Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/17: A Creep Places A Bounty On Hillary’s Hair, And More….

GOOOD Morning.

1 My weekly assessment of anti-Trump mania based on the New York Times Sunday Review shows mostly petulant complaining. The front page is Trump-less, as is the second. After that respite,this issue is notable for some of the best illustrations yet of a journalistic phenomenon unique to Trump coverage, the “this is so horrible and sinister because it’s taking place under President Trump, even though it is neither unique nor noteworthy, being a condition that has existed for decades or even centuries.” Frank Bruni, for example, gets an entire page to tell us that White House aides who leave the Trump White House cash in, what Bruni calls “the ethos of enrichment.” You will be surprised, or maybe not, to learn that the essay about this new and venal trend under Trump never once mentions the name “Clinton,” the family that made cashing in on White house residency a family business, or do you have another theory why Chelsea Clinton is rich? You see, if Trump/Republicans/Conservatives do it, it’s disgusting because it’s Trump/Republicans/Conservatives doing it. What “it” happens to be doesn’t seem to matter much.

Then there is a “I can’t believe how stupid Trump supporters are” essay by NBC’s Katy Tur that contains this tell: “On election day they trusted his judgment more that they trusted any of us.” Wait: who’s the “us” that is being set up as opposition to a Presidential candidate, Katy? Journalists aren’t supposed to be telling citizens who to vote for, who is trustworthy or who will be a worthy leader. That statement is why so many voters don’t trust you, and also why they shouldn’t.

My favorite, though, a true classic in spin and how to present an issue in distorted terms to mislead the public, is a sob piece by a Yale grad student—yes, if you can write a sufficiently biased and critical essay about the plague that is the Trump administration, you don’t have to be a journalist. Your political biases are enough. In this case, the author is an illegal immigrant, as is every member of her family, so the Times believes that she is the perfect objective commentator on Trump policies regarding illegal immigration. Her theme: “Spreading fear is part of the administration’s plan.”

That plan is called law enforcement and deterrence. The government making life uncomfortable for law-breakers and ensuring that the guilty never feel comfy enough to think, “Well, the heat is off! They’ll never catch me now!” has been an uncontroversial and effective means of ensuring a safe and fair society for centuries. It was the Obama administration that endorsed the novel, bizarre and corrosive policy of telling illegal immigrants, “No problem: just make sure you don’t rape, kill or rob anyone, and you’re golden. Welcome!”

It is the indignation that comes through these essays that is so infuriating. How dare the government demand accountability for our law-breaking! tells us that her family has lived here illegally for 30 years.

If a newspaper is going to publish flagrantly manipulative junk like this, it would be responsible journalism to include a rebuttal along side it. Opinions are one thing; intentional distortions of the principles of civilization come unacceptably close to disinformation.

2. Martin Shkreli, the incredibly obnoxious  pharmaceutical executive who shamelessly jacked up the price of a critical drug used by AIDS patients, was convicted of securities fraud last month for mismanaging two investment funds. Out on bail, he recently posted on Facebook that he would give $5,000 to anyone who would “grab” some of Hillary Clinton’s hair for him during her upcoming book promotion tour. As a result, prosecutors want to revoke his bail.

Shkreli later edited the post to clarify that it was “satire” and finally took it down.  However, his post triggered an investigation by the Secret Service, as it should have, and such investigations cost taxpayers money. Nor was this the first time the smirking Shkreli set out to harass Hillary Clinton. After she collapsed from pneumonia on September 11, 2016, Shkreli stood outside Chelsea Clinton’s apartment, where her mother was recuperating, and live-streamed his heckling of her.

Shkreli’s lawyer told reporters, “However inappropriate some of Mr Shkreli’s postings may have been, we do not believe that he intended harm and do not believe that he poses a danger to the community.” The problem with this is that it doesn’t matter if his lawyers, or me, or other reasonable people thought the post was satire. When a rich guy sends out a message to the world that he’ll pay cash for someone inflicting harm on a public figure, it is certain that someone, or many someones, will take the offer seriously. Jonathan Turley, who is even more of a First Amendment hard-liner than I am, somehow was able to write,

“I do not see how a satiric posting qualifies as a bail violation, particularly after his later posting saying it was satire and then deleting the post.”

What? Professor, a plausible threat does not become “satiric” for all just because a law professor perceives it as such, and definitely not because the writer retroactively labels it “satire” after the Justice Department objects. Shkreli knew, or should have known, that there are deranged, desperate, reckless people who would treat a wealthy individual’s offer of a bounty for Hillary Clinton’s hair as genuine. His Facebook post placed her at risk.

I would revoke Shkreli’s 5 million dollar bail. He deserves it, and there needs to be a clear message sent to any of Shkreli’s fellow creeps tempted to go after Hillary’s hair that he won’t be paying any bounties from his prison cell.

6 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/17: A Creep Places A Bounty On Hillary’s Hair, And More….

  1. The very publication of the Villavicentcio article defeats the thesis of the article. She obviously is not “looking over her shoulder” if she feels comfortable enough in her plight to write an article for the NYT confessing to her illegal status and revealing her identity and location to their millions of readers. An article like this one would be ill-advised if she felt any serious deportation risk.

    • It’s still ill-advised. I’d bet a lawyer, and perhaps even the Times, told her that deporting her after a Times screed critical of the Trump polices would actually gird her against ICE action, setting up an argument that the action was really a retaliation for free speech. In an earlier life, at a major DC association, we had an employee clearly eligible to be fired for cause make a discrimination claim, making any adverse job action potentially “retaliatory.” The association ended up letting the guy stay until they negotiated a cushioned exit.

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