Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

Good Morning!

Time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again, when I’m in this kind of mood…It helps.

Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too. I have no idea why this is, but it gets old devoting two to four hours a day on weekends producing blog content that I think is worthy of readers’ time and thought while knowing that it will be largely ignored. Of course, running a home ethics business, weekends have meant nothing  for many years, holidays as well, and I don’t know what this “vacation” thing is that my friends keep blathering about. To be clear, I love doing what I do, or I wouldn’t do it. I just wish I were more effective at persuading others to care about the topic of ethics as much as I do.

1. How to beat Facebook! I tried something this morning: I posted an essay without including a photo, and tried to post it on Facebook. It took! No error message! Then I added a photo after the link was on Facebook. The link still worked! I’m going to see if this was just a fluke or not, and I’m going to post a few things without graphics or videos to see if readers have the same luck posting and sharing them. If the photos being removed actually does get around whatever it is causing Ethics Alarms to be unsharable on Facebook, then I’ll have a decision to make. Obviously the photos and videos enhance the posts, and are sometimes essential. Is it worth the trade-off to stop using graphics if it allows more circulation on social media? My choices are…

  • Refuse to compromise the integrity of the blog to satisfy Facebook. (You know this is my default reaction.)
  • Leave photos off posts until I’ve put them on my Facebook page. This will allow people to access Ethics Alarms using that link.
  • Leave photos and videos off all posts.
  • Leave photos and videos off selected posts that I think are likely to be shared.

All of these, of course, assume that I continue to investigate and try to find out why Facebook won’t accept Ethics Alarms posts as they are.

2.  You don’t get business from an ethics company by lying in your introductory pitch. Just got an email beginning thusly…

We would like to share our observations pertaining to your website. Though, your website is great and has all the information that prospective customers of your niche will search for. However, it has a lot of scope for getting optimized in line with Search Engine Guidelines so as to come on the first page in search results.   We have conducted a meticulous SEO audit of your website and found that it can give you more return than it might be giving you at present.

Right. It is obvious that you have NOT read this website, because if you had you would know that it is not seeking “potential customers” (though my other website is) and that you currently have no clue about Ethics Alarms, its scope or its “niche.” This is a form letter, pretending, and badly, not to be. If you are this incompetent in your own marketing, why would I trust you to advise me regarding mine?

Go away. I hate you.

3. Watch “Network” again, if you haven’t lately. TCM has been running movies about journalism on Thursdays this month. Why do I suspect the network was lobbied to do this as CNN et al. try to make the false case that journalists are noble, ethical, devoted and trustworthy as a public defense against President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and the “enemies of the people”? Well, most of the journalists portrayed in movies are like that. One reason I question the motives of the series is that it left “Absence of Malice” out, one of the very few negative (and  accurate) Hollywood portrayals of journalists.

TCM could not credibly neglect to show “Network, ” however, Paddy Chayefsky’s  wild satire of TV news that was a runner-up to “Rocky” as Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, and is now on Broadway in a stage adaptation. (I agreed with that award then and do still: “Network”is intellectual and satiric, “Rocky” is visceral and emotional, they are both classics, but if they are both showing at the same time, I’m choosing “Rocky,” which makes me feel good, over Network, which makes me want to jump into the blender.) Watching it all the way through for the first time in many years, I realized that the film should be required viewing for all American citizens. What seemed hilariously cynical and over-the-top 40 years ago seems depressingly prophetic now.

The film (Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was the sharpest and most flamboyant of the great quartet  of Golden Age TV writers; Rod Serling, Reginald Rose and Abby Mann were the others) portrays a TV network culture that is amoral and ruthless, willing to breach ethics, taste and decency, not to mention journalism ethics, to pursue ratings, dollars, and power. I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

The TV shows “UBS” puts on the air all have direct avatars today in reality shows and other genres that didn’t exist pre-cable. The veteran newscaster-gone-nuts whose live rants become a sensation, Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, no longer seems like an outrageous invetion. We have seen many “mad prophets” in alleged newscasts since “Network.” Glenn Beck may have been the closest to Beale, but Bill O’Reilly was in the ballpark, and Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and a raft of MSNBC talking heads  routinely say things at least as outrageous as Howard, before he would suffer a seizure in his passion and collapse at the end of every broadcast.

Moreover, the iconic moment in the film  where Beale spurs people all over America to run to their windows, open them, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” is another excellent metaphor for the 2016 election (though I like teh parade in “Animal House” best). The network executives are the personification of the smug, arrogant “elites” who were (and are) so, so confident that they knew what was best for the public, while they lied, manipulated, postured and profited. Donald Trump was elected less as an individual than as the physical manifestation of shouting out the window, and it was a symbolic and necessary message that the two parties and the news media  still haven’t received.

I am proud of Americans for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

11 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

  1. I agree whole-heartedly with your last line, but would make it a live nuke rather than dynamite. When the feces finally meets the rotating air-movers, the resulting catastrophe will have a world-wide impact.

  2. #3 Absence of Malice, great movie. I think the Covington kids could use it as evidence in their case against WaPo. I have never seen Network, so I guess I’ll have to fire up the TV this weekend.

    Donald Trump as the really futile and stupid gesture done on somebody’s part. I like it.

    I’m sure the elites, our betters, have understood the situation. That’s why they are working overtime to make sure Facebook, Twitter, etc. play along, deplatform the undesirables, not have Fox participate in DNC debates, label everything opposing them hate speech and so on and so forth. If we just double down a little bit more, everything will be just fine, the arc of history will bend, like Obama promised and we will achieve Full Communism™ in the first five year plan in four years (!!). Why ask what this will all cost when we can be basking in the great wealth we will be bestowed upon.

  3. Jack,

    I will continue to affirm that I find great value in Ethics Alarms, and all the work you put into it.

    I wish I could devote 2-4 hours commenting! Unfortunately, we’re pretty busy in our household, with our third daughter just born this past Valentine’s Day.

    Thank you for this site.

  4. Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too.

    Jack, I think your WordPress setup needs tweaking, and it’s responsible for some of your problems. It’s also problematic that you can’t get your posts out on social media.

    But a search on DuckDuckGo of “ethics blog” brings you up with a nice high rank (4th) but with this perplexing description:

    This is a bit of a departure, a showcase for one of Ethics Alarms most active commenters (especially appreciated as the blog experiences boycotts, embargos, and Facebook blocking and other indignities), Michael R. The topic is the recent College Admission scandal, which has been covered here and here.

    This is … suboptimal. This description should describe your blog and what it’s for. The same search on Google has you all the way down on the 4th page. The description is correct, but uninviting.

    You need to find a friend or acquaintance with SEO (Search engine optimization) experience and get him to assist you. You can get yourself much higher in the results, and generate much more traffic by optimizing your blog.

    1. Facebook

    If you’ll recall, I mentioned the FB error regarding the image.

    2. SEO

    They are right, though.

    Turn a negative into a positive and take this as motivation to get someone to help you with SEO. Alternatively, stop complaining about your traffic. I’m not trying to be nasty or attack the host, I’m just trying to point out that this computer stuff is harder than most people think, and driving traffic is not as simple as publishing good content. It would be nice if it were, but alas, it’s more work than that.

    3. Network

    Absence of Malice is one of my favorites. I have it on DVD, because they never show it on TV. Network is a good movie, but I’ve never been able to love it (although I do love some of the one-liners in it).

    I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

    Horrifyingly real.

    I am proud of American [sp?] for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

    I wish the dynamite would blow up, already. I’m expecting an Earth-shattering KABOOM!

    • The Google placement has fallen since the traffic has, a deadly cycle. I also don’t trust Google–who knows what agenda they are applying. Most SEO techniques strike me as unethical.

      I don’t understand the DuckDuckGo description at ALL, much as I appreciate Michael.

      • There are many SEO techniques that are not unethical at all, including a proper blog setup, ensuring the proper and attractive description of your site reflected in the search engines, writing proper headlines that draw traffic rather than head scratches, URL crafting (CMS dependent) and submitting your articles to search engines properly.

        There are unethical techniques for sure, and I advise you to avoid them for that very reason, but there are many ethical techniques as well. And look, the Internet gets harder and more opaque by the day with all the nonsense from the big tech companies, and if you just don’t feel like fooling with it, I can’t blame you one bit.

        But that doesn’t change the reality that if you don’t do many of these things, you’ll have to deal with declining traffic. I don’t make the rules. I’m just aware of how they work.

        • I very much doubt that the declining traffic has anything to do with search engines, Glenn, though I an sincerely grateful for the advice. Most of my search based traffic comes with specific topics, not general ones. It’s an ethics commentary blog, not a blog about ethics. If the search term is “ethics commentary,” EA is #1 on Google. I’ve checked, I’ve compared: it’s a high quality product, and It also reflects my own style and personality, as a blog should. People can find me, and if they don’t, it’s their loss, frankly. I’m not pandering.

          My own analysis of the fall-off would track it to 1) some reader fatigue. It’s my duty to focus on the #1 ethics saga of the decade, the effort on the Left to overthrow an elected President. Lots of people would rather ignore it. No can do. 2) Anti-Trump bias, and the effort to boycott anyone who is even fair to the President. 3) Fewer posts. I’ve averaged about 3 a day since 1/2018 for some family and personal reasons, In 2016, it was 4-5 a day. 4) The Warm-ups hurt traffic, because they are less specific in labeling, but they allow more coverage and make the product better. 4) Facebook. I averaged 5-20 Facebook shares per post, and often got a hundred or more. Now I get none.

          The increased polarization also hurts. I’m not popular with the conservative blogs and websites, because I don’t hesitate to ding Republicans. The Newsweek-Trump posts would be a natural for Instapundit, for example, but I’ve criticized Reynolds, and when he did send his readers over here, they were generally repulsive, and I said so.

          I just seldom check the stats now. That seem to have solved the problem.

          • Thanks for the detailed reply, Jack. I understand, and I think for the most part you are correct about the reasons for the fall off.

            Increased polarization hurts us all, and it’s a tragedy that we can no longer talk about politics as a country. I think the reckoning that is coming is likely to be a violent one, because we simply can’t sustain this level of distrust and loathing before something really bad has to happen.

            It reminds me of this exchange from The Godfather:

            Michael Corleone: How bad do you think it’s gonna be?

            Peter Clemenza: Pretty goddam bad. Probably all the other Families will line up against us. That’s all right. These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood. Been ten years since the last one.

            In our case, I guess it has to happen every half-century or so.

            Turning a blind eye to the stats is a good idea. Trust your content, and let it speak for itself. Who knows, you may get a link from Instapundit or something.

            If I can be of assistance, just let me know.

  5. Jack, great post. Network is one of the wisest, funniest, most literate screenplays ever. I taught this work of genius for 23 years to college kids at an urban commuter school in a course on business efhics and the arts business.

    It deals with profound themes: the power of the media, the responsibilitities of media executives (profit v. quality, must they be opposed?); late middle-agedness; 1970’s America, post-Nixon; radical politics; money and artistic genius; nasty intra-corporate politics; how corporatism and capitalism can (but don’t becessarily need to) overtake one’s life; the power of the media given the relative decline in other traditional conveyers of moral and ethical wisdom in the US since WWIi, like schools, churches, literacy, and family; and the very role of narratives, stories, in teaching ethics.

    I’m lucky enough to be able to see this new Broadway adaptation of Chayefsky’s masterpiece in a few months with a daughter.

    I wonder though: should she see the film first, before seeing a master actor like Bryan Cranston take on the dramatic role of Beale? Part of me says yes: no one can ever replace William Holden (looking his very craggiest) as the script’s flawed, self-consciously ethical Jedermann.

    Not an easy question.

    The film’s depth and relevance are as urgent now as 44 years ago.

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