The Pulitzer’s Deliberate Ethics Blindness [Corrected]

It was incredible: the only qualified candidate for the Pulitzer Prize just happened to be the spouse of a Pulitzer board member! What are the odds?

[Note: an incompletely edited and proofed version of this post was mistakenly published. I apologize. Thanks to Tim LeVier for flagging the problem.]

All awards and prize organizations are subject to fair suspicion about their integrity, and collectively, they undermine each other. The Academy Awards get criticized by prominent blacks, and suddenly the number of black nominees explodes. The Nobel Prize committee, once the epitome of a well-respected and trusted awards program, exposes its political bias by giving a Peace Prize to Barack Obama for no good reason whatsoever.

Then, beginning in late 2017, in an expose published late last year by a Swedish newspaper, the Swedish institution was rocked by accusations  from18 women who said they were sexually harassed or assaulted by French arts promoter  Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to poet Katarina Frostenson and is friends with Horace Engdahl, both  members of the  Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in literature.  Arnault was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of raping a woman in 2011. This ugly publicity cast unwelcome light on more unethical conduct: a club called Forum that Arnault and Frostenson owned received a subsidy from the Academy. Yes, the members were voting finnacial benefits to themselves.  There were also credible reports of Frostenson giving names of winners to Arnault before they were announced,, allowing him place wagers and win money with insider information. As the scandal expanded, Frostenson and Engdahl refused to resign. Three other members of the Academy left in protest.

Nice. The Committee decided not to award a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018.

I’m surprised they didn’t just give it to Barack Obama.

This brings us to the Pulitzers, which have always been suspect. Lately it has been giving out honors to journalists and news organizations for hyping the Mueller investigation. The nice thing about the  latest  scandal is that it diminishes the status of these ridiculous, political and biased awards.

What is the scandal of which I speak? Get this: despite the Nobel corruption and conflicts scandal, Author Eliza Griswold won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America. Her husband is Steve Coll, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, which hosts the prizes, and a Pulitzer board member since 2012.

Uh, conflicts of interest, anyone? Appearance of impropriety? In any organization that cares about public perception and ethical standards, the relatives of officers and board members are made ineligible for organization grants, subsidies, honors and contracts. Yes, the Kennedy family’s “Profiles in Courage Award” once went to the courageous Ted Kennedy, who didn’t have the courage to try to save a young women from drowning after his drunken driving sent her to the bottom of a river, but that’s the Kennedys. Ethics rules don’t apply to them.

The Pulitzers obviously just don’t care about conflicts or appaearances. Of course giving a prize to the wife of a board member is unethical. There’s no serious argument that it isn’t unethical. Read the dead-alarms defense from Pulitzer Prizes administrator Dana Canedy, when asked about the conflict of interests complaint:

“That is utter nonsense,. For every Pulitzer winner with a connection to the board there are literally thousands without a board affiliation and yet somehow we never get inquiries about those.”

Isn’t that great! It’s like a judge who is caught taking a bribe complaining, “For every case I take a bribe to decide certain way, there are literally thousands of cases where I rule justly and fairly,  but somehow I never get inquiries about those.”  Canedy’s statement is not only an endorsement of The Ruddigore Fallacy (doing an ethical act cancels out an unethical one), it is stuffed with the unethical assumptions behind a staggering number of rationalizations on the ethics Alarms list, including

1. The Golden Rationalization variations including “It’s always been done this way,” “It’s tradition,” and “Everybody accepts it.”

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”

21A. The Criminal’s Redemption, or “It’s just a small part of what I am!”

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)

31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”

33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”.

38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”

41. The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is.”

43. Vin’s Punchline, or “We’ve never had a problem with it!”

44. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time”

46. Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t point fingers!”

48. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”

49. Convenient Futility, or “It wouldn’t have mattered if I had done the right thing.”

50A. Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care”

53. Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s just business”

55. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”

58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”

59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

61. The Paranoid’s Blindness, or “It’s not me, it’s you.”

Yes, the Pulitzer Prize committee’s position is that it’s “nonsense” to expect a prestigious awards institution to avoid blatant conflicts of interest.

Come to think of it, they may be right.


9 thoughts on “The Pulitzer’s Deliberate Ethics Blindness [Corrected]

  1. The leftist elite have always had aristocratic tendencies. One of the tendencies of aristocracies is that they don’t want to let anyone else in. Once you are at the point that you don’t want to let anyone else in, you only have your small circle to choose from and suddenly it seems incredibly unfair if people related to the board aren’t allowed to be considered. That is as unreasonable as telling a senior FBI or DOJ official that they have to leave their jobs or, at the very least, they can’t be part of a ‘Russian influence’ investigation just because their spouses are Russian lobbyists. How can it possibly fair that people related to you can’t do whatever they want without it affect your job? How can it be fair that just because you get to choose prize winners or award contracts, that your relatives can’t be considered ‘on their own merits’ for such awards and contracts? That is unfair discrimination against your own family and that is unconscionable.

  2. The left builds itself up in many ways, one of which is by leftist award giving bodies giving awards for intelligence, skill, or accomplishment to prominent lefties, deserved or not. It’s that much easier to say you’re right when you can point to your trophy shelf and say “I’m the best there is. I got an award that says so. Where’s yours?” If someone calls them on, it, they brush them off as sour grapes or jealous. This is the same crap that built Hilary up as the “most qualified candidate of all” when a lot of folks had seen her for two decades and decided she wasn’t what they wanted in a president. Those folks just got it wrong, though, or were too stupid to get it, because anyone with a brain would have looked at her resume and quickly concluded she was the best choice that ever ran, Washington, Lincoln and FDR included.

    Reminds me of Donald Silverman’s thin-skinned defense of his B-list daughter against an admittedly pretentious criticism by a rabbi by saying “Take your false god and shove god up your judgmental ass. Check your wonderful bible and learn about your cruel god from a book you believe in literally,” and then online attack against another commenter who accused him of “tired, debunked, simplistic biblical criticism,” by sneering “Hey asshole: Daughter #1 is a rabbi. Not by your standards. She’s reform, how dare she, a lowly woman think god wants her to be a rabbi, created from a mere rib. Her hubby, three times nominated for a nobel peace prize was listed by the Jerusalem Post as the 49th most influential jew in the world built the worlds largest solar field in israel. By the way, Sarah was also on the list. I missed your name. Oldest granddaughter is serving in the Israel Defense Forces. I’m sure you also served. Oh I forgot the orthodox don’t do that. You don’t f— with my family.”

    Cutting through all the profanity and rage (which if someone talked to me like that would make me go zero to sixty in one second and probably attack them) in other words, someone related to someone criticized has credentials, so your criticism means nothing and I get to attack you viciously for daring to speak it. The best and most ethical approach is to ignore people who point to their awards and look at their deeds that achieved them, or just look at their deeds. Shiny awards that are suspect mean nothing.

  3. I’m not sure what went on with the creation of this post – but maybe kick it back to the editor? Sorry – I don’t mean to put you on blast, feel free to delete this comment.

  4. Don’t diss Obama. The left viewed gitmo as a moral and ethical atrocity. By prolific use of drone strikes to kill anyone in the vicinity of a possible terrorist, the avoided the detention without due process Bush used.

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