Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical. You Know That, Right?

Super2015

I was going to call this post “Ten Reasons Why Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical,” then “TOP Ten Reasons Why Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical.” Ethical people should only need one good reason though, and while you can rationalize it away to slave your conscience and to avoid having to renege on that RSVP to tomorrow’s Super Bowl party, it is there, undeniable, and ugly.

So you don’t even have to argue that the fact that the most successful NFL team for more than a decade is also the one repeatedly caught cheating is irrelevant because “everybody does it,” or that the large number of felons, thugs and spouse abusers the teams employ (one ex-player—why, a Patriots’ ex player, in fact!—just went on trial for murder) doesn’t matter because the players aren’t really role models, or that the fact that the NFL corrupts and warps our universities by turning them into football’s minor leagues is overstated because such scandals as the University of North Carolina conspiring to let athletes take imaginary courses aren’t really the NFL’s fault. All you have to do is accept the fact that when you support the NFL, it’s TV ratings and the companies that profit from them, you are not merely killing people, you are cheering while you do it.

Disgusting.

What the hell’s the matter with you?

Yesterday I rewatched the 2013 PBS Frontline documentary, “League of Denial.” (That’s the link to the video; the transcript is here.) It was more horrifying the second time, especially in view of how the NFL has managed to stonewall, tap-dance and delay its way through another season without seriously admitting the extent of its head injury problem. One could even argue that the Ray Rice fiasco and other scandals helped the NFL by deflecting attention away from its biggest ethical deficit. Today, CNN, which is duly promoting the Super Bowl all weekend, reported on Roger Goodell’s “state of the NFL” press conference. It didn’t mention the concussion issue at all, just spousal abuse. It’s working, Roger!

As thoroughly and irrefutable shown by the documentary and the book it was based on, football causes dementia and death. The earlier you start playing it, the worse the effects are. The NFL has systematically waged a public relations war of denial and deception, taking carefully calculated half-measures that will not address the problem, relying on America’s love of the game to allow the industry to continue making billions by paying young men to maim themselves. In hearings before Congress, U.S. representatives compared the NFL to cigarette manufacturers denying that cigarettes were addictive and that they caused health problems. The comparison is fair, but once the truth was known about tobacco, the non-smoking public quickly realized that it shouldn’t be cheering lung cancer on. Cigarette ads on TV were banned; programs that children watched were pressured to avoid showing characters smoking. But then, nobody gets a visceral rush watching human beings slowly kill themselves by puffing away: is that the difference? As long as you get a kick out of the process of athletes turning themselves into future drug addicts, depressives, neglectful fathers, abusive husbands, drooling imbeciles and suicides, it’s okay to keep watching and cheering?

Keep telling yourself that. It’s intellectually lazy and ethical abdication, and that’s all it is. Watching the Super Bowl can’t be wrong because so many people do it, right? You know, since you’re here, what’s the matter with that argument.

You can also try the argument that the players are accepting the risk, so it’s OK for you to encourage them, in fact help pay them to liquify their brains for your amusement. That would be employing three more rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Hit Parade: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Sports, U.S. Society

Brief Notes: Healthcare.gov’s Contractor, Netanyahu, and Charles Blow

life-preserver

I am drowning in important ethics topics and short of time, so I’m reluctantly employing the rarely-used (here) flotation device of briefly noting three stories that would normally warrant full posts. I’ll reserve the right to change my mind and fully explore one or more of them later.

1. Wait: who’s the journalist here?

Six days after Ethics Alarms noted the ridiculous fact that the IRS has hired—for about 5 million dollars of taxpayer money— the same group of incompetents who botched their 800 million dollar job of getting Healthcare.gov up and running, the Washington Post ran the story (on page 18). The new contract itself dates from August: I regard my nausea over it as late, but I regard the Post’s failure to report the story until now a) suspicious, b) incompetent and c) indefensible.

2. Netanyahu lobbies Congress Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Around the World, Leadership, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks

Accountability Check: No, Sarah Wasn’t “Sacrificed” And She Has Nobody To Blame But Herself

Yeah, that's all you need, Sarah...

Yeah, that’s all you need, Sarah…

When one woman who drives me crazy sets out to defend another one using ethics-crushing illogic, I cannot withhold my hand.

Or gorge.

The wimpiest pseudo-conservative op-ed columnsit who ever roamed the Earth, Kathleen Parker, has delivered a column titled “The Sacrifice of Sarah Palin.” Its thesis? “Blame for her general collapse beginning in 2008 can be placed in large part upon her own party, which used her and cast her aside.”

Well, Parker proves with her fatuous essay that blame can be placed on Republicans, but she doesn’t prove that it should be. Sarah’s reputation is on life support after delivering a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that included passages like these… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

The Ethical Hoax

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

As anyone who reads Ethics Alarms with any regularity knows, I detest hoaxes large and small, from the Piltdown man to the Hitler diaries to the offal thrown into the information stream by websites like The News Nerd.(Let’s see: what “satirical, humorous, obviously fake” story does the site that calls itself “America’s premium news site” offer as fact today? This: “As Deflategate looms over the heads of the New England Patriots, a source with the NFL has revealed that the league is considering permanently barring Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick from ever working in the National Football League in any capacity. That drastic action would only be taken if it is discovered that Belichick was directly responsible for the deflated footballs…” I guess that’s obviously satire because the NFL would never have the integrity to take such action, right? The story isn’t there to fool gullible blogs and sportswriters working on a deadline into republishing it…) Hoaxes are lies intended to deceive in order to humiliate whoever believes them, and often to enrich the hoaxer.

Occasionally, however, a hoax becomes an ethically justifiable tool. Such is the case with the bogus scholarly medical research article created by Dr. Mark Shrime titled “Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs?”

Shrime was disturbed at the number of apparently legitimate medical journals with impressive names like the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology that offer to publish papers for a $500 fee. Shrime calls them predatory journals, in part because they prey on trusting third world researchers and scientists for who $500 is a fortune. The other reason they are predatory is that they exploit the confusing—to laymen, which is to say, journalists– welter of legitimate scholarly journals in order to dangle intriguing junk science in front of the eyes of reporters who barely comprehend what they are reading. As Elizabeth Segren writes at Fast Company: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

The esteemed columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it's important for the elite to teach their kids "Do you know who I am?" at a young age.

The esteemed NYT columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it’s important for the elite to teach their kids the phrase “Do you know who I am?” at a young age.

Charles Blow is a talented info-graphic op-ed columnist for the New York Times. he is also and African American who repeatedly pushes the narrative that the U.S. is a racist society hostile to blacks and black men in particular. Afew days ago, he authored an accusatory op-ed piece after his son, a Yale student, was detained at gunpoint by a campus police officer. Apparently Young Blow fit the description of a campus burglar, and was subjected to the indignity of being forced to the ground, identifying himself, and answering questions. Blow immediately decided to use his position of prominence with the Times to air a family grievance. Announcing that he was “fuming,” Blow questioned the officer’s procedure—

“Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first? What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.”

…and then concluded thusly:

“I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look. There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.”

“What you’ve done matters less than how you look.” Charles Blow is nearly engaging in code here, but his meaning is clear. His son was treated prejudicially because of the color of his skin. His son, the accomplished, Ivy League-going offspring of a distinguished journalist was treated like a criminal—how dare they!— because of how he looked, because he was black. “Some would choose to deny it” —you know: racists, conservatives, whites, Republicans—but “all of our boys are bound together.” Translation: we all look the same to racist white cops.
Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Campus Rape: How Opposing The Use Of Fake Stats, Lies and False Narratives Became “Conservative”

fondo abstracto de tecnologia 3d.Lenguaje binario

I just don’t see how or why insisting on using objective and verifiable facts in policy-making and public discourse became “conservative bias.” I don’t recall the media’s interest in correcting fake combat statistics during the Vietnam war being regarded as “liberal bias.” I can’t bring myself to believe that only moderates and conservatives care about making sure that the public isn’t deceived into believing things that aren’t true.

But why does this stuff keep happening, and particularly, why does it keep happening under the supervision of Democrats and their supporters during the Obama years? I know I’ve been harping on “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and the deification of Mike Brown as contrary to all evidence, common sense, fairness and rationality, but such cultural embrace of lies is objectively outrageous and dangerous. I also resent being called a “teabagger,” a racist, or a right-wing nut for pointing this out.

One reason resent it, perhaps the main one, is that I’m a lifetime iconoclast, curmudgeon and contrarian (just like Dad!) and while I know that having  people, even friends, angry at me never changed my opinions, words or behavior very much, most people are not like me. Most people, when they are called racists on Facebook or bombarded with dishonest Daily Kos internet memes or realize that their friends aren’t inviting them out for beer because they will object to the conventional liberal wisdom of the nonce, decide its more important to get along than to fight the good fight, so they just adopt the prevalent opinion of their “crowd.” Usually, personal growth and education on the issue stops about then: if you listen hard, you will hear the sound of a slamming door. Soon they’ll be calling others racists on Facebook.

The fake campus sexual assault issue is another area where this phenomenon is occurring. CBS’s Sunday Morning gave one of its gauzy features about it yesterday, beginning with the assumption that for some reason (the reason was already pre-programmed and injected directly into the Democratic Party’s second most reliable “base” group, young single women bloodstream, with its “war on women” convention theme in 2012) campus sexual assault is epidemic. On the show’s website, proving that this was propaganda rather than journalism, was this sentence: “According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in five college women will experience some kind of sexual assault while in school.” (It had been removed by this morning.) Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Quotes, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

Dark and Brooding Thoughts

Denis McDonoughFrom Politico:

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough suffered a slip of the tongue Sunday when he offered the first name of an American woman held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview with host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” about the ongoing situation with a Japanese hostage held by ISIL, McDonough mentioned the woman’s first name, which is not public knowledge.

No, Politico, this is not a “slip of the tongue.” McDonough was appearing on a full slate of Sunday morning shows, and he had certain objectives and parameters which, as a professional and a high-ranking advisor to the President of the United States, he was bound and obligated to be competent to fulfill, or he should not have accepted the assignment. There weren’t that many of them. One was not to reveal the name of an ISIS hostage, and he couldn’t do that. He was not properly prepped, or trained, or focused on his assignment.

It’s not because “anyone can make a mistake.” Professionals do not make such mistakes, and if they do, they are in the wrong profession. This occurred, as so, so, SO many other fiascos have, because this entire Administration is led by, staffed by and advised by hyper-partisan incompetents who learn nothing, understand nothing, and place the interests of the United States at constant risk; because a culture of arrogant incompetence has been allowed to flourish under the abdication of journalists to call it to account; and because the potential critics whose allied philosophies would make them the most effective voices to call for accountability are too biased, cowardly, or lacking in integrity to do so.

You can’t trust our national leadership. If you do, you are a fool. This has nothing whatsoever to do about policies, parties, or loyalty.

As I ponder this, I am trying to understand the character of a man who could preside of over such a incompetently staffed and managed administration and still deliver the defiant, dishonest, destructive and divisive speech he gave to the Congress last week.

That may be a futile effort. But I doubt that I  can continue to muster respect for those who continue to offer excuses and rationalizations for this ongoing tragi-comedy of unapologetic ineptitude rather than to face reality and try to help the nation survive the next two years.

That’s what I’m thinking tonight.

I wish I weren’t.

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions