Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/17: (Part One) The Frankenmedia

Wait, how does that go again? What is it that “dies in darkness”?

Good morning (or, as I first typed it, “good monging”), everyone!

1 CNN’s walking, talking, “mistake…CNN’s alleged ethics watchdog, Brian Stelter, is really an embarrassment. He sees his job as defending the news media, not making its conduct better through objective criticism. He especially works up a sweat defending CNN, perhaps the most rooutinely unethical of all…but then, CNN pays his salary, the fools. He’s useless.

In a podcast,, both he and CNN token conservative S.E. Cupp blamed the mean conservative media and commentators unfairly dwelling on “mistakes” to undermine public trust in journalism.  See Rationalization #19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

This is a legitimate defense if, in fact, an individual has been accused of not being perfect.  Usually, however, it is an attempt to minimize the significance of genuine misconduct. When an act suggests that more than an honest mistake or single instance of bad judgment was involved, and that an individual’s conduct indicates a broader lack of character or ethical sensitivity, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” are not only inappropriate and irrelevant, but are presumptively efforts to change the subject. The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. It also does not argue for failing to make reasonable assumptions about the ethical instincts of the actor if and when the unethical nature of conduct strongly suggests that it is not an aberration, but a symptom.

Though nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, we are all still accountable for the mistakes we make.

It’s not a mistake when CNN shows itself to be blatantly biased, it’s dishonest and a breach of integrity. It’s not a mistake when CBS, ABC and NBC refuse to report a Democratic Senator’s trial for bribery  until  it ends in a mistrial, its deliberate refusal to report the news. (CBS recently devoted 45 second to the President drinking from a water bottle.) It’s not a mistake when NBC reinstated a news anchor (Brian Williams) who was shown to have lied repeatedly, its contempt for journalism, and irresponsible. It’s not a mistake when ABC ignores basic conflict of interest principles to allow former Clinton staffer and current Clinton Foundation donor George Stephanopoulos to interview both Hillary Clinton (nice, easy interview)and the author of a book criticizing her (hostile interview), it’s incompetent journalism. Etc, meaning I could go on for, oh, 50,000 words or so without having to check my notes.

The fact that CNN lets an unqualified dolt like Stelter talk about ethics isn’t a mistake either.

When mistakes—and fake news, the description of misconceptions as facts, and bias-driven choices regarding which stories to cover and which to bury are not mistakes—by professionals reach a critical mass, they implicate trust.

2. Like THIS mistake, for example…Here, courtesy of Newsbusters, is veteran CNN journalist Gloria Borger spinning for Al Franken:

Borger …immediately went into spin mode by downplaying the fallout, stating that KABC radio host Leann Tweeden “did not call for him to step down or say he ought to step down” and didn’t render an opinion upon being told an investigation had been launched.

Gloria really needs to 1) read Ethics Alarms and 2) take Ethics 101. What a victim chooses to say about an unethical act that harmed her doesn’t alter the seriousness of the act in any way.

From there, Borger continued proving this segment as one of political tribalism, declaring that what matters most is “the context in which all of this occurring, which is Moore — Judge Moore — and that has been, you know, brewing and percolating, whatever you want to say, for days and days and days.” 

In other words, “Look over there!” This is also Ethics 1o1 stuff: Whether the conduct of individual A is better or worse, the unrelated conduct of individual B must be judged on its own ethics breaches. Borgia is appealing to Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” (This is also the current favorite of my Facebook friends, who are embarrassing themselves. At least they aren’t posing as journalists.)

She added that Tweeden’s story will not be “the last” woman to come forward with disturbing allegations,

“Everybody does it!”

but what came next from Borger was quite disturbing: “This is scratching the surface. He was not a member of the Congress at the time this occurred. He was just a comedian.”

This is so stupid, it is signature significance for both Borgia and CNN. Borgia is an utter fool to broadcast her bias coast to coast. I say Borger express disgust at the Access Hollywood video, when Donald Trump was doing his best pig imitation for poor Billy Bush. Borger never tried to argue that Trump’s conduct was mitigated because “He was not a politician at the time this occurred. He was just a celebrity and reality TV star.”

It is signature significance for CNN because no competent and trustworthy news organization allows someone this biased and dumb to regularly represent it on the air.

3. The new #1 excuse for Al on the Top 40 charts! I was disappointed to see the usually rational Amy Alkon make this argument, which I have now seen and heard from many of my wildly spinning friends:

“No, you cannot grope someone thru body armor. You could MAYBE find boobs with an X-ray. He was pantomiming groping on an asleep woman – a way men sometimes act when they are spurned by a beautiful woman but feel entitled to her attention…Body armor is meant to stop speeding bullets. It is not make of flimsy silk or even Lanz-like flannel.”

Lame. Sexual harassment is based on how the victim receives the unwelcome conduct. The photo is per se sexual harassment, whether the grope was real or symbolic, it was perceived as a grope. If Tweeden had awoken and found Franken’s hands on her vest where her breasts would be, would she think she was being groped? Of course she would. If Franken touched her while she was asleep, that’s also battery: an unconsented touching. It doesn’t matter if only outerwear is touched: you dont have to be naked to be battered. (Remember, since she was asleep, this couldn’t be assault. Assault requires the victim to be conscious, and put in imminent fear of unwanted touching.)

4. A deep dive...Ann Althouse performed a revealing survey of the left-biased news medias painful machinations as they covered Al’s Mistake. I recommend it: there are Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

5 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, U.S. Society

5 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/17: (Part One) The Frankenmedia

  1. Inquiring Mind

    If you want to know why Senator Roy Moore is a distinct possibility, just look at how the media is spinning for Franken. If you seriously think that isn’t being noticed and mentioned by Breitbart and other conservative outlets.

    I do not need to go into the way that one feminist who claims to have studied “rape culture” has pretty much said in a Washington Post op-ed that Franken needs to stay because he “supports women” with his voting record.

    Never mind that somehow, there are countless women who disagree with Franken’s votes in support of Planned Parenthood or abortion or gun control… then again, I wonder if those “feminists” would stick up for a conservative woman. I have my doubts…

  2. Other Bill

    I didn’t know CNN was hiring members of the Borgia family as reporters. Now that’s signature significance!

  3. Jeff

    That “he was just a comedian” excuse is unbelievably ridiculous. Is there a master list somewhere of which careers are held to higher standards, and which give you a free pass to harass, molest, and disrespect other people? After all, Spacey and Takei were both “just actors” when they were assaulting young men. Weinstein was “just a movie producer”. And of course, Louis C.K. is “just a comedian”, so he should be free to masturbate in front of whoever he chooses, right?

    Should we take it to extremes and excuse David Berkowitz for the Son of Sam killings because he was just a lowly letter-sorter at the post office?

    If you act like an asshole, your job is irrelevant. Your new business card says “Asshole”.

  4. Isaac

    This Borger is a piece of work.

    “Why is everyone talking about the sitting US Senator and celebrity comedian who just got busted for proudly molesting a woman on camera, when we should be focused on the Republican guy running for one of the 435 House seats who did something similar and we’ve only been talking about it for weeks so far? It’s so crazy, it must be a conspiracy!

  5. Dwayne N. Zechman

    “What a victim chooses to say about an unethical act that harmed her doesn’t alter the seriousness of the act in any way.”

    This is so obviously true.

    After all, murder victims almost never have anything bad to say about the crime that was perpetrated on them….

    –Dwayne

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