If I wanted to be glib and a bit rude, I could joke that, while the Registry of Deeds was very important in 1825, much of the Registry’s role of “keeping the residents of Suffolk County’s real estate records safe and accessible” could today be largely replaced by a secure file cabinet and a Google doc. But I don’t want to be glib and minimize/oversimplify the role of the county office (even if I’m willing to be a bit rude), so I will refrain from making that joke.
Instead, I will let the current Suffolk County Register of Deeds, Stephen J. Murphy, provide us with the cringe-worthy lines. Some might recall that Register Murphy spent nearly twenty years on the Boston City Council, including three years as Council President (as well as a 2002 run for Massachusetts state treasurer), before losing his at-large seat in the 2015 election and turning to the Register’s office for his sinecure**. It appears that Register Murphy’s ability to handle social media interactions pre-dates the year 2000 (and better befits a middle school-aged troll than a county-wide elected official), and his grasp of concepts like privilege pre-dates the year 1955. (**I also recognize that “sinecure” is very much a Howie Carr type of word and I already hate myself for using it.)
Yvonne Abraham chronicled Register Murphy’s recent, quite revelatory interaction on Facebook, along with his sexist, vulgar tirade:
Last week’s mess began with a Facebook post by women’s activist Judy Pineda Neufeld decrying the abortion ban [in Alabama, as well as similar actions emerging in other states] as “unforgivable. This is why we need more women in office,” she wrote.
This is an uncontroversial view in these parts: Obviously, a legislature that includes more women will better reflect their interests, and enact more enlightened policies for everyone.
But Murphy was offended. Though he is pro-choice, he called Neufeld’s post “emblematic of what’s wrong today,” going on to say, “This practice of voting for someone because of their sex is misguided!”
Several women then tried to calmly explain the importance of more equal representation, urging Murphy not to take it personally, but to use his privileged position to be a good ally. But he wasn’t having it. “I don’t have any privilege!” he shot back. “There are extremists on both sides.”
As Progressive Massachusetts’ Jonathan Cohn tweeted:
“I don’t have any privilege!” — old white Irish guy in Boston who holds an office that is stunningly overpaid
I say not to exonerate Murphy but to further condemn him that he clearly commits the anachronistic sin of conflating the concept of privilege with the -ism at play (be it sexism, racism, or any other form of bigotry). In the original exchange on Facebook, Murphy’s exclamation that he doesn’t “have any privilege” is followed by the statement that “I grew up in public housing.” Murphy simply doesn’t comprehend that, even if his origin includes the absence of one particularly type of privilege (for instance, wealth), he can still enjoy many other forms of privilege (for instance, white privilege, male privilege, and, eventually, power privilege that comes from his decades-long role as an elected official, as well as wealth privilege later in life). He also doesn’t comprehend that enjoying male privilege is not what inherently makes a sexist man sexist – rather, the privilege exists solely by way of being male, and that men can proactively use that privilege to be anti-sexist. He wrongly thinks that the acknowledgment of male privilege is the equivalent of an accusation of sexism. Alas.
Yvonne Abraham, Boston’s finest columnist for some time, chronicled more of the exchange from Murphy, redacted expletives and all. At one point, Murphy charges that those who think that better representation among our elected officials leads to better public policy are “part of a group of strident bullies who all need to shut their pie holes!” Yup, Suffolk County Register of Deeds Archie Bunker told the lady-folk (and the men who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them) in the year of our Lord two-thousand nineteen that they “need to shut their pie holes,” exclamation point. [sigh.]
Abraham then relays the aftermath of the exchange – I strenuously encourage you to read her entire column and give it the clicks and shares it sincerely richly deserves. Abraham notes that, *after* she contacted Murphy for comment about his Facebook, um, dialogue, but before her column landed on our beloved worldwide web, he posted an apologia to his Facebook page.
However, even his apologia was misleading. As Abraham notes in her column, “‘The back and forth got out of hand for all involved,’ he claimed, even though it was Murphy alone who initiated hostilities, after which the women demonstrated saintly patience.” I have personally seen screencaps of the entire original Facebook exchange, and Yvonne Abraham is 100% correct. As I noted in my public Facebook comment to Murphy’s apologia:
For those who care about such things, Stephen J. Murphy’s post here is dishonest where he says “I was wrong to react, respond, and partake in the name-calling and profanity.” He didn’t merely react to, respond to, or partake in name-calling and profanity, as though there was a bunch of name-calling and profanity going on and he just got swept up in it and joined in. He initiated the name-calling and profanity, and was the one to elevate the tension in every exchange. Steve, if you’re going to apologize, apologize for what you actually did, instead of trying to minimize the offense and mislead people who are hearing about it second- and third-hand. For a county-wide official to behave in such a sexist, aggressive, and vulgar way – and then to misrepresent the situation after – you really ought to resign. You won’t, I’m sure. But you ought to.
So, in a nutshell, Suffolk County Register of Deeds Stephen J. Murphy went on someone else’s Facebook page to decry equal representation, diminishing it as nothing more than harmful “identity politics,” initiated vulgarities, attacked advocates of equal representation among our elected officials, elevated hostilities rather than using the opportunity to learn anything meaningful and engage in actual substantive dialogue, and bolted like a common social media troll, only to lie about the specifics of his behavior after the fact on his own Facebook page. It is a needlessly disgraceful display from someone who has served as an elected leader in our Commonwealth’s capital city for more than two decades in municipal and county office.
Murphy ought to resign in disgrace over this episode. I don’t imagine, however, that he will sacrifice his sinecure (ugh, there’s that word again!) out of something as fundamental as mere shame. Further (I have only learned/realized this very morning), that the Register of Deeds’ term is six years long, and the next election isn’t until 2024, with Murphy having won re-election just last year. I’d presume, given the length of time between now and his next opportunity for public accountability at the ballot box, that Murphy will choose to hunker down in his overpaid office and simply let the clock continue to tick away. I hope, however, that folks will remember this episode should Murphy deign to run again a half-decade from now, or that the shame of it all will amply twinge inside Murphy’s extremely privileged conscience and he will muster the decency to call it a career and resign his office, stepping away in favor of needed self-reflection.
I despise the views offered by Mr. Murphy.
Still, this excerpt from Ms. Abraham’s column exemplifies my issue with journalists in Massachusetts today:
Even worse is the lead of that same piece:
Ms. Abraham might well be “Boston’s finest columnist for some time”. I’ve been saying the same thing for years here on these pages. Except that, in my opinion, this is an observation about the abysmal state of Boston’s columnists today.
The appalling Alabama abortion ban is supported by a majority of Alabama women. This has been demonstrated elsewhere here at BMG and extensively documented in the mainstream media — including the New York Times (which I expect any Boston Globe columnist to read daily), It is, therefore, not at ALL obvious to anyone paying attention to actual facts that including more women in the Alabama legislature will result in “more enlightened policies for everyone”. The legislative sponsor of the Alabama bill is a woman. The governor who signed the bill into law is a woman.
Current opinion polling of Alabama women suggest that electing more women to the Alabama legislature could well make that legislature MORE, rather than less, likely to enact abhorrent and intrusive legislation like this.
This women-are-always-better-on-abortion trope is an example of trite and shoddy identity journalism at its worst. The issue in Alabama is the abhorrent intrusion of religious extremism into the day-to-day life of every man, woman, and child in Alabama. The issue in America is that this toxic poison is spreading throughout the land. The gender of the Alabama legislature is a distraction. The claim that electing more women will improve the situation is pure prejudice demolished by even cursory examination of polling data.
If Ms. Abraham were a fine columnist, she would target the actual issue. Instead, she leads with an irrelevant cheapshot and follows up with sexist prejudice.
It’s another example of what makes a Boston Globe subscription such a waste of money.
Though the Alabama ban legislation’s sponsor was a (white) woman and the Governor who signed the bill into law was a (white) woman, may I ask for a citation for your assertion that the ban “is supported by a majority of Alabama women.”? (I just haven’t seen such a poll. The polling I’ve seen suggests otherwise.) I would further add that it sounds like your comment reads “women” where you may specifically mean “white women.” But I am eager to see your citation.
Ask and ye shall receive (emphasis mine):
An example of the polling data I’m using is this 2014 Pew poll of Alabama voters:
So a large majority of Alabama voters (58/37) believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and 51% of that large majority are women.
I note that inverting these probabilities yields:
19.6% Alabama women voters believe that abortion should be legal
29.6% Alabama women voters who believe that abortion should illegal
39.8% of Alabama women voters believe abortion should be legal
60.2% of Alabama women voters believe abortion should be illegal.
We went over much of this discussion in another BMG thread.
I haven’t made any assumptions about race in my commentary.
The bottom line is that Ms. Abraham’s assertion about women in Alabama is egregiously incorrect, and Ms. Abraham should have known that. The column is a reflection of her bias — it bears little resemblance to reality.
I’d hold off on the “egregiously incorrect” and “bears little resemblance to reality” – the poll you cite notes that a majority of Alabama women identify as pro-life and think abortion should be illegal in all/most cases” (focus on the “most” for the moment). The poll I cite notes that the vast majority of respondents support exceptions for victims of rape and incest. These data can co-exist – and, further, supports Yvonne Abraham’s point. Perhaps if Alabama’s legislature was majority women, abortion restrictions would still have passed, but perhaps any bill would have, at the very least, included exceptions pertaining to rape and incest – a profound difference. Based on both polls, that seems like the most logical conclusion. The related trend is noteworthy: “States passing abortion bans have among the lowest rates of women in power”
As for representation, more generally speaking, here’s an interesting anecdote.
-Last month, Bernie took some heat for validating a right-wing talking point on abortion (pertaining to the nonsense about “post-birth abortions”) at his Fox News Town Hall.
-This very morning, Bernie did it again, validating a right-wing talking point on abortion (pertaining to sex-selective abortions being a serious issue in America) on Meet the Press.
This doesn’t mean other men don’t get it right. This doesn’t mean that some women might not get it right. But, when we see all of the male lawmakers who regulate reproductive rights while making clear that they don’t understand the science of pregnancy or day-to-day life with the menstrual cycle or related pregnancy issues, well, it’s really, really stark, and it does make clear that representation does matter.
I think you’re inventing things that aren’t in the polling data.
First, the poll you cite is sponsored by Planned Parenthood — not exactly an unbiased source. More importantly, the data I see in the link shows no breakdown between men and women.
If Ms. Abraham had offered any of the nuance of your column, I would not have been as harsh in my criticism. Let me remind you of her words:
The claim Ms. Abraham is making is NOT obvious. You’re doing rhetorical handsprings in an attempt to make it even be true.
First, Ms. Abraham offers what amounts to a tautology:
“Obviously, a legislature that includes more women will better reflect their interests,” It’s the next phrase that is the clinker: “… and enact more enlightened policies for everyone.” Nope. The polling data says that putting more women on the Alabama legislature would change absolutely nothing.
You cite a Planned Parenthood poll that suggests support for exceptions, but provides no data about women voters at all. I cited a poll where a majority of Alabama women agree with the following statement:
“Abortion should be illegal in all/most cases” I suggest that the exceptions you offer are included in the “most” branch of “all/most”.
The claim made by Ms. Abraham is that more women in the Alabama legislature would cause the Alabama abortion legislation to be less extreme. That is what we’re talking about here.
Bernie Sanders is irrelevant, The medical incompetence of male legislators is irrelevant. We are talking about the assertion that electing more women to the Alabama legislature would have changed this anti-abortion legislation in any meaningful way. There is no data to support that assertion.
The point remains that a majority of Alabama WOMEN support this legislation. Ms. Abraham made a claim that the polling data refutes.
I stand by my criticism of the column.
There aren’t any rhetorical handsprings. Legislation that includes exceptions for rape & incest is more enlightened than legislation that doesn’t include such exceptions. (It’s not enlightened enough, but for the sake of argument, it’s more enlightened than not having the exceptions.) Given that 91% of rape victims are female, it isn’t a tautology on this point, but acceptable common sense when it comes to this point. If you consider that a “rhetorical handspring,” I don’t know what to tell you. And, again, how a poll question is worded makes a significant difference – the poll you cited, while certainly on topic, is not necessarily determinative on the specific legislation, if you’re looking to split hairs.
The handsprings I’m talking about are pivoting away from a poll from a neutral source with actual data about actual women in Alabama to a poll from Planned Parenthood with no data about women at all. The poll I cited is worded to include the exceptions you describe: “Abortion should be illegal in all/most cases”.
You have presented no data to show that having more women in the Alabama legislature would result in less restrictive legislation.
[facepalm emoji] I’m repeating now, so this will be my last reply, but the poll you cited, again, while clearly on topic, does *not* explicitly “include the exceptions.” (And, I don’t know if you’re suggesting PP is doctoring their polling or what…) However, looking back at the original post, you have given us all an object lesson in derailing. So, that’s good. If “representation doesn’t matter” is the hill you want to rhetorically die on, cool. We’ll just disagree, I suppose.
I didn’t say it was explicit.
Is there something about about “most” that is difficult to understand?
Indeed, I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. You’re complaining about my cite of a poll because it uses the more general term “most”, while ignoring the reality that the poll you cited doesn’t even attempt to break down support by gender.
The point you and Ms. Abraham were trying to make is the claim that Alabama WOMEN do not support this legislation. With or without your facepalm, you still haven’t supported your claim.
Oy. I’ll chime in one last time to answer another of your questions that should be pretty obviously common-sensical:
“Is there something about about “most” that is difficult to understand?”
Do you actually think respondents to a poll will respond in an *identical* way every single time to the questions:
-Do you think abortion should be banned in most situations?
-Do you think abortion should be banned for rape victims who become pregnant as a result of being raped?
If you don’t think the word “rape” being in the question would at least somewhat impact responses compared to the word “most,” then again I suppose we’ll just disagree. (How a question is asked matters. Explicit mention matters.) Now, I’m really, really done with this string. 🙂
Of course responses will vary. I suspect we agree more than we disagree about most of this.
I find the PP poll more like “push polling”, precisely because of concerns such as the language you cite.
I share your contempt for Mr. Murphy’s conduct. I wish you had a chosen a different column and columnist to cite in your thread-starter.
I’m saying that PP structured the poll to get the results they wanted. It happens all the time — sort of how climate change “research” funded by big oil never seems to show a problem.
How is this derailing? Your cite of Ms. Abraham plays a prominent role in your thread-starter. You characterize her as “Boston’s finest columnist for some time” My objection is epitomized in the LEAD paragraph of the column you cite.
I get that you’re unhappy that I dispute the central theme of your column. That isn’t “derailing”, it’s disagreeing.
(Psssst, my blog post is about Murphy’s conduct. You made your focus about Abraham’s word choice. In other words, the “central theme of my column” is Murphy’s conduct, not Abraham’s word choice. #derailing)
I share your contempt for Mr. Murphy’s conduct.
Screenshots of what?
Of the facebook conversation this is all about.
Ah. I ditched Facebook because it so aggressively shares private information, so I can’t help.
He got more worked up than he should have, especially for a public official, but his thoughts on identity politics and privilege aren’t THAT out of line IMO and certainly not worthy of resignation. Also, I don’t know how Murphy handles his position well enough to comment in his case, but I can assure you my own Register of Deeds, Dick Howe, does not treat his office as a sinecure. He takes it very seriously and has done lots of great work modernizing the office.
If you think the call for resignation is about his “thoughts on identity politics and privilege” and not his conduct (the expletives and “shut your pie hole” and on and on, and the sexist disrespect that the conduct suggests, and then his dishonesty about the episode after the fact), I would respectfully urge you to re-read Yvonne Abraham’s column.
I rarely think words are a resignable offense, just on principle. Of course, the voters are welcome to decide at election time if such comments merit denying him re-election.