You almost have to feel sorry for actress Patricia Arquette, who thought she could dump a phony “War on Women” statistic and declare her allegiance to Correct Thinking in her Oscar acceptance speech, collect a round of applause from the Right People, and bask in her reinforced sense of moral superiority until her pores opened up. She ended up fending off attacks from a swarm of grievance-mongers who castigated her for not bringing up their social-justice complaints too, in a speech they evidently thought was supposed to last longer than the movie she appeared in.
Arquette must have been tempted to hiss at the whiners, “Shut up! Can’t you see I’m trying to do the Party a favor here? Play along, and you’ll be rewarded when Madame Hillary has the Oval Office!” The Obama political machine acted with suspicious synergy to capitalize on her big moment, pumping out a stream of online propaganda using the discredited “women make 78 percent of what their male counterparts make,” which the Democrats continue to repeat no matter how often it’s exposed as a fraud.
Objective truth and rational analysis aren’t supposed to matter when you have super-good liberal intentions. “Don’t Tear Down Patricia Arquette For a Well-Intentioned Speech,” pleaded Time, making this mindset about as obvious as it’s ever been. It doesn’t matter if she’s objectively wrong about her facts, or if she nattered about “rights” in a way that would make the Founding Fathers wonder if she understood the meaning of the word. Her intentions were good, and if you have any qualms about what she said, you must hate women and want to enslave them, and not in the fun “Fifty Shades of Grey” way.
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” declared Arquette. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” Leaving aside the question of what role men played in the birth of those taxpayers and citizens, and the fact that Arquette is leaving out the abortion-supporting feminists and illegal alien constituencies in her battle cry (how exclusionary!) it’s long past time we got the machinery of due process churning for these social-justice accusations. The American people are routinely punished by Big Government liberals for these collective “crimes,” with guilt presumed and innocence impossible to prove. We don’t even get to hear the exact charges.
Which brings us back to that 78-cents-on-the-dollar “pay gap” statistic. It’s the perfect example of an accusation made false by its lack of specifics, a tactic that would never fly in a court of law. Criminal prosecution is supposed to demand specific charges, hard evidence of wrongdoing, and malevolent intention. “Social justice” is all about elevating a grievance to the status of collective crime without any of that troublesome legal business, and giving the Big Government Robocop whatever armaments he requires to take down the perpetrators: anyone who doesn’t donate money to the correct political parties and causes.
The key fallacy in “pay gap” rhetoric is that it doesn’t compare men and women with equal choices of profession, hours worked, and risks taken. Control for those factors — with due respect paid to the demands of childbirth — and the pay gap vanishes. Fiery rhetoric like Arquette’s strongly implies that some malicious conspiracy is deliberately exploiting women — there’s no other way to interpret the assertion that their “rights” are being violated. Of course, everyone who sat through the dreary feminist component of the 2012 presidential campaign knows that the name of the game is making women, especially young single women, feel frightened and angry enough to support the statist Democrats who promise them redress. That’s why a millionaire actress can shout this stuff, to thunderous applause from other millionaire actresses, without anyone involved feeling a tiny bit self-conscious. They come from a political tradition that is comfortable with “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy and social-justice crusades conducted from the backs of limousines. The environmentally-minded among them have no problem showing up at global-warming seminars in private jets.
In this case, the irony noted by many critics of the Democrats’ latest “War on Women” campaign is that two places you can make a strong case for a real wage gap — women paid substantially less for doing exactly the same work as men — are Obama’s White House and Hollywood. (As if any further evidence of the Hollywood pay gap was needed, the Sony email hack put some uncomfortably direct private discussions of actress compensation into the public domain.) You’re never going to get the attention of activists by pointing that out, though. Their political tradition also stipulates generous exceptions to all of their alleged principles for the left-wing aristocracy. They’ll never hold Vice President Joe Biden to the standards of conduct they would inflict on any male CEO or Republican politician, for example.
It’s not just a matter of aristocratic privilege when it comes to something like the pay gap, because another element of liberal thinking is their primal belief that politics defines character. That’s one of the reasons you’re not supposed to hassle a righteous liberal with pesky little details like “your statistics are bunk” — they care so damn much about all the right things that challenging their character with such questions is an insult. Also, this means people with the correct politics cannot be guilty of the vague crimes liberals would punish the rest of us for. Obviously Barack Obama doesn’t “hate women” — he’s a liberal Democrat in very good standing! — so the pay gap in his White House must be some weird anomaly that has nothing to do with the sort of vicious patriarchal exploitation that needs to be crushed beneath another ten thousand pages of regulations and ten billion dollars in taxes.
The American people are paying awfully high penalties with very real dollars for vague “crimes” that are never defined beyond the assertion that inequality of result must equal “unfairness,” and the State must therefore be empowered to make everything fair. There will always be plenty of eager customers for snake-oil medicine to cure “unfairness.” They gather around the medicine wagon waving fistfuls of other peoples’ money, applauding every big promise from the peddler, without asking any tough questions about how thoroughly his or her concoction has been tested, or what happened to the last people who drank it.
We live in an Empire of Grievance now, where activists squabble over which victim group gets to take the spotlight at any given moment. We’ve got a President who thinks the Empire of Grievance should span the globe, with a patient audience given to everyone who has a beef against the United States or Western civilization in general (by all means, if you’re still bent out of shape about the Crusades, step right up and let us hear about it!). Working hard and playing by the rules is for chumps — what you really need to do is round up some activists, pick a good celebrity sponsor, and get your share of redistributed satisfaction from the Ruling Class. Steamroll those who object to your quest for social justice by interpreting every tough question as an insult to everyone who looks like you.
It’s not going to stop until the American people become very hard-nosed about asking for specific charges — who, exactly, is taking away “rights,” how are they doing it, and why? In the absence of due process, these social-justice crusades are all about compelling obedience to an agenda, not respecting the rule of law. If the mythical “pay gap” is resolved by some sort of legislation that forces employers to abandon all forms of rational discretion over compensation — no extra pay for risks taken, long hours worked, or difficult occupations chosen — neither men nor women will be happy with the poorer but “fairer” nation that results.