Ethics Observations On The Brooklyn Police Shootings

Hands up

Via Vox: Two Brooklyn police officers were shot and killed execution-style today by a lone shooter, an African American male named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had posted two messages on Instagram suggesting that he was putting “wings on pigs today” because “they take one of ours, we take two of them.”  The message was accompanied by hashtags referencing Eric Garner and Mike Brown. The shooter later killed himself, and had allegedly shot an ex-girlfriend as well.

Five Observations:

1. The dangerous escalation of rhetoric and the persistent  misrepresentation of facts by civil rights advocates, activists, journalists and pundits made this kind of episode nearly inevitable. You cannot flood the airwaves with constant references to “police shooting unarmed black men” as if there was an organized racist liquidation of blacks by police in the streets and not risk sparking violence from the hysterical, the deranged, the angry, the lawless and the desperate.

2. The irresponsible “hands up” protests did not cause these deaths, but they probably helped create the conditions that led to them. The shootings of the  two NYPD police don’t make the false “hands up” lie—which continues to assert that Michael Brown was executed when the evidence indicates he was not, and that there was racial bias involved, when there is no evidence of this at all—any more unethical, reckless or irresponsible than it already was. It was wrong from the beginning. It was wrong to assert these things before what happened in Ferguson had been investigated, and it was wrong to keep asserting them after it was clear that they were unsubstantiated or false. It is still wrong. It is still dangerous.

3. The response to the shootings by those who have continued to suggest racist murder by police in specific incidents absent any proof, and in Brown’s death, in defiance of the known evidence, continues the theme. Al Sharpton, who is a prime offender, wrote..

“I am outraged at the killing of 2 police officers in Brooklyn. That is why we stress non violence as the only way to fight for justice.”

Despicable. “Justice,” in this context, suggests that the killings are in response to injustice, and that the injustice is the intentional and racist killing of unarmed black men. Sharpton’s use of “justice” of late is well-publicized: “Justice for Mike Brown, ” “Justice for Eric Garner,” Justice for Trayvon.”  This phrasing, setting off the murders of the police with “fight for justice” continues the lies, misrepresentations and manipulation of public opinion, especially among African Americans. There is no evidence that Brown or Garner, or other shooting victims like John Crawford or 12-year old Tamir Rice were shot because they were black, except that they were black, which for Sharpton and others like Eric Holder, is enough. Each of these is also a separate case in which “justice” is a complicated mess of facts and law, with no societal conclusions to be drawn or clarified by considering them together. Tying them together, as, for example, Rep. John Lewis did last week, will create irrational anger based on false narratives.

Similarly, Ferguson protest leader Deray McKesson tweeted…

“I do not condone the killing of the two NYPD officers today. I do not condone the killing of unarmed black people. I do not condone killing.”

Also despicable. He, like the alleged shooter Brinsley, is drawing a false equivalence between what may be legal shootings by police unrelated to color and the killing of the two officers, who were not black, in response. Mckesson, like Sharpton, like Lewis, like Colbert King in the Washington Post today,  like Cosby accuser Beverly Johnson on NPR and in Vanity Fair, and like so many others equally dishonest and/or irresponsible to continue the “hands up!” myth, are playing with fire.

4. There are respected commenters on Ethics Alarms who have argued passionately that “hands up” is a legitimate rallying cry for reform even if the facts don’t support it in the Brown case. This incident, I believe, shows how naive and dangerous that argument is. False narratives of  gross injustices, capital crimes and racism by the police cannot magically transform into productive platforms for reform and discussion. They sow anger, distrust, violence and hate, and incidents like what happened today in Brooklyn are made more likely as a result.

5. The deaths of police officers in the wake of  the ongoing, high-profile campaign to demonize police and the justice system for political advantage were predictable. More such deaths are also likely, unless the rhetoric from civil rights and political leaders becomes responsible and fairly represents the facts and the law. Public figures, activists and journalists who continue  the “hands up” lie or who link Garner, Crawford, Rice, Brown and Trayvon Martin in a manufactured conspiracy of the justice system to profile and kill unarmed black men are accountable for what happens next.

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: Bitter, Spoilsport, Fuddy-Duddy Republicans and Conservatives

Nope, no Republicans there...

Nope, no Republicans here…

A grand welter of celebrities ranging from Pussy Riot and Paul Krugman to Willie Nelson and Big Bird joined comic Stephen Colbert in his farewell to Comedy Central, as he prepares to step into David Letterman’s shoes and hopes to do a Jimmy Fallon as Dave’s (overdue) replacement, rather than a Conan O’Brien. Obviously the producers and Colbert sought a ridiculously diverse group symbolizing U.S. culture and whimsy, and sent out invitations far and wide. Instead, the got an overwhelmingly liberal and progressive group that may make up half of MSNBC’s total viewership, a group that would almost all have been at home on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.

Don’t blame Colbert. It was clear that ideological animus with Colbert’s almost entirely anti-conservative schtick was no bar to the option of participation. Republicans and conservatives, however, almost unanimously decided to sulk, stay home, and boycott the party. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

WHAT?? Dr. Oz Is A Quack? I’m Shocked!

quack-doctor-788714

I regard Oprah Winfrey’s conduct in the 2006 James Frey scandal signature significance regarding her priorities and character. When it was revealed that Frey’s “memoir,” “A Million Little Pieces,” which Oprah had promoted in her show’s book club, was a near-total fabrication, her immediate response consisted of, in essence, “Who cares,  if people like it?” Then, when the public response to her response was overwhelmingly negative, Oprah turned on a dime and ambushed Frey on the air, condemning him as an unscrupulous fraud. That’s our Oprah.

Oprah has profited by promoting several fakes, frauds and dubious authorities, such as the syndicated Oprah spin-off “Dr. Phil,” featuring a non-doctor who masquerades as a psychologist despite losing his license to practice decades ago. The most successful of all Oprah’s protegés is “Dr. Oz,” or  “America’s Doctor”  Mehmet Oz, now a popular syndicated talk-show host who dispenses medical advice with the aura of a real degree and a convincing air of authority.  When I say popular, I mean it. “The Dr. Oz Show” attracts 2.9 million viewers per day, and ranks in the top five talk shows in the U.S. “I haven’t seen a doctor in eight years,” the New Yorker quoted one fan telling Dr. Oz. “I’m scared. You’re the only one I trust.”

For some reason medical experts have waited over a decade to actually check out the snake oil Dr. Oz has been selling to credulous viewers softened up by Oprah’s House of Truthiness. They were finally roused from their torpor in recent months, after Dr. Oz  appeared before Congress in June and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) knocked him around the chamber, saying that he gave people false hope and that his segments were a “recipe for disaster.” Then, in November, a study he promoted as proving the efficacy of coffee bean weight-loss pills was retracted as junk science.

The British Medical Journal this week published a study analyzing the recommendations handed out on “Dr. Oz” as well as on another popular daytime medical show, “The Doctors.” The study selected forty “Dr. Oz” episodes from last year, and examined 479 separate medical recommendations, comparing them to available medical research. The study found that just 46 % of his recommendations were validated by data, while research contradicted 15%. For 39% of Oz’s advice, there was insufficient research and data to substantiate or debunk his claims. (“The Doctors” fared a little better, but not much.) Continue reading

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Ethics FYI To Hollywood, Pundits And Al Sharpton: There Is Nothing Racist–Or Unethical—About The Hacked Denzel Washington Memo

denzel-washington

Does anybody even bother to think about what racism is any more before accusing people of it? Do journalists think about the circumstances before they parrot knee-jerk accusations of racism from the likes of Sharpton and others? Based on the evidence of reaction to the infamous memo from a Sony honcho regarding the performance of Denzel Washington pictures abroad, apparently not.

Everywhere, this screed by an unnamed Sony executive is being called “shocking,” “unbelievable,” and, of course “racist.” It is nothing of the kind. In a scenario that reeks of the surreal Samuel L. Jackson fiasco where Ethics Alarms was virtually alone in noting that Jackson’s on-air accusation that a white TV host had confused him with fellow black star Lawrence Fishburne because “all blacks look the same to him” was unfair and completely meritless, the news media is just running with a demonstrably false accusation.

Here are the relevant portions of the e-mail exchange based on what has been reported in the media:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.) [But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside….I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas…Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”

Let’s examine this “unbelievable” e-mail, line by line and then as a whole, for ethical misconduct and incipient racism:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.)”

No problem there, right?

“[But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.”

The baseball analogy, a “double” over a “home run,” is a conclusion based on Washington’s films’ grosses and hard facts, not racism. It is a legitimate opinion, and one that in a business context must be made as a matter of fiduciary duty. Foriegn box office is about half (or more) of a typical film’s profit. If a star isn’t as popular in foreign markets as in the U.S., then metaphorically speaking, a “home run” is more difficult, and maybe impossible. Continue reading

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We Really Do Entrust Our Precious Children To People Like This…

water-noodles

The headline says it all:

North Kansas City School District apologizes for taking away blind child’s cane

Well, maybe not all…

Eight-year-old Dakota Nafzinger, born blind, attends Gracemor Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri.*  Like many blind Americans, he uses a white cane to maneuver himself through life.

The school staff decided that the boy’s misbehavior on a school bus warranted punishment, so they took away his cane and

GAVE HIM A SWIMMING POOL NOODLE TO USE AS A SUBSTITUTE !!!!!!!!!!!!!

North Kansas City School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk explained that the staff was withing its rights to take away his cane, since it was given to him when he enrolled and thus  it was school property. She might as well have said that the kid should feel lucky they gave him one of those neon colored floating pool noodles to use instead, rather than, say, a garden hose or a live anaconda. The cane was taken away  because the child reportedly  hit someone with it. I suppose if his seeing eye dog had bitten someone, they would have taken the dog away, shot it, and replaced it with a guinea pig or a stuffed animal. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine

Comment of the Day: “What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway”

The First Lady at Target, whose skin color obviously led a shopper at Target to ignore the blouse, cart, shopping cart, purse and sunglasses and assume that she was a minimum wage target employee who just wasn't wearing her red shirt today, because whites are such racists. It's amazing she wasn't shot, when you come to think of it. No really. Amazing.

The First Lady at Target, whose skin color obviously led a white shopper at Target to ignore the blouse, cart, shopping cart, Target bags, purse and sunglasses and assume that she was a minimum wage Target employee who just wasn’t wearing her red shirt that day, because whites are such racists. It’s amazing Michelle wasn’t shot, when you come to think of it. No really. Amazing.

I suppose it should be no surprise that my bias toward “Comment of the Day” candidates tilts toward comments that save me a post. This couldn’t be more true than in the case of this edition, a comment by johnbuger2013 (and I can’t wait to see what johnbuger2014 has to add!). The effort by Michelle Obama to paint normal , harmless, benign and trusting interactions between black and white citizens as racist profiling is really horrible, and the degree that the news media (“oh, there go those tea-bagging right-wing media again, picking on the Obamas for nothing!”) is ignoring the implication of what she did is not merely horrible but terrifying. Essentially, it is a declaration that the media will accept false accounts as truth as long as it furthers the narrative that all blacks—even the Obamas!—are constant victims of thinly disguised bias and racism.

What Michelle launched into the the public discourse, and “People” irresponsibly abetted, is yet another Big Lie, like the myth that Mike Brown was gunned down while surrendering with his hands up.  Though she was dressed at the time of the alleged incident like a shopper, with a cart and a giant purse, in sunglasses and wearing a Nike cap, Michelle absurdly told the magazine that a shorter fellow shopper, who was short but white—that’s the key, white—asked her if Michelle  could take down an item from a high shelf because the shopper assumed the first Lady was “the help’–because she is black.  The story is unbelievable on its face, and more than that, it exposes Obama as an anti-white bigot. Never mind: everywhere, her offensive characterization is being treated as fact. Fact—even though it is impossible, even though shoppers ask each other, regardless of race, for assistance all the time. Knee-jerk loyalists to the cause of race-baiting, victim-mongering, eternal grievances and Team Obama—including other commenters here— have twisted logic and fairness into grotesque shapes to justify this disgraceful story. The Big Lie, as we know, works.  From the Hollywood Reporter:

“During the show’s Hot Topics section, the co-hosts addressed Barack and Michelle Obama’s recent statements that they’ve been mistaken for the help.”

But Michelle wasn’t mistaken for the help. Michelle is so paranoid, bigoted and race-obsessed that she thought she was mistaken for the help with no justification whatsoever. Never mind: her story is now Truth. From US:

“The ladies [ of “The View”] got into a heated discussion when O’Donnell, co-host Rosie Perez, and Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox agreed that it’s racist when African-Americans are profiled in stores.”

But Michelle wasn’t profiled in the store (and nobody on The View’s panel of ignoramuses had te wit or integrity to point out that the whole discussion was based on a falsehood). Someone foolishly mistook her for a normal, well-adjusted, non-white-hating human being who would happily assist a stranger without assuming the worst about her. This will teach her. next time, only ask white shoppers for help: they won’t hate you for it.

As you might be able to tell, I am upset about this story, and the trend it represents, and angry with anyone, regardless of race, who won’t view it objectively and condemn it for what it is. But this is not a politics blog, but an ethics blog, and even though ethics outrages just pour out of the Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck like the waters of Niagara, my mission is broader,  my target audience is broader still, and on a topic like this, where 90% of journalist are inclined to promote a lie, I can’t accomplish much by flogging the same issue day after day on Ethics Alarms, other than assuaging my own frustration.

I digress, however. Here is the Comment of the Day, by johnbuger2013, on the post, “What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway”: Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race

Unethical Quote of the Week; Chris Rock

Shut up, Chris.

Shut up, Chris.

“You say the wrong thing — you see what happened to [Donald Sterling],” Rock said. “I’m not defending what Sterling said at all, but if that’s not the First Amendment then what the [bleep] is? And what did he say, ‘I don’t want my girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players’? Me neither!”

—Black comic and “truth-teller” Chris Rock, discussing the fear in Hollywood as a result of the Sony hacks.

Gee, Chris, that’s courageous, fair, perceptive and true.

What a shame you didn’t have the integrity or guts to condemn what happened to Sterling while every other black pundit, columnist, athlete, and celebrity was comparing him to Satan. You just allowed everyone to pile on the old, rich white guy, take away his team and make him the face of racism for telling his slutty black  girlfriend—in his own bedroom!—not to flaunt the fact she was only hanging with him for the money by showing up at his teams’ games with her real boyfriends. You Hollywood types are hilarious–as in disgusting— in your selective belief in rights, privacy and fair play. First Aaron Sorkin, who didn’t object to the media feeding frenzy over Sterling’s private remarks, suddenly argues that his friends and business associates’ equally damning comments shouldn’t be reported because they aren’t about crime and corruption, and thus aren’t news. Then you suddenly decide to defend Donald Sterling’s rights of privacy and free speech now, when there is no cost to you at all, and the damage is done and irreparable.

Here’s what’s unethical about your statement, Chris: it’s too damn late.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Rights, U.S. Society