Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/1/17

Good morning, and welcome July!

Once famous American radio news commentator Gabriel Heatter (September 17, 1890 – March 30, 1972) sued to begin his World War II-era  broadcasts by  saying, “There’s good news tonight!” I’ve been trying to find an equivalent up-beat introduction for the Warm-Up from an ethics perspective. The problem is that this requires there to be some genuinely good ethics news. Not today. Maybe tomorrow…

1. The furor over President Trump’s pathetic attack tweets on two pretty awful MSNBC cable TV hosts continues, with “the resistance”—you know, like the New York Times—citing it as proof of madness, and right-wing media and bloggers increasingly rationalizing that it’s high time someone slapped down “media bullies” like silly Joe and biased Mika. The Left’s reaction is disingenuous, and the Right’s is incompetent.

Yesterday on the progressive echo chamber end of my Facebook spectrum, they were going nuts over the tweets, and one woman posted that she had voted for Trump but she regretted it now. She never would have voted for him, she said, if she thought he would act like this. I don’t know this idiot, but I had to reply:

“What? Trump tweeted and talked exactly like that for the whole campaign, and had been similarly gross and boorish publicly for thirty years! Remember Trump talking about blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s “wherever” after the very first debate in 2015? “Little Marco”? Mocking Carly Fiorina’s face?” 

One could reasonably hope that being President might cause Trump to curb this habit, but one could not reasonable vote for him and not realize that similar conduct was a distinct possibility. On the news media and political side, the tweets prompted a re-run of the exact same (undemocratic, unethical) arguments they have made from the beginning for trying to overturn the election, as if something was new. This isn’t new. That’s part of what’s wrong with it. It also is the predictable conduct of the man elected by voters who were well aware he acted this way. I know you think they are cretins, Good People in Progressive Land, but that’s not a justification for invalidating their votes, and you are not going to get away with it if you try.

As for defenses of Trump like the opinion piece at Mediaite (“President Trump Deserves Credit For Taking On Bullies Like Mika Brzezinski“), how silly can you be? He’s the President of the United States: you can’t “bully” him. Even powerful media figures can’t bully him. He has all the power. They are punching up (more like slapping and griping and sneering up), and he is punching down, provoked by mites, lowering himself and his office by doing so.

2. Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud.


3. In case you missed it, here was the quote from the second CNN producer—Jimmy Carr, the Associate Producer for CNN’s “New Day,” the CNN morning show where the hosts routinely mouth Democrat talking points while interview Republicans and Trump administration officials— to get tricked into being honest to a hidden James O’Keefe hidden video camera:

“On the inside, we all recognize he is a clown that he is hilariously unqualified for this. He’s really bad at this and that he does not have America’s best interests. We recognize he’s just fucking crazy… He’s not actually a Republican. He just adopted that because that was the party he thought he could win in. He doesn’t believe anything that these people believe. The man is on his third wife. I guarantee you he’s paid for abortions. He doesn’t give a shit about abortion. He doesn’t care about gay marriage.”

The rationalization for this being floated by the properly defensive news media and the, incredibly, their defenders who insist that there is no hard-left, anti-Trump bias, is that “this is no surprise and not news.” No, it’s not a surprise to anyone who has been objective and properly alarmed as journalism has stopped being a democratic institution and has turned into a partisan political weapon. It just makes the point that those benefiting from this transformation have been denying. Who really thinks that news show run by, overseen by and written by people like Carr are capable or likely to be fair to a President they regard as “not having America’s best interests” in mind and “fucking crazy”?

Others in the news media are trying to deny the obvious using smoke and dust to discredit O’Keefe (stipulated: he’s an unethical fake-journalist and a partisan hit man. But the videos show what they show.) Paul Farhi of the Washington Post embarrassed himself and his paper with a supposed debunking of the first video, the one showing the CNN producer talking about how the Russia story was a “witch hunt,” , saying “it’s what the video doesn’t show that may be as important as what it does.”  What are the sinister omissions Farhi calls out?

  • The video identifies the man on camera as John Bonifield, a “supervising producer,” but fails to specify that he works on health and medical stories.

Bonifield’s an insider, he knows the culture, he’s been at the network long enough to know the personnel and the attitude of management. Trivial omission.

  • The video doesn’t explain that Bonifield is based in Atlanta and “not in Washington or New York, where most of CNN’s coverage of national affairs and politics are produced.”

Actually it does, but so what? CNN is headquartered in Atlanta. He’s talking about CNN’s corporate environment and attitudes.

  • The video doesn’t tell us who the man making the video is or how he gained access to Bonifield.

We know all this, though. The man taking the hidden video is an unethical slimeball, like anyone working for O’Keefe, and he gained access by lying. What else do we have to know?

Ann Althouse puts her finger on the futility and dishonesty of of Farhi’s rescue attempt, writing, “There’s absolutely nothing saying that Bonifield’s statements were edited to distort or take anything out of context or encourage misinterpretation.”

Instead of trying to deny that the video means what it obviously means, the Post should be condemning this kind of smug and biased environment in news organizations. It’s can’t, though: because it knows that it’s own, 95% Democrat, progressive, smug, arrogant staff thinks exactly the same way.

4. Quick notes on the Serena Williams-John McEnroe foofaraw. It began when McEnroe, a professional tennis troll, told NPR that Serena Williams was the greatest female tennis player ever but would rank about 700 or so on the men’s tour.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player,” McEnroe continued. “I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players.”

Serena and others took offense, and demanded that he apologize. The aging tennis brat refused, saying,  that there was nothing wrong or disrespectful about what he said.


a. Insults can be insults even if they are true. There is no way to say “she’s a great player” and “male players you’ve never heard of would beat her silly” without still sounding gratuitously mean. How hard would it be for McEnroe to say: “I’m sorry: that came out wrong”?

b. Serena returned fire by playing the mommie card, alluding to her pregnancy to enhance her victimhood, tweeting,

“I’ve never played anyone ranked “there” nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”

Women have to make up their minds about whether they want special dispensation for their gender and related matters, or want to be treated like everyone else.  Serena and Hillary should hole up somewhere and talk it through….

c. In line with that point, women should either compete with the men in sports like golf and tennis, or admit that they can’t play on the same level, aren’t as entertaining to watch, and justly receive less money because of their limitations. McEnroe’s comment was unnecessary and rude, but the uproar was mostly because he dared to be candid. Serena herself was once similarly candid, but no one accused her of being sexist when she told David Letterman in 2003,

“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. The men are a lot faster, they serve harder, they hit harder. … It’s a completely different game.”

d. Part of the phenomenon on display here is cognitive dissonance: anything—“the sky is blue;” “puppies are cute”-— seems worse when it is said by a famous asshole, like John McEnroe


Sources: Althouse, Vox, Washington Post


27 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/1/17

  1. “I’ve been trying to find an equivalent up-beat introduction for the Warm-Up from an ethics perspective.”

    HBO’s “Dennis Miller Live” intro of “Let’s see who fed it & who ate it this week” always cut to the quick.

    In my top five Stand Up acts, I was reading his hilarious “The Rant Zone” in an airport a few years back and my open guffawing drew withering stares.

  2. 1. I didn’t see anyone saying we should “overturn the election” as a result of Trump’s tweets.

    The bigger ethical issue here is the accusations of blackmail by Mika and Joe. If they are telling the truth that the White House pressured them to apologize to the president in exchange for getting the National Enquirer to drop a negative story on them, then Trump could be guilty of a crime, and those who have said he is a threat to a free press are entirely correct.

    Trump’s denial essentially confirmed that he has control over what the National Enquirer does and does not publish, which is frightening in and of itself.

    • “then Trump could be guilty of a crime”

      No, Chris, he couldn’t, and this really is politics as usual. Extortion is the gaining of property or money by threats. “You do this or I’ll have someone do that” when “that” isn’t itself criminal is not a crime.

      • I saw the exile tweet, and commented on it. I think it was a joke. The 25th amendment plot is silly and won’t work, but I don’t agree that impeachments “overturn the election.”

        There seems to be disagreement among lawyers about whether or not Trump’s actions could constitute a crime. New York, where Joe and Mika live, has stronger laws about blackmail than other states.

        Regardless, it is certainly an abuse of power, and the president threatening journalists is a huge threat to free speech.

        • I didn’t say that legit impeachments overturn elections. Trumped up impeachments based on intellectually dishonest theories involving non-crimes, and conspiracy theories, and arcane offenses that have never been treated as impeachable—conflicts of interest, “emoluments,” obstruction of justice for firing subordinates, etc, etc, are concocted for political reasons, precisely to reverse elections.

          • Althouse linked to a Scott Adams piece about Trump’s tweets. Essentially he said Trump sounds like a New Yorker. I guess that is as good as any explanation. If true, Chris will have a lot of fun proving New York talk is criminal when Trump does it.

            • That is an incredibly dumb rationalization, wyogranny. Blackmail is blackmail, not “New York talk.” Scott Adams is a boot-licking hack, and honestly, Althouse is not much better. Making excuses for this type of abuse of power–for the President of the United States harassing and threatening journalists–is sick.

              • Correct that harassing and threatening “journalists” is an abuse of power.

                Wrong that is unique to Trump. That doesn’t make it less wrong, but it does make Democrats hypocrites. The Obama administration threatened journalists. It threatened Bob Woodward.

                Neither Adams nor Althouse are hacks. Both are objective and intelligent non-partisan analysts who like taking apart conventional wisdom.

                And the kind of blackmail you are talking about is often unethical, but not against the law. Just keep that straight.

                • Dear God. Intelligent people don’t write things like this, Jack:

                  “If experience is necessary for being president, name a political topic I can’t master in one hour under the tutelage of top experts.”

                  “I’d also like to know how the Holocaust death total of 6 million was determined. Is it the sort of number that is so well documented with actual names and perhaps a Nazi paper trail that no historian could doubt its accuracy, give or take ten thousand? Or is it like every other LRN (large round number) that someone pulled out of his ass and it became true by repetition? Does the figure include resistance fighters and civilians who died in the normal course of war, or just the Jews rounded up and killed systematically? No reasonable person doubts that the Holocaust happened, but wouldn’t you like to know how the exact number was calculated, just for context? Without that context, I don’t know if I should lump the people who think the Holocaust might have been exaggerated for political purposes with the Holocaust deniers. If they are equally nuts, I’d like to know that. I want context.”

                  “I’ve been trying for years to reconcile my usually-excellent bullshit filter with the idea that evolution is considered a scientific fact. Why does a well-established scientific fact set off my usually-excellent bullshit filter like a five-alarm fire? It’s the fossil record that has been bugging me the most. It looks like bullshit. Smells like bullshit. Tastes like bullshit. Why isn’t it bullshit? All those scientists can’t be wrong.”

                  “The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.”

                  And this doesn’t even get into his enthusiastic endorsements of Trump.

                  Scott Adams is a Class A moron, Jack. Perhaps it’s unfair to Althouse for me to lump her in with him, but describing them both as intelligent strikes me as fairly damning to her as well.

                  • I don’t read Adams. I don’t even read Dilbert. He was astute about Trump and Trump’s appeal; Althouse was one of the few paying attention to him. If Hillary had, she might have won.

                    The problem with professional iconoclasts and contrarians is that they always go too far, because they don’t trust conventional wisdom, any of it. I don’t know the context of the first statement. As for the second, he’s saying its a sanctified number and not an accurate one. Jewish sources don’t disagree. It could have been 5 million or seven. From one essay:

                    “Six million” is not, and was never intended to be, a precise accounting. But the number, which has now been part of the public consciousness for more than 50 years, would never have continued to be cited if it did not mirror the scholarly tallies that have followed in the succeeding decades, and confirmed that rough figure.

                    The evolution statement strikes me as an easy one for a committed contrarian to fall into. Evolution is a fact, but he is right that the fossil record doesn’t answer a lot of questions, and even astute evolution experts have disagreements over how the biggest leaps took place.

                    The misogynist screed is a nasty way of saying that women in policy and politics realms get away with a lot of bullshit, which they do, and that some of the reason is condescension. I disagree with this, but its provocative.

                    Adaams, I think, after reading your selections, is a pro troll at this point, like Coulter, like Michael Moore, and others—in an earlier age, Mencken and Darrow. Trolls all say annoying things and exaggerate, and often tongue in cheek, partially to attract fire and make their enemies over-react. People who say moronic things are not necessarily morons.

                  • You completely failed. These aren’t even moronic statements. They are just musings that you don’t agree with.

                • And no, the Obama White House did not “threaten” Bob Woodward. Saying “I think you will regret staking out that claim” is not a threat. Saying “if you don’t apologize to me, I’ll have the National Enquirer drop a negative story on you” is a threat.

                  • Woodward thought so, and he was on the receiving end. I wrote at the time:

                    Today Watergate-busting journalist Bob Woodward revealed that after he dared to interfere with the White House disinformation campaign—-designed to re-write history and assign Congressional Republicans responsibility for the introducing irresponsible, certifiable and reckless sequester device (voting for it was bad enough)—by writing in a Washington Post column that it was White House staff that initially proposed the gimmick, he was threatened by a senior White House official. “I think you will regret staking out that claim,” the official wrote to him. Woodward told both CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Politico that he regarded the statement as a thinly veiled threat, especially after the same official (now identified as Gene Sperling) had screamed at him over the phone for the cardinal sin of letting the facts interfere with the White House’s public opinion manipulation strategy. Woodward told Politico,

                    “‘You’ll regret.’ Come on. I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’ ”

                    Why in the world does Woodward think that? More than four years into Obama’s administration, and Woodward really thinks the President doesn’t control his own staff? Does he really believe that Obama hasn’t set the boundaries and standards? This was a senior staff member, and the President is directly responsible for what he does. I believe using threats backed by White House power is business as usual for this White House. It is also a Chicago political mainstay. I believe that a White House that has the audacity to threaten a revered truth-teller like Bob Woodward has had its confidence bolstered by successfully doing the same to other, lesser, and less courageous reporters. Even with the mainstream media’s disgraceful and unethical bias toward Obama and his policies, this is the only way to explain the media’s negligence, torpor, and lack of diligence in reporting the depths of the Obama administration’s incompetence and dishonesty.

                    I was wrong about one thing: we now know the news media is so corrupt, partisan and biased that no threat were necessary to make them cover for Obama while pimping for the Democrats. But when anyone speaking for the most powerful man in the world says “You’ll regret it if you do this” in a context like that, it’s a threat.

                    • Possibly. But “you’ll regret this” seems almost wholesome at this point compared to actual blackmail. Perhaps this is just showing how much my standards have fallen at this point that I didn’t recognize that as threatening. At worst, it’s an ambiguous threat. “Apologize or I have the media outlet I control air your dirty laundry” is unambiguous.

                      Trump literally controls a fake news outlet, and admitts to doing so. Is that not an ethics issue worth commenting on at this point?

  3. Re: McEnroe

    From what i understand, he was goaded into making the “700” comment, by the interviewer. McEnroe was commenting on her being the best womens player in the world, and the interviewer stupidly asked why he needed to stipulate “women” in his praise, which led to the insult.

    And I dont understand (well, I do) the insistence from everyone, saying “why are we even talking about this…they’re 2 different sports!”

    A) I hate the “why are we talking about this?” rationalization…why do we talk about sports, period? There are MORE important thing in life, after all, right? We talk about, whatever it is we talk about, b/c presumably, 1 or both parties find the topic interesting. Duh.
    B) 2 different sports? As if she’s trying to hit a volleyball, while the men are hitting a tennis ball? If it’s a different sport, how do mixed doubles play? No, it’s the same sport, with relatively same rules, played by different genders.
    C) Would it be a “different sport” if I played her, and she kicked my ass? Is it a different sport when Katie Ledecky bests Ryan Lochte’s Olympic times?

    Look, she AND her sister both got crushed by the #203 player, back in 1998 (yes, both were still teens, but Venus was ranked #10 that same year) whose training regimen was described as “centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager”, and who had been drinking between matches.

    There’s physiological reasons for this, and there’s no shame in it. Women live longer, and are generally thought to be smarter. We’re different; one is not better than the other.

  4. 2. Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud.

    What possible defense could he have at trial other than “my client did not intend this, he is just so incompetent he should not be trusted to organize a child’s birthday party”?

  5. But one gender is better at sports requiring size, speed and strength. No shame in that, and also no shame in saying so.

    How quickly we forget! That’s the “we” who were watching an historic one-off tennis match 44 years ago. Was it really a more civilized time or is it smoothed over in memory? Interesting take on things we didn’t know then about Bobby and Billie Jean re friendship, respect, and sportsmanship:

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