Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/12/17

1.Senator Diane Feinstein redeemed some of the Democratic Party’s integrity by stating that James Comey’s revelations regarding Obama AG Loretta Lynch’s directive that he lie to the news media and the American people so they wouldn’t think Hillary Clinton was being investigated warranted hearings and its own investigation. This was easily the biggest story to come out of Comey’s testimony, as the U.S. government using its power to influence a Presidential election by spreading misinformation is far more serious than a foreign power influencing an election by allowing the public to see what a candidate and her party have been covering up. (I have stated the issue this way before, and will continue to do so, since it is accurate and true.) That this damning account was mostly buried by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the broadcast media is yet one more smoking gun (as if more were needed) proving just how partisan and untrustworthy the news media has become. It also should focus more attention on the still-percolating IRS scandal, speaking of subordinates interpreting a leader’s expressed desires as directives, as well as  Barack Obama’s repeatedly demonstrated belief that the ends justifies the means in the 2012 campaign, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran deal, and more.

2. NY Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, a smoking-gun himself since the Times’ refusal to discipline or can him when he repeatedly used anti-Mormon slurs to attack Mitt Romney, has become the loudest shill for “the resistance” at the paper–quite an achievement, since the whole paper is a shill for “the resistance”—reveals that 43% of the public (according to polls, remember, and we now know how reliable and unbiased they are) believe that Congress should commence impeachment hearings. Blow finds this tragic, but the only two interpretations of the data is that 43% of the public is civicly, legally and historically ignorant, that 43% of the public has been completely misled by the biased reporting of the news media, or that 43% have embraced the anti-democratic view of impeachment being pushed by progressives and “the resistance,” which is that it is a legitimate device to undo elections and ensure that the Left achieves permanent rule over us all. Writes Blow, sniffling,

“I know well that the very real obstacles to removal injures the psyche of those worn thin by the relentless onslaught of awfulness erupting from this White House. I know well that impeachment is one of the only rays of hope cutting through these dark times. I’m with you; I too crave some form of political comeuppance. But, I believe that it’s important to face the very real possibility that removal may not come, and if it does, it won’t come swiftly. And even a Trump impeachment would leave America with a President Pence, a nightmare of a different stripe but no less a nightmare.”

It should bother everyone that a man like this has a regular, high-visibility platform for his corrosive views. Impeachment is national convulsion that good citizens only hope for when a President has engaged in impeachable acts. Blow and other like him, who hope for those impeachable acts to justify removing a President they object to on ideological, personal or other grounds are just  people with busted ethical alarms,  bad citizens, bad neighbors, and dangerous to our democracy.

3. Here is an ethics train wreck from academia. A white professor at the University of Tennessee asserted via a multiple choice quiz ( Colleges use multiple choice quizzes?) that the statement “Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners” was wrong. A black student vehemently disagreed and challenged the teacher, who then threatened to “get” the student on Facebook. After the professor was pressured into resigning by the university, she emailed the class with a further attack on the student, without using her name. Naturally, the student has decided that this single incident shows the lurking perfidy of white social justice warriors, or to put it bluntly, “Can’t trust whitey!” How do people like the professor get hired? Since when is a professors position “unacceptable’ because it disputes conventional wisdom? Is race immune from non-conforming academic views? And why are college courses using multiple choice quizzes? [Pointer: Fred]

4.  Also from Ethics Alarms Super Scout Fred: this study, showing that Oakland police officers “tend to speak less respectfully to black people than to white people during traffic stops, using language in these everyday interactions that can erode community faith in the police, according to a first-of-its-kind study of body-camera footage released Monday by Stanford researchers.” Ugh. Now that’s “ microagression,” and maybe not so micro.

Ethics diagnosis: incompetent training, negligent oversight, and dead ethics alarms.

5. CNN has a lot of work to do before it can claim to be a professional and trustworthy news source, and one obvious step is to fire Brian Stelter, the network’s alleged journalism ethics watchdog. His predecessor Howard Kurtz was pretty bad, but Stelter is pure flack, seeing his main function as defending CNN and his secondary function as denying media bias, since he is so shockingly biased himself.

Yesterday on his ironically-named show “Reliable Sources,” Stelter and guest Jeff Greenfield blamed President Trump for polls that show a steep decline in public trust of the news media. Greenfield said,  “I think that has served that relentless campaign on Twitter and in his comments, fake news, fake news, fake news has been to convince that group of people that there is no such thing as a set of facts independent of your politics. And that has certainly served to continue and accelerate what you’ve talked about as a long process of declining trust in news.”

The downward trend will continue until prominent members of the news media admit that the reasons trust in journalism have  declined precipitously are

  • That the mainstream media’s partisan bias is obvious and palpable,
  • That has proven itself untrustworthy, and
  • Arrogant hacks like Stelter and Greenfield make it clear to all willing to see reality that the news media thinks that there’s nothing wrong with its reporting.

As for President Trump, he has an ethical and professional obligation to focus attention on the news media’s shift into a partisan political force, both to prioect his administration and  to ensure that the public isn’t deceived. The previous President was happy to ignore this dangerous development, because Obama  foolishly thought he benefited from it. In truth, he and the nation would have benefited more by journalism that held him to higher standards and criticized him when he deserved it, which was often.

13 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/12/17

  1. ” “I think that has served that relentless campaign on Twitter and in his comments, fake news, fake news, fake news has been to convince that group of people that there is no such thing as a set of facts independent of your politics.”

    Now that’s an ironic statement if ever there was one.

    And weird since the Left originated the whole Fake News subplot by blaming irresponsible Facebook posts for Mrs. Clinton losing the election.

  2. Re #3.

    I guess it’s a good thing Curmie came out of “retirement” last week. Sigh.

    And yes, I use multiple choice quizzes, or some MC questions on larger exams. Sometimes it’s important to know that the base level of comprehension has been achieved. (It would be a really short quiz if I knew I’d get an honest answer to “Did you do the damned reading?”).

    I don’t think I teach a class in which MC questions count for more than 20% of the final grade, but I do use them.

  3. The media is really screwing up the minds of people.

    My faith that intelligence will maintain its hold on the vast majority of the population and overcome the growing divisional hate within the population has taken another major hit recently.

    A friend whom I consider a very intelligent person and a moderately left leaning independent has recently been consumed by the anti-Trump resistance propaganda. This is a person that, until now, has been very deliberate about being analytical and using critical thinking to help form their political opinions, that has changed in recent weeks and this person now seems to be irretrievably broken from analytical and critical thinking and now it’s all about parroting anti-Trump propaganda.

    My perception of this change is that it has taken place rather quickly, the change has been very dramatic, and the change has driven the person to what appears to be the more hateful side of things, things are coming out of this person’s mouth that I never would have never expected from a person like this. I’ve talked with this person a couple of times a week for years and I can honestly say that I don’t think I can point to anything that would lead me to believe that this person was beginning to lean this way. I’m sure this didn’t take place overnight but what the heck was the straw that broke the camels back for a person like this; I have no clue and I’ll likely never find out because this person appears to be only actively communicating with those of like anti-Trump minds and inquiring only leads to some pretty hateful outburst of incivility. Based on my perception, what has taken place “overnight” is the transformation of a reasonable civil person to an unreasonable political hack that is consumed by the anti-Trump resistance. Intelligence has been set aside.

    I’ve tried to recall if I have done or said something to have earned me the levels of incivility I’m now seeing and I honestly can’t think of a thing, we enjoyed bantering about with critical thinking and now there is a wall and I didn’t put it there. I’ve read that the anti-Trump resistance is cult-like, I’m really beginning to think that is true.

    This is not the first time some of my friends have become consumed and pretty much ended our friendship, it’s sad. I can recall some other friends that have gone through similar anti-this or anti-that transitions in the last 10 years, some have transitioned just since the emergence of Trump on the political scene, and there are certainly more that have transitioned since November 2016. I’m seeing a pattern of people being consumed by the propaganda of the day. If this can completely consume a person that has been so dedicated to analytical and critical thinking in the past there is likely no reasonable hope of the divisional hate subsiding within the United States anytime soon.

    • P.S….

      I’m having similar problems with Trump supporter friends.

      If these people can’t find some kind of solid foundation of underlying human commonality to build on, other than thinning the herd to get rid of the virus, this divisional hate is going to get a lot of people killed.

      There are no chasm walls created so distant by ideologies that are not bridged by the solid foundation of underlying human commonalities that support those ideologies.

      • Then so be it. I am sick and tired of all this talk of punching out the president or assassinating the president or blowing up the White House or punching out or murdering this or that public official that you disagree with that has now gone mainstream and even cool when it was considered a terrible crime not one year ago. This is the same garbage that went on two generations ago, but very few still talk about now.

        My dad remembers, although I don’t since I was just a toddler then. He was a junior official working for what was then Chemical Bank in NYC. He was there for the Fraunces Tavern bombing, where they lined up 30 ambulances like taxis waiting for passengers (and there was plenty of business to go around). He was there for the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, when a despicable plot by anarchists to bomb a dance at Fort Dix for the NCO corps bit back at its originators. He was there when a gas main blew due to stupidity by Beekman Hospital and everyone assumed it was yet another attack. The US was getting damn close to becoming just like Northern Ireland, and it seemed like there was not a damn thing the police or any level of government could do about it.

        With the end of the Vietnam War, which was the unifying force for all of the radical and anarchist movements, and the fall of Nixon, most of this started to peter out in the late 1970s. A few hardcore radicals stayed on the lam, but most just dropped back into society, where a few even became college professors (!). Still, there was a growing feeling for a while that American society was getting close to falling apart, and the only thing decent, law-abiding people could do was lay low and stay out of the way. If there was a riot, the police were going to just stand back until it dispersed on its own. If someone lit a car on fire on the CBE, the FDNY would just let it burn. Officers dreaded pulling anyone over, lest they end up shot dead.

        With the coming of Ronald Reagan and the later revival of a lot of the cities in the 1990s it looked like we’d put those days behind us. In the last two years we have seen a revival of terror in our cities, and possibly deliberate helplessness by officials, i.e. Baltimore and recently Portland. When new radicals are in the street and old radicals are in City Hall, either afraid to take action or unwilling to take action because their sympathies are with the new radicals, then there is no one to help the ordinary folks. So the ordinary folks either leave, or they self-help. When they self-help, it gets ugly. This time the radicals’ target isn’t just Trump, though he is a handy focus. It’s the system that put him in power and allows all the injustices, both real and perceived, and the other side that supports all that and so can only be evil. Mix that in with radical Islam, which hates the entire west, but makes for a handy ally to radicalism, and you’ve really got a toxic brew.

        It should come as no surprise that ordinary folks will decide they won’t put up with this. It should also come as no surprise that the authorities, when someone takes the reins off or one of their own gets hurt or killed, will come down like a hammer on an anvil. We’ve already seen Paris in fear, Dallas bury FIVE officers in one day who never even saw the bullet coming, and soldiers in full camo with rifles patrolling alongside police in tact vests with submachine guns in London. In a particularly disturbing episode the Home Secretary deployed the SAS (!) in Manchester. That was the equivalent of SEAL Team Six deploying in Times Square.

        In the meantime what do we hear? Down with the fascists? Black lives matter? Love wins? Arson, assault, and murder are sure a funny way of showing love. Trump isn’t Nixon, fighting for his political life and losing, and this isn’t 40 years ago. I don’t want this country to go full-on Operation Banner, I don’t want the militias to turn into full-on paramilitaries like the UDL, and I don’t want to have to duck at every unexpected noise, but that’s where we’re headed if both right and left don’t take it down a notch and get the hell out of crazytown.

    • No, Zoltar, you did nothing to earn it. People used to read the paper in the morning, or see the morning news, and would watch the news again at 11 pm…they had decompression time between ‘doses’ of whatever angered them (perhaps the old rule of not discussing religion or politics in company helped). Media was one way, opinions were expressed in person. Cable TV and social media changed all that of course, and if you get ticked at the morning news you can now marinate in it all day, every time you look at your phone and see another FB or Twitter notification. By choosing like-minded online friends, you can be hit over the head continuously with the Rage Point of the Day every waking hour of every day, and never see a contrary opinion. Those mourning the election outcome and joining ‘the resistance’ are always one point below boiling, they’re offended, angered, sad, and see and think of little else online. They’re like that overheated cup of coffee you take out of the microwave; jostle it a fraction and it explodes all over. You just happen to be standing there when they go off.

  4. While I was teaching at community college in a Texas military base, I used multiple choice questions in my Intro to Psychology classes. Primarily because I mostly had soldiers and I didn’t want to push my luck…or theirs. All of my Human Sexuality classes were tested with essays, however. I had several young men take the class:
    1) Thinking “Easy A”, or;
    2) Porn 101…fun class (not so much)

  5. When your viewpoint can change day to day, based on a shift of propaganda determined by a few thought leaders, you don’t have to worry about being consistent. Who will call you out for it?

  6. “And why are college courses using multiple choice quizzes?”

    This practice is RIDICULOUSLY common, and I hate every part of it. Part of my designation requires a certain amount of self improvement hours each year, and some of those hours can be allocated if you invigilate the exams of rural people going through their program through correspondence. In a slightly embarrassing turn, I was close to missing my requisite number of hours last year so I watched a couple of exams… All of the exams, the EXAMS, had multiple choice components. Up to a third of a student’s final marks are fed through a machine and not hand graded, which means that not only do you have to know the answer, but you have to be able to recognize it alongside some very deceptively worded wrong answers and hope that your pencil is dark enough for the grade-o-tron they feed it into to pick up. Why do they do this? Laziness and cost cutting. What they can feed through a grade-o-tron doesn’t have to be hand marked. Still bullshit.

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