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.”
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.”
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.