Tag Archives: misrepresentation

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”

freedom

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

“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

Dog-Breeds-MAIN

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

Unethical Website Post Correction Of The Decade: Breitbart

EXCLUSIVE: Speaker John Boehner’s Head Falls Off, Breaking Paul Ryan’s Nose [Corrected]

Correction: Boehner’s head didn’t fall off and Paul’s nose is fine.

The above apparently illustrates the Breitbart style book policy when the conservative web site publishes a story that is 100% untrue.

Over the weekend, Breitbart published an exclusive story revealing  that President Obama’s Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch was on the legal team that defended President Clinton during the Whitewater investigation. That was a different Loretta Lynch, however. This would, with a conventional new site that knew the difference between ethics and a pangolin, mandate 1) removing the false story and 2) replacing it with a separate post explicating the error. But no. Here is how Brietbart handled it: leaving the story and the headline up in all its misrepresentation with a parenthetical “correction” added, which was explained only if you read all the way to the bottom of the story, where you would find the italicized information that everything you had just read was baloney. Such “Correction” notices usually explain that a detail was wrong or a name was misspelled. I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen one that said, in effect, “Never mind”…like this:

Bad CorrectionThis kind of keen ethical judgment is why is why I stopped reading, relying on or referring to Breibart. If a story link reveals Breitbart as the source, I ignore it. I suggest you do the same.

_________________________

Pointer, Source and Graphic: Talking Points Memo

 

 

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Filed under Journalism & Media, The Internet

Let’s Play “Pick The Most Unethical Lawsuit!”

Bad suits

Hello, hello, hello, Game Show fans! My, what a great crowd we have today. I’m your host, Wink Marshall, and today our contestants are going to compete for Most Unethical Law Suit. As always, you, our home audience, will decide who get the prize, a lifetime supply of extremely expensive boloney, courtesy of our sponsor, Oscar Meyer. Are you ready? Then, let’s meet our contestants! First, heeeere’s…

Andrew Rector!

You remember Andrew, right? In June, I wrote…

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters. …Let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. …Unfortunately, Rector, whose name was unknown and whose sleeping form would have been quickly forgotten, decided that his humiliation was so great that he needed to sue…for $10, 000,000. Rector filed the suit against ESPN, Shulman, Kruk, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball…and asks for damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing malicious and false statements said about him,including that Rector is “a fatty cow” that represents a “symbol of failure.” …None of the defendants actually said any of these things (“fatty cow”?). Rector’s suit is apparently making the creative legal argument that ESPN’s mild mockery seeded the vicious mockery elsewhere on the web.

Welcome back to Ethics Alarms, Andrew, old friend!  Try to sta awake, now! Has the Streisand Effect kicked in yet? We’re doing what we can to help!

Now let’s meet someone completely new to Ethics Alarms, Contestant #2, Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On Wendy Davis’s Controversial “Wheelchair Ad” Attacking Greg Abbott

1. The campaign of Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has issued an attack ad directly referencing gubernatorial rival Greg Abbott’s partial paralysis, and includes the image of an empty wheelchair. Davis could claim—and will, if she hasn’t already–that  the implication that his use of a wheelchair argues against his qualifications to be governor is inadvertent or imagined, except that her supporters were caught in a Project Veritas video mocking Abbott for his disability, and Davis has made gaffes relating to his handicap before, as when she said that he hadn’t “walked a day in her shoes.”

2. She is a member of a party with supporters in the media ready to pounce on any Republican who makes a similarly provocative reference to an opposing candidate’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender or “abled status.” The double standard is certainly a campaign boon to Democrats, but they have to take advantage of it a bit more subtly than this.

3. What is primarily wrong with the ad, however, isn’t the wheelchair, or the use of tactics that would called an appeal to bigotry if they were used by Republicans. It is that the arguments the ad seem to be making are stupid, unfair and wrong, and ones that Davis, who is a lawyer, must know are stupid and wrong, or she is stupid and wrong. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions