Ethics Alarms Contest: Pick The Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck

Stock up!

Stock up!

I realized that I needed to hold a contest after I heard two CNN experts discuss the relevance of Michael Brown’s marijuana use to the grand jury deliberations. One of them concluded that this was “disrespectful to Brown’s parents.” Of course, ensuring that grand jury proceedings embody proper respect for a victim’s parents, the accused’s parents, or anyone’s parents is not a legitimate concern for a prosecutor or a grand jury: the commentary was utter, incompetent, irresponsible, misleading and sentimental nonsense.

We are now being barraged by nonsense and worse as ideological pundits, journalists and bloggers desperately try to construct an argument that the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for murder was a blatant miscarriage of justice, proof of a rotten criminal justice system and persistent white racism. I don’t have either the time or the resistant vomit reflex to examine all of them, so let’s try to find the very worst through collective action.

Make your submission to this thread, and include a link, the source, the author, a representative quote, the ethical breaches you detect, which are likely to be from the group including honesty, fairness, responsibility, competence, and independent judgment. The only restriction is that posts from “The Daily Kos” and “Chimpmania” are not eligible for submission. I have seen a few awful posts from supporters of the grand jury’s decisions: send them in as well.

I’m almost afraid to see what we will end up with. For my first submissions, I offer two:

The first one is a jaw-dropping Washington Post op-ed by academic Carol Anderson, who is an associate professor of African-American studies and history at Emory University. I suppose it is responsible for the Post to publish something like this; it is informative, in a frightening way. For example, if you ever wondered what kind of toxic ideas are nurtured in black studies programs, this should give you a taste.

The column is titled “Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress,” which is a racist headline on its face. Yes, Prof. Anderson believes that whites are just furious that African-Americans are advancing in American society. Her reasoning is a text-book example of how rigid ideological constructs can make even the most distorted perception of reality seem obviously and reasonable. Is she intellectually dishonest? Well, she says that “the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African-American voting strength,” as if she doesn’t know that African-American officials often encourage and support such gerrymandering to ensure predominantly black voting populations in neighboring precincts and districts, guaranteeing the election of African-American candidates. She apparently really believes that conservatives oppose bloated government because that’s where otherwise unemployed African-Americans get jobs, and not because a huge government is expensive, inefficient, oppressive, corrupt, and doesn’t work. She appears to believe that the foreclosure crisis that sparked the economic collapse in 2008 was all about hurting blacks more than whites.

The most unethical part of this essay is that the author never connects the police shooting to white rage in any coherent arguments at all. She doesn’t prove her thesis; she doesn’t come close to proving it. This woman is educating students who are paying tuition at Emory. That’s something to be enraged about.

I knew the contest would not be dominated by standard-issue academic black bigots like Anderson, however, when I read the weekend column by regular Post op-ed writer Eugene Robinson. This man has a Pulitzer, for some reason, yet he only rarely breaks out of the knee-jerk partisan hackery best exemplified by E. J. Dionne. His op-ed, “De-humanizing Ferguson,” is arguably worse than Anderson’s, considering that Robinson is an op-ed writer by trade. Is he being dishonest, or just inexcusably ignorant to write such statements as…

  • “Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch led the grand jury in a manner that seemed designed to indict the unarmed Brown rather than the man who shot him dead.” Since the question of whether Officer Wilson should be indicted for murder or was engaged in lawful self-defense was core to the proceedings, Brown’s conduct was obviously the key question at hand. Describing the teen as “the unarmed Brown” is deceit, as well as part of the false narrative pushed by activists from the beginning: he should be accurately described as “the 300 pound, arrest-resisting Brown who had attacked an officer once and may have been preparing to do so again.” The repeated use of this misleading description is designed to make the public more ignorant. Police do not regard the lack of a weapon as disposition of the issue of whether a subject poses a deadly threat.  If Robinson knows this and is intentionally ignoring it to win his point—the fact that Brown was unarmed is really the entire basis for his argument—he’s dishonest. If he doesn’t know it and is still basing his conclusions on his own ignorance, then he is reckless and irresponsible.
  • “No one should have been surprised that police officer Darren Wilson was not charged in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. I’ve written before, and likely will have to write again, about the tragically low value our society places on the lives of young black men.” This is really despicable from Robinson. The justice system is not some kind of barter system where punishment is allocated according to the “value” of a victim’s life.The only question is whether Brown was shot legally or not. That’s all. His “value” has nothing to do with it. Nothing in the grand jury proceedings suggests that there wasn’t an indictment because Brown’s life lacked “value.” If evidence strongly suggested it was self-defense, and Wilson had been indicted anyway because his victim was regarded as especially “valuable,” that would constitute a travesty of law and ethics. Does Robinson really believe that those who shoot victims who really do lack “value,” such as child-molesting, sociopathic and flatulent drug dealers who are in league with ISIS in their spare time, should be treated more leniently by the justice system than the murderer who strangles a philanthropist?
  • “On Aug. 9, Wilson was in his patrol car when he saw Brown and Dorian Johnson walking in the street. Wilson’s account of what he said to them — “Why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk?” — went unchallenged at the grand jury hearing. In context, Johnson’s version of what Wilson said sounds more credible to me: “Get the [expletive] on the sidewalk.” It sounds more credible to Robinson because he is biased, and because he is judging Wilson’s character by behavior and attitudes he attributes to others. That’s called prejudice. He knows nothing about Wilson’s professionalism or attitudes toward the community, but he assumes that Johnson’s account of an officer saying “Get the fuck on the sidewalk” must be credible despite the fact that Johnson’s account has already been shown to be a fabrication in other respects and that he has a history of lying to police. Why? Well, Johnson is black, Robinson is black, the police officer is white and the column is proof that objectivity and fairness have been tossed out of Robinson’s office window.

These are just two execrable examples out of many.  I’d like to identify the worst. Let’s see what you can find, and keep the Pepto Bismol handy.

You’ll need it.


15 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Contest: Pick The Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck

  1. They’re just following the “party line” on this. It seems that few journalists, black or white, have the courage to make an honest inquiry concerning matters that involve race and/or political correctness. It illustrates starkly the low state into which the editorial profession has fallen.

  2. She appears to believe that the foreclosure crisis that sparked the economic collapse in 2008 was all about hurting blacks more than whites.

    That is batshit crazy, nearly as much as blaming the foreclosure crisis on the Jews.

    I’ve written before, and likely will have to write again, about the tragically low value our society places on the lives of young black men.

    I am sure Mr. Robinson wrote about how a small minority of black men places such a low value on the lives of other young black men.

  3. I’m just going to do headlines:
    “Everything the Darren Wilson grand jury got wrong: The lies, errors and mistruths that let Michael Brown’s killer off the hook”

    “Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.”

    I have noticed a trend in journalism over the last several years that has tended to make me less than sympathetic to anyone the media thinks I should be sympathetic to. In the typical journalism formula to raise sympathy for the disadvantaged group of the week, a ‘new’ problem is presented (not extending unemployment benefits past 3 years, not forgiving all student loans, etc), experts are quoted as saying the should be done, and a series of examples are given to make us see how terrible the current state is or how terrible the consequences of the Republican suggestion will be.

    The problem is with the examples the media chooses. I have little to no sympathy for any of them. If they are trying to suggest that student loans need to be forgiven, they always bring up the case of someone who took out $90,000+ in loans to get a humanities degree, then went for further schooling and has allowed the interest to accumulate to $200,000+. Sorry you were a fool, but why should I have to pay for that. Yes, you ruined your financial life and you will be in court for awhile to make it manageable. If the problem is the need to extend unemployment benefits to a fourth year, they bring up the case of a secretary who was making $90,000/year until she helped her boss embezzle money from the company. She complains that in 3 years she has had to turn down numerous job offers because they don’t pay as much as the $60,000/year she has been getting in unemployment. Sorry, no sympathy there. Are these really the best examples the media can find?

    Now we have Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Of all the cases of purported racism, these are the ones the media and the civil rights movement chose to publicize? You have Michael Brown who first robs a store and attacks its owner, then attacks a police officer. You have Trayvon Martin who apparently is so unsympathetic that we aren’t even allowed to know what he looks like. If I were an alien from outer space and was asked to judge racism in America from these two cases, I would have to conclude that there is no racism against blacks in the US and that the black community is violent and irrational. There have to be better cases, clear-cut cases of racism and racial bias to highlight, don’t there?

    Why is the media and the civil rights groups publicized this garbage? All this is doing is solidifying the idea that there is no real racism against blacks in this country, that the problem is the violence and race-baiting of the civil rights community and the media. Is that what they want, more racial division?

    • One of the commenters on Althouse’s blog, jr565, knocked the Vox piece out of the park:

      I mentioned this yesterday. But one of the worst instances of malfeasance from the left was Ezra Klein who wrote:
      “Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      I have to quote it because the asininity of it is so outrageous. Literally.

      I quote:

      “What happens next is the most unbelievable moment in the narrative. And so it’s probably best that I just quote Wilson’s account at length on it.
      “I was doing the, just scrambling, trying to get his arms out of my face and him from grabbing me and everything else. He turned to his…if he’s at my vehicle, he turned to his left and handed the first subject. He said, “here, take these.” He was holding a pack of — several packs of cigarillos which was just, what was stolen from the Market Store was several packs of cigarillos. He said, “here, hold these” and when he did that I grabbed his right arm trying just to control something at that point. Um, as I was holding it, and he came around, he came around with his arm extended, fist made, and went like that straight at my face with his…a full swing from his left hand.

      So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson.

      Every bullshit detector in me went off when I read that passage. Which doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen exactly the way Wilson describes. But it is, again, hard to imagine. Brown, an 18-year-old kid holding stolen goods, decides to attack a cop and, while attacking him, stops, hands his stolen goods to his friend, and then returns to the beatdown. It reads less like something a human would do and more like a moment meant to connect Brown to the robbery.”

      This is what Ezra finds so unbelievable. Someone then Twittered on Ezra’s twitter Feed Darius’s testimony where he basically says that in the middle of the fight Michael handed Darius the cigarillos.The literal testimony from Darius corroborates what the cop said.
      Here is Darius’s testimony:

      Johnson said he couldn’t hear all of what they were saying but that the two men were “yelling and cussing.” He described the two as having angry faces and said neither was trying to calm things down. “Punches were thrown,” but it was more a “tug of war and it was very intense, very intense.”

      Saying Brown was trying to break free, but that Wilson “never fully let Big Mike go,” he described how the officer shifted his left grip from Brown’s right arm to get “a good grasp” on Brown’s shirt. Brown took advantage of the moment to face Johnson and tell him to “grab these, bro” — referring to the Cigarillos.

      In shock, Johnson said, “my hands open to where he could put the rillos in my hand.” He knew something needed to be done to calm the situation, but said he could not open his mouth. “I could not speak at that time and the Cigarillos were placed in my hand,” and Brown turned back to face the officer, he said.

      So, to reiterate Ezra, even Darius is saying that which set off your bullshit detector was actually how it happened. IN the middle of the fight Brown handed the cigarillos to Darius who was shocked that it happened.

      Did Ezra really even follow this story at all? My bullshit detector is going off reading about how Ezra’s bullshit detector went off. Mine seems to be working better though.

    • As for the Salon piece, it stalls at incompetent. Brown was heavier (like by 100 pounds) but not as heavy as the police cruiser? Laughable. Wilson should have been able to tackle a charging perp who’s been hit with 4 bullets? You want to bet your life on that theory, Paul? Because the law says you don’t have to. ‘It appeared like the prosecutor was acting as Darren Wilson’s defense attorney, rather than looking out for the interests of Michael Brown and his family.’??? These are all abysmal arguments, with the latter showing complete ignorance of what a prosecutor is there to do…again, “the interests of Michael Brown’s family” don’t figure in the calculation at all.

      Why don’t these commentators actually talk to somebody who understands the legal system ( and has not been hand-picked by MSNBC to claim bias where there was none) ? This is rank ignorance.

      And naturally, Salon cites the silly Vox article. The entire argument in Salon is essentially that “we just know there’s some reason that was never uncovered that proves Wilson murdered Brown in cold blood, and we need to try a guy who at this point can’t be shown to have committed a crime, just in case.”

      If a non-white, non-cop was treated the way Rosenberg, Maddow at al want Wilson to be treated by the law, we would have innocent citizens being convicted left and right. The anti-law enforcement crowd would scream in indignation if that was the case, however. I’s just white cops who deserve the presumption of guilt, and of racism too.

      Good entries.

  4. I present to you (groan), Jezebel!

    The headline: “Darren Wilson Says He Would Shoot Michael Brown Again”

    The climax of stupidy: “…When asked “Would this have gone down differently if Michael Brown were white?” Wilson said, “Absolutely not.” Yes, racist tendencies are so deeply ingrained in Darren Wilson’s mind that he can’t even acknowledge them.”

    I’ll take my prize now. There was a prize right?

    • Yes, racist tendencies are so deeply ingrained in Darren Wilson’s mind that he can’t even acknowledge them.”

      there are no such things as invisible racist tendencies. Here is proof.

      “Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon,” [California Attorney General] Harris said.

      If invisible racist tendencies actually existed, we would not be able to trust local law enforcement to use their discretion “to determine who can carry a concealed weapon”, because they would end up discriminating against unpopular, powerless minorities. Instead, we would have to require local law enforcement to allow persons to carry concealed weapons. But Attorney General harris does trust local law enforcement with such discretion. QED.

  5. Maybe I found a better one. Behold,! Your tax dollars at work:

    The headline: “In Darren Wilson’s Testimony, Familiar Themes About Black Men”

    Here are the smoking guns from Wilson’s testimony, explained:

    “…But when police officer Darren Wilson fired the shot that ended Brown’s life, he saw things differently. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he said in his testimony to the grand jury. “That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt.” Wilson said “the only way” he could describe Brown’s “intense aggressive face” was that it looked like “a demon.” He feared for his life.

    Many observers, such as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie and Vox’s Lauren Williams, pointed out that Wilson’s testimony has historical echoes of the “black brute” caricatures that portrayed black men as savage, destructive criminals…”

    This tweet by some guy is then offered, without explanation, as confirmation:

    “Wilson’s account of Brown reads a lot like 1800s stereotypes of the uncivilized, grunting brute black man. #Ferguson”

    And then there’s a collection of non-sequiturs, including examples of genuine racist imagery used by people who are not Darren Wilson, or who lived 150 years ago.

    An assistant professor at a school of management is then appealed to, telling us this:

    “We know dehumanization often emerges as people treating others as subhuman, like vermin in the case of the Holocaust, [or] as apelike in depictions of African-Americans in U.S. history, and that denies people humanity,” he says. “What we’re saying is that superhumanization is another way of denying humanity and ‘othering’ African-Americans by saying that they exist sort of outside the human realm.”

    Well, I’m no psychologist, but here is my own hard-hitting analysis of the two statements by Wilson that are being overthought here:

    1. If Wilson had compared Brown to “a gorilla” or “Mr. T” or “Junkyard Dog”, would appear to have something here. But as someone who grew up watching The Hulkster, I’m pretty sure he is a white man. Hulk Hogan must be the go-to racist characterization of Black people among bigots, and I just wasn’t aware.

    2. Michael Brown weighed almost 300 pounds (actually the same as Hulk Hogan.) So I would assume that Wilson describing Brown as much bigger and stronger than him is not so much a subconscious racist perception as it is a description of REALITY.

    3. If you asked Darren Wilson whether he thinks that Black people, in general, are the size of Hulk Hogan and wear facial expressions that resemble demons, I don’t have any reason to suspect that he would. I think that was pretty specific to Brown, and therefore not racist.

    4. The question “When can education make you stupid?” Can be answered with this link to

    • Yes, I have been tempted to write about this one, which has popped up elsewhere. (I have so many unexplored Ferguson topics its depressing, with more popping up every day. But its a depressing topic, and too many people have just closed their minds.) Like the Jezebel essay, this is really bigotry at work. The NPR commentators are so immersed in the assumptions that 1) a white cop must be prejudiced against a black man and 2) all cops are inherently itching to shoot people that the fact that Brown was both violent and huge is tossed aside as excuses. If Butler hadn’t already written “All looks yellow to the jaundiced eye,” this would have triggered the creation of it. Wilson’s reactions to a 300 pound guy trying to 1) take his gun and 2) charge him are completely understandable and reasonable without any reference to Brown’s race at all, but in order to color the shooting racist, NPR’s experts must begin with the myth that Brown’s size and demeanor don’t matter. No, he’s still a “harmless unarmed black teen.”

      Also this: the horde that so desperately wants to think Wilson is guilty have attacked his testimony as “coached,” as if all competent attorneys representing a client in Wilson’s situation would not be obligated to advise him on how to tell his story to best advantage. Yet Wilson was also spontaneous and candid: I’m pretty sure his 5 year old and demon characterizations would have been nixed as provocative. He was not scripted (unethical). Coaching is fine, indeed, essential.

  6. “…such as child-molesting, sociopathic and flatulent drug dealers who are in league with ISIS in their spare time, ….”

    You, Good Sir, owe me a keyboard.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.