Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, May 2, 2020: Paid Liars, Paid Corrupters…

Beautiful day!


1. Feel the restraints on free expression that inconveniences ideological agendas tightening? I do A couple of friends and commenters confirm that Zscaler, a service many companies use to monitor and block employee traffic on the web, blocks my ethics blog as containing “Pornography, Adult Content, Nudity, Hacking, Illegal, Racism, Hate or Violence, Phishing.”  Nice. So good for my reputation and business too.

2. It’s past time to conclude that no polls are trustworthy, and no one who cites polls as evidence regarding public opinion is trustworthy. All week long I’ve been reading progressive blogs  and sites telling us that the President’s support as measured by the polls is “collapsing.” Then today I see the latest Gallup survey claims that 49% of adults approve of the President’s performance, up from 43% two weeks ago. That would be the highest yet according to Gallup, if you trust any of these things now. I don’t, and you shouldn’t.

3. Press secretary ethics. This is not the way to build trust. Kayleigh McEnany, the President’s fourth press secretary, began her first press conference by promising, “I will never lie to you, you have my word on that.” That’s a big promise, especially when one holds the job of a paid liar, which is essentially what a press secretary is, and, to varying extents, has to be. A press secretary for Donald Trump, moreover, is in a permanent conflict of interest. The President is fully capable of making two mutually exclusive assertions at the same time. For him, the Jumbo (“Elephant? What elephant?”) is routine.

McEnery is presumably smart; she’s a Harvard Law graduate.  Legal debate skills should assist her in double-talking, denying and spinning. She should be smart enough, however, not to make a promise like that, when she is about to embark on a spinning routine Ed Sullivan would have loved.

Discussing the sexual harassment accusation  against Biden by Tara Reade, she stated that the President has “always told the truth on these issues.”  Like with Stormy Daniels? Come on. McEnany then said the Mueller investigation exonerated President Trump. She’s a lawyer; she knows damn well that not finding evidence of a crime doesn’t exonerate anyone. In discussing the developing story about the possible prosecutorial misconduct toward Michael Flynn, McEnany stated that one of the FBI notes recently uncovered said, “Quote, ‘We need to get Flynn to lie,’ quote, and ‘get him fired.’” She was paraphrasing, which would be fine, but if you paraphrase, you cannot say “quote.” The note really said, “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

It is fair to say that reporters now know the new press secretary will lie to them.

4. Yeah, you can’t trust private equity firms either. In November, the private equity firm Ethos Capital announced it was buying the company that owns every .org domain on the web for an estimated billion dollars. Nonprofits, which make up the majority of the .org domains, signed a petition created by the National Council of Nonprofits demanding that the deal be blocked. There are about 10 million .org domains on the internet. The petition signers were concerned that this purchase could result in increases in domain prices and censorship.

Now, the purchase has been blocked. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board announced it would veto the sale, saying “it was the right thing to do.”

5. You wonder why journalism ethics have rotted? This is why journalism ethics have rotted. Mark Tapscott reports  that journalism professors have signed a  letter to the chiefs of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC demanding “that the live, unedited airing of the Daily White House Task Force Briefings stop….Because Donald Trump uses them as a platform for misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, they have become a serious public health hazard—a matter of life and death for viewers who cannot easily identify his falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations.”

They also ask that “no speech, rally, or press conference involving the president be covered live anymore. The risk of passing along bad information and harmful advice is too great. News organizations need to attend carefully to what he says and only share information that they can independently verify. By asking themselves ‘is what he said something we should be amplifying?’ news organizations can offset the damage these briefings are producing.”

Tapscott writes, correctly and with appropriate indignation,

“That is a demand for censorship, pure and simple. Damn the First Amendment. Damn the people’s right to know. Damn transparency and accountability in government.   Journalists these professors trained will decide what the rest of us will be told about Trump… This is elitism of the worst sort. Sure enough, all of the “best” schools are represented, including Harvard, Yale, Penn, Northwestern, NYU, Southern Cal, Fordham, Jefferson’s UVA, Michigan, Missouri, and so on…

Were it my decision, every one of these people now in positions of authority in the education and preparation of America’s journalists would be fired today. People who advocate censorship should be kept as far away as possible from journalism classrooms.”

I agree. As for the argument that Tapscott is hypocritically calling for the censorship of contrarian professors, it is flawed. A journalism teacher who advocates censorship is like a medical school professor who teaches that doctors should let bad people die.  The professor has a right to the opinion, but no right to engage in educational malpractice.

19 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, May 2, 2020: Paid Liars, Paid Corrupters…

  1. 5. The professors won’t be fired or reprimanded because those institutions (and more I’m sure) are much more about propaganda and indoctrination than education. We can’t have people getting unedited and unpackaged news so they can decide for themselves, that’s just irresponsible. One might even say its deplorable.

    • Because Trump raised a question?: “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.”
      Or because of the many misleading headlines?: The media have said repeatedly that Trump suggested injecting disinfectants, not that he raised a question about something similar under the care of doctors.
      Then there was this especially evil one from CNN: “Fact check: Trump dangerously suggests sunlight and ingesting disinfectants could help cure coronavirus.”
      Set aside the fact that coronavirus is a virus to be dealt with, not a disease to be cured.
      But, Ingesting! Where did that come from?
      One more bit of evidence that at least some in the media wish for deaths that can be attributed to Trump.

      • Johnny, I don’t believe I attributed causality. Well, I guess I really did…I used the word “idiots”. Can you take it from there?

        • … causality… Which would have been a logical fallacy, eh, ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’, and which I would not expect from you, and which was not there. That they were idiots is evident from their actions.
          But, if does seem at times that a fair number of media pubs and persons are salivating at the thought that Trump is getting people killed and they can show how.

          • Well, of course. I do not believe the news media has ever done otherwise. In actual fact, I was saying that they drank the sanitizer9bleach, disinfectant, whatever) because they were idiots, not because Trump told them to.

  2. not finding evidence of a crime doesn’t exonerate anyone

    If a two-year investigation with unlimited resources that finds no evidence of a crime isn’t an exoneration, then what is?

    • Investigations are designed to prove that a crime was committed, not that one wasn’t. The statements that the report didn’t exonerate the President were depending on public misunderstanding of the legal process. It’s like saying that the Warren Commission didn’t exonerate LBJ from complicity in JFK’s assassination. It didn’t, but that doesn’t make it more likely that he was guilty.

      • I actually think it did “exonerate” the President in the dictionary sense of the word. Because the investigation found not only that the President didn’t engage in the investigated activity, but could find no evidence whatever despite an exhaustive search that NO Americans engaged in the conduct under investigation that they could find.

        While that is not a finding of innocence, to be sure, it is a finding that there was no apparent basis for the charge that the media and others were making about the President and his administration. It exonerated him in the sense that it freed him from blame, at least with respect to that investigation, because no evidence was found at all of the conduct under investigation.

        It would be different if some evidence was found, but it was insufficient, as with the obstruction claim. Insufficient evidence is not in any sense exoneration. But I think that no evidence at all probably qualifies.

  3. Specifically, what misinformation about Covid 19 has been given by Trump. Even the disinfectant musing actually has backup. A product is under development that when inhaled lands on the epithelial lung tissues and triggers the body to create superoxides and peroxides which act as natural “disinfectants”. The much higher priced and lower efficacy Remdisavir is now being touted as a therapuetic and the relatively safe and more effective and far cheaper hydroxychloroquine is being termed dangerous yet we dont hear any Lupus or Arhritis patients dying from its use.

    A great deal of misinformation or at least contradictory information has come from the WHO, CDC, and public health officials. It was Dr. Zucker and Gov. Coumo who requured nursing homes to take Covid 19 dischargees from hospitals.

    Misinformation seems always subject to reevaluation. Further those who claim one thing is misinformation too often have agendas that are not focused on a persons health.

  4. It is fair to say that reporters now know the new press secretary will lie to them.

    Yes, and she should lie to them. Because it’s a sure thing they are going to lie to and about her. Unilateral disarmament is a poor way to play a game.

    Of course, her claiming that she will “never lie” is risible and unethical. As you say, a bad way to start.

    But in a way, it’s just. Those who sow the wind deserve to reap the whirlwind.

    Now, the purchase has been blocked. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board announced it would veto the sale, saying “it was the right thing to do.”

    Because virtue signaling by corporations is indispensable to modern life.

    “People who advocate censorship should be kept as far away as possible from journalism classrooms.”

    Amen. And you’re right about censoring the professors by firing them. That’s just the same argument that the idjits are making, restated with different justification.

  5. Trump did not recommend injecting Clorox. He was talking about an experimental therapy in which a powerful UV light, a smaller version of the type that is used to disinfect exterior spaces in hospitals, would be inserted into the lungs through the breathing tube of an intubated patient in hopes of “disinfecting” the virus from the patient’s blood.

    “So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you’re into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn’t been checked but you’re gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that’s pretty powerful.”

    Here’s the video and the transcript:

    If you don’t know about the UV light therapy, these remarks might be puzzling, but if you begin with the assumption that he is as sane as most people and that, like most people, he knows that Clorox is a deadly poison, they shouldn’t sound like an endorsement of injecting Clorox. On the other hand, if you do know about the UV light therapy, it’s clear that’s what he was talking about. Trump clearly didn’t understand exactly the mechanism by which the light was to be introduced to the patient, and he can certainly be criticized for the garbled and unclear nature of his remarks. In mitigation, I would point out that, as you’ll see in the video, most of the time Trump is actually speaking, not to the audience in general, but to the person (a doctor?) who had just left the podium. He’s talking about a previous conversation between himself and the doctor, and the doctor seems to be confirming that he understands what Trump is talking about. Trump is making a basic communications error by talking simultaneously to two audiences, a private one with whom he is speaking in shorthand, and a public one that doesn’t understand the shorthand that’s being used.

    If the press weren’t crazed with hatred of Trump, they would have said to themselves, “He can’t possibly have just said that people should inject Clorox. What was he talking about?” And then they would have asked questions about this “powerful light” that he had just mentioned. Instead, being garbage, they invented the Clorox lie and have been selling it nonstop ever since.

    There was a video on youtube that described and explained the experimental therapy, but it was taken down for “violating community standards” when people began to point it out in defense of Trump.

    • I watched the President’s comments several times and in my opinion, they had a very “boardroom brainstorm” feel to them. I have sat in ideation meetings on numerous occasions where leadership presented a problem to staff and told them, “Let’s marinate on this issue together and just see what we come up with…and no idea – short of dancing monkeys – is out of the question.”

      Now one could reasonably question the wisdom of continuing that process through to a press conference, but I think that’s what he was doing. The President – when he thinks straight – tends to thinks like a businessman, so it makes sense that he would be thinking sort of “outside the box” as he was speaking.

      For his detractors to continually insinuate that the President suggested injecting or injesting deadly chemicals – particularly when many of those detractors are proponents of legalizing drug use (where people actually inject or injest deadly chemicals) – is not just unethical, it’s reprehensible.

  6. As to disinfectants, Snopes evaluated a statement that Trump suggested injecting disinfectants as TRUE.
    I challenged Snopes on that evaluation, but got no reply, so I guess they’re standing by it.
    Therefore, case closed.
    Case closed on Snopes, that is.

      • I regret that I trusted them for some time, but, it was on non-political things. Interestingly, Politifact had a more rational analysis of Trumps ‘musings’.
        Seems like Trump relishes these distortions and uses them to fire up his base. He and much of the media are mutually sycophantic (not an original thought, BTW).

  7. 5. I am amazed and appalled that so many who appear to be actual professors of journalism would sign such a letter demanding censorship. I am especially disheartened that my Alma Mater, the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, is well represented (rather, represented, but not well).
    But, then I remembered a paper I wrote there years ago hoping for publication by the Freedom of Information Center. It had to do with the ACLU’s efforts to cover up the fees various speakers received for their talks at public universities. To me, public college expenditures for speakers should be public; to the ACLU, that would be chilling to free speech; to the FOIA Center, opposing the ACLU would threaten their financial support by the ACLU.
    The professor I was working with at the time certainly preached a free flow of information with very few restrictions; after all, he was the director of the Freedom of Information Center. But then, as now, promoting that kind of freedom only goes just so far when money or politics are involved.

  8. “A couple of friends and commenters confirm that Zscaler, a service many companies use to monitor and block employee traffic on the web, blocks my ethics blog as containing “Pornography, Adult Content, Nudity, Hacking, Illegal, Racism, Hate or Violence, Phishing.” Nice. So good for my reputation and business too.”
    I find this absolutely despicable, especially since I quote this blog almost religiously to my liberal friends. And I am offended that I would be considered a reader of anything included in their catch-all description. I wonder, can this be considered liable? If you have a cause of action, I’ll gladly contribute and encourage the other readers to do so as well.

    • Well, I think it may be libel, based on my extensive study of the topic when I was being sued last year by an unwell jerk living on disability who got his wittle feewings hurt when I kicked him off the blog and said why. My defense was that my comments weren’t what this was: an assertion that there was evidence of wrongdoing on his part that I readers had to assume existed when it did not. Thanks for your supportive words…I’m working on it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.