Why Is Lilly Ledbetter So Important?

Towards the end of the 2012 campaign, the candidates’ views on women’s issues became an increasingly prominent point of debate.  In an effort largely contributed to by democrats, the future of women’s rights become hotly contested.  Democrats touted Obama’s accomplishments in advocating for women’s issues while calling out Mitt Romney on his apparent lack of consideration or knowledge of them.  A significant point raised again and again by Obama’s campaign was that Romney seemed unable or unwilling to answer a simple question: Do you support equal pay for equal work?

Though this focus on women’s issues seems to have come about after the second presidential debate, this particular question has plagued Romney throughout the campaign.  When asked in April if he supported the Lilly Ledbetter act, his response was a disappointing “We’ll get back to you”.  Even after taking time to consider the question, the calculated answer to the campaign was that Romney was not looking to change the law. He didn’t answer as to whether he supports it, or if he would have signed it if he had been president, he merely said that he wasn’t interested in messing with it.

Obama, on the other hand, has never hesitated in his support of the Ledbetter act.  In his “Romnesia” speech, he went to great lengths to explain how equal pay is a no brainer and anyone with common sense should support it.  The democrats used Romney’s reticence on the topic completely against him. They painted him as a fifties era throwback who honestly believed women were happiest in the home caring for their families; that they were unconcerned with pay and grateful merely for a job.  Granted, Romney did a lot to help them create this image, but is it really an accurate picture of the candidate and his views?

In answering this question, it might be helpful to understand more about the Lilly Ledbetter Act itself.  This was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama, and its biggest achievement is removing the 180 day limitation on filing complaints for pay discrimination.  Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at a Goodyear plant and only found out shortly before her retirement- after years of building a career at this company- that she was paid grossly less than her male counterparts.  When she sued Goodyear over this, she eventually lost her case because it had taken her so long to file her complaint.  Surely Ledbetter would have filed a complaint sooner had she known about the discrepancy, but under the law at that time, she had no case.  Her appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it again lost.  In the minority of the vote was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who appealed to Congress to amend the law to give women like Ledbetter better opportunity to seek compensation in situation such as this.  The democrats took the lead on this and Obama signed the law in 2009.

The vote for this law was clearly split along party lines, with almost no republicans supporting it.  Among  republican complaints was the fear that women would use the removal of limitations to wait out employers that were discriminating against them and seek justice with the next administration.  Republicans worried that employers who were not responsible for discrimination would end up paying for their predecessor’s mistakes. At one point, campaign leaders said that Romney was in the majority of republicans who opposed the bill, but later amended their statements to say that he had “never weighed in” on it.

While it was easy to demonize Romney as a bumbling neanderthal with no understanding for women or what is important to them, I think it’s important to understand that in the constraints of the campaign he was attempting to meet the expectations of a much larger group of party officials and high stakes donors and that those expectation dictated every response he made during the campaign.  “Do you support equal pay for women?” may seem like a no brainer when you are answering for yourself, but it becomes a loaded question when you put it in the context of a political campaign. A simple yes answer to this question would have been tantamount to to supporting the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which would have been directly disagreeing- in a very public way- with the majority of his party.  It was easy for Obama to be decisive on this question because his party championed the bill and was on the “no-brainer” side of the answer.  Were the roles reversed, I doubt Obama you have spoken as confidently about protecting employer rights.

I believe the problem here is not women’s rights, or equal pay, or political correctness. The vast majority of American men agree that women should be fairly compensated for their work.  Whether women should receive equal pay is a no brainer.  Obama was right in his speech at GMU, no father actually wants his daughter paid less than a man for the same work.  The problem here really comes down to a political system that is so polarized that it turns every important issue into a dichotomy.  There is a party line on every point of debate, and to stray from it is to be ostracized from the whole. We know that this cannot actually be the case.  There are far more than just two sides to any issue. It’s just as ridiculous for democrats to think that some women won’t exploit the Ledbetter act as it is for republicans to think that all women will.  Bitter party politics have made it so that little meaningful discussion can happen and that is bad for everyone, women included.

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And Obama Won the Internet

I followed Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Twitter for about a day and a half.  I unfollowed them because I didn’t really like listening to what they had to say and I definitely didin’t need it constantly pumped into my timeline.  I did gather a few things from following them however.  First, the people running Obama’s Twitter were far more prolific than those taking care of Romney’s.  Obama out-tweeted Romney by about 8-1.  His tweets were generally more conversational and Romney’s alway sounded kind of stale and scripted.  I say that’s the way they sounded because Romney promptly quit tweeting after he lost the election.  From the beginning Obama has shown a greater mastery of new technology and its potential applications in his campaign and consistently used this knowledge to his advantage over Romney.

It goes beyond Twitter.  A few day’s after the election, my younger sister, an avid Internet user, told me to go to Mitt Romney’s Facebook page and refresh it a few times for a laugh.  Sure enough, each time the page loaded the number of likes on his page had dropped.  A visit to Obama’s page showed his likes increasing.  While this was funny, it raised a few questions.  In a society where digital and social media plays an increasing role, it’s dangerous to discount the credibility of Facebook likes and Twitter followers.  As I watched Romney’s likes fall, I wondered what it was about Obama’s strategy that made him more successful online and how that contributed to the overall success of his campaign.

One thing Obama had in his favor is that he was definitely an early adopter. Obama was making successful use of Twitter in 2008, before social media use had really caught on in the political arena.  During this campaign, he built on that momentum and really built a presence for himself online- live tweeting events, updating on Facebook and even having a question and answer session on Reddit that crashed the site.  People felt like they could interact with the president, or at least his campaign, in a social way, allowing them to feel a personal, albeit virtual connection with him.  As Romney was increasingly characterized as cold and robotic, the president’s presence in social media made him that much more approachable and likable. Obama showed a clear edge over Romney is all social media aspects, and proceeded to use it to his benefit throughout the campaign.

Aside from the candidates’ use of social media, channels like Facebook and Twitter made it possible for constituents to weigh in on issues more than ever before.  Twitter played an especially crucial role in debate discussions.  Rather than having to wait until the next day to discuss the debates with colleagues, people were able to discuss them in real time with people from all over the country via tweets.  Rather than receiving and parroting commentary from pundits on cable news, people were able to create their own, and the Internet definitely felt the effects.  In the particular arena of women’s issues, this was especially clear.  After the first debate, where their issues went unmentioned, women took to social media to express their annoyance (and also their funny commentary).  Their complaints were definitely answered in the second debate, which focused heavily on women’s issues and sparked a social media blitz.

During the debate, Americans were able to critique the candidates’ positions on women’s issues as they answered questions.  The slightest wayward comment was punished immediately.  Women’s issues were the highest trending topic on Twitter at this time, mentioned over 24,000 times per minute at its peak.  Everyone on Twitter, and other social media by extension, appeared to be watching the debate.  When Romney made the now infamous ‘binders full of women’ gaffe, the backlash was instantaneous.  The comment was perhaps not as eloquent or well thought out as it should have been, but what would have been largely forgotten in debates past sparked a digital firestorm that spanned the entire Internet.  With constant access to the Internet, there is no lag time between hearing a tactless comment and unleashing a bitter tirade through numerous feeds.  A sort of hive mentality took over those participating via social media and within minutes, and to a prolific extent over the following days, memes were created, tweets fired off, Facebook pages made, and blogs written all about Romney’s inability to understand or connect with women.

A  unique quality about social media is that, when manipulated correctly, it will appear not to have been manipulated at all.  Obama barely mentioned the binders comment after the debate- he could sit back and let the Internet community tear down Romney for his fifties era ideals and appear to be focusing on the more presidential aspects of the campaign.  Romney definitely put his foot in it, but Obama had already curried favor with the Internet community, a community just looking for a reason to malign his opponent.

It is crucial for political candidates to acknowledge and understand the very real potential social media holds for both good and bad during a campaign.  A Facebook page mocking the binders comment may seem to have been designed merely to mock or insult, but Romney should have been careful not to underestimate the threat it posed.  With literally hundreds of thousands of followers, flocking to the page in little more than twenty four hours after the comment was made, this fan page was reaching a lot of people.  But it is important to remember that its reach didn’t stop with just the fans.  Their followers saw that they followed it or reposted its content and were thereby exposed to a negative view of Romney.  Curious followers may have checked it out and been swayed, following it themselves.  Then all of their followers saw it, and the digital trickle down continued.  Consider that this was only one such Facebook page, and that there were numerous Twitter accounts and other social media and Internet memes cultivating their own followers and you have a very significant number of people exposed to this negative image of Romney.  And the Democrats didn’t even have to lift a finger.

A study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that only fourteen percent of Obama’s social media posts focused on Romney, while an entire third of Romney’s attacked Obama in some way.  Obama didn’t need to break down Romney through his social media outlets; legions of digitally active supporters were there to do it for him.  All Obama had to do was foster the Internet’s good will, and that he did.  Obama’s social media content focuses largely on communicating his message directly to voters, rather than approaching them through the tired old ads that they’re used to.  While many voters are jaded and distrustful when it comes to campaign ads, Facebook and Twitter are relatively novel, allowing followers to feel almost a personal connection with a candidate.  After all, a television ad can’t follow a person back or retweet their content, but social media allows an interactive experience with the a candidate, and that experience allows people to feel as though they are actively involved in the campaign, rather than a gallup statistic.

What’s lost in the digital shuffle is that followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook translate to living, breathing, voting people.  It is becoming increasingly important for candidates to treat the digital community with as much importance as they do primary voters in Ohio or retirees in Florida.  More and more people are choosing to bypass traditional media outlets in favor of the Internet, and candidates must recognize this.  In the 2012 election, Romney’s campaign used a very perfunctory approach to social media.  It never felt like they really embraced it or considered it an important component to the campaign.  Throughout its entirety, Romney’s attitude toward social media use seemed to be a range from your dad trying (and failing) to be hip and your granddad grudgingly forcing himself to get on the computer.  On the other hand, Obama seemed at home on the Internet, something an important core group of voters, namely young people, appreciate.  In 2008, young voters were a crucial part of Obama’s base, and he reached out to them through the channels they helped pioneer.  In 2012 the same approach proved successful again.  Obama seemed like a real person, whose mastery of social media signified an ability to cope with the changing times, while Romney’s reticence made him seem stuffy, old, and all too ready to shoo you off his lawn.

Obama clearly proved to be more proficient in his manipulation of all types of media, and that contributed significantly to his defeat of Romney.  Each campaign decision was carefully calculated in order to earn him the maximum number of votes, and that is quite obvious in his well planned approach to social media.  Obama outpaced Romney on numerous fronts when it came to using the Internet to reach voters.  Obama’s website allowed people to join specific constituency groups to receive specialized content while Romney’s did not.  Obama retweeted his followers, allowing them to feel included in the process, while Romney only retweeted one person during the time of the previously mentioned survey, and that person was his son. Obama embraced social media, posting four times as much contend and using twice as many platforms while Romney appeared to be trying to get by with doing as little with social media as possible.  In the end, Obama won the internet while Romney was sidelined by his own hesitance.

Argument Summary and Analysis- Defining, not realigning: Romney’s 47 per cent victim gaffe by Joshua Tucker

by Jennifer Carter, James! Polhemus, and Bekah Hogue

This article by Joshua Tucker focuses on Mitt Romney’s use of the number 47. Specifically, however, it discusses what he believes about that percentage of Americans:”[They] believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it”; and how he revises this statement promoting the ability of people to “pursue their dreams”.

The article then raises the argument that in order for a country to be successful and productive we the benefits those “47” feel they are entitled to should be “ensured”. These benefits are “the prerequisites” to having a productive country and these “prerequisites” are necessary for “our society to meet its true potential”.  Regarding Romney’s disapproval of rising food stamps, the article claims the rise in food stamp is ensuring that the children of the county are fueled enough so they can reach their potential.

The article compares this statement to President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” gaffe, particularly in how the opposing party can capitalize on this to garner support.   According to research compiled by John Sides, gaffes tend to have little effect on public opinion polls.  Of the three major gaffes of this campaign season – “the private sector is doing fine”, “you didn’t build that”, and Romney’s Libya remarks – only the latter has shown any real shift in opinion (and even then, a lot of that shift is because Obama lost his post-Convention high).

However, Tucker’s argument is hurt by his the way he arranges it.  While it’s not a mistake to acknowledge the counterpoint to one’s own argument, Tucker never really gets around to refuting it.  Instead, Tucker devotes about the last third of his argument to stating how the gaffe might have no effect on the Romney campaign, complete with an illustration demonstrating that.

Furthermore, that graph is sandwiched between two very different, possibly opposing statements:

All that being said, it would be a mistake to overestimate the potential that this gaffe has to fundamentally reshape the election.

and

The bottom line: Romney has once again demonstrated the ability to be his own campaign’s worst enemy.

Tucker fails to support his argument that Mitt Romney has really fucked up his campaign in the latter portion of this article.  Instead, he goes into his conclusion with the audience thinking that the 47% gaffe will not hurt his support.  In other words, Tucker has proven to be his own argument’s worst enemy.

In addition, the argument that Tucker initially begins with comes off as weak. He uses a specific quote from Romney’s video and the revision Romney made and essentially runs with it, disregarding the meaning of the entire “speech” as a whole. Tucker argues for the importance of “prerequisites” such as food stamps and housing based on children’s needs, stating that the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs may be one of those children. But Romney is not addressing the next generation. These children Tucker refers to are not part of that 47% he addresses.  Rather, Romney’s statistic (regardless of how accurate it is) only refers to the electorate.  While one may see the line of thinking that would lead to Tucker talking about children, we feel it is still an unfair extrapolation on his behalf and shamelessly pandering to his audience’s ethos.

Source Analysis:

Romney Video and Mother Jones article– Video and accompanying article as first presented by Mother Jones magazine. What started it all.

Bloomberg Businessweek article–  Tucker cites a quote from Obama campaign manager that is included in this article.  The article itself is an account of the fallout on both sides resulting from the release of the video, as well as a report on the goings on of both campaigns.  The article is fairly straightforward with little bias and a very ‘newsy’ feel.

Newsday article– This AP article on the Newsday Website gives another account of the response to the Romney video, notably pointing out that though this is big news now, it probably won’t make a big impact on the actual election.  Interestingly, this article cites many negative Republican responses to both the video and Romney’s campaign in general.  Tucker uses this article as a source when he claims that Democrats have not ruled out using the Mother Jones video in campaign ads, though I did not see that mentioned when I read through it.  The article does, however, mention that the comments were referenced in a fundraising appeal emailed by the Obama campaign.

Politico article–  This source cites statements Romney made in defense of the remarks made in the video.  The full article details Romney’s response to the remarks and gives background information on how the reporter was able to film them at all.

Yahoo News/Reuters article– Part of Tucker’s argument is that Romney is taking the wrong point of view on many of what he sees as Obama’s problems or mistakes.  Tucker cites this early September article detailing Romney’s critical view of the rise in the use of food stamps during Obama’s first term and then gives readers another way to look at the issue.  This article details Romney’s comments supporting his opinion that the U.S. economy is not better off than where it was when Obama took office because the national debt and number of citizens using food stamps have grown to record numbers.  The article mostly reports Romney’s statements and contextualizes them, giving little of the writers commentary.

MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) News article- This article was published September 17 about residual fallout from Obama’s July 13th “you didn’t build that” speech.  The article summarizes and episode of The Daily Circuit radio program where callers discussed the meaning of Obama’s words and both sides of the controversy surrounding them.

Bloomberg Opinion article– Tucker cites an opinion piece by Josh Barro in which he predicts that the comments contained in the Mother Jones video have killed Romney’s bid for president.

John Sides and The Monkey Cage- Tucker ends his article with the concession that these comments might not be as inflammatory as they’re cracked up to be, and cites a colleague, John Sides, as evidence.  He links to Side’s personal webpage and his blog, The Monkey Cage, to establish his credibility and then cites an article he authored detailing how campaign gaffes really have little discernible impact on the overall results in an election.

Argument Summary and Analysis– Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr

by Bekah Hogue and Roderick Arceneaux

In Nicholas Carr’s piece, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, he makes an argument many people might not ever consider. He claims that the internet has actually affected how human beings process information. He begins to illustrate this point using a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey where HAL, the supercomputer, is being disassembled by the man the machine nearly (purposefully) killed. Carr emphasizes the fact that the computer could “feel” its’ “brain” being taken away as the man stripped it of its memory circuits. This is the tone that Carr sets to then place his theory on the reader.

He explains how his mind has become much more erratic since his use of the internet. “I get fidgety, lose the thread, [and] begin looking for something else to do,” he says. The amount of access to information that people have these days is astounding, and their consumption of it, even greater. He supports this by mentioning how “…hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.”

Carr doesn’t just back up his observation with anecdotes, however. He pulls a scientific study from the University College London that is in line with his assessment. The researchers observed the behavior of visitors to a couple popular sites. They stated,

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

Carr then attempts to explain why this may be occurring in the first place; he says that the human brain is ductile. He introduces a concept called “intellectual technologies” meaning that we essentially embody the technology we possess. Carr uses the mechanical clock as an example of this by saying,

… [It] helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” However, he says that this, along with plenty of other instances in technology, created a powerful dichotomy. “In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses, and started obeying the clock.

The attention is then turned to Google. The creators admit to desiring to devise something just “as smart as people—or smarter.” The developers believe that they are genuinely working on solving the currently unsolvable–artificial intelligence on a gigantic scale. Carr makes a point to mention that the fact they say humans would be “better off” is worrisome.  He concludes this point by saying,

It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized.

At the end, Carr says it’s okay to be “skeptical of [his] skepticism”…but he does leave the piece on a somber note, once again reminiscing of that memorable scene with HAL, warning that it may very well herald a “dark prophecy.”

…as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

The title of Carr’s article is the first and probably most overt clue to what argument he is trying to make.  Is Google making us stupid? The obvious answer might be that Google gives us instant access to all types of information and that that access is surely making us smarter, but that isn’t the conclusion Carr comes to in his article.  The first thing Carr does is share a problem with the audience- he can’t focus on reading.  His first few paragraphs work towards establishing the credibility of this problem and examining the causes behind it.  We get a lot of rhetorical proofing in the process.  For ethos, he tells us he’s not the only one with this problem.  His friends and colleagues- the “literary types”- also struggle with this and so do some impressively credentialed bloggers.  Then he concedes that that’s not enough to really prove anything, so he throws in some logos.  He cites a few studies of internet behavior, giving them as evidence that there is something to the idea that internet use might be changing the way we think and leaving the audience to come to the logical conclusion that he may have a point.

Carr goes on to give a very well researched account of how text on the internet is streamlined to make the browsing experience fast, efficient and optimized for profit.  When he describes how the internet is set up to make other people money and how our critical thinking skills and and attention spans are undercut in the process, he effectively delineates two sides (not necessarily all sides) of this issue and does a pretty good job of getting the reader on his.

He wraps up his argument by describing what we are losing in the shift toward using the internet as our main information source.  He laments the new idea of considering the mind as a computer and bemoans the loss of deep, introspective reading and the intellectual stimulation it provides.  After an article filled with citations from scholarly and scientific sources, he ends with a quote from a playwright, warning of the dangers we face in adapting to a world of “information overload”.  Lastly, he revisits the 2001: A Space Odyssey scene he used to open the article.  He identifies with the computer in the scene rather than the robotic human and seems to suggest that internet immersion is going to cause us to become more machine-like than machines themselves- a definite appeal to emotion.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Book 1, Chapter 9

By Bekah and Michelle for English 3080/Rhetoric, New Media, and Democracy

In Chapter 9 of his Rhetoric, Aristotle seeks to define virtue and vice.  He begins by speaking about virtue.  He argues that what is virtuous is also noble, and then goes on to list a number of traits that he considers to be virtuous, many of which he also qualifies as noble  According to Aristotle:

The components of virtue are justice, courage, self-control, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, practical and speculative wisdom.

He then goes on to elaborate more on these points, and lists their opposites, which he considers vices.

Aristotle makes the point that any component of virtue or acts relating to a component of virtue or acts resulting in a component of virtue, are themselves virtuous.  So, courageous, just, or generous acts are virtuous.  He goes on to explain other virtuous acts, and he describes what makes one act more virtuous than another.

And those things are noble which it is possible for a man to possess after death rather than during his lifetime.

Aristotle stresses that selfless acts and acts done for the sake of others are the most noble and virtuous, while acts or thoughts that cause shame are disgraceful and stem from vice.

As Aristotle continues to define what is noble and virtuous, his claims begin to feel a little outdated by today’s standards.  Aristotle argues that an act can be judged more or less worthy according to the person responsible. For example, the same act performed by a woman is less virtuous than that act performed by a man, because men are worthier than women.  Aristotle also argues that it is nobler (more virtuous) to exact vengeance on an enemy rather than work out differences, a notion that seems totally backwards today. However, he goes on to explain this opinion:

Victory and honor also are noble; for both are desirable even when they are fruitless, and are manifestations of superior virtue.

His explanation seems to justify his point a bit, which may speak more to Aristotle’s own mastery of rhetoric rather than the actual validity of the idea.

As Aristotle continues, he shares the insight that what is considered virtuous might vary by culture and that what and how we praise might differ according to the company a person keeps.  He talks a lot about praise, and warns that we must be careful not to praise things as virtuous when they are not, for example, being foolhardy isn’t exactly being courageous. Aristotle stresses the importance of having a good knowledge of virtue and vice, so that one can give praise or blame without being mistaken.

 

Hello world—err, Engl3080!

Hey y’all!

So I’m Bekah and this is my blog. I have to blog for several classes this semester, but you can filter just the stuff for this class by clicking the “English 3080” link under categories on the left side of the page. I love WordPress and pretty much all things digital so this is really fun for me. If you have any questions, you can ask me! I don’t have all the answers, but I happen to be the queen of google and I will try my best to help figure things out.

Right now I am trying out the WordPress app on the iPad so generously provided to me by GSU for my senior seminar. Did you know that when you check something out from the digital aquarium you agree to pay for it if it is damaged, lost, or stolen AND you indemnify the school should you be injured or killed as a result of using it? If Georgia State isn’t even going to take responsibility if I’m tragically murdered in defense of my school loaned iPad and I’m responsible for the cost anyway you’d better bet I’ll be giving this thing away to the first thug who asks for it.

Though now that I think about, I think the digital aquarium guy said something about getting a police report if it’s stolen and going from there…so maybe the school has some kind of insurance on them? Anyway I don’t expect anything like that to happen in the first place. But it’s kind of funny ( okay, maybe not haha funny) to think about.

In conclusion, the WordPress app for iPad is pretty cool. And I reckon the iPad is cool too and I guess I’m pretty badass since I signed my life away to use it.