Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/7/17

1. I am afraid that today’s posts may be heavily tilted to the ongoing mainstream media implosion, depending on what other issues surface and what the Ethics Alarms ethics scouts sleuth out. Afraid, because I know that many readers here, like the news media itself (not surprisingly, but tellingly, the legacy news media isn’t reporting this story, but it is being thoroughly reported in the “new”–as in online–news media) want to pretend that it isn’t a story at all. The repeated deflection—they are deflecting, whether the mainstream media defenders can admit it to themselves or not, because the news media is destroying itself with unrestrained anti-Trump bias, and its defenders like anti-Trump bias, as they are suffering from it themselves—is “Isn’t an untrustworthy President worse than an untrustworthy news media?” The answer is absolutely not. A President’s job isn’t to be trustworthy, though being trustworthy is crucial to doing the job and maintaining the vitality of his Office. A President’s job is lead the government and use his power to keep the nation safe, free and prosperous while upholding the Constitution. A trustworthy President is more likely to accomplish those goals, and I insist that a trustworthy (that is, ethical) individual should always be preferred over an untrustworthy one who claims to have more popular policies in mind. Nevertheless, untrustworthy Presidents can have successful administrations, and have before in our history. Moreover, a President who is untrustworthy can be replaced in four years.

We don’t elect journalists. What is happening to our pampered, privileged, arrogant  journalistic establishment cannot be remedied at the ballot box, and indeed impedes effective elections. A news media that increasingly sees its function as manipulating public opinion to serve its own ideological and partisan ends threatens democracy itself. That makes the rogue news media of today a far greater threat than one incompetent President, and the more urgent ethics concern.

How will this professional ethics abdication be addressed and repaired? It must be, and the starting point has to be the journalism field’s  own recognition that there is a crisis.

2. There was a flicker of hope on the self-recognition front yesterday, when former CNN chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson, being interviewed on Bloomberg’s “What’d You Miss, lamented the current state of the media, saying that news coverage and bias was the at least partially at fault for the “enormous political divide” in the U.S.  Now leading the Aspen Institute’s education and policy studies, Isaacson said that the polarization and partisan hostility “have been exacerbated by all forms of media. People are getting more and more partisan.” He also pointedly refused to accept the standard “It’s all Fox News’ fault” rationalization, saying, “I put everybody [in the media] in the category, including all of us, that we can step back from knee-jerk partisan elections…that would be good.”

Isaacson’s statements are too mild and meek, and not exactly a ringing rebuke, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ll take what I can get.

3. The news media has cheered the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian allegations and related matters on the theory that a government cannot be trusted to investigate itself. The same principle should have been invoked several times during the Obama administration (Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Iran negotiations), but the news media was protecting that President. Never mind: if an independent counsel does the job ethically and fairly, it is good for the country. The principle now needs to be applied to the news media itself, which has shown itself to be unwilling and incapable of informing the public of its own misconduct.

The broadcast networks have refused to report on the conclusion of the huge defamation case against ABC News. ABC News and Beef Products Inc (BPI) reached a confidential settlement last month ending a 5-year-old defamation and disparagement lawsuit. BPI had filed a $1.9 billion lawsuit against ABC News in 2012 for reporting that the company’s lean finely textured beef (LFTB) was dangerous “pink slime.” If ABC had lost the case before a jury, it may have been liable for as much as $5.7 billion under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food products Disparagement Act.

 ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows have not mentioned the resolution of the lawsuit. None of the broadcast network websites directly reported on the story either. and  published the AP’s report; NBC’s website didn’t even do that.   The broadcast networks also didn’t report when the case went before the jury on June 5.

ABC News ran a series of broadcasts in early 2012 claiming that BPI ‘s meat products were unfit for human consumption. The company was forced to close three of its four locations and lay off 700 employees in a single month. It then accused ABC News of making more than 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about LFTB between March and April 2012. There was substantial evidence that this was a malicious journalism hit job from the start. The Hollywood Reporter’s sources revealed that ABC had pursued an anti-BPI tilt to the story before any research had been done, and  intentionally omitted any subsequent findings that contradicted its desired result.

This news media embargo on stories that reveal its members own biases and incompetence is the rule, not the exception. If the news industry had integrity and was self-policing as a true profession must be, it would report such examples of unethical reporting more vigorously than other events, not less.

4.  This is as good a place as any to plug Rick Jones’ superb post on his own blog about the Evergreen State fiasco. Rick, usually known here “Curmie,” is as articulate, thoughtful and fair an analyst as there is, and his recent return to the ethics wars after a work-imposed hiatus is a boon to Ethics Alarms and the culture at large. He deserves a wide readership, and his latest post shows why. Please check it out.

5.  An ethics  question about the North Korea crisis: do common sense ethics apply to foreign affairs? Listening and reading various experts and authorities, I am struck by how many seem to argue that negotiation with the North Korean regime is the only palatable option. The fact that this is simply and unquestionably agreeing to international blackmail by a resolute evil-doer seems to be either unrecognized or ignored. North Korea has been doing this for many years. It threatens its neighbors and the world, behaves menacingly, extracts the equivalent of extortion payments in the form of sanctions relief, then breaks whatever agreement it makes and starts the process again. The precedent emboldens other international rogue states, and leads to weak and irresponsible responses like Obama’s Iran deal, aka,”We’ll give you billions of dollars to support world terrorism if you’ll promise not to develop a nuclear bomb and liquidate Israel until I’m out politics and retired.”

I know nobody wants to swat the North Korean hornets nest, but when the hornets are making orders, it is unethical to keep playing Neville Chamberlain.

[Boy, it would sure be great if we had an international organization that was dedicated to keeping peace and could be counted upon to show united resolve to such dangerous states. I wonder why someone doesn’t start one?]

6. When I read almost identical headlines on multiple conservative media sites and blogs stating that former President Obama had made a speech abroad condemning “too much patriotism” on the Fourth of July, my Pavlovian response was, “Of course he did.” He did not, however. I read the speech, which was made before an audience in Indonesia. Obama didn’t talk about patriotism at all. The word isn’t mentioned, and no, “nationalism” is not a synonym for patriotism.

Oh, Obama was not so subtly bashing the current President on foreign soil, just as he frequently bashed past Presidents in other international locales. This is unethical conduct for a past President, but the Julie Principle applies. Obama’s not going to change. This is who he is: if you are going to tolerate or admire him, you have to accept this hardwired flaw. Nonetheless, if you are going to criticize Obama, criticize what he actually says.


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

  1. Think a contemporary Thomas Jefferson might rethink:

    “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”?

    • In Tom’s day, the press had nothing like the ability to warp democracy like it does today, and it was not a big money operation, meaning that those who operated the press were more likely to be doing so as a public service. Democracy doesn’t work without a professional and trustworthy news media, so a government without the kind of press he wanted would be different from his vision of government. What the heck would be newspapers without government? Well, maybe government by the news media, which seems to be what our current news media is striving for.

  2. “ and published the AP’s report; NBC’s website didn’t even do that.”

    I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a thousand times: I’ll take FoxNews over NBC/MSNBC every single day of the week. I trust myself, that Im smart enough to sift through the bias of Fox’s reporting, to unearth the nuggets of factual info that I need to know to make my own judgements. With NBC/MSNBC, they simply wont report stories they dont want to, and I’ll never get the opportunity.

    Say what you will about FoxNews (and there have been some truly reprehensible people that have, and still work there), but they’re not often accused of withholding news. That’s a pretty big journalism cardinal sin for me.

    • ” Im smart enough to sift through the bias of Fox’s reporting,”

      My position exactly. You can get facts anywhere. So many of my liberal friends and acquaintances have a list of news sources they absolutely will not listen to. Stefan Molyneux made an excellent breakdown of all the times Trump was misquoted in the media, starting on the campaign trail. I checked out each of his claims, and was able to find the original and the misquoted snippets, so I passed on the info to a friend who’d been saying that the media was not misquoting Trump. His reaction was ” Stefan Molyneaux!? He’s an idiot! I’d never listen to anything he has to say” even when I said I’d checked it all out, and it was a handy resource as it had all of the misquotes in one place. “No way! You too, just stay away from anything by him.” I’ve been citicized for having CNN in my bookmarks, my usual response is that CNN is pretty quick to get the headlines up, and so is useful, as is NHK, when something big happens (despite CNN’s awful coverage in the first day or so of the 3/11 earthquake here…still shaking my head…) . You can see quickly that there was a bombing, an earthquake, whatever. What I see very frequently among liberals (90%+ of my FB feed) is that they have a very strict set of acceptable news sources and opinion makers and they listen to no one else. I don’t think it’s wise. Debating skills and opinion are honed by exposure to contrary schools of thought.

      • Conservative folks that don’t have exposure to intelligent liberal ideas are both rare and limited to those that only live in the most isolated backwaters, never leaving and with rather limited schooling. Anyone who’s college educated, travels and is otherwise exposed to the outside world has had his opinions and views challenged by intelligent people.

        It is not only possible, it is common, for an intelligent, “educated” urban dwelling liberal to have never been exposed to an intelligent conservative. It leaves them completely incapable of a rational discussion with those of differing views. They need to dismiss conservative positions as those held by low intellect rubes tricked by those who are using them for their own gain because they have never been exposed to a well thought out explanation. Because they reach adulthood without being exposed, they are not prepared to actually listen and retreat back into the bubble they live in.

        • In this internet age? One can Google any number of opposing views, scholarly ones at that. One need not meet a conservative in the flesh to research rational conservative views. People can try if they really want to. If they don’t, they’re as stubborn and insulated as they accuse conservatives of being.

  3. There are only 2 possibly appropriate responses to North Korea in my analysis. And yes, dithering and playing Neville Chamberlain isn’t one of them. Both are serious gambles and both represent the exact kind of dichotomy of actively do something now versus passively hope nature takes its course that we run into on all manner of political debates.

    1) do nothing. Mathematically the socialist state of North Korea, in its extreme form, cannot sustain forever. It can sustain a few more generations, but it really does boil down to a painful mathematical ratio of calories produced and population to consume those calories. NK doesn’t have enough. They’re population will continue to weaken and starve itself until it reaches some sort of epidemic level of immuno-deficiency or other malady and have a population implosion.

    Of course, waiting on nature to handle NK is a major gamble as they slowly plod through their technological advancements while their sustenance crisis explodes they will get desperate enough to use the technology.

    2) attack. Attack overwhelmingly. Attack simultaneously from all avenues available. The burden here is Seoul WILL get clobbered and clobbered HARD. To minimize what will be an appalling number of civilian casualties, there would have to be an automatic evacuation plan to empty Seoul or get the civilians into shelters. But any such plan going into effect would be an immediate signal to North Korea that it is game on. So any such evacuation & sheltering would have to happen nearly simultaneously with the initial phases of the attack itself.

    And the military aspect of the attack would have to focus entirely on ALL North Korean assets that can impact Seoul. That means Air Force, Artillery positions, missiles, etc. our Air Defense and missile intercept units would have to be on their game.

    Our naval contingent would have to be massive, the approach of which would also be a long range signal that something is up. So some sort of lie would have to be generated for why the fleet approaches.

    The ground fight would be incredibly swift.

    It’s the humanitarian side of things that will be ugly. Not withstanding the countless civilian deaths, the occupation of North Korea and reacculturation would be unprecedented. When we liberated the concentration camps in WW2 we rapidly learned that the malnourished and sick prisoners still needed to be administered inside the prisons until they’d been reacclimatized. The influx of freedom and food was also a danger to them. And those guys were only prisoners for a half a decade. North Koreans have been brainwashed and malnourished for generations.

    The whole country would have to be occupied and administered in not too different from the conditions it is in now for years of slowly getting them back towards modernity and humanity. Which would cause no small hemming and hawing on our part when we wonder why they can’t just be free westerners immediately. Never mind the partisan bickering on what we consider appropriate “reacculturation” since we have our own sick malaise of self loathing towards our own western ideals permeating our own culture.

    No. We’ll never pick #2 because we can easily anticipate the horrendous cost in exchange for a #1 which consigns a horrendous cost to the future that we can pretend won’t have to be paid.

        • I really don’t think you are. It’s only a matter of time before they have to change. They can’t keep the internet out forever and really aren’t keeping it out now.

          And any transformation that has to be forced following a conflict will take time. After liberating the camps, the Allies had no idea how to feed people who’d been starved and did what they could, only to have many more die because their bodies couldn’t take the rapid influx of regular food. North Korea will have to be an investment of resources for a long time.

      • But how seriously true. The US will never ‘swat’ any country we see as a major player, and since a swat at NK would almost certainly involve China, whom I believe is a paper tiger, choice 2 will never happen. Add to that, we have become incredibly good at passing our problems down to our children and grand children. See the National Debt.

          • slickwilly said:
            “No snark”
            Understood, slick. First, the PRCA has nothing going for it but numbers. And WMD’s can take care of that fairly quickly. Now, most of what I know, I know second hand, from the news and other public sources. Several years ago, China encroached into India. Now, the part of the Indian border they attacked was defended by Gurkas, so this was possibly an unfair fight, but…after two days of fighting, the Chinese were stopped cold, and the Indian troops started pushing back. After being pushed back 2 miles, the Chinese allowed as how they had taught the Indians a lesson, and withdrew. A few years later, China did the same thing to Viet-Nam, which was, by then, united. The NVA stopped ’em cold at the border. Again, China allowed as how it had taught the Viet-Namese a lesson and withdrew. More recently, China bought an aging aircraft carrier from, I think, the Brits. It’s maiden voyage was done with a skeleton crew and with no aircraft, because Chine has not aircraft capable of flying onto or off of an aircraft carrier, and ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE trained as a deck launch/recovery crew. Add to that, they are still relying on obsolete Russian armor, weapons and truncated training. Bluntly, I’m not impressed. BUT, I also remember half of the thirty-some odd divisions they committed to Korea…half not armed at all, and instructed to pick up a dropped weapon and fight with it.

            • China might look like a paper tiger in many respects, from both historical and contemporary perspectives. But, such appearances are not sufficient to dismiss and ignore China’s missile capabilities, nor dismiss and ignore what is being done with those capabilities while we type: capturing and dominating the “high ground” of space. Frankly, though, I am more worried about what Japan might have and how they’ll use it. Japan’s capabilities were underestimated in an earlier era; to do so again would surely be fatal. To presume to know Japan’s capabilities also would be fatal. I urge caution against scoffing about Japan’s military power, regardless of any mirage of demographic collapse or paralysis wrought thereby. China and Korea have a real tiger to contend with, in their region; it ain’t Kim Jong-un.

              • Who’s scoffing at Japan? Japan is one of the United State’s absolute best allies in the world. Our trust in military secrets is on par with Great Britain (save for sharing nuclear weapons). We’re sharing our anti-ballistic missile technology with them.

                If anything bad goes down the NK, Japan and the US will be side by side in dealing with them.

                • Side-by-side? Maybe. We can hope. Japan still does what’s best for Japan, unlike the “USA” does for itself. Japan won’t repeat its mistakes that led to the outcome of WW2; that alone should be cause for terror near and far. The “USA” rigs itself practically to do what’s best for ensuring its best interests are ignored and abandoned; that no longer terrifies me.

            • Regarding the Korean war, I think the story about half the Chinese divisions being unarmed is apocryphal. It might stem from the last division or two that the North Koreans fielded, which was still being rounded out and trained when the North invaded.

              Given the constraints the Chinese were operating under, the army they fielded in Korea in October/November 1950 was reasonably well equipped for how they intended to operate. I believe these were primarily veteran soldiers — remember that the Chinese civil war had ended only the year before, and skilled in the tactics they used.

              What they did was to inflict one of the biggest battlefield defeats the U.S. Army has ever suffered, nearly destroying one entire division west of the mountains (along with, I believe, an ROK corps), another Army regiment in the east, and, of course, nearly succeeding in destroying the Marine division at Chosin.

              The Chinese strategy maximized their strengths (ability to move cross country, infiltration tactics, night fighting). The U.N. forces had strengths of their own, such as heavy weapons (armor and artillery), air and sea power, and superior supply capabilities, but initially found themselves repeatedly with units cut off and defeated in detail.

              In short, Korea 1950 was above all an infantryman’s war (somewhat akin to Italy 1944), and the Chinese and North Koreans were tough, stubborn enemies. We eventually were able to match them under General Ridgway and master this sort of war. The front eventually stabilized and our national leadership determined that this was the wrong time and place to commit the levels of national treasure and sacrifice it would have taken to conquer North Korea.

              What does this mean for today? Well both North and South Koreans are basically armed to the teeth. However, neither Korea nor China have the large numbers of experienced, veteran soldiers that they did 65 years ago. As far as I know, of the relevant powers in the region, only the American army has a pool of combat veterans to draw from. So it is unknown how these armies would react, although one could expect the Koreans to be highly motivated. Any general Korean war would, I expect, make the Iraq wars look like minor skirmishes. Given the present NK leadership, one always has to wonder if he will get up one morning and decide that it’s a good day to invade the South. Ugh.

              The only other comment I have regarding us making a preemptive attack on North Korea is that I would think we would have to talk to the Chinese in advance. It would do us little good to take out North Korea if that resulted in China striking the U.S. Yes, that risks alerting the North Koreans, but it is difficult to envision how we would achieve strategic surprise in any such case.

    • “handle NK is a wife gamble”

      I don’t know how “major” autocorrected to “wife” but now I’m dreading what other inane typos exist in my comment. Ugh.

    • I’m going to add…

      North Korea has a brainwashed population of around 25 million people that will likely be violently fanatical, like the Japanese were prior to the end of WWII and ISIS is right now, if attacked; Kim Jong-un knows this and will employ millions of armed sheeple as cannon fodder to protect his military and regime! War with a violently fanatical brainwashed population would be catastrophic to the region; China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia know this.

      North Korea is not self sustainable by any stretch of the imagination; at this point in time the best solution would be for the people of North Korea to remove Kim Jong-un from office, begin active negotiations to merge North Korea with China or South Korea, and put Kim Jong-un on trial for crimes against the people of North Korea.

      No one in the region, with the possible exception of Kim Jong-un and his die-hard faithful, wants an all out war on the Korean peninsula. I believe that China is the obvious key to a stable North Korea, without China on board to maintain a peaceful Korean peninsula, a peaceful Korean peninsula may not be possible.

      • I don’t see it. They are religiously fanatical to him… (at least the ones we see in the propaganda videos) but I don’t think they are militantly fanatical. There would be some who receive the party reward of living in Pyongyang that would oppose an occupation. But, given the lightning nature of what would be the ground offensive, there is little chance NK even comes remotely close to arming its populace as an insurgency against the occupation before NK is overrun.

        Yes, China would be a good cudgel against NK. But that’s still playing to option #1 of hoping NK collapses before NK can use its eventual weapons tech in a reckless manner.

        I have long hoped for an internal squabble amongst the elites to turn into a larger ousting of the Kim family. But 1) I don’t think it will happen & 2) we exchange one corrupt and criminal family for another one.

    • How about a third option, the assassination of Kim Jong-Un by a black ops team? If we could off him without it being traced back to us, his generals will be too busy with internal squabbles to keep up with the nuclear provocation doctrine. at least for a while. Or they may not even WANT to continue with Kim’s course.

      • As much as waiting to see what happens over time is roll of the dice, it’s a passive roll of the dice.

        Knocking off the leader of North Korea is an extreme roll of the dice that we would be actively rolling. I don’t know any time we take action that could end in a wide set of divergent outcomes, many of which outcomes are dangerously adverse to our interests, and not take a more hands on approach to mitigating the consequences.

        The most dire outcome being to default us to the first option I described above… but if we anticipated that as a likely outcome, we wouldn’t leave it up to the chance assasination of the leader. I don’t think.

    • Going down the #1 avenue, there are options. Undermine, delay, and sabotage. Peck at them. Take out anyone from the outside who’s helping them. Use double agents who are acting like they are helping but aren’t. Send them the latest incarnation of Stuxnet. This is all in the realm of a good CIA.

      Another option on #2 is to get China to take them out. Make the easier choice for China is to take out NK. I’ve wondered what the response would be if the US and Japan jointly announced that Japan was leaving the non-proliferation treaty and the US was fully co-operating on technology? Argue that we can’t have a democracy blackmailed by a dictatorship with nuclear weapons, so we’re making sure Japan has the best stuff available. Let everyone know that the way to stop it is to disarm NK. Given the long simmering hatred (with reason!) between China and Japan, I’m betting it will motivate China. Throw in the incentive that nobody would object to the annexation of NK to China and China can treat it is a territorial expansion.

      • If nobody else would object to Korea having half of it’s territory occupied by China, I would, and given the state of NK’s economy, I’d bet China would object, as well. Just because both peoples have epicanthic folds does ot mean they are the same, ethnically or culturally.

  4. #6
    Is it sophisticated to bash nationalism? It seems to be something people who think of themselves as sophisticated often do.

      • Define nationalism:

        Is it culturally based? That is to say to have confidence in the superiority of your own culture’s values and application of values?

        Or is it ethnically based? That is to have confidence in your own culture but not allow new entrants into that culture from outside?

        If it’s 1) I’ve got no problem with that- some *cultures* are clearly superior to others.

        If it’s 2) I do have problems with that… yes some cultures are superior to others, but I don’t think it’s useful to presume an outsider to the culture can be denied the ability to assimilate (melting pot assimilate…not the farce of multiculturalism) based purely on their “outsiderness”.

        • “to assimilate (melting pot assimilate…not the farce of multiculturalism)”


          Is there a rule of thumb about the length of parenthetical note? Like at what point should a parenthetical note just be footnoted?

        • Webster’s is fine with me: “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness (see consciousness 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”

          Excessive nationalism can get out of hand.

          Patriotism is love for and devotion to one’s country. It does not get out of hand. It is a civic duty.

    • It’s tres chic. It’s what all the fellows in the EU are doing. I’d say attacking nationalism is more creepily corrosive than attacking patriotism.

      Personally, I just wish Obama would simply shut up and disappear for at least the next four or eight years. His post presidential conduct is reprehensible. Two words, Barack, buddy: “Hillary lost.”

  5. Jack:

    I don’t know that this is deserving of a post or even a warm-up, but this story struck me as bizarre, and I know you have a soft-spot for dogs:

    There’s also another flying horror story from United Airlines:

    Hobby Lobby appears to have been involved in some illegal artifacts trading:

    What happens when socialized standards and technology meet:

    More claims of racial bias in casting:

    Then there’s whatever this is:

    • In fairness the right wing media had a field day with Obama’s travel and accomodations. I’d really like everyone to shut up about side issues and focus on what’s really happening policy and diplomacy wise. But, I know that will never happen.

      I recently reread Borstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America (I don’t know how to do italics in a blog comment?) So we can’t say we weren’t warned, but the first time I read it, in about 1996, I didn’t realize how complete the decline would be or how fast.

  6. Jack, about that title of your post…
    Isn’t today 7/6/17, not 7/7/17? Did you mean to use Korea time?*
    (Sorry, I woke up late, so I have just now finished reading this thread.)
    *I mean, I really don’t mind, if you are giving us tomorrow’s news today.

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