Tag Archives: misrepresentation

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

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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 Then, in November, a study he promoted as proving the efficacy of coffee bean weight-loss pills was retracted as junk science.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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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Contest Entry For Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck: Hip-Hop DJ Jay Smooth

It goes without saying that my efforts to avoid more Ferguson commentary is a failure. The race-baiters, grievance-mongers, police-haters and cynical Democratic-base-goosers are engaging in an orgy of self-righteousness, aided by an uncritical news media and encouraged by public sentimentality and ignorance. This is horrible for the rule of law, law enforcement, race relations and the nation, but to close our eyes and repress our gag reflexes, hoping it will go away, is cowardly and irresponsible. This stuff is dangerous, to be blunt. Lies always are, and public policy built on lies will always result in harm and distrust.

The onslaught is much more powerful than I expected: several member of the Congressional Black Caucus actually brought the false “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” rallying cry onto the House floor yesterday. Charlie Rangel is using the lawful shooting of Brown based not on race but on his conduct alone to re-open demands for slavery reparations.

In this context, I’m entering this video blog by John Randolph, a.k.a “Jay Smooth,” a popular and outspoken hip-hop DJ with pretenses of social relevance.  It is genuine mind-poison. “Smooth” is sure smooth: he’s articulate, facile, a good actor, attractive, and facts mean absolutely nothing to him. Here he spins a persuasive justification for the Ferguson riots based on a series of demonstrably false premises: garbage in, but insidiously persuasive garbage out, especially to his audience. It begins with an apparently popular tweet he made before the grand jury results came out, which said, “The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, but more Darren Wilsons.” If Wilson was not indicted for lawfully protecting himself from a subject who attacked him, more police will protect themselves from attacking suspects? The tweet is cleverly misleading: it assumes, without stating, that a racist cop murdered a black youth, and the video blog proceeds accordingly from that assertion. The truth is that the danger of having an indictment would be to allow mob justice and vengeance to preempt due process and fairness. Not surprisingly, Smooth later reveals that he sent essentially the same dishonest tweet about the George Zimmerman trial. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Blog Post

Contest Entry For Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck: Vanity Fair and W. Kamau Bell

Large, male, black...also irresponsible and dishonest.

Large, male, black…also irresponsible and dishonest.

My nominee for the contest: Vanity Fair’s “On Being a Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, in America in 2014″ by comedian W. Kamau Bell.

Maybe Bell thinks the extra face-time on cable news this despicably deceitful essay gets him does enough for his career to justify adding to the false narrative about the Michael Brown shooting.  It isn’t. Nor is it worth the ignorance, hatred and fear he is sowing by intentionally misrepresenting what happened to Mike Brown as simply the natural consequence of his race, gender and size. Conduct had a lot to do with it too.

The article is really sinister, repeatedly comparing the author, who is about the same height as Brown was, to the slain teen, implying but never quite saying that Brown was killed simply because he was, in the author’s words, black, male, and large. Here’s a typical passage:

“I am afraid of the cops. Absolutely petrified of the cops. Now understand, I’ve never been arrested or held for questioning. I’ve never been told that I “fit the description.” But that doesn’t change a thing. I am afraid of cops the way that spiders are afraid of boots. You’re walking along, minding your own business, and SQUISH! You are dead.  Simply put, I am afraid of the cops because I am black. To raise the stakes even further, I am male. And to go all in on this pot of fear, I am six foot four, and weigh 250 pounds. Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri 18-year-old shot dead by police this summer, was also six foot four. Depending on your perspective, I could be described as a “gentle giant,” the way that teachers described  Brown. Or I could be described as a “demon,” the way that Officer Darren Wilson described Michael Brown in his grand-jury testimony.”

He doesn’t exactly say that Brown was “walking along, minding his own business,” but that’s his intent, and he knows that’s what thousands have chosen to believe. He says that he, like Brown, could be described as a “gentle giant,’ but omits the detail that Brown was obviously not accurately described as “gentle.” If he were gentle, he would be alive. He also, being intentionally misleading, fails to mention that Wilson described Brown as looking like demon when the teen was attacking him.

Michael Brown wasn’t shot because he was large, black and male. He was shot because he attacked a police officer, twice, and because his size made that attack more legitimately threatening.  Because of his size and what he was doing with it, no reference to Brown’s color is necessary or relevant.

Bell’s perceptions of white reactions to a law-abiding, civil citizen because he happens to be a large black male  have added some useful perspective  to the national discussion of racial bias and police conduct, had he not chosen the path of using the topic to insinuate an innocent victim’s status for Michael Brown that does not comport with facts, slanders Darren Wilson, and fans the flames of ignorance and hate.

No responsible publication should publish something like this.

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Attorney General Eric Holder

“While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing.  Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now.  Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence.  And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”

—-Attorney General Eric Holder’s official statement following the announcement that the grand jury would not be handing down an indictment against Michale Brown’s shooter, Officer Wilson.

Sure, why change now?

Sure, why change now?

Why is this statement so unethical? There are three reasons.

1. The positioning of this statement, at the very beginning of the whole release, suggests and is meant to suggest that Holder and the Justice Department are in sympathy with those who believe that Wilson should be prosecuted. It translates into “Don’t despair! There is still hope! Your black Attorney General is doing all he can to get this racist cop and avenge Mike Brown!” for many who read or heard it, and that was the intent.

2. This is misrepresentation, essentially a lie, designed to mislead. No legal experts believe that there is any chance that the Justice Department will find probable cause to make a civil rights case against Wilson, and Holder is too good a lawyer—or once was—not to know that.  The bar is too high, and the evidence isn’t there, just as it wasn’t there in the equally futile civil rights investigation against George Zimmerman. Most, if not all, of those determined to see Wilson punished don’t comprehend what the investigation of the shooting by Justice signifies, and think it is just a separate chance to get him on trial for murder. Holder, again intentionally, did nothing to enlighten them.

3. To the extent that anyone does believe that the Justice investigation holds out hope of an indictment against Wilson, Holder is setting Brown’s supporters up for a second disappointment, and conceivably setting up Ferguson and the nation for a second round of rioting when the inevitable bad news comes down. Good plan.

What an ethics disaster and a national disgrace Eric Holder has been as Attorney General. And he is clearly determined to be both until the day he walks out of Justice for good….and I do mean “for good.

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

How Media And Academic Bias Make Us Stupid: The “Personal Freedom Study”

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“STUDY: American personal freedom now ranks below 20 other nations…” reads a link in this morning’s Drudge Report.

That is NOT what the study shows….not even close.

The link goes to an Examiner story headlined “Under Obama, U.S. personal freedom ranking slips below France.” That’s a little better, but it’s also misleading. Both headlines are attempts to spin a study that tells nobody anything about how much freedom there is in the U.S., under President Obama or otherwise. The study, meanwhile, is easily spun because it was badly conceived, is itself of dubious value, and was also probably the result of a researchers grinding their own axes.

It is early, and I am pretty sure that the cable news sharks and the internet pundits will be latching on to this garbage study in droves, with the result being mass confusion in the public. That’s right: the world of scholarship and research, and the world of journalism, will conspire to make the public less informed than it already is, setting it up for the handiwork of future Jonathan Grubers and the parties that employ them.

You see, the study doesn’t even purport to measure “freedom” in any objective way across different nations. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society

“Drunk Girl In Public”: This Trend Will Ruin Trust, Spontenaity, Kindness and Fun, and There Is Absolutely Nothing We Can About It Except Complain

I guess it all began with Allen Funt.

If Allen knew what he would be starting, he would have opened a deli.

If Allen knew what he would be starting, he would have opened a deli.

Back in the Fifties, he came up with the idea of using a hidden camera to record the reactions of innocent bystanders “in the act of being themselves.” He staged situations, sometimes Twilight Zones set-ups like a door that opened for everyone but the target, and filmed the results, first for a guest segment on TV talk shows and finally on his own, long running hit, “Candid Camera.” Funt would never have dreamed of using actors and faking the reactions, because first, he didn’t need to; second, if he was caught, it would ruin him; and third, he was an honest professional. The idea, however, has thoroughly metastasized in all directions, to “practical joke shows,” reality shows, and such monstrosities as ABC’s “What Would You Do?” and James O’Keefe. Perversions were limited as long as the shows were restricted to television, but now YouTube makes everyone a potential producer, and among the thousands trying to create a viral video, there are many, perhaps most,  who are not decent, ethical professionals like Allen Funt, but just greedy jerks who will gladly cheat, lie to and humiliate others to gain fame and fortune. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, U.S. Society

How Statistics Abuse Make Us Lazy, Biased, Misinformed and Stupid: The Slate Dog Chart

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A pet peeve (HAR!!!): computer geeks and statistics experts reducing complex issue into “simple” charts and graphs that have apparent credibility because of their form rather than their substance. I encounter this seductive form of fake erudition—“You can’t argue with statistics!”—in every field I explore: baseball, politics (Sorry, Nate Silver), social science, science (climate change models are a spectacular example), education. “Simple, straightforward” arrays of statistics that hide biases, dubious assumptions, projections, value judgments, undisclosed definitions, and who knows what else are presented to persuade on the false representation that they are “hard” representations of fact.  Very frequently, they are not, and when they are not, they incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest. Also arrogant to the core.

You could find no better example of this than this dog chart, by David McCandless, which purports to summarize “big data”—read: “data that can be manipulated to show whatever you want it to show” indicating which dog breeds are “over-rated,” as well as how they score on a “costs and benefits” scale. The fact that anyone could take such a garbage graphic seriously is unsettling, but of course, it will only impress people who know absolutely nothing about dogs and dog breeds. That’s what all such arrays of statistics are for: to convince and mislead those who are too lazy or uninformed to really understand the topic at hand and its complexities, but who want to lay claim to an “informed opinion.”

Just look at this monstrosity (you can read it better here): Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Research and Scholarship