March 12, 2016

Fact-Checking Milo Yiannopoulos

A few weeks ago, Milo Yiannopoulos gave a talk at Pitt.  It was part of his "Dangerous Faggot" tour.

Before we go any further, let me point out something very important here.  Yiannopoulos uses a few words that some (if not all) of my readers will find distasteful if not downright offensive.  They are words that are in his vocabulary not in mine and by quoting him, I am not condoning their use, I am simply attempting to be as accurate as possible.

Yiannopoulos has every right to be as offensive as he wishes to be.  Just as I have every right to call him on it and to point out what is factually inaccurate/contradictory about what he says (more about this later).

But let's take a step back and start with the coverage in the Pitt News:
With shouts of support for Donald Trump intermixing with middle fingers raised in silent protest, Pitt students both applauded and decried Milo Yiannopoulos’ meditation on free speech Monday night in the William Pitt Union.

College Republicans brought the gay, British sociopolitical activist to the Assembly Room at 9 p.m. Yiannopoulos’ speeches at other universities around the country have garnered protests, fights and rallies because of their highly controversial content: Yiannopoulos argues free speech should have zero limits.

“I’ve taken it upon myself to go through life as offensively as possible,” Yiannopoulos said.

As an example, Yiannopoulos asked the crowd of more than 350 people if any of them believed “that women are paid less to do the same work” as a man. When several audience members shouted, “Yes,” in return, Yiannopoulos had only one word for them:


In response, about 10 people got up and stood at the front of the stage, shouting, “Two, four, six, eight — stop the violence, stop the rape.”
The Pitt News has made a teensy mistake.  As you can see from the video (which you can watch, if you so desire, here) Yiannopoulos does NOT respond to their answer with the "one word" idiots.  He simply declares (with out evidence, by the way) that they are "very dumb."  I realize the two are synonyms but to my friends on the Pitt News, if you're going to quote someone, you'd better make sure you're using the exact words they use (especially if there's video of that person saying them).  He did use the word "idiots" when point out the "social justice warriors" in the room.  But that was at a slightly different time.  Different enough that it's not an accurate quote.

Again - a teensy mistake.  You're forgiven.

But it's at that point when, after chanting the "stop the violence, stop the rape" chant, those protesters are escorted away from the front of the room. 

The Pitt News reports that the Police escorted 17 protesters out.  They don't say whether that was the same group that was led away from the front of the room.  If it was, they missed this portion of Yiannopoulos talk (This is my transcription.  It starts about 11 minutes in and it's as complete as I can get it):
Why am I considered dangerous?  Well I don't say very nice things about lesbians.

[Crowd laughter]

By the way, I'd like to say that most of the things I say about lesbians, aside from the sort of pleasure cruises, cat piss and knitting needles (all of which are horrible generalizations which I should be ashamed of), most of the things I saw are in support of women.

I don't want women to get drawn into lesbianism.  That is, of course, how lesbianism works.  For women have a much more malleable sexuality than men do.  They're much more likely to have relationships with women, [than have] relationships with men.  I don't want women to get drawn into lesbianism, for a variety of reasons.  The lesbian obesity epidemic is one of them.  The federal government spent three million dollars last year working out why you're all so fat.

[Crowd noise and laughter]

I mean they spend the money on these things, not me.

There is, of course, the domestic violence epidemic.  Do you know about this?  The lesbian domestic violence epidemic?  I wrote about it very sensitively last year in a column entitled "Attack of the Killer Dykes."

[Crowd laughter]

They beat the shit out of each other.

And of course the last thing.  And this is something we should talk about in the Q&A.  The campus rape culture.  There is only one respect in which there is a serious culture of rape on campuses and I sort of gave you the answer already.  Do you know what it is?

It's lesbians.

When you look at Department of Justice statistics - you see people like me actually look at numbers rather than just say "we're offended" or apply to - appeal to grievance culture or some other sort of bollocks to make ourselves feel better or to make people feel bad - some of us actually look at the data, the numbers.  When you do that the Department of Justice figures suggest, well they say, that the women who identify themselves as victims of sexual assault vastly disproportionate identify as lesbians.

Now there's only two explanations for this.

One is that straight men are specifically going out and seeking lesbians to sexually abuse, which seems unlikely considering how they look, [Crowd noise and some laughter] the other explanation is that lesbians are raping each other at almost unprecedented rates.  Rates similar to the Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war.

Let me restart the joke from earlier because it was great - it suggests that the only consent that lesbians are familiar with is co-signing at the Subaru dealership.

If there is a campus rape culture it is not a problem of male-on-female crime, rape's been going down for thirty years, the campus is the safest place for a young woman to be, it's a lesbian [problem].
And that's only about 15 minutes in.  Basically, if I am to understand the above, doesn't want women (of "malleable sexuality" or otherwise) to be "drawn into lesbianism" because they'll get fat and then get physically abused by other lesbians.  Beyond his obvious narrow-minded and childish insults, there's a lot to deal with here.

But is any of what he asserts true?

Did the government spend $3 million last year to study obesity among lesbians?

Well, yes and no.  Here's the Washington Post:
The federal government spent millions of dollars in recent years researching why lesbians have a higher obesity rate than heterosexual women and gay men, according to funding records.

The ongoing National Institutes of Health study, now in its fourth year and scheduled to last another two, has cost about $3 million to date, the Washington Free Beacon reported in a recent article. [Emphasis added.]
So he has the funding wrong as it's $3 million (so far) over four (out of six) years and not simply $3 million last year.  A minor error, but an error none the less, especially since in the video, Yiannopoulos prides himself on actually checking "the numbers."  He got the number wrong.  Sorry, Milo.  Kinda erases a little bit of your credibility.

But there's a bigger issue here - why.  Why study that in the first place?

From the Washington Post:
The project summary says that “racial and socioeconomic disparities are receiving increasing attention” and lesbian obesity is “of high public-health significance.”
I'm not sure why that's funny to Yiannopoulos and his supporters in the crowd - the government studying something of "of high public-health significance.”

But let's move on to his big point - the "lesbian domestic violence epidemic."  Is it a real thing?  Are lesbians "beating the shit out of each other" as Yiannopoulos asserts?  And more importantly, is this violence done at a higher rate than among heterosexual couples, as Yiannopoulos asserts?

For where he bases his argument, we must go to his above mentioned article.  Now remember he's warning about the higher rates of violence among lesbian couples when he writes:
Up to 45 per cent of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner and that 30 per cent of lesbians have reported sexual assault or rape by another woman. And those are conservative figures from a small domestic violence support group.
The link leads to this page where, if you search for "45" (in order to find the source of the "up to 45 percent" figure), you'll find this sentence:
It has been estimated that between 17-45% of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner (Burke et al, 1999; Lie et al, 1991).
I have to point out that while "between 17-45%" can mean "up to 45%", it's not exactly the same thing unless you plow through the studies reference for context.  Is it a bell curve with 17 and 45 on the outer edges?  No way to know - but he did omit, for the sake of his article, the 28 point spread between 17 and 45.  Is most of it in the mid-20s?  Mid-30s?  No way to know but that's a lot of room.  He does say, though, that 45 and 30 percent are "conservative" figures, leaving it to the reader to assume that the "real" percentages are higher still.

That being said, the big takeaway from this page (at least regarding Yiannopoulos assertion of greater violence between lesbian partners) is found in the sentence immediately preceding the stuff he wants you to know.  Here it is:
Perhaps surprisingly, statistics have shown that lesbian people experience domestic violence at a very similar rate to that of heterosexual women (Waldner-Haygrud, 1997; AVP, 1992). [Emphasis added.]
I'm sorry, Milo, but doesn't that completely contradict your overall thesis?  You must've read through that sentence when you were looking for the data that came right after it.  Why didn't you mention this in your article?

Then there's this:
The Huffington Post reported in 2014 that 50 per cent of lesbian women experience one of these Sapphic skimishes (sic) at some point in their lives.
And the link leads you to this sentence at Huffingtonpost:
The percentage of lesbian women who will experience domestic violence (not necessarily intimate partner violence) in their lifetimes. [Emphasis added/]
I'm sorry, Milo, but doesn't that also contradict your thesis?  You said "Sapphic skirmishes" (I am guessing you meant "skirmish" as a "skimish" doesn't seem to be an actual word) but the link says "not necessarily intimate partner" - two different things.  If you're discussing how lesbians in intimate partnerships are beating the shit out of each other you can't use a statistic that doesn't support your thesis to support your thesis.  Do I really have to explain this to you, Milo?

Now, about the "rape culture" on campus.  Milo, are you aware that the CDC reports (this is found in the Executive Summary) that:
Most bisexual and heterosexual women (98.3% and 99.1%, respectively) who experienced rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators. Estimates for sex of perpetrator of rape for other groups (lesbian women, gay and bisexual men) were based upon numbers too small to calculate a reliable estimate and, therefore, are not reportable. [Emphasis added.]
The majority of lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (85.2%, 87.5%, and 94.7%, respectively) who experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators. [Emphasis added.]
Looks like your assertion that "lesbians are beating the shit out of each other" isn't supported by the CDC data.  And since you're the one making the assertion about lesbians abusing each other at "unprecedented" rates, it's up to you to explain the contradictions.  Which one is right and which one is wrong?  And how do you know?  Telling only one side of the story isn't being very accurate is it, Milo?

Or should we just assume, considering all of the above, that you're spinning the few numbers that you do have in order to support your already offensive thesis?

As I said above, Milo, you have every right to assert your case (however offensive it may be) in public but that doesn't shield you from criticism of fudging the data in order to make that case.

And to the protesters who left before Milo got to his lesbian shaming: you missed an opportunity to call him on his bullshit.  Attempting to shut down the discussion by screaming over it only convinces the Milo Yanniopouloses (the Milo Yannipouli?) of the world that you're batshit crazy and that they've been right all along.


Zeus0209 said...

Which body over at Pitt green lighted giving Milo a podium and a mic, because this guy is a gem! Somewhere on campus there's got to be a committee that votes to approve or dis-approve these events. Campus republicans invited him? Was he paid? By whom? (PT Barnum was right). What was spent on auditorium costs, staff and campus police? The heretofore referenced committee at Pitt, you should be ashamed of yourselves. For future reference, the lawn in front of the cathedral also makes a great venue to cater to first amendment rights.

Ol' Froth said...

For some bizarre reason, Yiannopoulous has some sort of cred in the skeptical realm. Personally, I don't get it.

Robo said...

I'm not clear.

So you went to Milo Yiannopoulis' lecture and failed to ask at the Q&A to expound on his statistical claims and scientific studies (he has several he never mentions unless asked -- it's only an hour, you know), and now you believe somehow you have a right to criticize him for it?

Or you did NOT go to his lecture, so his failure to anticipate (mind-read) your skepticism and answer it warrants criticism?

Which is it?

Zeus0209 said...

Nah, I missed the advert of his show, so I pulled up some of his interviews on youtube, post hoc.

Kinda unrelated, but is Milo related to the Kardashians?

Shwetablog said...