Good Morning, Ethics World!
1 “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” Yesterday, finding myself in desperate straits thanks to our recent decision that premium cable TV stations were not worth the money, I watched the film version of “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” How time flies! The always excellent Diane Lane was still playing ingenues, instead of the unusually lovely mothers she plays now. Wesley Snipes still had a career.
And this: after a bloodily murdered young woman is discovered in a White House bathroom, the head of security explains to the police why it is crucial to shield the President from any speculation or hint of scandal, saying,
“You won’t question the President! The Presidency is an institution, not a person. And that institution will be protected at all costs.”
Gee, how old IS that movie? I just checked: it’s 20 years old. The novel was written by one-time first daughter Margaret Truman, who once lived at at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with her Democratic President father. The quote wasn’t considered remarkable at the time: it didn’t even make it into the IMDB’s quotes page for the film. The quote is certainly striking today. All it took was 20 years, a shocking upset and a President who “breaches norms” to make the Democrats, Republicans, the news media and much of the public forget that is in our interests as a nation to protect and respect the institution, and that the person occupying it is secondary.
I knew there was a reason I liked that movie, other than Diane Lane.
There’s another interesting quote from the film too:
“I think President Teddy Roosevelt said it best: ‘If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.'”
2. How’s this for a seque? I also finished 2014’s “The Roosevelts” last night for the second time (enjoying PBS though I am still waiting for the Republicans to cut it out of the budget, as they keep promising) and found myself reflecting upon which was more dangerous for the nation, a President who receives no respect and is widely denigrated at every turn, regardless of merit or fairness, or a President who is widely fawned over , not just domestically but world wide, and who comes to be regarded as a perfect, unassailable leader, and who is determined to stay in the job for life? I’m pretty sure what my late father would say, even though as a veteran and a Depression kid he respected FDR’s accomplishments and skill as a leader. “He was as close to a dictator as the country has ever had,” he told me. “Too close.”
My father’s assessment, not unique to him, is not expressed in the Ken Burns documentary. Being a PBS product, it seems determined, even now, to burnish Roosevelt’s iconic image, never being more than conditionally critical of the Presidential narcissist and borderline sociopath that was FDR, or even calling attention to his obvious and stunning hypocrisies, like the fact that the same man who proclaimed his commitment to spreading the “Four Freedoms” after the war handed over Eastern Europe and its millions of human beings to the domination of Stalinist Russia. As vivid as the “The Roosevelts” is, like all of Burns’ films, it is still propaganda and political manipulation. The smoking gun for me is that despite ten and half hours, Burns somehow never found time to highlight FDR’s internment of American citizens solely because they were of Japanese ancestry. The civil rights outrage is only alluded to in passing, as part of a list from a biographer preceding the nostrum, “All great leaders make mistakes.”
3. And speaking of manipulation...Some have suggested that Mark Zuckerberg is owed an Ethics Alarms Ethics Hero award, since he immediately lost more than 3 billion dollars in wealth when the stock market plunged because of this:
Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. The shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with — for example, a photo of your dog or a status update that many of them have commented on or liked.
The changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with “meaningful interaction” that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.
“We want to make sure that our products are not just fun, but are good for people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We need to refocus the system.”
This arrogant pronouncement that an internet giant feels that it should decide what is good for us to read should scare the hell out of people, not that I’ll especially miss the idiotic Occupy Democrat memes and the Charles Blow columns posted by Facebook friends who could not fetcht the wit or information defend either on a bet. Facebook’s paternalistic and Orwellian policy change also came on the heels of Google’s new fact-check feature, which so far, at least, appears to be reserved only for conservative websites.
Google’s margin verdicts are also often wrong, biased, or misleading, like virtually all fact-checks. The Daily Caller, which for some reason has been the target of a disproportionate percentage of Google’s attention, found,
When searching for a media outlet that leans right, like The Daily Caller (TheDC), Google gives users details on the sidebar, including what topics the site typically writes about, as well as a section titled “Reviewed Claims.”Vox, and other left-wing outlets and blogs like Gizmodo, are not given the same fact-check treatment. When searching their names, a “Topics they write about” section appears, but there are no “Reviewed Claims.”
In fact, a review of mainstream outlets, as well as other outlets associated with liberal and conservative audiences, shows that only conservative sites feature the highly misleading, subjective analysis. Several conservative-leaning outlets like TheDC are “vetted,” while equally partisan sites like Vox, ThinkProgress, Slate, The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Salon, Vice and Mother Jones are spared…Big name publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are even given a column showcasing all of the awards they have earned over the years.
Another smoking gun: Google treats Snopes.com as a respectable fact-checking service, when that site need a fact-check more than most.
I presume, as with the pervasive tilt of news media bias, the civil liberties and freedom of thought warriors on the Left will shrug-off this sinister abuse of power as conservative alarmist—since it benefits their “side.”