I am developing a real dislike for the Daily Beast. Tina Brown’s slick news aggregating website has gone out of its way to slander innocent dog breeds, features self-promoting hypocrites like John Avlon, and generally displays the ethical instincts of Piers Morgan, which is to say, none. Today it gave us an update on Serene Branson, who was mocked by blogger Perez Hilton and others for having an obvious, and frightening, on-air neurological event that caused her to be unable to speak coherently. Entitled “Line-Flubbing Grammys Reporter Fine”—trivializing as “line-flubbing” what was clearly nothing of the sort; people don’t get checked out by physicians for flubbing lines—the Daily Beast’s commentary noted that paramedic could find nothing wrong, so “Laugh away.”
This is the ugly face of consequentialism, judging the ethical nature of conduct based on what happens afterwards. Perez Hilton’s cruel amusement at a reporter finding that she cannot form intelligible speech is now retroactively fine and dandy, because Branson hasn’t—so far—keeled over or gone blind. So laugh, jerks, laugh…until she does keel over, tomorrow, or next week, or next month, in which case the ridicule becomes unacceptible to The Daily Beast.
Another human being who is panic-stricken as her body turns on her is not funny, and it is a sign of callousness and a deficit of compassion to laugh at the sight of it, whether or not the apparent catastrophe turns out to be minor after all. But the Daily Beast is proving that it is a playpen, occupied by reporters, columnists and editors with the ethical sophistication of gradeschoolers.
UPDATE 2/15/11 (From AOL News):
“Despite Branson’s insistence that she’s fine, doctors who have examined the now heavily circulated footage of the incident continue to express concerns.
“This is what we call a class neurological event,” Dr. Keith Black, director of the Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”
According to Black, Branson’s episode was likely the result of a transient ischemic attack, essentially a “blockage in blood flow going to the brain,” or a “mini-seizure located in the language area.”
The New York Post also spoke to doctors who viewed the tape, and they said that Branson’s garbled speech could have resulted from “aphasia, which affects the ability to articulate, and that it could have been brought on by a mini-stroke, a tumor or a circulatory issue.”