Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/18: Silent Sam, Nasty Nancy, Tendentious TIME

Happy pre-Christmas panic days!

Once we’re under the two week mark, it’s all anxiety, regrets, list-making, fatigue, nostalgia, and tree needles under the nails. This is what Andy called “the most wonderful time of the year.

1. The theory: political correctness and historical airbrushing is a higher priority than education. The University of North Carolina \Board of Trustees’ approved of a proposal to build erect a $5 million history center that would, among other things, house “Silent Sam,” a statue dedicated to fallen UNC grads who fought for the Confederacy. The statue stood on campus until protesters tore it down in August. Now some faculty members and graduate assistants are threatening to go on a “grade strike,” withholding grades on papers and exams to force the school to abandon “Silent Sam” for all time. They are also trying to encourage students to support their protest.

Wrote the UNC administration in response:

“This afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike,” Blouin said in the email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “The University has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law….Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities, and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten[s] their eligibility,” the provost stated. “The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students…“Failure to meet [the faculty and GA’s] responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences.”

Firing, I hope.

2. Boy, that Trump is such an uncivil boor! House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting a civility example for us all while describing her meeting with the President on “the wall’: “It’s like a manhood thing for him, as if manhood could ever be associated with him….It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

Nice.

Imagine the howls of indignation if the President described a foreign leader in such terms. Or the mass condemnation from both parties and the news media if any prior President had been insulted that way by a member of Congress.

3. “A person, a group, an idea, or an object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” I would applaud TIME’s choice of journalists as the fading magazine’s “Person of the year” if it had the integrity to point out that this is an example of “the worse.” Indeed, journalists have deliberately warped and sabotaged public debate and discourse, withheld or buried information the public needs to know, divided the nation, defied their profession’s ethical standards, undermined their own institution and with it the health of American democracy, relentlessly worked to destabilize the Trump administration and undo the election, and have engaged in repeated incompetence, bias, dishonesty and conflicts of interest. The harm journalists have done is incalculable, and probably irreversible.

Quipped “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams: “Fake News is TIME’s “Person of the Year.”

Bingo.

4. Compliance vs Ethics. The various regulations restricting how much lobbyists can entertain members of Congress illustrates why ethics rules end up looking silly when  they strive for the precision of law. From the Roll Call article:

While the rules prohibit lobbyists from taking staff and lawmakers out to dinner, anyone can host a cocktail party if they’re mindful of what’s on the menu. This “reception exception” is what allows K Street to throw its bevy of holiday bashes in and around the Capitol… If food is served, it must be in small portions… Ethics rules still bar Congress from sitting down and digging in on a lobbyist’s dime, even if it’s nothing fancy. The House Ethics Committee specifically calls out pizza, sandwiches and hotdogs as foods that are too filling to count as a snack. So if holiday hoagies are on the menu, you better steer clear.

5. Of course, lobbyists could just ignore their ethics regs, like journalists. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin does a nice job comparing USA Today’s ethics code with the conduct of the paper and its reporter Scott Gleeson. He’s the one who pulled the Hader Gotcha on 21-year-old University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray after he won the Heisman Trophy. Geeson tracked down anti-gay tweets sent by Murray when he was 14 and 15 years old, and then used them to embarrass the athlete and force him to grovel for forgiveness.  She writes in part,

On Tuesday, I wrote to USA Today’s editor in chief Nicole Carroll and executive editor for news Jeff Taylor with the following questions:

How does Gleeson’s article comport with USA Today’s stated principles of ethical conduct for newsrooms?

Specifically, how did the piece “serve the public interest,” “exercise fair play,” exhibit “fairness in relations with people unaccustomed to dealing with news media,” observe “standards of decency” and demonstrate “integrity”?

And have there been any executive leadership discussions about the piece since its publication and widespread public backlash?

The editors have not responded yet. In the meantime, I have more questions.

How does lying in wait in for unknown months or years (when Gleeson could have “resurfaced” the old tweets at any time) and publishing a smear in the middle of the night before giving Murray a chance to respond comport with the newspaper’s promises that:

“We will be honest in the way we gather, report and present news — with relevancy, persistence, context, thoroughness, balance, and fairness in mind.

“We will seek to gain understanding of the communities, individuals and issues we cover to provide an informed account of activities.

“We will uphold First Amendment principles to serve the democratic process.

“We will reflect and encourage understanding of the diverse segments of our community.

“We will provide editorial and community leadership.

“We will treat people with respect and compassion.

“We will strive to include all sides relevant to a story.

“We will give particular attention to fairness in relations with people unaccustomed to dealing with the news media.

“We will act honorably and ethically in dealing with news sources, the public and our colleagues.

“We will observe standards of decency.”

Will the editors respond publicly to criticism and address readers and employees so that their actions match these words?

“We will explain to audiences our journalistic processes to promote transparency and engagement.

“We will correct errors promptly.

“We will take responsibility for our decisions and consider the possible consequences of our actions.”

Of course, she is asking while knowing the real answer as well as I do. The paper isn’t interested in journalism ethics any more than Geeson is. It is interested in signaling their support for gays to cater favor with what it believes is its core audience and political allies,  and willing to destroy a young man gratuitously and unfairly in order to do so.

18 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

18 responses to “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/18: Silent Sam, Nasty Nancy, Tendentious TIME

  1. A.M. Golden

    1. Good for UNC, taking a stand on behalf of its students. I doubt any of the professors would want a conservative faculty member withholding grades in order to force compliance with his or her ideological goals. But, on campuses, liberal GOOD, conservative BAD so they saw no problem with this type of intimidation: ends justify means, after all.
    2. But Trump doesn’t deserve civility. After all, some rednecks in Arkansas called President Obama names so taking the high ground is not within the progressive platform anymore.
    4. They’ve clearly never watched “Chopped”. Some of the results of the appetizer round clearly look like entrees to me.
    5. When you’ve got a favored group, you’ll throw any other minority under the bus to support your narrative.

    I need some Andy Williams right now.

  2. Rip

    1)Torn here I have always felt that we failed as a country , when we allowed the mounuments to the confederacy. With in a generation it was like they had won. Which the amount of honors built in their honor. But withholding grades that have been earned is not the way to fight this travesty. When I was a kid I did not relieve the racism associated with these statues, I was amazed at the fact that this was allowed. But it did give as a great song in lil’ Abner! I may have developed the hatred of these statues from the only history teacher I ever hated, who referred to it as the war or northern aggression, and defended segregation.
    2) Sorry Jack, the Presidents behavior is no better! And the scowl on pence face in the meeting. I hate Pelosi, but her comments aside it the photos she showed more poise. I hate to defend a democrat, but at the moment I am not thrilled with the republicans either. Decorum is missing from both sides lately, to quote Ray Stevens there’s a third on the left , a third on the right and a third in the middle that can’t sleep at night! Trump has always been boorish, we knew this when he was elected, it saddens me that he does not have enough respect for his office to act more Presidential, I issue I use to stick to Bill Clinton. His behavior may lose him a second term, then I will have a Democrat to hate. This current situation is awful I have Friends on the two sides making fools of themselves over extremism. Where have the centrists gone?
    3) it is a shame that a few journalists that are lazy and do not do their due diligence, have caused so many that do to be lumped in with them, that when they get honored as a group it seems like a joke! But we are living in a time that evrey thing need to be extreme, except my seven eleven coffee they discontinued that size!
    4) The old days I use to work these parties as a waiter, they were feasts, has that changed I doubt it.
    5) Using someone’s past as a kid for story fodder. Is distasteful. I would be embarrassed as hell if you could find the opinions of 17 year old me! Oh to be 17 again and know everything!

    • Rich in CT

      1)Torn here I have always felt that we failed as a country , when we allowed the mounuments to the confederacy. With in a generation it was like they had won. Which the amount of honors built in their honor. But withholding grades that have been earned is not the way to fight this travesty. When I was a kid I did not relieve the racism associated with these statues, I was amazed at the fact that this was allowed. But it did give as a great song in lil’ Abner! I may have developed the hatred of these statues from the only history teacher I ever hated, who referred to it as the war or northern aggression, and defended segregation.

      These statues have an important message today, even if their contemporary messages when erected were messy.

      One-third of the adult white male population was wiped out in the South. The south conscripted every white male age 16 to 35, approximately 750,000 strong.

      Of those 250,000 died.

      (For “fun”, guess how many of those who died owned slaves….)

      In the north, about 1/8 of the serviceman died. In both the north and south, about 10% of the total population served (though only half were eligible in the south…).

      Nobody wants to acknowledge there is any legitimate pain. No one wants to admit that any entire generation was devastated, and that white families suffered for decades to follow.

      It is more important that nobody feel remotely uncomfortable today.

      • The War of Northern Aggression did not even abolish slavery in the US! The North had to be FORCED to free their slaves by Constitutional Amendment… look it up.

        The war was about economic control as much as slavery.

        • >> The North had to be FORCED to free their slaves by Constitutional Amendment… look it up.

          Exactly who do you think it was in Congress that passed the 13th Amendment? Here’s a hint: There weren’t any Senators or representatives from the Confederate states.

          If not for slavery, there would not have been a war. The Confederacy was founded on an evil practice and it needed to be extinguished. That didn’t change people’s beliefs and attitudes, however, and it took another century for blacks to gain many of the civil rights they should have had.

          All that said, and speaking from Chapel Hill, in the very heart of liberal land, I think that UNC did the best they could. As well, I applaud their tough stand on the grades strike. I think removing all the Confederate memorials simply whitewashes history rather than accomplishing good.

          State law prohibits UNC from simply getting rid of memorials such as Silent Sam. Putting it in a museum actually offers some chance of providing context and perhaps looking at our real history. Seems like a reasonable compromise.

          • dragin_dragon

            The argument could also be made that if it wasn’t for Abraham Lincoln, there would not have been a war. He could have ordered Ft. Sumner to be surrendered and allowed the South to go on it’s merry way.

          • If not for slavery, there would not have been a war…

            If not for textile industries in the North, there would have never been war. Those states wanted to pay the South less than England would for the slave picked cotton, and manipulated the nation to subjugate the South.

            Of course slavery was bad. It was also uneconomical. The plantation system was dying already, as people are expensive to provide for. Left alone, market forces would have combined with the public awakening to stop the solution without the consequences to our nation.

            The Confederacy was founded on an evil practice and it needed to be extinguished.

            Oh, bite me. The North was founded upon an evil practice as well: what do you call what was done to Native Americans? Does the North deserve to be treated like the South was? Should the North have been ‘extinguished,’ perhaps by a native uprising that united all the tribes under one cause?

            Exactly who do you think it was in Congress that passed the 13th Amendment? Here’s a hint: There weren’t any Senators or representatives from the Confederate states.

            You speak from ignorance. Check out the proclamation: it only applies in the South. Check out when states ratified it, and freed their slaves: the South was (by force) the FIRST to free slaves. Virtue signalling Northern states were the last, some of them waiting until the 13th was ratified by enough states to make it Constitutional (New Jersey, I am looking at you). Some of them NEVER outlawed slavery until recently (Colorado forced prison labor was allowed by lack of state constitutional amendment).

            Like most progressives, the North says one thing and did another. The Northern states could not wait to pass laws prohibiting Blacks from leaving the South. Racism in the North was just as pronounced as in the South: slavery may have been abhorred, but that didn’t mean they wanted blacks living next door, or in their town, or even in their state!

            So spare me the platitudes about the ‘eevuulll’ Confederacy.

            PS: Love you like a brother

  3. dragin_dragon

    Re: #4 Lobbying and lobbyists should be illegal, period. These guys were elected to represent the citizens in their district/state, not some special interest group. Do away with the practice.

    • it can not be done without violating freedom of speech.

      • Yup. How can you forbid people to talk to elected officials? How can you ban companies employing people to communicate on their behalf?

        • I suspect you don’t really mean “how can you …” so much as “how can you … without throwing the baby out with the bath water”, because there is ample precedent for “how” on its own, e.g. Venice kept many (not all) high officials effectively anonymous (and so, unanswerable), which achieved the former, and you can achieve the latter by banning companies regardless, like (say) the U.S.S.R.

          • “How can you” within the restrictions of the Constitution, which is a baby that can’t be thrown out.

            • Until it is thrown out. And then the new arrangement is what is determining, all very “Treason doth never prosper/What’s the reason?/If it doth/None dare call it treason.” Your whole constitution only exists in the first place because of a few rounds of overthrow just like that – and those two small things don’t even need anything anywhere near that massive, any more than (say) keeping out properly elected Mormon polygamist senators did.

              I keep forgetting how unaware so many are of how things have worked out, not only in other times and places but in their own.

              There’s an old joke about a lawyer who tells his client who has just telephoned him, “But they can’t put you in jail for that!”

              “But I’m telephoning from jail!”

  4. 2–Skunks tinkling on you really isn’t a problem.

    Being a career Lefty, you’d think SanFranNan would be more familiar with that species’ ethology.

  5. Other Bill

    1) Rip, I’m just not sure how you legislate assholes out of existence. We’ve made all sorts of racist conduct illegal, but I just don’t see a way to make people not be assholes or think like assholes. Where laws fail, humor comes in. See eg., Jack’s referenced scene from “Blazing Saddles.” Which proves his point about the importance of humor. At a certain point, when people insist on being assholes, all we can do is laugh about it.

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