1. When I am forced to be away from Ethics Alarms for a long time, as was the case yesterday, it often renews my musings about whether I respond too much to reader comments. Everyone generally does just fine when I’m silent, and sometimes I find that fascinating and unexpected new topics have not only sprung from whatever ethics fertilizer I left behind, but have grown and flourished like bamboo.
Unfortunately, I have also noticed that there have been a lot ( as in “too many”) of extended arguments between commenters that not only extend beyond reasonable limits, but also explode into personal attacks. I admit that Ethics Alarms is, for a moderated blog, unusually tolerant of this phenomenon. One reason for that is that sometimes such epic confrontations are both entertaining and enlightening, as when liberal commenter and Ethics Alarms immortal tgt and uber-conservative commenter Steven J. Pilling engaged in the Ethics Alarms equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates, only occasionally snapping and calling each other names.
However, while the occasional emotional outbursts are excusable, they should be rare. Reprimanding a commenter for commenting style and habits is certainly fair, but doing it repeatedly is boring; and I want to remind everyone that while it is often frustrating, allowing someone to have the last word is not capitulation, especially when that last word is not particularly persuasive.
We also owe ourselves and everyone else self-awareness. When a commenter finds himself or herself repeatedly embroiled in long, heated exchanges, that commenter should consider the possibility that he or she is the problem.
The general principle is that we should strive to have all comments contain substance that advances the discussion. “You’re an asshole” is occasionally justified (when a comment has objectively revealed a commenter to be an asshole, and even then is not mandatory), but rarely.
2. When President Trump issued his trolling tweet about James Comey and the possibility that there were “tapes” of their conversations, I wrote that it was the President’s dumbest tweet to date. (I think he has made worse ones since, but at this point any tweet by the President is evidence of crippling stubbornness, impulsiveness and bad judgment). I did not think that what was obviously a bluff without substance would still be considered a headline-worthy issue many weeks later.
3. Speaking of idiots, Johnny Depp alluded to assassinating President Trump while he was appearing at a film festival in England to introduce a screening of his film “The Libertine.” (The Wrap has a slide show of show business elite who have had similar fantasies. They are, of course, all offset by Ted Nugent, so neither “side” is worse than the other…) Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted
“I’ve read the Republican “health care” bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.”
Her colleague, Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said yesterday that the newly unveiled Senate Republican health care bill is in some ways “more evil” than the House proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
They Democrats can’t help themselves. They are now addicted to violent and demonizing rhetoric, and their “base,” like Depp, cannot be restrained either. This rhetoric was unethical when it started in the wake of the shocking 2016 election results, and is more dangerous and irresponsible the longer it goes on. Once I would have speculated that the incivility and hatred would start receding when someone got shot, but the careful analysis from the Left, including the news media, is that when a Bernie Sanders supporter with a list of “evil” Republican targets in his pocket starts picking off House members with a rifle, it’s because of inadequate gun laws protected by those same targeted Republicans. Now I have to believe that this provocative rhetoric will only stop when a unifying and courageous Democratic leader condemns it without implicating “both sides,” or when the party leadership realizes that significant numbers of the American public, including many who are not enjoying the leadership of President Trump, do not want to support a party that traffics in calls for violence, insurrection and hate.
4. Here’s a misleading and unethical headline that even the New York Times realized would be a cheap shot: “Supreme Court Rules 9-0 Against Trump Administration in Immigration Case.” This miscreant this time is law professor Jonathan Turley, a political moderate (for a law professor) who has been increasingly tempted by Trump-bashing of late.
The Supreme Court yesterday vacated a lower courts’ decision to denaturalize a U.S. citizen because she made a false statement to an immigration official, and remanded the case for further review. Justice Kagan wrote the 9-0 opinion in Maslenjak v. United States, which said that before citizenship can be cancelled, the government must first show that an illegal act, like lying, was an important factor during the naturalization process. Turley makes it appear as if one more anti-immigrant measure by that mean, xenophobic Trump administration has been decisively slapped down by SCOTUS, but the case arose out of an Obama administration effort to strip a woman of citizenship because she had been unthruthful about minor matters on her citizenship papers.
“When the illegal act is a false statement, that means demonstrating that the defendant lied about facts that would have mattered to an immigration official, because they would have justified denying naturalization or would predictably have led to other facts warranting that result,” Kagan wrote. Seems reasonable, but no one in the news media focused on this policy while Obama was President. Now the ruling is a rebuke for the Trump administration.
5. I no longer consider PolitiFact, the partisan fact-checking service favored by progressives and Democrats because it’s…a partisan fact-checking service—worthy of full posts, but here’s a good example of how the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald-operated site reveals its bias. It examines a Fox News report on another new study on voting by unqualified non-citizens and finds it “False.” But note:
- While the study said that as many as 5.7 million such votes might have been cast, and “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said on the air, “5.7 million — that’s how many illegal immigrants might have voted” in 2008, PolitiFact’s headline is “Following Trump voter fraud allegations, claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong.”
This is terrible even by PolitiFact’s miserable standards. Neither the study nor Earnhardt said that 5.7 illegal voters voted, but that they might have voted. Nor did the study or the commentary on it “follow” President Trump’s tweets stating as fact that there was extensive illegal voting.
- PolitiFact “proved” the study’s conclusions were “False” by choosing to believe one set of studies and researchers over those that progressive talking points routinely dispute. In a disagreement over methodology and assumptions, there is no objective “False” until hard data appears. Intuitively, I think that the news media’s assertion that there is virtually no voter fraud with over 20 million non-citizens and many states, like California, making little effort to ensure the integrity of elections is unbelievable on its face, but I can’t state that it is “false.”
Nobody should use PolitiFact as an authority except in the rare cases where it chooses to knock down a blatant lie from its own camp. PolitiFact does this sometimes to maintain the illusion of fairness.