A Failure Of Methodology

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” -Benjamin Disraeli

The Daily Beast has done a study to determine which party has more of a problem with sex scandals – Democrats or Republicans. The methodology is so painfully terrible, it burns. They “studied” 58 cases over 20 years. First, they claim that:

“The number sex scandals has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to technology, new press standards and a post-Clinton belief that everything is fair game.”

Their “research” would not, in any way, reach this conclusion. They only studied the last twenty years, meaning they have no comparison to anything prior to that. Secondly (and I know this isn’t the exact point), it could be that more scandals are coming to light, rather than being hushed up. No one really knows.

The article ranked the “bad-ness” of the scandals over all. You can’t really compare the “worse-ness” of things like sexual assault. There is no objective criteria with which to determine whose rape is worse. But if you’re going to start comparing the “worse-ness” of scandals, this article did a terrible job.

Their ranking puts the Clinton-Jones scandal (#2) above the Roosevelt Dobbins (#5), where the state representative had sex with a 17 year old girl and paid her $20 to keep quiet. While Paula Jones may have been harassed, I have a hard time believing that harassing an adult is worse than having sex with a minor. They rank the Daniel Inouye scandal at #11, which involved a competitor running an ad in which a “victim” claimed the senator raped her. According to The Daily Beast‘s own report, the woman didn’t consider the incident rape, was taped secretly, and demanded the ad be pulled. So how is this #11?

They use a variety of criteria to determine which scandals were worse. These include sex with a staffer, because “there’s a clear abuse of power when a politician and his employee is involved in a sex scandal…” That may be so, but there is no differentiation between having sex with an 18 year old intern and the Chief of Staff. If you’re basing this on abuse of power, isn’t taking advantage of a young, impressionable, (likely) poor kid who needs the job a lot worse than sleeping with the person who is likely one of your best friends?

They also include “hypocrisy”, which I find amusing, because aren’t all sex scandals hypocritical? No one runs on a platform of “I’m intending to cheat on my wife.” No one advocates a bill defending sex with an employee. But they don’t seem to break out the worst hypocrisy, things like advocating a ban on gay sex while having gay sex.

Then they include “cuckholding,” which is a married man with a cheating wife. Why the hell is that worse than a philandering husband? Why is this even here?

Also, why is the “cover up” category here? Unless it involves threatening the victim, I’m not sure how that makes things “worse.”

Further, the article doesn’t discuss how these categories were ranked. Is adultery worse than a single person having sex with a prostitute? Is homosexual sexual harassment worse than heterosexual?

I’d actually be interested to read a real article, with quality research on the subject.

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