Ethics Hero: Jimmy Carter

Say what you will about former President Jimmy Carter, he has never shied away from confronting what he believes are unpleasant truths. Thus he earns an Ethics Hero designation by telling New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd;

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about. I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Hilariously, USA Today immediately proved Carter’s point by writing, in its naturally objective and fair story on the quote,

“Perhaps Carter is seeking to placate Trump as part of a job interview: The 93-year-old former president said he is willing to undertake a diplomatic mission to North Korea to discuss its nuclear weapons program.”

In a related and illuminating story, former NPR CEO Ken Stern, nine years after he left the taxpayer- funded radio news network, has suddenly realized that there may be some liberal bias in the news media! His op-ed for the New York Post begins,

“Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.”

Gee, that’s kind of nice. What we usually hear from reporters, editors and media management is that the accusation of partisan bias, based on such overwhelming evidence that it makes a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard look like a breeze, is just a Fox News myth, a conservative concoction and a false talking point. It would have been more nice, of course, if Ken Stern had come to this obvious conclusion and used his position to do something, rather than wait nine years and speak up when the average informed person reads his name on an article and thinks, “Who the hell is Ken Stern”?

I confess, I detest these too little, too late confessions of enlightenment, which are usually self-serving. I smell a book and an interview tour, don’t you?

Well, I won’t be reading it. Later in his conveniently tardy piece, Stern writes,

“…my new friends in Youngstown, Ohio, and Pikeville, Ky., see media as hopelessly disconnected from their lives, and it is how the media has opened the door to charges of bias.

The mainstream media is constantly under attack by the president. They are “frankly disgusting,” “tremendously dishonest,” “failing,” “they make up the stories” and are now threatened with loss of broadcast licenses if they continue to author “fake news.” And that is just a random Wednesday’s worth of words from Donald Trump.

Some may take pleasure in the discomfort of the media, but it is not a good situation for the country to have the media in disrepute and under constant attack. Virtually every significant leader of this nation, from Jefferson on down, has recognized the critical role of an independent press to the orderly functioning of democracy. We should all be worried that more than 65 percent of voters think there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media and that our major media institutions are seen as creating, not combating, our growing partisan divide.

Some of this loss of reputation stems from effective demagoguery from the right and the left, as well as from our demagogue-in-chief, but the attacks wouldn’t be so successful if our media institutions hadn’t failed us as well.

None of this justifies the attacks from President Trump, which are terribly inappropriate coming from the head of government. At the same time, the media should acknowledge its own failings in reflecting only their part of America.”

True to Stern’s  NPR and partisan biased media roots, this is disingenuous, self-contradictory double talk:

  • “it is how the media has opened the door to charges of bias” is deceit. Based on what Stern already wrote and what any fair observer, including Jimmy Carter—hardly a conservative shill—has to concede, the news media hasn’t “opened the door to charges of bias,” it is biased.

Stern is engaging in equivocation and intentionally leading readers away from the truth rather than toward it….just like NPR too much of the time.

  • “[The news media is] “frankly disgusting,” “tremendously dishonest,” “failing,” “they make up the stories” and are now threatened with loss of broadcast licenses if they continue to author “fake news.” And that is just a random Wednesday’s worth of words from Donald Trump.”

Those descriptions are correct. What Stern had already described before he retreated to Trump-bashing shows that Trump is correct. For some strange reason, Stern and the few news media types that admit bias seem to think that misleading the public, pushing an ideological agenda and favoring one party over the other by manipulating news reports isn’t disgusting and dishonest. It is. Adding the President’s ridiculous and ignorant threat to pull broadcast licenses to the accurate complaints is a typical news media trick, discrediting the truth by associating it with nonsense.

  • “Some may take pleasure in the discomfort of the media, but it is not a good situation for the country to have the media in disrepute and under constant attack. Virtually every significant leader of this nation, from Jefferson on down, has recognized the critical role of an independent press to the orderly functioning of democracy. “

a) Shouldn’t everyone take pleasure in the discomfort of the media to have its abdication of its duty to the public exposed?

b) The critical role of the “press” as an independent force to permit the orderly functioning of democracy requires the press to be independent, and not allied with a political agenda.  When the news media rejects that ideal, as the current news media has, then the past reverence for that ideal is irrelevant.

  • “We should all be worried that more than 65 percent of voters think there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media and that our major media institutions are seen as creating, not combating, our growing partisan divide.”

Liek the President, the 65% are right.  Stern is falling back on the news media’s conveniently narrow definition of “fake news” as made up facts and stories intended to deceive. Ethics Alarms uses a more useful definition (as progressives howl): news stories that mislead readers and distort facts due to reporter bias, incompetence, or malice. The issue is trust. 65% of the public is saying that it doesn’t trust the news media, and Stern, before he started spinning, told us why they can’t and shouldn’t.

  • “Some of this loss of reputation stems from effective demagoguery from the right and the left, as well as from our demagogue-in-chief, but the attacks wouldn’t be so successful if our media institutions hadn’t failed us as well.”

What an astounding sentence! ‘If media institutions weren’t so untrustworthy, those demagogues saying they are untrustworthy wouldn’t be so effective at convincing the public that they are untrustworthy.’  Damn demagogues!

  • “None of this justifies the attacks from President Trump, which are terribly inappropriate coming from the head of government. At the same time, the media should acknowledge its own failings in reflecting only their part of America.”

Of course it justifies Trump’s attacks. The news media is abusing and betraying its vital role in our democracy by slanting its news coverage to undermine a duly elected President’s leadership. The President’s job is to protect the Constitution, and a press that uses its immunity from oversight to subvert democracy by engaging in disinformation is a threat to the Constitution. It would be better if other institutions made the President’s intervention unnecessary, but those institutions, like academia, are partisan and corrupt as well.

I have condemned President Trump for punching down, which is an abuse of his power. Exposing the partisan bias and lack of independence and objectivity in the news media isn’t punching down. The news media has nothing to fear from a President. What it should fear, and must fear, is the public’s distrust when it ceases to do its duty. Somebody has to make the public aware that it is being betrayed by its institutions, and when the viability of our democracy, which depends on an informed populace, is being threatened. If nobody else will warn them, the job falls to the President.

  • And this final “yechh!”: “the media should acknowledge its own failings in reflecting only their part of America.”

What??? The news media doesn’t have “a part of America,” and if journalists think that way, they are untrustworthy and incompetent by definition. Stern is using a cover-phrase to obscure what he is really saying. “Reflecting only their part of America” means slanting news coverage according to partisan agendas and bias. That’s not a “failing.” That’s “not practicing journalism, but propaganda instead.”

19 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

19 responses to “Ethics Hero: Jimmy Carter

  1. A.M. Golden

    I just finished a book called, “Richard Nixon: The Life”. According to the author, the media gave Nixon such a hard time when he was vice-president that there was a media rep when Nixon visited his dying father in order to verify that Nixon wasn’t lying about it.

    That kind of pettiness does something to a person, I think. It certainly made Nixon defensive and fed into his insecurities that the press was out to get him.

    Every time, I pull up my email homepage, I see articles about how Trump’s approval ratings are “lower than ever”. I see constant criticisms of what he eats, how he eats, how he dresses, how he looks, how far he stands from his wife, how many seconds he holds her hand. Today, my email provider thought that its main page was a good place to advertise an article about how actor/comedian Patton Oswalt found a disparaging note his late wife made about Trump 13 years ago.

    Do they just not realize what they’re doing? Or are they trying to get him Nixon-level paranoid enough to crack?

    • Wayne

      All this harrumphing by the mainstream
      media seems to be explicitly designed to push Trumps buttons and trigger him to make an outrageous tweet. Will they ever stop? Probably not, because in their hearts they know they’re right and to hell with the flyover state’s population.

      • I guess I’m the oddball then. The more someone or something is harrassed for stupid stuff, the more I cut them a break. If they’d just let him dig his own hole, I’d be fine, but attacking someone this virulently when he doesn’t get some things shows only people who would kick puppies and mock the blind, something they claim to be defending. Understaning, not ignorance, right?

        • Chris

          Yes, attacking someone who mocks the disabled is just like…mocking the disabled.

          The “poor Trump” arguments here have really jumped the shark.

          • I think that we need to do a better job, generally, with deciding what we need to be outraged over, and what we can let slide… But outrage about Trump is entirely off the rails.

            You want to bring up that time he mocked the disabled reported? Ok. That seems legit. How about nominating someone actively suing the EPA as head of the EPA? That seems legitimate too. Or the time he suggested a judge abstain from continuing to hear his case, because the judge was Mexican? How about when he suggested Ted Cruz’s father has something to do with the Kennedy assassination? Or when he expressed five different views on the minimum wage in lass than two minutes?

            There are SO. MANY. GOOD. THINGS. to criticize Trump about, which is why my eyeballs roll all the way to the back of my head and funnel down my throat every time the left explodes over something just cripplingly stupid. You don’t get to pretend that the perpetual shitstorm since last September has been anything resembling proportional to Trump’s actions.

            When I find myself in times of trouble
            Mother Russia comforts me
            Tweeting words of wisdom
            “Covfefe”

            And at the hour of 3AM
            She is standing right in front of me
            Tweeting words of wisdom
            “Covfefe”

            Covfefe!, Covfefe!, Covfefe!, Covfefe!
            Post a word of wisdom…
            Covfefe

            And when the deranged, unwashed masses
            Living in the world go reeeeeeeeeeeeee
            There will be an answer
            Covfefe

            For though they may be triggered
            There is still a chance that they will see
            There will be an answer
            Covfefe

            Covfefe!, Covfefe!, Covfefe!, Covfefe!
            Post a word of wisdom…
            Covfefe

          • What? You are saying that an individual who has committed despicable acts of incivility, prejudice and meanness can thereafter be attacked for lesser or even imaginary offenses as if they were of the same magnitude! What a perfect example of rationalizing double standards—and exactly what is being done to Trump.

            • Chris

              That was not my argument.

              • Please clarify, then. I’m sorry to misunderstand.

                • Chris

                  My argument was that mariedowd’s analogy was bad.

                  • If you think Mr Trump is demented or mentally challenged, why is is he still attacked non-stop? If a factory owner was affected by Alzheimers or dementia, and says something wonky about aliens, you either ignore him or try to get him medical help. (I hope I would) Yes, Mr Trump should not have been elected, but he shares that responsibility with many, many others on both sides of the aisle. He is, and his enablers are, responsible for the stupid they do, but so are his opponents.

                    I desperately wanted a third choice, but now we have to deal with what we have. We don’t have time machines.

    • “Or are they trying to get him Nixon-level paranoid enough to crack?”

      It’s precisely what they are doing. They are actively undermining the President with little regard to the collateral effects on our Constitutional system.

  2. “In a related and illuminating story, former NPR CEO Ken Stern, nine years after he left the taxpayer- funded radio news network, has suddenly realized that there may be some liberal bias in the news media!”

    This is all literally the same crap coming out of the Weinstein train wreck. An insular culture that has gotten extremely comfortable with the status quo, every element in that culture KNOWS what it going on and willingly participates in the goings-on. Then by ones and two, later in life, when it won’t matter, they fess up in some noble “I can’t believe we let that happen” faux-Jeremiad. They do this, because it’s all an attempt to help the *current wreck* of an insular media culture pretend like it will start being unbiased and trustworthy, all the while it is NOT going to do so. But under the guise of doing so, it can fake out the population again…. “Oh, look, they are going to start being unbiased, let’s believe all this next round of reporting which looks pretty darn biased, but it must not be, because they sure acted remorseful over their previous bias!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s