Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

Grassy Knoll Ethics: How Deception Breeds Distrust

UmbrellaMan2

We once again must squarely face the hoary  quote from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” It is hoary because it is true, and this month’s Smithsonian Magazine reminds us of how true it is, recounting how well-intentioned deceptions by the news media regarding evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy helped create a conspiracy theory that will not die, and that may have begun the slow, relentless deterioration of America’s trust in its own government that has reached dangerous proportions today.

Frame 313 of Abraham Zapruder’s accidental record of one of the pivotal moments in U.S. history gave him nightmares, and when he sold the rights to his amateur movie to Life Magazine, he insisted that frame be withheld from the public, and not published. “We like to feel that the world is safe,” documentary maker Errol Morris explains in the article.“Safe at least in the sense that we can know about it. The Kennedy assassination is very much an essay on the unsafety of the world. If a man that powerful, that young, that rich, that successful, can just be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, what does it say about the rest of us?” I understand, but withholding the truth is not the way to make the world seem safer. As the story of the conspiracy shows, it is how we end up trusting no one. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quotes, U.S. Society

What An Untrustworthy National Media Has Brought Us To: The Sandy Hook Truthers

One big wedge is missing.

One big wedge is missing.

Until recently, I was happily unaware that an active conspiracy theory has metastasized around the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, what can be thought of as the soot and sludge of the still-rolling ethics train wreck created by that tragedy, except that this is unfair to soot and sludge. The internet is abound with theorists, including at least one professor, who believe that the shooting was an elaborate hoax, possibly engineered by the Obama administration to facilitate gun confiscation and the repeal of the Second Amendment.

In a recent incident reported by Salon, a Newtown man who sheltered some students from the school after the shooting has been relentlessly harassed by Sandy Hook Truthers who have accused him of being part of the government plot. Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quiz: Conspiracy Theories and the Disrespect Follies

One of the problems with the hateful, vicious, hyper-partisan politics that now grips the nation is that its most severe sufferers, inevitably the so-called “bases” of the two political parties and their most vocal advocates, end up making themselves look like fools because of it. Their fervor drives out rationality, and by refusing to assign decent and reasonable levels of  respect to their political opponents, they devalue their own credibility, sometimes to the vanishing point. They may not really be fools (though some of them are), but in a real sense, they have been driven insane…by hate, by lack of proportion, and a respect deficit that banishes both fairness and responsible conduct.

Crazy Accusation A: Republicans/Conservatives… Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, The Internet, U.S. Society

The Difference Between Unemployed Scientists and Unemployed Lawyers

A front page story in today’s Washington Post casts interesting perspective on an Ethics Alarms rumble that broke out here a couple of weeks ago. One of the many websites where underemployed, over-indebted law grads hang out to commiserate—sites with pathetic names like “butidideverythingrightorsoithought”—discovered a post from the days when people were taking Occupy Wall Street seriously, in which I chided a protester whose sign blamed his law school  for his failure to  find a job, without giving due weight to the fact that sitting in a park whining about his plight wasn’t doing him any good either. Suddenly Ethics Alarms experienced an avalanche of indignant and often personally insulting comments introducing me to the strange world of the JD conspiracy theorists, who maintain that law schools engaged in an intentional conspiracy or “scam” to gull naive college grads into believing that a law degree was a sure-thing ticket to Easy Street and six-figure starting salaries.

In the Post’s report, we learn that other advanced degree-holders, namely PhDs in scientific fields, are also unable to find work or toiling in fields unrelated to their degrees. The Post says:

“Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.”

Sounds a lot like the legal market to me! Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, Workplace

Jerk of the Year: Donald Trump

Where Donald Trump is King

I know it’s only May, and I know that Rev. Jones is still out there somewhere, planning on burning a picture of Mohammad or making confetti out of the Quran or some other offensive stunt designed to attract the attention of Fox News and sell some tee shirts. I know Allan Grayson can surface at any time, and that Michael Moore is joining forces with Keith Olbermann, which is a good bet to make both of them more obnoxious. And I know Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachman and some other GOP candidates for president can be counted on to say or tweet outrageous things in the coming weeks and months. Yes, and Harry Reid is still running amuck, and there are plenty of athletes, singers and actors who will be embarrassing themselves, their profession and their species before the year is out.

Never mind all that. I’m ready to declare Donald Trump the Jerk of the Year.

I’ll admit my bias up front: I think Trump has been a contender for Jerk of the Year every year for at least two decades. Even I, however, never thought he was a big enough jerk to use the developing 2012 campaign for President of the United States—at a critical juncture in the nation’s history, with literally life-and death crises in the nation’s economy, housing market, and job markets, with the Middle East erupting and America involved in three armed conflicts, with a leadership vacuum at the highest levels of the government and with American trust and hope for the future at a record low—for personal ego gratification and to promote his cheesy, freak-show reality program “The Celebrity Apprentice.” But that’s what he did, soiling the news and  political discourse along the way by giving aid and support to the assortment of paranoids, wackos and racists who had been denying that Obama was a natural born citizen. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “The Jaundiced Eye of Noam Chomsky”

You can find the original post here, and under it, my response to this comment by reader Trafford Gazsik. I’d say that Christopher Hitchens’ rebuttal to Chomsky, linked in the post, and my post about the ethics of bin Laden’s execution address the issues raised, make up your own mind.

“I like Chomsky and as a non-American, I can assure you that rather than filling my head with anti-American sentiments, his writings have reassured me that America remains a country populated with mostly decent people and that the world at large should not give up on the place just yet.

“I’m interested to know which part of Chomsky’s analysis you do not agree with:

- Do you disagree with the assertion that the Bin Laden ‘takedown’ was an assassination?

- Do you reject the assertion that the assassination took place within the territory of another sovereign state without the knowledge or permission of the government of that state, in clear contravention of international law and customs?

- Do you deny that Bin Laden had not been tried in any court, and was for legal purposes, an innocent civilian of Non-US nationality residing in Non-US territory? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

The Jaundiced Eye of Noam Chomsky

I’ve been enduring, teeth gritted, the America-hating propaganda of Noam Chomsky since my college days. He is a brilliant linguistics professor who has credibility as a social critic only because his world view—briefly put, that the United States is evil, and anything that indicates otherwise is the result of a conspiracy–has been so supportive of and nurturing to the extreme Left. It is hard to quantify how much harm he has done to this nation or how many potentially productive minds, foreign and domestic, that he has warped with his bile, but I am sure it is substantial on both counts.

We are fortunate, I guess, to have his assessment of Osama Bin Laden’s death, recently published and available for reading here. The piece is res ipsa loquitur that the man is so consumed with unreasoning hatred for his country that he cannot process the truth or think straight, but I know that plenty of Chomsky followers will be cheering. Thus I am grateful that Christopher Hitchens has authored an admirable take-down of the professor, here.

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Ten Lessons from the “Dog Wars” Debate

Wait! Calm down! This is a CARTOON dog.

The “Dog Wars” Android phone app is apparently down for the count, the victim of too many complaints, threats and accusations that it was evil and irresponsible and promotes real, live dog-fighting, even though almost nobody sane makes similar claims about other video games. As with the subject of most posts on Ethics Alarms, however, the ethics issue lingers on, whether or not the specific incident that sparked the commentary has been resolved.

The comments, often passionate, that this post elicited have been fascinating, and had much to teach, even when the comments themselves were dubious. Here are ten lessons from the debate over the game and the Ethics Alarms commentary about it.

1. Ethics alarms aren’t always right. So many comments about “Dog Wars”, here and around the web, consist of various versions of, “That’s just wrong!” Well, why is it “just wrong”? Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, U.S. Society

Unethical U.S. Presidential Candidacies: Is Trump’s the All-Time Worst?

There have been many unethical candidacies for U.S. President in American history, and some of them have been successful.

I am not referring to unethical candidates for the job, for there have been too many of them to count. An unethical candidacy occurs when a candidate’s purpose for seeking the job, method of doing so, and/or the effect on the nation of his or her campaign is especially reckless, harmful, or irresponsible. Perhaps the first unethical candidacy was that of Aaron Burr, who attempted to exploit a flaw in the election process to steal the presidency from his position as a vice-presidential candidate. Rutherford B. Hayes allowed himself to be put in office by an undemocratic back-room deal when his opponent, Samuel Tilden should have won both the popular and electoral vote.

Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to oppose his old friend, President Taft, in 1912, splitting his party, breaking his word (he had earlier refused to run for what was in essence a third term, agreeing it was best to hold to George Washington’s tradition), and all-but-insuring Woodrow Wilson a victory, was an exercise in ego and hubris. Eight years later, Sen. Warren G. Harding, who privately expressed doubts about his ability to fill the highest post in the land, may have allowed himself to be manipulated and used by corrupt political operatives for their own purposes. Franklin Roosevelt recklessly ran for his fourth term knowing that he was seriously and perhaps terminally ill, and didn’t take care to ensure that he had a competent Vice-President. (He, and the U.S., were lucky in that regard.)

Gov. George Wallace’s third party presidential run in 1968 was explicitly racist. The beneficiary of that candidacy, President Richard Nixon infamously pursued re-election with a new low of unethical and even illegal tactics against the Democrats. There have been others.

Donald Trump’s revolting candidacy, as yet unannounced, cannot fairly be called the most unethical presidential candidacy, but it is early yet. It may well prove to be one of the most harmful. As the United States faces some of the most difficult challenges in its history, Trump has chosen to use the nation’s process of deciding on its leader for his own ego gratification and self-promotion, without  preparation for the job, deference to fair campaign rhetoric, or acknowledgment of his own fatal flaws as a candidate. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Donald Trump, Birther

Classy as ever, Donald!

Donald Trump, whose pseudo-entry into the Republican presidential sweepstakes has had the effect of making all the other candidates and near-candidates look classy by comparison, now is playing the despicable “birther” card. It figures. Everything about Trump’s career, personal life and properties, even his hairstyle, has been an exercise in bad taste.

This tactic plays to the lowest lights in the Republican party, about 70% of whose members harbor serious doubts about President Obama’s place of birth. This is not surprising: it is pure confirmation bias. Most Republicans don’t like Obama, and so don’t trust him. The confusion about his birth certificate feeds that distrust, and confirms it. It seems plausible to them that such an untrustworthy sort is hiding his true place of birth. To someone who trusts the President, this is not plausible. The slow-motion furor over his citizenship confirms their already formed beliefs too: that the Republicans are fools and racists. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society