Monday Morning Lessons in News Media Bias, Incompetence, and Manipulation of Public Opinion

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

It took all of 15 minutes this morning to see the incompetence and bias of the new media in action regarding two politically charged events currently unfolding:

1. The Washington Post: The Rick Perry Indictment

On page A3 of the Washington Post front section, this report by Post reporter Sean Sullivan was sub-headlined like this:

Texas governor denies any impropriety in feud with district attorney

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Prediction: The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck

michael-brown-ferguson-shooting

The witness accounts of the death of Mike Brown that have received all of the publicity suggest that the unarmed teen, after being shot in a police cruiser while resisting arrest, bolted from the car and was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson as he tried to escape, even after the victim stopped and appeared to surrender. This is the account currently on Wikipedia, for example, and even in the absence of a fair and careful investigation, is the account accepted as fact by the “Justice for Mike Brown” protestors.

To those who are convinced that the police are evil, jack-booted racists and that a police officer with no record of equivalent misconduct would shoot down an unarmed and surrendering teen in public, this undoubtedly seems like a plausible scenario.  It sure doesn’t to me. I can see one way it might have happened this way: After Brown, who was huge, hurt and frightened Wilson in the car when they fought, Wilson lost his composure, and fired in rage. If that was the case, then he should be prosecuted for murder. Nothing in even that scenario proves or even suggests racism, but Brown was black and the officer was white, and for too many in the African-American community, that is proof enough.

Now another account has surfaced, on that might support Wilson’s account. It is also more plausible, because it both explains and even justifies the shooting. That account suggests that rather than turning from his flight and surrendering, Brown charged Wilson, placing him in legitimate fear of  bodily harm.

At this point, we have no way of knowing what the truth is. Maybe Wilson executed Brown. Maybe he is a racist. Maybe he is a psychopath. And maybe Brown’s conduct justified the use of deadly force by the officer, and the teen was largely responsible for his own demise. Presumably we will eventually know the truth.

I confidently predict this, however, based on what occurred in the Martin-Zimmerman case: Continue reading

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More On The Perry Indictment: The Mark Of Hack Partisan Journalism

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The unethical indictment of Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry in Travis County (Austin) for the “crime” of trying to force a drunk, power abusing, ethically corrupt district attorney from continuing to head the Public Integrity Unit—quick, now, Democrats…why is this a bad thing?—is a rare opportunity for otherwise incorrigibly biased journalists to show some token integrity and fairness. What is forfeited, after all, by admitting the obvious, that Perry is being railroaded by an abuse of prosecutorial power to derail him politically? Perry is no real threat to win the Presidency, no matter how high his stock is now. We all saw why in 2012.

So the liberal media has no need to play gotcha, and could, for a change, actually do its job: show the public why the indictment is nothing but a political hit job; why it’s a breach of legal ethics, how disgracefully Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg has conducted herself; why she is obligated to resign after breaking the law, trying to use her position to intimidate police officers on video, having her law license suspended, and apparently doing nothing about the fact that she is a raging drunk; why having such an individual heading up the agency responsible for public integrity is a threat to the public well-being and the public trust; and why a Governor of any political affiliation doing everything he can to pressure such a miserable and incompetent DA to resign as she had a professional obligation to do is, not merely not criminal, but admirable.

But most of them just can’t bring themselves to do it. So here is the Daily Beast partisan hack news commentary website, the yin on the left to the yang of Tucker Carlson’s partisan hack Daily Caller on the right, which wouldn’t be necessary if there weren’t a Daily Beast,  publishing this piece by its partisan hack staffer Mark McKinnon, implying that there may be validity to the indictment, suggesting that Perry did something wrong, and glossing over how disgusting it is that Lehmberg  still holds office. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: ABC News, Jonathan Karl and the Sunday Morning “Roundtable”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxX-qhJTfkI

Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry is being threatened with prison by a per se unethical and illegal grand jury indictment, obtained by special prosecutor Michael McCrum, that attempts to criminalize not merely political tactics, which is how critics are describing it, but the essential and obligatory efforts of a state’s elected leader  to remove a corrupt and unqualified district attorney who is unfit to serve, corrupt,defiant….and drunk as a skunk.

You can read various eviscerations of the indictment here, here and here; there are many more. So far, I can’t find a respectable legal source that finds the indictment anything better than jaw-droppingly absurd and an abuse of prosecution. Jonathan Chait, a left-ish pundit and far from a Perry fan (much like me, except for the left-ish part), nicely expresses his contempt of the charge here. A short hand version would be that Perry has been threatened with jail based on what he said about vetoing a bill, which seems like a First Amendment violation to me.

The reason for the Ethics Dunce call on ABC is that this morning, the network reported on the indictment of Perry and its effect on his Presidential prospects in 2016 without explaining the reason for the Governor’s actions that the prosecutor is straining to call illegal. A simple, thorough, clear explanation would be sufficient to cause any reasonable reader or listener to cry “What? You’re kidding! That’s not possible!” That explanation, however, was not forthcoming on ABC, and has been missing from other reporting as well. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Macaque’s Selfie

Macaque

The wonderful photo above has gone viral on the web, and is also causing serious debate among intellectual property lawyers. The weird tale is as follows:

Wildlife photographer David Slater was visiting a national park in North Sulawesi to photograph the wildlife. His subject was a group of crested black macaques, and when he left his camera unattended, the primates took advantage of the opportunity. Apparently attracted by the reflection and the noise the camera made when activated (the implications of the macaques doing this because they were interested in photography are too disturbing to contemplate, so I won’t),  one macaque took hundreds of photos of itself. Most were blurry and out of focus, just like the pictures my dad took, but a few were superb selfies that would have Ellen DeGeneres eating her heart out.

Wikimedia took the clear images off of Slater’s website, adding them to its collection of royalty-free graphic, and sending them all over the web as a result.  Slater now demands that the images be taken down or that he be paid for them. While Wikimedia argues that either the monkey owns the copyright for the photos or nobody does, the photographer claims that being the owner of the camera, and the artist who created the circumstances under which the macaque was inspired to release his inner Richard Avedon, he alone is the owner of the photographs.

As you might expect, copyright law is unclear on the issue of lower primate selfies, an art form that was not anticipated as the law evolved. I don’t care about that: today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is about fairness:

Should Slater have full ownership of the macaque’s creations?

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Ferguson’s “How Dare You Challenge Our Narrative?” Protest

Mike-Brown-Signs

There was another large demonstration in Ferguson last night. This one appears to have been more proportionately and wisely managed by Ferguson police, who still had a bad day that didn’t do much to erase the impression that its leadership is not equipped to deal with the challenges posed by race politics in 21st Century America. The inexplicably delayed information on the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, including the name of the officer involved (who can now count on receiving death threats and having celebrities try to help vigilantes by tweeting his address), “infuriated”  Brown’s family and the African American community in Ferguson, on the theory that video showing Brown robbing a convenience store and assaulting its owner was an attempt to smear the victim of a racist killing, and to “justify” an execution.

It’s an unethical theory, and the news media and fair observers should reject it. Indeed, they have a duty to reject it.

A young man is dead, and that is a tragedy. Another young man, the one who shot him, is also involved, and his life, while not over, is going to be permanently scarred in the best case scenario. If “justice,” the word that the demonstrators in Ferguson and elsewhere are using as a mantra, is being used to mean what it is supposed to mean (and, it is not), then the young police officer deserves justice too. That means, at very least, waiting until all the facts are known that can be known, and making a dispassionate, objective, non-politically motivated analysis of what occurred, who was at fault, what crimes, if any, were committed, and how to prevent such incidents in the future.

Is that too much to ask? To insist upon?

So it seems. Continue reading

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Mid-EthicsTrainwreck Observations On Ferguson

train_wreck

1. This is traveling the identical route as the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco, and I wonder when the intentional similarity will begin dawning on the public, discrediting the participants and embarrassing the news media, which is as Pavlovian as the most conditioned canine.

2. In an environment where race grievance vultures lie in wait, the usual rule of prudence—an ethical value— for law enforcement becomes a fatal error. Now, if a police department waits and investigates before making an official report or filing charges when a white individual has killed a black one, it will be spun by those seeking to find sinister motives, and the news media will take the cue.

3. As in the Martin case, the victim was immediately portrayed by his family as being as threatening as a Care Bear, except for his race. Martin was introduced to the public by the news media with an old photo that made him look about 12. Michael Brown was introduced by his promising future: he was going to college, and his parents were proud of him, as if these factors are proof of unquestionable virtue and innocence. He was unarmed, and a teenager. But as I learned for the first time by seeing the surveillance video of the alleged robbery, he was a huge teenager. A man that big doesn’t have to be armed to be dangerous. Naturally, all public impressions of the incident were formed before any of this came to light. This also addresses the new outrage by protesters that the video was released to “justify” the killing. The video let us know that Brown wasn’t a harmless kid, and that’s valid information now. Continue reading

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