… to end a frantic ethics week…
(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)
1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:
On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:
A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.
The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.
None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.
Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.
2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.)
3. Sort of an Ethics Hero….no, wait, he’s not. Yesterday it was reported that actor Matt Damon was moving his family to Australia to escape the policies of President Trump and to ensure that his family was “safe.” I was prepared to give Damon a half-ethics salute for at least doing what so many left-wing entertainers have sworn they would do if various Republicans were elected President, but somehow never deliver. Damon is one of the few of their number that I would regret no longer having as a fellow citizen; after all, he is a Red Sox fan. On the other side of the ledger, robbing one’s children of the special opportunities and liberty of being raised in the United States is an excessive price to pay for extravagant political grandstanding.
Now it appears that this was fake news. I should have known. No Red Sox fan would move to Australia, especially this season, when the team is about to win 100 games and smoke the Yankees.
4. More evidence that the Left does not finds free speech an impediment. Rocklin (California) High School teacher Julianne Benzel was placed on leave yesterday after she led her class in a discussion about the nationwide school walkouts sparked by student hysteria regarding gun violence. Benzel said she did not discourage students from taking part in the walkout, but asked them to consider whether the reaction to other protests would be as lenient.
She is correct.
Benzel was then put on paid leave because of “several complaints from parents and students involving the teacher’s communications regarding today’s student-led civic engagement activities,”a Rocklin School District spokesperson said. What? I presume that means that any time any parent or student complains about anything a teacher says, this is considered sufficient justification for disciplinary action.
The school’s action chills free speech, and also demonstrates viewpoint bias and indoctrination. Benzel was on Fox News this morning; the question is why every news network wasn’t interviewing her. There are not two sides to this ethics issue, just one. She was trying to teach critical thinking to her students, and was punished for it, because this particular cause can’t survive critical thinking. (Benzel has already been reinstated.)
The student anti-gun protests are among the most embarrassing mass outbreaks of Stupid Fever this country has ever suffered through, greatly facilitated by social media.
5. Wonder Woman gets ambushed by super-powered, super-dumb political correctness. The actress who has been playing Wonder Woman, Gal Galdot, tweeted out a brief salute to Stephen Hawking:
“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking Now you’re free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”
The social media bully squad was on her in a flash. “This tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t,” responded one critic. Wrote another political correctness addict: “That sentiment affects me personally, it affects all people with disabilities because it impacts how we are perceived. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 70-80% and the idea that disabilities are scary things to be “freed” from is a big reason why.” From another: “Gal I am chronically ill. Can’t shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is.”
The tweet was not ablelist, and we would begin reassembling civility, common sense and reason in our society if Gadot responded with a terse, “Oh, shut up. I’m not going to be reprimanded for a perfectly respectful tribute. Your attempt to make me grovel for an imagined offense is the real wrong here.”
Hawking wasn’t just disabled, he had a fatal, frightening, incurable disease. While he was incredibly productive in spite of his handicap, the mind boggles at what he could have accomplished had he been completely healthy. [CORRECTION: In the original post, I erroneously stated here that Hawking’s illness precluded having offspring. In fact, he had three children and three grandchildren….whom he presumably would have liked to have held at least once.] Hawking was confined to a wheelchair and relied on multiple life support devices, facing the prospect of imminent death for decades. He must have wished to be “free of physical restraints” many times. Nothing Gadot wrote suggested that there was anything to be ashamed of, or evinced bigotry, and the sentimental imagery of human beings moving on to a new existence without the impediments of their “mortal coil” is routinely applied to anyone who dies while sick or aged. It is not an insult to anyone, except to those who want to be insulted so they can posture as victims.
UPDATE: Hawking’s obituary is here.