Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Lena Dunham, Double Standards and the Jester’s Privilege

Jewish DogLena Dunham—you know, the celebrity hyper-feminist, sister-molesting, slandering lying creator/writer/actress of HBO’s “Girls”?—-is again at the center of controversy. This is how people like Dunham, who is wan of talent or appeal so she has to manufacture ways to keep herself in the public eye, stretch out their lucky 15 minutes of fame to interminable lengths. They do it by regularly pissing people off, and requiring those who feel they have to defend her because she is on “the team” (Female, feminist, Democrat, “Pro-life,” pro-gay, pro-gay marriage, progressive) to compromise whatever genuine values they have by insisting that her crummy behavior isn’t crummy after all.

Yes, she is an ethics corrupter.

Dunham’s latest foray into calculated offense is an alleged  humor piece inexplicably published by The New Yorker. Well, let me back that up: if you or I wrote it, publishing it would be inexplicable, because it’s just not very clever or funny. The New Yorker published it because Dunham is link bait.

The article is called Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz, and it begins,

“Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend?”

It is drawing fire from many sources because it invokes negative Jewish stereotypes for the “following statements” such as these: Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Character, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

The Ethics Alarms “Take Down Monica Brennan!” Contest Finalists

mushroom-cloud

Early this month, I wrote a post about Christiane Amanpour’s bizarre commentary on Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress. She said,

“It was a very dark Strangelovian speech painting the picture of a dystopian world, raising the spectre of a genocidal nation, a genocidal regime spraying nuclear weapons to annihilate the whole world and the whole region. Now, obviously many people are very concerned about Iran and there is a deep lack of trust, but surely the same was said of the Soviet Union all those years ago.”

I made her analysis the “Ethics Quote of the Week” on the grounds that it was so rife with bias and logical fallacies. The main thrust of the post:

Amanpour’s quote is, not to be overly blunt, stupid, ignorant, and disturbingly lacking in historical perspective. It raises ethics issues, but does not rise to the level, quite, of an unethical quote. It does raise the ethics issues of incompetence in the media, political bias robbing us all of IQ points, irresponsible journalism, and what happens when one is incapable of placing oneself behind another individual’s eyeball.  She is trying to be descriptive, so I would not term the quote itself unethical, just shocking. She has long been respected as a reporter on international events, but this statement is so devoid of its proper context that I think her credentials need to be reconsidered.

The second comment on the post came from a newcomer to Ethics Alarms, Monica Brennan, who entered this provocative defense of Christiane:

Christiane Amanpour is a highly-respected veteran foreign journalist, who has undoubtedly forgotten more about the region than you will ever know. She was born in Tehran, and educated in a Catholic school in England. She covered the Iran-Iraq war, the fall of European communism, and Gulf War I, and unlike Bill Oh,Really?, her boots were on the ground. Your hero Netanyahu was caught out as a liar, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/23/leaked-spy-cables-netanyahu-iran-bomb-mossad, according to leaked cables from Mossad (the Iranians have enough U-204 to make a few bombs, but are neither ready to nor apparently interested in taking the next step). His apparent self-interest is in his own political future, and maintaining control over American foreign policy. And of course, he would overlook facts that do not suit him. But Amanpour knows the facts, and Bibi’s game.

The cost of yet another needless conflict in the Middle East would be Saudi oil, as one shore of the Strait of Hormuz is in Iran. Worse yet, continuance of the status quo strengthens Iranian hard-liners, whose grip becomes more tenuous with every passing year owing to demographic changes (remember the Green Revolution?). Moreover, the Iranians could build a nuke in a few years, especially with Pakistan’s help (don’t forget that they have nukes, and are only a little less crazy). And can we even AFFORD another multi-trillion dollar boondoggle in the Middle East?

The same thing WAS said of the Soviet Union. Have you seen the video of Nikita Khruschev, banging his shoe?

The art of negotiation is in knowing when to take half a loaf. This might be one of those times. Hysteria is Bibi’s stock in trade, and his speech should be seen in that light. Amanpour knows of what she speaks, and deserves to be taken seriously.

Now, I am not in the habit of siccing the articulate, sharp-elbowed and occasionally merciless regulars here on the throats of misguided commenters; I think this was only the second time I have done it.  I think it was the combination of the “your hero” crack, as if I have some kind of bias in favor of the Israeli Prime Minister, and the historically obtuse inference that the Soviet Union was just bluffing and that whole Cold War thing was a big farce that set my teeth on edge. For whatever reason, I announced a contest:

Ok, a prize for the best takedown of Monica’s historically jaw-dropping, ad hominem appeal to authority, defense of Amanpour’s bizarre take! A CD of a film, ethics classic, my choice.

There were many excellent entrees, punctuated by increasingly obnoxious retorts by Maureen, who I am guessing is a grad student at some middle-tier university that is stealing her money while indulging her liberal-talking point fueled proclivities. (I ended up banning her, since she never engaged any of the rebuttals and just ranted without substance.)

I have selected the finalists, ranging from the concise to the encyclopedic. Some commenters arguably had more than one eligible comment that was prize-worthy, but I have limited the field to one per individual. Seven made the finals:

Isaac:

Well, this isn’t going to win any prizes, but…sorry…she’s also an idiot.

“Genocidal…dystopian regime” exactly describes the Soviet Union “all those years ago.” And the only reason they didn’t get to “spray nuclear weapons all over the region” is because the United States had more of them. She’s acting as if the entire Communist nightmare of the 20th century didn’t actually kill 100 million people; it was all just some red herring cooked up by McCarthy. People who aren’t idiots don’t say things like that.

Iran may not be a superpower like the USSR was, but they’re dangerous enough if your country is the size of New Jersey and they want you dead.

Inquiring Mind

When it comes to national survival, there is no such thing as “half a loaf” – are we saying that it would be okay if Iran wiped out only 49.99999% of Israel? Netanyahu knows that is a foolhardy notion at best, as should most any rational person.

Incidentally, why did the Soviets become more reasonable? Because Reagan was building up the American military – and making it a priority. He also put tons of pressure on the Soviets in other ways, like getting the Saudis to ramp up production (which killed Soviet oil exports).

Read the book Victory by Peter Schweizer for some of the real history behind the Reagan strategy that won the Cold War. Many of Obama’s political persuasion back then said the Soviet Union couldn’t be taken down. Yet Reagan did it without firing a shot in anger.

So why is it that Obama’s defenders on this react to strongly to efforts to replicate that strategy against Iran, which is no Soviet Union? Granted, this theocratic regime’s leadership may be less mentally stable/sane, but Iran presently has far less that can hurt the United States or its allies.

So, why can’t they do the responsible thing and take down this regime?

Texagg04

“Christiane Amanpour is a highly-respected veteran foreign journalist”

Brian Williams is was a highly-respected journalist. Highly respected, honestly, in those types of circles, doesn’t really mean much. It just means, you’ve done your time, shmoozed with the right people, and said the right America/Western Culture denigrating things to the right people. Great. By those standards, half the Sandimas High School Theater Club are highly-respected journalists…

“who has undoubtedly forgotten more about the region than you will ever know.”

So, probably not qualified to speak on the topic?

I’m guessing…

But either way, this is hardly a qualifier either, and if anything reveals a likely bias. Something a journalist should fight, which no doubt she doesn’t. Remember, she’s highly-respected, and in modern journalism, you have to grossly biased to be respected. And trust me, in her circles, anti-Israel bias is the norm.

“She was born in Tehran,”

Biased.

“and educated in a Catholic school in England.”

Wasn’t the author of the James Bond novels also educated in one? That’s a pretty cool factoid. I wonder if she had to wear one of those short plaid skirts…retch.

“She covered the Iran-Iraq war, the fall of European communism, and Gulf War I,”

Nifty resume. But all rounding out your appeal to authority.

“and unlike Bill Oh,Really?, her boots were on the ground.”

Bill O’Reilly has something to do with this?

“Your hero Netanyahu was caught out as a liar, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/23/leaked-spy-cables-netanyahu-iran-bomb-mossad, according to leaked cables from Mossad (the Iranians have enough U-204 to make a few bombs, but are neither ready to nor apparently interested in taking the next step). His apparent self-interest is in his own political future, and maintaining control over American foreign policy. And of course, he would overlook facts that do not suit him. But Amanpour knows the facts, and Bibi’s game.”

You should probably educate yourself on the nuances of Geopolitics. These little things called Geopolitical Imperatives hinge exclusively on Survival. They follow a very rigid pattern, followed by EVERY SINGLE NATION, customized of course by the constraints of geography. Rule Number 1 of Geopolitics: When facing an Existential Threat, the only appropriate option is to overreact.

Let me say that again:

The 1st Rule of Geopolitics: When facing an Existential Threat, the ONLY appropriate option is to OVERREACT.

Just for Effect:

When facing an Existential Threat, the ONLY appropriate option is to OVERREACT.

When Iran says they want to wipe Israel off the map, that isn’t a joke. WORLD LEADERS do not joke. What they say is their Vision for the world. Only fools discount what World Leaders say….

Wait, let me clarify, Only fools discount what *Serious* World Leaders say…and there is no reason, none whatsoever, to believe the Iranian leadership isn’t serious. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with what an existential threat is, a nation with the capability to destroy you that declares an intent to destroy you is what we call an “existential threat”. You’ll note the root word for “existential” is “existence”.

Now, right now, Iran doesn’t possess the capability to destroy Israel. But that is Obviously what is in question. Isn’t it?

So IF Iran gains the ability to destroy Israel, what must Israel do? Refer to Rule #1. Overreact. The only option.

Well, in a game of nuclear holocaust, overreaction means that if Iran can get a bomb in 20 years, Israel has to act like it can get a bomb tomorrow. Plain and simple. He may have “lied”, but that is part of his overreaction. And he must. It is that cut and dry. It is that serious.

The one variable in all of this that can change? Iran’s hatred of Israel. Stop indicating a sincere desire to destroy every last Jew on the face of the planet (as Iran’s proxy communicated), then perhaps Israel won’t have to overreact to your desire to become a nuclear power. Funny how getting over genocidal hatred can really lead to more world peace.

Now Iran isn’t completely irrational. It probably wouldn’t nuke Israel. But one of Iran’s challenges is keeping control over it’s wildly diverse interior…one of those methods of control is Islam, what better way to inspire the faithful than to hate Jews. So they popped off about annihilating Israel. Well, Israel has ZERO reason to assume that whatever Iran says to keep control over it’s interior shouldn’t be taken seriously.

As long as Iran does not backtrack on it’s commentary about Israel’s existence, Israel must take all action to forestall or stop Iranian capability.

“The cost of yet another needless conflict in the Middle East would be Saudi oil, as one shore of the Strait of Hormuz is in Iran.”

Are you serious? Are you f-ing serious? You’re entire tone on this topic derives straight from Leftist talking points and now you are going to say we need to worry about our sources of oil? Geez… here I thought we hated wars over oil…

You have noticed, that as of late, the Saudis aren’t our primary source of oil, right?

“Worse yet, continuance of the status quo strengthens Iranian hard-liners, whose grip becomes more tenuous with every passing year owing to demographic changes (remember the Green Revolution?).”

Geopolitical rules apply just as much internally as externally. Dying creatures become desperate and do desperate things. A dying vicious creature that doesn’t want to die should be trusted even less than while it was thriving. Your comment only undermines your conclusion.

“Moreover, the Iranians could build a nuke in a few years, especially with Pakistan’s help (don’t forget that they have nukes, and are only a little less crazy).”

Does this not undermine your previous commentary about Netanyahu not needing to worry about how quickly Iran can get a nuke?

“And can we even AFFORD another multi-trillion dollar boondoggle in the Middle East?”

1) I’m not sure invasion of Iran is necessary. So this is a fallacious argument.

2) I’m not sure the invasion of Iraq was a boondoggle…well at least not until Obama royally screwed the pooch.

“The same thing WAS said of the Soviet Union. Have you seen the video of Nikita Khruschev, banging his shoe?”

Hindsight bias. Back to Geopolitics. We had no reason not to believe the Soviets when they stated their vision for the world and we had no reason to wait until they had the capacity to fulfill that vision. Another rule of Geopolitics: Wait until it is too late to act, and it will be too late to act. Therefore you must act when it may seem to early.

“The art of negotiation is in knowing when to take half a loaf. This might be one of those times.”

There’s no reason to negotiate. The West still has MIGHT…if it would just friggin care. But it doesn’t. So between War or Dishonor, it picks Dishonor. Only it will still get War.

“Hysteria is Bibi’s stock in trade, and his speech should be seen in that light.”

Geopolitical Rule #1.

“Amanpour knows of what she speaks, and deserves to be taken seriously.”

And yet, you still haven’t made a single argument for why she is right other than saying she is Christiane Amanpour.

johnburger2013

At first I wasn’t sure if this was a response from Christiane Amanpour’s PR group. I then thought about what I was taught about geopolitics during college and the comment falls right into the ‘a bad deal is better than no deal’ position in negotiations. Christiane Amanpour’s positions are striking, though not unexpected from the prevailing main stream media. The general review of Netanyahu’s speech concluded that it was over the top and full of bravado. The views expressed by Amanpour and her defenders drip with condescension and naivete. The Iranian government doesn’t care about world perceptions. In fact, the Iranian government scoffs ah the West with the highest contempt and ridicule.

I think Texagg04 sums it up with his take down, especially considering his comment about “Rule Number 1 of Geopolitics: When facing an Existential Threat, the only appropriate option is to overreact” and Jack’s many comments that a country’s prime minister or leader has a moral and ethical obligation to protect its citizenry.

History seems to suggest that genocidal thoughts shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed at the delusional ravings or a mad man. “Mein Kampf” outlined Hitler’s plans. What was the result? I recently saw a documentary called “Night Will Fall” on HBO, documenting the making of two World War II documentaries about Nazi genocide. Powerful and gut-wrenching imagery. I fully appreciate Israel’s hard-line stance with its adversaries in the region. Israel’s position is: “Well, we waited for the world to help the Jews in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and look where that got us. We aren’t doing that again. If Iran, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, or other groups openly declare their intent to destroy the state of Israel, we are going to take them at face value, believe that is their intent, and respond accordingly. Proportionality is a pipe dream. We will hit them and hit them hard.” I cannot find fault with that position.

Steve-O-in NJ

Christiane Amanpour’s credentials as a “highly respected” journalist were tarnished years ago in Bosnia when she said, when accused of being pro-Muslim (and overly emotional in her delivery) that it wasn’t important to be neutral because when you are neutral you become an accomplice. No, Christiane, when you are neutral you become a fact and truth teller, which is the job of the journalist, not to be some kind of adventurer trying to sensationalize one side or the other in a fight, whichever you might think is right. She’s also half-Iranian, hmmmmm, does anyone else here think that might at least give the appearance of bias to the point where she should be extra careful NOT to appear biased, not the other way around? The mention of her credentials vs. Bill O’Reilly’s is irrelevant to this discussion and a cheap shot to blunt or silence expected conservative criticism.

Netanyahu, a twice-wounded and decorated Special Forces captain, whose brother was killed in Operation Thunderbolt, might also know something about having boots on the ground. He also authored “Terrorism: How the West Can Win,” in or before 1988, which touched on every single issue that came to the forefront here only after 9/11. In other words, he was out ahead of the curve on Islamic terror. He also has access to a fair amount of classified material, both from the Mossad and probably other agencies, that Amanpour will never get near. Saying she knows the facts, implying she knows them better than the prime minister of one of only two democracies in the region is bare idiocy. “Control over American foreign policy?” That verges dangerously close to the old chestnut “that all the problems in the region are because of the JOOOOOOS!” Do you really want to go there?

The hard-liners’ grip becomes more tenuous each year? How tenuous can it be when every candidate for high office must have the imprimatur of the supreme leader, himself an Islamic hard-liner, unaccountable to anyone and incapable of being removed without a coup? Even in the Communist countries the leadership wasn’t THAT untouchable, witness Nikita Krushchev being pushed out by his own party when his policies became erratic and the Cuban Missile gambit failed to net him the complete win he wanted. Pakistan and Iran cooperating to build a nuke? The Pakistanis and their leaders might be a little erratic, but they know which side the bread is buttered on, and they know the US will put up with a lot from them, but they won’t put up with that.

Jack already got it precisely right as to the comparison with the USSR, and I’d argue Iran in some ways could be even more dangerous than Nazi Germany, which had similar policies aimed at the destruction of particular peoples. The Nazis and the Communists were both unspeakably evil, but they worshipped power only. Power is no good to anyone who is not alive to enjoy it. That’s why when the Germans were beaten, for the most part they surrendered, save Hitler, Goebbels and a few other extreme ones. That’s also why the USSR stepped back when they saw Reagan, Thatcher, and the other NATO leaders deploying cruise missiles that could whack them in 20 minutes and Trident submarines that they could never seriously hope to find at sea. Suicide was not high on their list of things to achieve. I would make a comparison with Imperial Japan, where it was all about dying for the divine emperor and going to meet your ancestors in the great beyond, whereas defeat meant eternal shame. It was this toxic brand of religious fanaticism that made Japanese soldiers make banzai charges until they were all dead, and pilots crash explosives-laden planes and even manned missiles into US aircraft carriers. The Iranian leadership is dangerously close to being this level of fanatic (I hesitate to use the word zealot because I think fanatic is more appropriate) and MIGHT be crazy enough to risk the horrible damage a nuclear attack on Israel might do for the sake of Allah and 72 virgins. Only a fool takes a chance on a roll of that level of dice.

Of course sometimes you take half a loaf when the whole loaf can’t be had…when you’re divvying up resources or port access or something mundane like that. Israel is dealing with a potential existential threat, and there is no such thing as half existence or half sovereignty. Faced with destruction or Finlandization any nation worth its salt will fight, and rightly so.

Monica, I don’t know you. I can’t say whether you are looking at the world through the blue lenses of the Democratic Party and therefore can’t see how anyone associated with the other side might have a point, or if you are looking through the rose-colored lenses of the pacifist and dismiss anyone who stands up to evil or tyranny as a cowboy or dangerous because he might make the tyrant angry. What I can say is that you are looking at this situation with a very incomplete set of facts, enough to be dangerous. I will also say that you are putting your faith completely in the wrong person and the wrong type of people. Journalists have their place, and it’s a very important one, but essentially scoffing at a speech from an elected national leader who’s trying to keep his nation safe while accepting a criticism from a known biased reporter with no special expertise tells me you are not looking for truth, you are looking for confirmation wherever you find it. In this case your confirmation source is dead wrong, and I am sorry to say so are you.

Michael R.

Why is she a respected reporter on foreign events? Because she has an accent and she always speaks contemptuously of the American people.

The liberal mainstream has certain facts that must be held no matter the evidence. If you just listen to them and join the correct side of history, you too can understand the wisdom of Christiane Amanpour.

Israel is wrong. They must be held to the same moral standard as European nations who aren’t facing constant terrorist attacks. By this standard, the Israelis are oppressors and need to be treated as a hate group.

Muslims can’t be held to the same standard as Israel because they are the underdogs. No Arab nation has ever attacked Israel, all those wars were wars of conquest by a brutal Israel.

The Israelis have no valid complaints about their Arab neighbors.None of them were ever stripped of their property and citizenship and forced to move to Israel.

All Israel is Palestinian territory. Jews have no business in the middle east. If they would just leave or die, the Middle East can have peace.

Iran is an ancient, civilized nation. They have a superior culture to the US and we should follow their lead in foreign affairs. They would never engage in a bitter war with a neighboring country and they super special definitely wouldn’t use any weapons of mass destruction. at their disposal (like chemical weapons). Ask the Iraqis if you doubt. They would never do anything brutal or barbaric like kidnap and hold hostage an entire embassy staff. Iran only threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map because they are Jews and Jews deserve no better. You can always trust the Iranians to abide by any nuclear treaty. They would never build giant, secret, underground nuclear facilities that the US would be forced to disable with an advanced computer virus.

The US is always wrong. We are the most backward, most racist, most imperialistic country in the history of the world. We have built our entire country by robbing, conquering, and oppressing other countries. That is why everyone in the world hates us and no one ever wants to immigrate to the US. We need to give other countries what they demand from us, then they will like us. This is what President Obama says and our standing on the world stage has greatly improved under his guidance.

If you just submit to the unquestionable rightness of the points above, you too can be as correct and sophisticated as Mrs Amanpour.

Cal Brizzi

Jihad is not Nikita Khruschev shoe banging. Religious fanatics openly advocating blowing Israel off the Earth is not saber rattling. Couple this with the fact that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism – this point even our apologist President concedes and we all have reason to worry. But reason and logic are trumped by soundbites in the romper room of modern day political discourse. Netanyahu is a spoiled child because he concludes that once Iran has a nuclear weapon it wont be long before Hammas, Hezbollah, Al Queda or ISIS will have a nuclear weapon (credit to the prior poster). Netanyahu further reasons that once this occurs; Tel Aviv will be first in the crosshairs. The nerve of that brat!

At the risk of waxing too dramatic, the future of our nation, and maybe the planet, depends on the ability to appreciate and address the danger of militant Islamic states possessing nuclear weapons. Israel understands the threat because they are surrounded by it – this ain’t their first rodeo. We should listen more and swagger less. American politicians should save the vitriol and name calling for the machete wielding murderers who deserve that and much more. We owe the Prime Minister an apology. This is no way to treat friends.

Sharon

You know who deserves to be taken even more seriously than the CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour regarding the crisis in the Mideast?

The Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei. And I think he would disagree with the idea that Netanyahu’s speech was Strangelovian or that Netanyahu was engaging in hysteria. I don’t think he would want anyone to imply that he is soft on Israel. And from what he has said, Israel has quite a bit to be worried about. I’m going to take his word for it. Even though Amanpour is a very respected reporter.

It is, as you can see, a strong field. I was initially going to make the selection myself, but have decided to get input from readers as well. I have given a 10 vote head start to my own choice, but will submit to the will of the assembled if another entree surpasses it when the votes are tallied. The polls are open until midnight Monday, March 30. Good luck to all!

 

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Filed under Around the World, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Bergdahl Desertion Ethics

BoweSo Bowe Bergdahl is being tried as a deserter! Fancy that—and yet Susan Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, told the nation, as the President was trying to pretend his decision to trade terrorists for the disturbed American POW wasn’t the cynical effort to overshadow the then raging VA scandal and to tamp down veteran groups’ rage that it was, that Bergdahl  “…served the United States with honor and distinction…”

Either Rice knew this wasn’t true—and if she were competent in her job, she would have to, wouldn’t she?—and was lying to the American public, or she didn’t know whether it was true or not, but asserted that it was true anyway, which is also lying to the American people. She is, as we already know, willing to do this—lie. And her punishment from the President, who promised transparency, for such a high profile and embarrassing lie? Nothing. What does this tell us? It tells us that Barack Obama doesn’t put a very high priority on being truthful with the public that elected him..

You know, I don’t object to making a prisoner trade to free an American soldier, even an awful one like Bergdahl, if that is the reason why it is done. I can accept it if our leaders level with the public, as in: “Sgt. Bergdahl is far from a model soldier, and may even be facing charges. But he is an American citizen, and we do not abandon our own. Even a flawed American soldier is more precious than five terrorists.” These leaders, however, don’t level, because they fear that if they did, the full disgrace of their incompetence would be known. Just as Obama doesn’t hold Rice accountable, the news media and the President’s party don’t hold him accountable for this putrid, contemptuous treatment of the American people, and Democrats allow incidents like this to rot their values from the inside out.

That’s the revolting culture that the charges against Bergdahl confirm, for those not completely rotted. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, War and the Military

Ethics Musings On The Project Veritas Cornell Video

1. I am deeply conflicted about how to handle the results of James O’Keefe’s “undercover video” operations when they hit gold like this. His methods are dishonest, Project Veritas does not treat his targets fairly, and publicizing his work just ensures that he will do more of it, and that imitators will follow in his slimy footsteps.

2. On the other hand, it makes no sense to apply an ethics blog exclusionary rule, and pretend that the videos don’t show what they show, when what they show is enlightening.

3. I’m not entirely certain that this video shows what it shows. It may show Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, slipping into automatic sales mode, and neither paying attention to what comes out of his mouth nor applying critical thought. Surely he knows–please, please, tell me he knows!— that a pro-ISIS group on any American campus, especially a high-profile and prestigious one like Cornell’s, would be a public relations nightmare.

4. What should we want to happen to Scaffido? If he’s fired, he has lost his job because of tricks and lies, and because he trusted a stranger. That seems unfair. Yet if Cornell just shrugged this off, it is guaranteed to upset parents and alumni. What kind of people are teaching today’s college students at Cornell? Are they really this stupid? How many people like Scaffido are in positions of authority, or worse, tenured professors? Isn’t this obviously a problem? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media

Tales of “The King’s Pass”: Pete Rose and Jeremy Clarkson

King

The King’s Pass has been much in the ethics news of late—Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly, David Petraeus, Hillary. Let’s review, shall we?

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others…

1. The BBC just demonstrated how the King’s Pass should be rejected—with courage and gusto.

Jeremy Clarkson, the main host of the popular BBC auto show “Top Gear,” spent March misbehaving. He got in a shoving match with a producer, verbally abused staff and was recorded trashing the network. When Clarkson topped it off with a physical altercation with a show staffer, the BBC decided not to renew his contract. BBC head Tony Hall said in a statement:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts…I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making [the facts] public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

The BBC is a broad church…We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations… Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and “Top Gear”…The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.

The show, without Clarkson, is toast, and Hall knows it. Nonetheless, he had the guts to do the necessary and ethical act: not allowing its indispensable star to abuse his power and popularity . Once Clarkson did that, “Top Gear” was doomed anyway; firing him now just minimizes the carnage. Although Hall has no responsibility to other networks and organizations, his decisive handling of the episode has saved other programs even as it destroys his own. It is a precedent and a role model for employers refusing to allow themselves to be turned into enablers  by stars assuming the King’s Pass works. When they say, “You can’t fire me, I’m irreplaceable! There’s no show without me!”, the response now can be, per the BBC: “If there’s no show without a jerk like you, then there’s no show. Bye!”

2. Once again, Pete Rose is sucking the ethics right out of people’s brains.

Ah, Pete Rose. He was the topic of the first ethics post I ever wrote, way back in 2004. Then, in 2007, he became my first and only Ethics Dunce Emeritus.

The Pete Rose case is simple. Baseball has an absolute, no exceptions rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who gambles on major league baseball games. Such banned players can’t be hired by major league teams for any purpose, and cannot be considered for Hall of Fame membership., ever, even after they are dead. Everyone in baseball knows why this rule exists—baseball was nearly destroyed in 1919 when gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series—and the rule is posted in every clubhouse. Rose bet on baseball while a major league manager, and also bet on his own team. Thus he is banned.

The significance of the fact that he is, as a player, the all-time hits leader and was the face of the game is that it led Rose to believe that the game would never ban him, and that if caught, he would be treated with special leniency. His excellence on the playing field doesn’t mitigate his conduct, or justify minimizing the ban it earned, at all.

The New York Times published a story about Rose’s efforts to get baseball to lift the ban, now that a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is in office. You can read the article here, which is remarkable for the many jaw-droppingly unethical arguments put forth by the baseball people the article quotes, contrasted with the occasional quote that shows that a speaker comprehends the concepts of consequences, accountability, and why letting stars break the rules is suicidal to any culture. It would be an excellent ethics exam.

Here are the quotes; my comments follow in bold. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Sports, Workplace

Accountability, “Jackie,” and the University Of Virginia Fraternity Libel

"Jackie"

“Jackie”

There are times when I feel like the ultra-conservative Senator Keeley played by Gene Hackman in “The Bird Cage,” when he’s just learned that his daughter’s future in-laws are a gay couple, that his future son-in-law has two mothers, and the middle-aged woman he had been flirting with all evening is a gay man. Literally nothing makes sense to him any more, and he says, plaintively, “I feel like I’m insane.”

The New York Times report on the police investigation into Rolling Stone’s false story about a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity made me feel like this. It made no sense to me whatsoever.

“After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews,” the story said, “Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.Despite “numerous attempts,” he said, his officers were unable to track down the man Jackie had identified as her date that night. And several interviews contradicted her version of events.”

But wait, there’s more:

During the course of the ensuing police investigation, the chief said, investigators interviewed nine of the 14 members who were living at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012; none said they knew Jackie. The authorities also sent questionnaires to other fraternity members; 19 were returned, and none of the respondents said they knew Jackie or had any knowledge of an assault having occurred at the fraternity house. A review of bank records for the fraternity revealed no expenditures for a party. The police also found a photograph time-stamped Sept. 28, 2012. It showed two men in an otherwise empty entrance hall, the chief said.Investigators also interviewed two of Jackie’s friends, both men, whom Jackie had said met with her after the assault occurred. But both contradicted her version of events, the chief said, adding, “They don’t recall any physical injuries.” And while both said they were told by Jackie that she had gone out on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, with a person named Haven Monahan — identified in the Rolling Stone article as “Drew” — the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down.

Meanwhile, we are told, “Jackie” refuses to cooperate with the investigation in any way. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Fire NYT “Public Editor” Margaret Sullivan

new_york_times_logo

In some professions, an apology isn’t enough.

One such profession is accounting. Arthur Andersen couldn’t fix its reputation by apologizing. Its knee-deep involvement and likely complicity in the Enron debacle rendered its claim to trustworthiness permanently and irredeemable damaged. Its conduct made the company useless as a certifier of transparency and truth. For an accountant or auditor, if there is any doubt that he or she might not be telling the truth, the jig is up. One cannot trust a truth-teller who only is accurate and reliable most of the time.

I think the same applies to newspaper ombudspersons, if that’s the proper term now, and this is what Margaret Sullivan’s job as New York Times “public editor is,” euphemisms aside. She is supposed to bolster public trust by serving as an objective critic of Times reporters, columnists and editors, and ensuring that they hew to the high standards of professionalism and journalism ethics readers should be able to expect from the nation’s most respected newspaper.

Like the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, Sullivan has published a mea culpa for her joining on the “Darren Lewis is a white cop and Mike Brown was an unarmed black kid, so obviously the white cop gunned down the black kid in cold blood because that’s what white cops do and whites want to do” lynch mob last summer as it was being led by Eric Holder, the media, Al Sharpton and others.  But unlike Capehart, who is an opinion columnist and can be forgiven a bit for being led by his biases, Sullivan job is to protect her colleagues from their biases and ensure that the Times at least tries to be objective and fair. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Professions