Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.

Figures.

2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.

Hell.

Seriously.

How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth:

…it is hard to witness successive hurricanes wreak havoc on Americans and realize that the science behind recognizing the global warming that contributes to more extreme weather events is not believed by America’s ruling party.

Translation: “I have no idea what climate change is, but good progressives, meaning everyone on the news media, have to push the agenda.”

As I have noted often, the claim that two major storms in hurricane season, after over a decade of milder-than-predicted hurricanes, is any kind of proof that climate change alarmists are right is the mark of either dishonesty or ignorance. Newsbusters has been listing the recent recruits to this unethical tactic among Blow’s colleagues (and Hollywood celebrities, of course), and there are more examples every day.  [ Here, here, here, here , here, here, here, and here.]  Every one of them should be an embarrassment, but this continues. No respectable scientist would be so foolish as to make the argument that the oddly-delayed return of the kinds of storms the U.S. has experienced for centuries proves anything about climate change one way or the other. What the reaction of the Left to the two storms does show is the awesome power of confirmation bias.

It is hard to witness a president so obsessed with the obliteration of the legacy of his predecessor that he is attempting to undo that legacy with every stroke of his pen.

Translation: It is obscene that a President elected by Americans who thought that President Obama was inept, divisive and wrong-headed is seeking to reverse many of the policies of his predecessor. Or the short version: “Democracy is Hell on Earth.”

I especially like the “obsessed” part; this is rhetorical dishonesty—Blow’s specialty–to make legitimate policy choices sound like the product of emotion and animus. In fact, Trump has left many of Obama’s policies in place, much to the chagrin of his supporters.

It is hard to witness a bully attack traditionally marginalized communities, one after the other.

Translation: Any policies that don’t confer special status and privileges on minorities in perpetuity is “bullying.”

It is hard to witness a family of corruption besmirching the presidency, the country and America’s standing in the world.

Trans..Wait, who are we talking about here? The Clintons? The Kennedys?

It is hard to witness the dismantling of basic norms, the dismissal of propriety and the devaluation of truth and honesty.

Are you laughing yet? Dismantling of basic norms, like “Democrats can fire their FBI chiefs for cause, but Republicans can’t,” and “Memorials and statutes that have stood for decades should be torn down according to political correctness demands,” and “Democrats can commute the sentences of 30-year old traitors, but Republicans are abusing the Constitution to pardon an 8o-year-old sheriff.”  Dismissal of propriety, meaning “if Democrats do it, like a former President routinely criticizing his successor, it’s proper.”

“Devaluation of truth and honesty” is the really funny part: juts  four sentences earlier, Charles Blow of the New York Times stated as fact that two hurricanes prove global warming, and has issued an entire column stating that having Donald Trump as President has turned the United States of America into Hell on Earth.

43 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, Workplace

43 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

  1. Okay, I tried to read the article, and I made it no further than Blow describing Trump’s America as the ninth circle of hell. When one strikes that level of hyperbole, it eradicates any credibility one might have possessed.

    One of the greatest counters to depression and despair is an attitude of gratitude, something I truly see lacking in anything coming from the left. We have a great nation. We have great opportunities, and we have a culture that truly seeks – if sometimes in very strange, even damaging ways — to right wrongs and make life as fair as possible. If you look around the world, and if you look at just about any culture that existed since the dawn of history, you won’t find any people who have been so richly blessed as those in our country today. This is especially true when you consider the stability our nation has, and its lack of credible enemies that pose any existential threat to our nation. We can go about life assured that tomorrow will indeed be much like today.

    Even in the face of hurricanes, we have much for which to be grateful. We have incredible technology that gives us quite a bit of advanced warning that the storms were coming. We have minimized death tolls in the face of these natural disasters, and we have a government willing to pour billions of dollars into rebuilding communities destroyed by the hurricanes. We have seen an incredible outpouring of generosity from the nation at large to help the hurricane victims (the Knights of Columbus alone raised $1.3 million). Yes, the devastation is traumatic, and yes people have lost livelihoods, all their possessions, and even family members. But this strikes against one very important aspect of life.

    There is suffering in this world. All of us will be inflicted by it at one point in time or another. In our struggle against the natural evils of the world, we seem to be continually deluding ourselves (the right is guilty of this, too, but the left seems to be taking it to extremes) that we can create a true utopia here on earth. We seem to think we can become masters of the universal forces that dictate the weather, that dictate our biology, that dictate the inner workings of the universe itself. It is this delusion that leads us to see a President like Trump, or Obama, or any other president that has been disliked, as a major setback on the path to nirvana. Yet, there is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that we should all keep in mind (forgive the length, but I find it profound):

    “For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important. We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate, under Nero or St Louis. Daybreak is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance; food and friends will be welcomed; work and strangers must be accepted and endured; birds will go bedwards and children won’t, to the end of the last evening. And the worst peril is that in our just modern revolt against intolerable accidents we may have unsettled those things that alone make daily life tolerable. It will be an ironic tragedy if, when we have toiled to find rest, we find we are incurably restless. It will be sad if, when we have worked for our holiday, we find we have unlearnt everything but work. The typical modern man is the insane millionaire who has drudged to get money, and then finds he cannot enjoy even money. There is danger that the social reformer may silently and occultly develop some of the madness of the millionaire whom he denounces. He may find that he has learnt how to build playgrounds but forgotten how to play. He may agitate for peace and quiet, but only propagate his own mental agitation…

    There is danger in that modern phrase ‘divine discontent’. There is truth in it also, of course; but it is only truth of a special and secondary kind. Much of the quarrel between Christianity and the world has been due to this fact; that there are generally two truths, as it were, at any given moment of revolt or reaction, and the ancient underlying truism which is nevertheless true all the time. It is sometimes worth while to point out that black is not so black as it is painted; but black is still black, and not white. So with the merits of content and discontent. It is true that in certain acute and painful crises of oppression or disgrace, discontent is a duty and shame could call us like a trumpet. But it is not true that man should look at life with an eye of discontent, however high-minded. It is not true that in his primary, naked relation to the world, in his relation to sex, to pain, to comradeship, to the grave or to the weather, man ought to make discontent his ideal; it is black lunacy. Half his poor little hopes of happiness hang on his thinking a small house pretty, a plain wife charming, a lame foot not unbearable, and bad cards not so bad. The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending, contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.”

    • Mrs. Q

      I like to keep my copy of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized Society’ next to my 1974 paperback copy of Charlie Darwin’s ‘The Origin of the Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’

      • Mrs. Q, that is an interesting juxtaposition of literature! I have to admit that I’ve not yet read Darwin’s “The Origin of the Species”, though my dad has always had a copy on his bookshelf that I would occasionally pick up and flip through. I’ve heard varying accounts of whether Darwin himself supported the idea of “survival of the fittest” among groups of humans, but I do know that his ideas did lead to the strong eugenics movements that permeated late nineteenth and early twentieth century thought in Europe. And if we want to consider hell on earth, we can certainly view the atrocities committed during the two world wars as worthier examples than any of Trump’s activities today…

        • Mrs. Q

          I concur Mr. Harkins. I like to keep the 2 books together as a reminder of where Darwinism can take us…to the point of utter destruction of bodies, minds, and souls…in the name of science.

          • Pennagain

            One of the finest, most exciting, most brain-busting Literature courses I ever had — that’s Literature, not science, politics, mythology or psych — was based on a study of four authors: “Darwin, Marx, Frazier, and Freud.” After that, any juxtaposition of reading matter could connect.

    • This is a COTD, Ryan. I’ll get it up this evening or tomorrow. Thanks.

      • Thank you, Jack. I was hoping I could provide something positive. I personally find that my worst days are days when I don’t wake up in the morning and immediately offer thanks for my wife and children, my home, my job, my health, and all the good things that have come my way. And it has always made me wonder: how do people struggling with true tyrants, with the threat of ethnic cleansing, or perpetual worry of starvation, carry on day to day?

    • Well stated, Ryan. Well done, indeed.

      jvb

    • I beg to differ about controlling the forces of the universe. It seems like a worthy goal to me. It usually goes wrong because people latch onto a handful of simple concepts and try to use them to remake the world, rather than considering the balance of opposing concepts, and their pros and cons. That’s what I’m trying to fix.

      As to what we do in the meantime, I agree completely. People get carried away trying to change the world and forget to appreciate the things that make it worth doing in the first place. There is a lot to be said for the motivation of contentment. Excellent quote and introduction!

      • EC,

        Perhaps this is a matter of semantics? There are two senses I can think of by which we could interpret “mastering the forces of the universe”. If we think of those forces as tools, in once sense mastery could be the height of effectively and properly utilizing those tools. In another sense, mastery could mean being the who forges the tools, remaking them as seen fit. I am all in favor of the former, and it is the latter sense I decry above.

  2. From the “You Gotta Be Effin’ Kidding Me!” department:

    “Did Climate Change Cause Hurricane Irma To Fizzle?”

    http://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/did-climate-change-cause-hurricane-irma-to-fizzle/

  3. Rusty Rebar

    My favorite part is how NYT, CNN and others have just disabled comments. I guess hearing what “normal” people think about the stories is too scary for them… or is it that they don’t want the “normal” people to know that they are not alone, and lots of other people feel the same way as them. I guess it also makes those outlets look bad when 90% of the comments are contradictory to the stories they are posting.

    • Pennagain

      Could be. On the other hand, large corporations and public entities tend to attract an overwhelming percentage of trolls on their websites.

  4. Jack asked, “How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit?”

    The obvious absolutely undeniable truthful answer is the ends justify the means.

    The only hell the United States is faced with is the hell that Charles Blow, the New York Times and their ignorant ilk fabricate for the purpose of justifying election post mortem absolute hate driven by Traumatic Political Stress Disorder (TPSD).

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      He’s black. End of discussion.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “He’s black. End of discussion.”

        Nonsense!

        What you’re completely ignoring is that he could be as white as the pure driven snow, as long as he continues to spew Progressive anti-Trump rhetoric he will continue to hold a place of honor at the New York Times. Period!

        Allowing racism tainted glasses to deflect the discussion was uncalled for.

      • And to paraphrase the talented Mrs. Q, any reference to him better be an obsequiously genuflecting, distinctively audible, deferentially applied, wet smooch to his pucker or yer a raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacist!!!!

        • Other Bill

          Blow is essentially throwing a tantrum. He’d only be happy if every president for the rest of his lifetime were a person of color. As long as it wasn’t a white Hispanic.

          • Other Bill,
            So Blow is a racist?

            • Other Bill

              Somebody who hates white people because they’re white? Sounds like a racist to me. But he’s more dangerous than that. He’s a totally anti-American shit stirrer drenched in all the essentially Marxist theory that has pervaded the American academy for thirty or forty years. And the NYT gives him a huge megaphone. He’s incredibly corrosive. If he were just some guy in front of his TV complaining about crackers, that would be a racist. Blow is much, much worse than that. So calling him a racist is neither here nor there.

              • Other Bill wrote, “Somebody who hates white people because they’re white? Sounds like a racist to me.”

                I’m not saying you’re wrong but show me; please cite examples of Blow saying or directly implying that.

          • A 10 month tantrum. Really, at what point does a responsible editor say, “Uh, Chuck? Enough. We get it.”

        • Steve-O-in-NJ

          Exactly right. His melanin will protect him no matter what garbage he spews. He already got away with a cheap shot at Mitt Romney’s faith. He’s also a switch-hitter, so he is triply protected, as a POC,, LGBTQ, and a clear sufferer of TDS. Frankly I think he’s a load of BS, but the Times will keep publishing his junk.

  5. Other Bill

    If a reporter can stand in a hurricane, it ain’t much of a hurricane. I’m sure there are some engineers out there who can explain how wind gets geometrically stronger when it’s in the mid to higher hundreds with each increase in just a few miles per hour. By the time Irma got to Naples, it wasn’t much of a hurricane. We didn’t see any reporters standing in the wind in Key West. Nor did we see any standing in the wind outside Richard Branson’s house on his private island when structures, such as his house, were being literally demolished. When a strong Category 3 or Category 4 or 5 storm hits the mainland, those dopes will take cover. There weren’t any out in the wind in Andrew when South Dade County was literally leveled as if it had been bombed. Morons.

  6. Glenn Logan

    We need Blow right where he is for one very good reason; as a demonstration of the wrong way to do almost everything when it comes to punditry. He and Maxine Waters are perfect stereo speakers for the mad, mad, mad (as in hilariously nutty) left.

    People who become self-parodies are outstanding negative examples. In my view, you need a few of those, and Blow’s become such an archetypal caricature of a protected-class pundit that he has plenty of value being just where he is, for others who are serious and sane to mock.

  7. As I have noted often, the claim that two major storms in hurricane season, after over a decade of milder-than-predicted hurricanes, is any kind of proof that climate change alarmists are right is the mark of either dishonesty or ignorance.

    As Christopher C. Morton wrote about Climate Change®™:

    http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/06/foreigners_see_president_trump.html#lf-content=198087069:697687399

    “Climate change” is just another left wing political pseudo religion like Lysenkoism. If you have to lie about the data, it’s for a reason. Trofim Lysenko, for his personal aggrandizement, destroyed Soviet agriculture to the point where it could never recover. Like him, the Al Gores of this world want to destroy the U.S. economy for their own benefit.

  8. #1 – I was listening to WSB in Atlanta early this morning discussing this very issue. They were concerned that it might lead to what they called hurricane fatigue — if this can stand out there it can’t be so bad, no need for me to evacuate.

    I think it’ll only come to an end if someone gets killed on the air. Unless,. of course, that network gets a rating spike from viewers watching its weather reporter getting killed being slammed into a parking deck or some such.

    Even if conditions are marginally tolerable for someone to stand out in it,. these storms always have wind gusts that are 20-40 mph higher than the sustained winds, or they’ll have a short period of calm followed suddenly by high winds. Plus they’re not actually telling you anything that the studio guys aren’t, and probably less.

    At the same time it’s undoubtedly an incredible rush to stand outside in a hurricane — kind of like the storm chasers who go after tornadoes. They do get killed sometimes, but it doesn’t stop them.

  9. The 9th Circle of Hell is specifically for traitors, but I guess Blow said that because the 9th is the inner one, and drama requires that we be in the worstest circle of all?

    It could be that Blow is optimistic for the future: the 9th is completely ice-bound, but (interior) global warming will fix that right up.

  10. Wayne

    Charles “Blowhard” is functioning at the level of a two year old with a perpetual temper tantrum. He must have had a difficult time adjusting to kindergarten where probably he spent considerable time in the corner. It’s difficult to understand why readers of the NYT take him seriously.

  11. According the Accuweather, Harvey (a jerk of the highest order who broke Irma’s heart) and Irma (whose heart was broken by Harvey and further abused by that horrid José) may not be cause by global warming after all, but by the late development of El Niño. Check this out

    https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/2017-atlantic-hurricane-season-update-el-nino-delay-may-spur-development-increase-risk-of-major-impact-on-us/70002059

    (Don’t skip the advertisement. Check out the Art of Rush. That was a wonderful surprise, considering that I am a card-carrying member of the Rushinati and we have assumed control!.)

    jvb

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