As a professional ethics specialist, I find the enthusiasm with which alleged professionals have used the election of Donald Trump to excuse their abandonment of such ethical values as fairness, responsibility, respect and citizenship deeply discouraging, and I am seriously considering becoming a beachcomber. I already knew that the journalism profession no longer could distinguish ethics from a hairy crab, so this wasn’t too surprising, nor was it too much of a shock that the New York Times has become a non-stop anti-Trump fear-fest and rant machine. Let’s see, in today’s edition alone there is a hit piece on Trump advisor Steve Bannon called “Bannon’s Coriolanus Rewrite,” then “Donald Trump’s Racial Ignorance,” “Where the Right Went Wrong,” (an amazing title, given the current balance of political power after Hillary’s botched campaign), “How the Truth Got Hacked,” “Is Democracy in Danger?” “Trump, the Russian Poodle,” and “Is This Collective Trauma?” The last, I guess, explains why mass trauma is inevitable for progressives, moderates and “Never Trump” Republicans when “the political order they long took for granted — defined by polarization, yes, but also by a commitment to basic principles of democracy and decency — is suddenly gone.” One would almost wonder from that sentence which side of the political spectrum is calling for armed insurrection, pre-inaugural impeachment, and the overturning of the election results. The Times is also a showcase for columnists whose minds have snapped like dry branches in the wind, causing them to leap manically onto the Trump Hysteria Express. Economist Paul Krugman has long been a hyper-partisan scold for whom fairness is alien territory, but this tweet was spectacularly vicious even for him:
“Thought: There was (rightly) a cloud of illegitimacy over Bush, dispelled (wrongly) by 9/11. Creates some interesting incentives for Trump.”
An ethical newspaper wouldn’t want someone capable of such a comment working for it.
Many broadcast journalists were stunningly unprofessional, indeed amateurish, on election night. Martha Raddatz choked up with emotion reporting Clinton’s loss; now there’s an objective reporter. Rachel Maddow described the evening as a “nightmare.”
Education has been racing journalism to the ethics barrel bottom for years, but I did not expect universities to send such intimidating messages to their students that they were expected to either be in mourning or on the verge of emotional breakdowns because the Democrats lost. Once, higher institutions of learning aimed to teach students critical thinking skills so they could make up their own minds regarding civic affairs. High school administrators and teachers also forgot their duties, and allowed students to skip school because, you know, TRUMP!!!!, and “ARRRGHHHHH!!!!”
Lawyers have lost their ethical bearings, of course, as have law professors, with perhaps the best example of the latter being the Georgetown Law Center adjunct who claims that the Constitution is unconstitutional, because following it will elect Donald Trump. My law alma mater isn’t faring too well in the train wreck: another professor, Paul Butler, argued that Supreme Court justices shouldn’t normally attack a President Elect, except when it’s Donald Trump.
Other academics have disgraced themselves. A prominent historian, for example, even resorted to making up history to provide an excuse for Democrats losing to such a horrible creature. Professor Larry Lessig of Harvard Law, who heads an ethics institute there, is encouraging electors to be “faithless,” as in “double-cross the voters who elected them.” Some ethics institute you have there, Harvard!
Artist, actors and show business professionals have debased themselves even more than usual, beginning with the Broadway cast of “Hamilton’s” breach of the Performer’s First Commandment: DON’T ABUSE THE AUDIENCE. They have even started turning on each other: Jon Voight, whose sin was that he expressed support for the man elected President, was booed at recent awards show by his fellow actors. Nice.
But as bad as this has been, I didn’t expect food critics to be corrupted.
This week’s Vanity Fair includes a review of a Donald Trump-owned restaurant in Manhattan called Trump Grill. TripAdvisor.com, the world’s largest travel site, includes 244 reviews of Trump Grill dating back to well before Trump announced his candidacy for President in June of 2015. 187 of the 244 rate the restaurant “excellent” or “very good.” Thirty-three rank it “average” and just 24 of the 244 call it “terrible” or “poor.” Trump Grill averages out to four stars out of a possible five. Zagat gives Trump Grill receives a higher-than-average rating of three stars out of five.
To review the Trump Grill, Vanity Fair sent a well-qualified, objective food critic. Just kidding: it sent Tina Nguyen, whom the Hill’s Joe Concha fairly describes as “one of the most biased, anti-Trump members of the media in America, and that’s really saying something.” Concha backs up his assessment by listing some of Nguyen’s anti-Trump stories from just the past month, like “Who Will Lie to the Press For Trump Next?”, “Did Donald Trump Win the Election Because of a Typo?”, “Bored with Unity, Donald Trump Returns to the Campaign Trail,” “Why are These Liberal Senators Eager to Work with Trump?”, and the ever-reasonable “Is Donald Trump Turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic?”
Now, of course, an ethical restaurant critic would be capable of giving a favorable review to a deserving restaurant even if were owned and operated by the demon Pazuzu. Maybe Nguyen is such a critic; indeed, if she is not capable of this, she would be obligated to refuse the assignment. Unfortunately, her past public stances regarding Trump make it impossible for a negative review by her of a restaurant owned by someone she so obviously reviles to have any credibility. So why would Vanity Fair assign the review to her? It wanted a negative review, obviously. It stacked the deck against the Trump Grill.
And it worked. “TRUMP GRILL COULD BE THE WORST RESTAURANT IN AMERICA” was the headline to Nguyen’s review., which included such contempt-dripping passages as this:
“As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of ‘Jingle Bells’ jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas. Donald Trump is ‘a poor person’s idea of a rich person,’ Fran Lebowitz recently observed at The Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. ‘They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’ Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper.”
“Bias makes you stupid,” as Ethics Alarms often has occasion to note, and in the case of the The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, Angry Progressives and Democrats Club Car, it also lets everyone who isn’t biased see just how unprofessional and untrustworthy you are. When the wreckage is cleared, a lot of people will have forfeited much of their dignity, credibility and claim to trustworthiness. The list of disgraced professionals gets longer every day. Now it’s restaurant critics. Who’s next?
Pointer: Other Bill
Source: The Hill