demand no less.
No matter how well intentioned, in the end a noble lie only discredits the cause it's being used to support.