(On an especially dead weekend on Ethics Alarms. But ethics never sleeps…)
1. But I thought everyone wants open borders! The Harvard-Harris poll on illegal immigration, North Korea, trade and tariffs, and the Russia investigation certainly isn’t reflected in the news reports. But then, we can’t trust polls, and we certainly can’t trust Harvard.
I suppose the theory behind yesterday’s protests is that the squeaky, angry wheel gets the insane national policy. My guess is that this particularly squeaky, angry wheel gets a Republican Congress.
2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (Cont.) Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page managed to contain two of the more outrageous anti-Trump screed of recent vintage. One, by Dave Eggers, attacks “the cultural vacuum in the White House.” I suggest reading this one as a template for anti-Trump propaganda, and the kind of dishonesty underlying so much of it. He begins,
Since his inauguration in January 2017, there have been no official concerts at the White House (the Reagans had one every few weeks). No poetry readings (the Obamas regularly celebrated young poets). The Carters began a televised series, “In Performance at the White House,” which last aired in 2016, where artists as varied as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride performed in the East Room. The Clintons continued the series with Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt.
But aside from occasional performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the White House is now virtually free of music. Never have we had a president not just indifferent to the arts, but actively oppositional to artists. Mr. Trump disparaged the play “Hamilton” and a few weeks later attacked Meryl Streep.
Normally, this is where I’d quit reading—when the writer deliberately distorts the facts and employs deceit to make his case. The President disparaged the cast of “Hamilton,” not the show itself, after its performers unethically ambushed Vice President Mike Pence, who was then only another audience member, and should have been respected as one. I have launched (let’s see) three theater companies and two professional performing groups, and I disparaged that cast as well. Meryl Streep, the well-known pal of Harvey Weinstien, went on national television and gratuitously insulted the President, who does not turn the other cheek. He didn’t attack Streep because she is an artist. He attacked her for being a grandstanding partisan shill.
He engages in this kind of deceit throughout, such as when he writes, in conclusion,
“Admittedly, at a time when Mr. Trump’s policies have forcibly separated children from their asylum-seeking parents — taking the most vulnerable children from the most vulnerable adults — the White House’s attitude toward the arts seems relatively unimportant. But with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others. When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel.”
Funny: art hasn’t made Eggers less dishonest and deceitful. The illegal immigrants at the border were not “asylum-seeking,” because they didn’t follow the procedures for seeking asylum. They were apprehended foreign citizens trying to sneak into our country and claiming that they were seeking asylum to hamstring border enforcement, and were using their children as human shields, placing the Trump administration into the Catch-22 of either waiving the laws or giving open-borders activists a club to beat it with—as the Times knows, since it has explained this dilemma itself. To attribute pure law enforcement decisions to the dearth of piano and cello concerts in the White House is forced even by the Times’ standards. Mostly Eggers is just revealing the classist snobbery underlying much of the elitist attacks on President Trump.
As an artist, and someone who has worked in the arts and indeed would have made it my career if it were financially feasible, I could not care less how many concerts a President hosts, or how many artists he fetes. I want him to do his job, and I don’t particularly care to be paying for his glitterati nights, either.
A President’s taste in art and culture doesn’t affect the public one whit. I don’t think I would pay a dime to hear any of President Obama’s hip-hop artists or rappers. Meanwhile, Clinton having “Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt” at the White House didn’t make him empathetic enough not to exploit Monica Lewinsky. Jack Kennedy was a stone-cold sociopath: what did he learn from dining with “Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robert Lowell, Geraldine Page and George Balanchine”?
Hitler loved fine culture so much he had his Nazis steal thousands upon thousands of invaluable works of art across Europe, because he wanted a new explosion of creativity among the German people. Boy, if that made the Germans less “cruel,” imagine what they might have been like without their art!
And Nixon played the piano!
Believe it or not, the second of the two op-ed screeds is even worse. George Washington University Law School professor Paul Schiff Berman thought and thought, and came up with the definitive reason President Trump should not be allowed to name a replacement for Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. After all, the next Supreme Court might have to rule on aspects of Trump’s impeachment! Besides the obvious objection that there is no legitimate evidence that could justify an impeachment of this President, every Supreme Court appointment might have to consider matters that would undermine the Presidency of the man who appointed him or her, and too many to count have.
Why would the New York Times publish such self-announcing junk? OK, never mind, we know why: it is so marinated in anti-Trump bias that the paper reeks of it, every day, in section after section. How about this: why is someone this intellectually dishonest and capable of such lame and biased legal analysis teaching at a law school?
3. “Why don’t they trust us any more?” A man who had unsuccessfully sued an Annapolis newspaper, made repeated threats, and finally shot up the place, killing five, nonetheless had his mad act blamed on President Trump’s rhetoric by many in the news media. because they can, because they are unprofessional, and because the entire industry is committing suicide. In the latest example of this terrible phenomenon (for a democracy needs responsible and trustworthy journalism), Conor Berry, a reporter at The Republican, a newspaper based in Springfield, Massachusetts, resigned Friday after publishing a false tweet indicating the Annapolis Maryland shooter, who killed five people on Thursday, was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. It was a pointed joke: it was also an outright false assertion by an alleged journalist. Berry resigned from The Republican after deleting the tweet.
Why didn’t the ethics alarms ring? It didn’t ring, I am convinced, because Berry’s news organization, like so many others, nurtures a culture of antagonism and bias against President Trump that obliterates necessary ethics analysis, and, naturally, disables ethics alarms.
The problem was, it didn’t happen. So NPR deleted the tweet. No harm done! [Pointer: Charles Glasser]