An ongoing theme of Ethics Alarms, not merely related to politics and the news media, is the unethical conduct of intentionally misinforming the public for partisan or ideological agendas. For professionals and those holding themselves out as experts, this is especially unethical conduct, and damaging. Academics, professionals and experts are obligated to use their knowledge to enlighten the public. Using their authority and credentials to deceive them, thus betraying the public trust, is unconscionable. Particularly since the elites in academia decided to help remove Donald Trump, this has become epidemic.
A signal of what was to come revealed itself on election night, when CNN produced once respectable historian Douglas Brinkley, now a shameless partisan hack of the worst sort, to explain to America that Hillary Clinton’s loss was really because Americans seldom vote for the same party to be in the White House three elections in a row. As I wrote in one of my posts about this lie, which no CNN talking head had the knowledge or integrity to challenge,
…esteemed Presidential historian Doug Brinkley, for reasons known only to himself, went on the air live on CNN and concocted a new alibi for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. using fake history to do it. He said that there were powerful historical patterns at work in Hillary’s defeat, and that it is always hard for any one party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms. Then, as exceptions to the rule and to show how rare the exceptions were, Brinkley cited Reagan successfully pushing George H.W. Bush on the nation as his “third term,” and then went all the way back to 1836 for his other exception, when popular Democrat President Andrew Jackson got his acolyte Martin Van Buren elected to succeed him.
For days after this, I kept hearing Brinkley’s observation cited by talking heads and my disappointed Democratic friends, yet what he had said was wildly, unforgivably untrue. On election night, I ticked off the instances where one party has held the Presidency for more than two terms on the spot, right after Brinkley’s fiction (much to the annoyance of my wife):
After Van Buren, there were a bunch of one term Whigs and Democrats, but Lincoln’s two terms (the last finished by Andrew Johnson) was followed by Grant for two more, Hayes for one, and Garfield/Arthur for four more years. That 6 straight Republican terms, Doug. Then, three terms later, McKinley was elected to two, Teddy Roosevelt for one on top of the McKinley term he finished out, and Teddy anointed Taft as his successor just as Jackson had with Van Buren. That’s four straight Republican terms, or as we call it around my house, “More than two.”
But wait! There’s more! After Wilson and Mrs, Wilson served out two Democratic terms, we got Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, another three Republicans in a row. Then the Democrats made up for those consecutive runs with five straight of their own, courtesy of FDR’s four and Truman beating Dewey. In short, Brinkley gave the nation fake history, which then became fake news.
And he made Americans ignorant. Spinning for Hillary, for example, Whoopie Goldberg told her audience, “You know, there have been very few eight years of one party and eight years of the same party. It doesn’t generally go back to back. The last time I think was Nixon and whoever came in after him was the last. Ford….That was the last time we had a long stretch. When it wasn’t Democrat, Republican, Democrat Republican. So given all the crap that Obama had to eat from his own party, I don’t think Bernie was going to — I don’t think any Democrat was going to–people were going to vote –”
This was regurgitated Brinkley—Hillary also cited him during her endless “It’s not my fault I lost!” tour–and not even accurately regurgitated. And it’s dead wrong. Imagine: an “expert” whose specialty is American Presidential history was paid to go on national television and used his authority to give out false information about American Presidential history.
The phenomenon has become frighteningly common as the Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream media collective has tried to trick, bully and incite the public into supporting its undemocratic cause. The academics recruited by the Democrats for the latest impeachment push have continued to assert outright falsehoods, adopting former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s theory that a lie is virtuous if “it works.”
Earlier this week I noted Stanford Professor Pamela Karlan’s ridiculous statement before the Judiciary Committee that if Trump’s Ukraine phone call wasn’t impeachable conduct, nothing was. Fortunately, this was so obviously nonsense that its primary effect was to make Karlan look like the untrustworthy shill she was. One of her fellow leftist law professors, however, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, was also peddling fiction. He compared Trump’s behavior to Nixon’s, saying that Tricky Dick, “sent burglars” into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972.
As anyone minimally conversant with the history of Watergate (like Committee Chair Nadler, who let the falsehood pass. In his case, we know he isn’t ignorant, since he was involved in the House Watergate inquiry. No, he’s just assisting in a lie.) Nixon didn’t even know about the break-in until after it happened.
Perhaps the worst example of experts deliberately spreading fake history was witness Michael Gerhardt, distinguished professor of constitutional law at University of North Carolina. In the kind of irresponsible hyperbole that routinely finds its way onto lists of President Trump’s “Lies,” Gerhardt actually said that Trump’s conduct was “worse than the misconduct of any prior President.” Even if we accepted the Democrats characterization of Trump’s conduct, biased, contrived and fanciful as it is, Professor Gerhardt’s historically unsupportable characterization meant, as the National Review’s David Harsanyi wrote with restraint, that “we no longer had any intellectual obligation to take him seriously on the topic.”
“Because while I’m certainly not a distinguished professor, I am very confident that history began before 2016,” he writes. “Which means that, even if I concede Gerhardt’s framing of Trump’s actions — bribery, extortion, etc. — I can rattle off at least a dozen instances of presidential misconduct that are both morally and constitutionally “worse” than Trump’s blundering attempt to launch a self-serving Ukrainian investigation into his rival’s shady son.” Then Harsanyi makes good on his boast, and he just barely scratches the surface, beginning with, Democratic Party icons FDR and Woodrow Wilson:
[I]n 1942, the president of the United States signed an executive order that allowed him to unilaterally intern around 120,000 Americans citizens of Japanese descent. Not only was the policy deliberately racist, it amounted to a full-bore attack on about half the Constitution that he had sworn to uphold. Such an attack was a specialty of FDR’s, despite the all the hagiographies written about his imperial presidency.
Woodrow Wilson — who regularly said things like, “a Negro’s place is in the corn field” — didn’t merely re-segregate the civil service, personally firing more than a dozen supervisors for the sin of being black; he first pushed for, and then oversaw the enactment of, the Sedition Act. Wilson threw dissenters and political adversaries into prison, instructed the postmaster to refuse delivery of literature he deemed unpatriotic, and a created an unconstitutional civilian police force that targeted Americans for political dissent.
The writer ticks of nine more examples of serious Presidential misconduct that dwarf anything Trump has been accused of doing. Fortunately, Hirsanyi knows his Presidential history well, as I do. But most Americans can’t name ten Presidents, so lies like Gerhardt’s and Feldman’s “work.”