Weekend Ethics Update, 10/18/20: As The Election Nears…Seeking Contrast And Perspective

  1. Ethics movie alert. Its heart is true blue—this is an Aaron Sorkin film, after all—but “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” now on Netflix, is excellent, as well as must-watching for the astounding number of Americans under 40—50? 60?—who know almost nothing about the previous period of liberal arrogance, political incompetence and institutional failure, the late Sixties. The cast is excellent and star-studded; whoever came up with the idea of casting Sasha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman should win a casting Oscar, for example. For me, the movie brought back memories sharp and grim: what a shitstorm that trial was. Frank Langella, whom I just watched in his remarkable performance as Richard Nixon more more than a decade ago in “Frost/Nixon,” is a memorable if unsympathetic Judge Julian Hoffman. Hoffman, I think, deserves better: like Judge Ito, Hoffman never had a chance to avoid judicial infamy once that trial became a circus, and that bwas something no judge on Earth could have stopped.

Then there is the frightening reality that the Chicago Seven (and Bobby Seale made Eight), who seemed like fringe-y, juvenile extremists at the time, look moderate and reasonable in comparison to today’s antifa, Black Lives Matter followers, and…dare I say it? … a nearly critical mass of Democrats.

2. Speaking of which…Senator Diane Feinstein is under attack from that nearly critical mass for indulging in traditional professional civility and bi-partisan responsibility by not pushing the recently completed hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett nomination to turn into a hyper-partisan fiasco, like the Kavanaugh hearings. She even praised her Republican counterpart, Senator Graham, for doing a good job (it wasn’t that good a job) in chairing the hearings, unlike, to just pick an example out of the murky past, the job Senator Joe Biden did during the infamous Clarence Thomas hearings. Feinstein is nearly 90, and should not be in the Senate at that age just as the unjustly sainted Justice Ginsburg should not have been on the Supreme Court long enough to die in office. Nonetheless, she is trying to hold the line against forces in her own party that would make peaceful and functioning Democracy impossible.

3. From “The Ends Justify The Means” files: Critics are favorably reviewing “Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy” by Talia Lavin, who used a series of online false identities to interact with white supremacists and incels on their websites. The Times review (linked above) says approvingly,

“She refuses to soft-pedal the monstrous views she encounters, and she clearly takes pleasure in cutting them down to size. She is aided in her mission by the fact that the language of extremists tends to occupy the space between risible and profoundly dumb. Contemporary white supremacy is a mishmash of old anti-Semitic tropes, racist pseudoscience and bizarre fantasia — what Lavin calls a “bigot’s pastiche.” The people who promulgate it often toggle between cruel, inane jokes and a fastidious humorlessness. “Anything,” Lavin writes, “an errant wind, a dumb tweet, a conspiracy theory invented from whole cloth — can drum up the forces of white grievance.”

All true, and also all true (well, substitute “black” for “white”) of the smug radical blatherings I can read on Facebook among my supposedly sane and respectable lawyer and actor friends, without secretly surveilling and egging them on under false pretenses, and while having the courage and integrity to confront them and challenge their Borg logic directly under my own name and identity rather than sniping from afar.

  • I’ll have a full post later today (if today goes better than yesterday, that is) on the media efforts to bury, discredit and minimize the emerging Biden/Biden scandal, but for perspective, conservative writer Matt Margolis was kind enough to point out five times Twitter and Facebook saw no problem with users widely circulating dubious new stories. Oddly, all were directed against Republicans and President Trump. Margolis begins,

 “Social media’s attempts to suppress and censor the New York Post’s bombshell report about Hunter Biden, as well as other damning stories about the Biden family’s corruption, have conservatives crying foul, and rightfully so. Big Tech censorship has become a huge problem, and when social media is actively trying to decide what the public should know about, it raises many questions.

But perhaps the first question that must be asked is: what stories were not suppressed or censored by social media despite being complete bunk? If social media companies think they have an obligation to prevent the public from seeing a story because of questionable or unverified sources or for being misleading, then is there any evidence that this standard is being equally applied across the political spectrum?”

His answer, not surprisingly, is ‘Of course not!”’ Here are his five examples and, as we know, there were many others:

  • “The Charlottesville lie”….”How many times does President Trump have to condemn white supremacy for the media to stop reporting that he hasn’t? The media has repeatedly claimed that, in reference to the infamous Charlottesville protests in 2017, that there were “very fine people” on “both sides,” while refusing to point out that he said immediately afterward that he wasn’t talking about “the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” Meanwhile, Twitter has never suppressed or censored tweets or links alleging that Trump hasn’t condemned white supremacy. Joe Biden, for example, has repeatedly made the false claim that President Trump has refused to condemn white supremacy.”
  • The fake Russian bounties story….”In June, the New York Times published a report claiming that “a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops,” and that President Trump had been briefed on this in March and yet did nothing about it….”
  •  The bogus Atlantic smear. “Last month, The Atlantic published a story citing anonymous sources claiming that President Donald Trump didn’t want to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because the troops there who died in battle were “losers” and “suckers.”Over a dozen witnesses who were with President Trump on that trip to Paris disputed the story. Each of them went on the record. Despite bipartisan calls for the anonymous sources to come forward, it has been over a month since that story broke and no one has gone on the record to publicly make the accusation….”
  • Trump’s tax returns…“may not have been acquired via hacking, but they were indisputably leaked illegally. But the story wasn’t suppressed or censored by social media. The story was allowed to spread like wildfire, largely due to the false claim that Trump had only paid $750 in taxes in 2017….this allegation was false, and the New York Times story itself acknowledged that Trump had pre-paid millions in taxes in 2016 and 2017But the false bombshell, based on illegally obtained tax returns, became a huge story, and was shared on social media without any suppression.”
  • Trump/Russia collusion: “If you attempted to share the New York Post’s bombshell about Hunter Biden’s emails, you were blocked from doing so. If you tried to share any of the follow-up stories, like the story about Hunter Biden’s lucrative business dealings with China, you were warned by Twitter that the link “may not be safe.” According to Twitter, the New York Post story was identified as being “potentially spammy or unsafe that could “mislead people.” So where were all the warnings about the countless stories alleging President Trump colluded with Russia? There was never any evidence of this…”

I’d guess 90% of my Trump deranged Facebook friend still believe all of those stories, and will reflexively accuse my of repeating “Fox News talking points” if I try to enlighten them. Do I pity them or hold them in contempt?

22 thoughts on “Weekend Ethics Update, 10/18/20: As The Election Nears…Seeking Contrast And Perspective

  1. . Nonetheless, she is trying to hold the line against forces in her own party that would make peaceful and functioning Democracy impossible.

    First of all, had she and the Democrats in the committee acted in the manner that “nearly critical mass”, Democrats would have no chance of retaking the Senate this year.

    She does have some awareness of how dangerous it is when politicians operate, free from any sort of public accountability or scrutiny.

  2. 1. Okay, I can finally share this hilarious bit of small world stuff: Our neighbor is the daughter of a very well-to-do heir of a Chicago meat packing machinery fortune, who was also a radical lefty when she, the neighbor, was a teenager. As a result, my neighbor’s father hosted Abbie Hoffman during the Democratic convention in Chicago and … Abbie Hoffman slept in my neighbor’s bed. Not while she was in it. My neighbor was relegated to somewhere else, a couch or something.

  3. 1, Sounds interesting, although I have a hard time believing Borat as Abbie Hoffman. That said, I think that, although SOME of the sixties people might look moderate next to today’s antifa, BLM, etc., there were a good number who did just as crazy or crazier things than they did – bank robbery, bombings, riots, acts of public intimidation, and so on. A lot of those people are lionized now for being the folks who finally said “this is unacceptable and we won’t take it any more,” i.e. the Stonewall rising, the Days of Rage, the Newark riots, sorry, Rebellion, since that’s what the current mayor (son of black radical Amiri Baraka the elder), says they must be called, and any black resident of Newark will loudly correct you if you say otherwise. Once you say that one group of people are heroes for rising up against alleged oppression violently, what’s to stop others from thinking it’s ok to do so?

    2. The median age for serving senators is just over 67, when most people think about retirement. Dianne Feinstein is the oldest serving senator. Chuck Grassley is next, also 87. Richard Shelby is after that, just shy of 87. and there are almost 10 more before you reach Bernie Sanders, who will be 80 next year, and was pretty darn close to being the Democratic nominee for president. She is pretty far left, but she comes from an era when basic civility was still the norm. The rising tide of the Democratic party and its supporters are not interested in being civil. They are interested in getting what they want and getting it now, by any means necessary.

    3. I haven’t read the book, but, just going by the review, it doesn’t sound like too much is in it that I haven’t already read. The only reason it’s at all considered anything out of the ordinary is that right now, as far as a lot of the left in this nation is concerned, white supremacy is the greatest threat we face. Not Russia, not China, not Islamic terrorism, white supremacy. It sounds like to her, the white supremacist community is some odd cross between a deathly dangerous gang of killers and a laughable group of basement dwelling neckbeards who have no chance of getting near a woman, never mind having sex with one. The left has that tendency, on the one hand calling Ronald Reagan a dangerous Cold War ideologue, on the other a senile old man who belonged in a rest home, not the White House, on the one hand calling George W. Bush an idiot missing from some Texas village, on the other calling him a dangerous, evil warmonger who should be warming a prison cell, on the one hand calling Trump a buffoon, on the other calling him the greatest threat to democracy since Nazism. The thing is that the stupid, the buffoonish, and the senile really can’t be that dangerous if they truly are stupid, buffoonish, and senile. You can’t talk in one paragraph about white supremacists as being camo-clad amateur bodybuilders with shaved heads and narrow eyes, watching the road up to the area they’ve claimed as their own, ready to take anyone down with a rifle shot to the head who isn’t white, and in the next of them as buffoons with beer guts and bad teeth, wearing overalls and unable to hit the broadside of a barn, who any brother could throw to the ground easily. You can’t talk of incels in one paragraph as awkward, ugly, wishful man-children living in their mom’s basements and whacking off to playboy because a real woman is beyond their reach, and in the next of them as dangerous, entitled too-smooth pickup artists who are just waiting to get any woman where they can rape her. Still, that’s how the left sees things, dangerous or laughable as the situation calls for.

    I don’t consider any of the BLM or antifa stuff laughable. Ridiculous, yes. Unworkable, yes. But neither it now they are laughable. Like it or not, this nation has set them up to be like the Mongols in the Middle Ages or the Turks at the time of the Renaissance, the invulnerable and unstoppable danger that you must flee from, rather than offer resistance to. A white guy like you speaks out, three or four hulking, scary black men will drag you into an alley and beat you within an inch of your life. A city resists, they’ll burn it down. And they’ll be considered great for doing it. However, history also tells us that, after the almost conquest of Europe, which only ended in 1242 because Ogatai Khan (Gehghis Khan’s successor) died suddenly and and their law said all the princes had to return home to elect the new Great Khan, the Mongols tried again about 40 years later, and were SMASHED by the Poles, Hungarians, and Teutonic Knights, who had learned a thing or three in the meantime. History also tells us that Europe finally stood up to the Turks at Malta, Lepanto, and Vienna, and found that the “invulnerable janissaries” could be beaten after all, after which Turkey began the long, slow slide down into the Third World. The only way you stop a dangerous foe is to stand up to him and defeat him. No one has really done that yet here.

    As to the lies, I’m afraid I find myself shrugging. When someone controls the means of communication, they can promote or censor whatever they choose to. It’s just a bigger version of the sites that were previously devoted to certain artists before being superseded by social media. There, every performance in a third-tier venue was yet another triumph, and any criticism was ruthlessly suppressed. For the leaders of Google and Facebook and Twitter, the Democrats are the home team, the favored artist, the talented child. The Republicans are the visiting team, the artist they can’t stand, the red-headed step-child. It stands to reason that they would not necessarily be even-handed in their treatment of either, especially in an election year where they smell blood and a good chance at a sweep politically. Unfortunately, they are private companies, and, as such, they decide how they do things. Still more unfortunately, I think it’s too late to stop this from working this time out. As far as probably more than half of this country is concerned, the President is a racist, white supremacist, tool of Russia who uses every trick in the book to pay less taxes than the little people and is clueless with regard to the pandemic. The sooner he’s out of there, the better off this country will be. He hasn’t caught Biden in the polls once, and it looks like more than enough seats in the Senate will flip to give the Democrats total control. THEN they can start on consolidating themselves as the permanent ruling class.

    • Who said they were heroes? Not anyone from my perspective, then or now. They were well-meaning (in some cases) or self-serving (in others) assholes, like most of the antiwar protesters. The Black Panthers and the Weathermen were recognized as intolerable at the times, yet they would be close to the norm today.

      • If you went through City Hall in Newark you’d find quite a few guys with black and white pictures of themselves way back when with the big afro or the beret, next to the Black Panthers, who’ll still say their greatest days were back then when they started to cleanse the city of racism, and probably add that we’ve still got a long way to go. A fair amount of older lawyers, too. That said, yup, right now is closer to the Black Panthers and the Weathermen.

      • The lefties of the ’60s are idolized by the young. Obama modeled his campaign poster and image after that of Che Guevara. Kids stroll around in Che T-shirts and put up his poster on their dorm walls to this day. That murderous, psychopathic son of a bitch has been idolized for over half a century. I went to grade school with a kid whose father was murdered by Che in a Cuban political prison. I’m not thrilled by either Che T-shirts or posters, or even Obama’s hagiographic poster. And then there are Bernadette Dorn and Bill Ayers, comfortably ensconced in their cushy lives.

    • Your doomsday scenarios are getting repetitious: I’m about to send you over to lucky, who swore here for a full two years that Hillary was going to be President. Nobody knows what the real numbers are, and less so today than in 2016.

      • Ok, let’s try something else. Let’s say that the polls were very wrong, and a lot of them WERE fake push polls. On election night, it’s REALLY close, but, the next morning, it looks like one or two states are too close to call, and both sides find major procedural errors with ballots discarded, duplicates, etc. Meantime the GOP loses seats in the Senate, BUT, not enough to flip it, it’s 50-50. Who wins this wins everything. Both candidates refuse to give up and say they’re going to challenge irregularities. It’s like 2000, but up to 11, as teams of lawyers go to work, seeking to tip the scales by counting or disqualifying votes and procedures. Meanwhile, the activists also turn it up to 11 with protests, some of which turn violent. After much wrangling and tangling, it all boils down to one case that reaches the SCOTUS. For the second time in 20 years, the SCOTUS is faced with the unenviable position of having to tip the next president. In a 6-3 decision, including Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and newcomer Barrett in the majority, they rule for the President, Donald Trump gets another four years. Biden concedes, but Democratic governors and Democrats in the Senate swear that the resistance will continue, and Nancy Pelosi promises a second impeachment. In the meantime the pandemic shows no sign of ending.

          • I’ve never understood pundits or pols who say the covid thing will make people vote for Biden. Who in their right mind can blame Trump for the covid thing? It’s just so moronic a thing to assert, but it goes unchallenged, as if it’s self-evident. “Joe would have done better,” or “Joe has a plan to handle covid” are reasons to vote for him? Preposterous. One of the silliest Democrat talking points ever put out there.

            • Biden’s an asshole. I saw an add in which he used the Obama line about “driving the economy into a ditch.” You can argue—badly—that Trump wasn’t aggressive enough in shutting down everything, and you can argue—stupidly—that he is responsible for the obvious results once you closed the schools and everything followed. But trying to argue both simultaneously is ridiculous.

              • I’m beginning to think MOST politicians are assholes, maybe it’s a prerequisite for the job. Of course he used that line, since he’s pushing for an Obama revival. That said, it IS ridiculous to argue both that Trump wasn’t aggressive enough with the shutdown AND at the same time that he is responsible for the economic effects of the shutdown. What isn’t as ridiculous, though, is to argue that the president just made all the wrong choices from day one, and hasn’t gotten the handling of this mess right yet. Maybe you could throw in something about why can’t he be like Jacinda Ahern who eradicated the illness from New Zealand. It is fairly easy to play upon the dissatisfaction of a lot of folks who have lost income, lost jobs, and are struggling with homeschooling kids, and say it’s time to give someone else a chance who will actually “listen to the scientists.”

                • Steve, those are all things one would assert if one had voted for Obama and Clinton and had never gotten over the fact Hillary Clinton lost. Most other sentient beings would say or think those things. But yes, yellow dog Democrats are not likely to vote for Trump, or any other Republican. This is not a recent development. It dates back to Reconstruction.

  4. 3. The FBI/DOJ-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces and their associated Fusion Centers monitor and gather intelligence from a plethora of sources on all these “white supremacist” organizations to discover any possible nexus to domestic terrorism. These organizations, if deemed serious, are often infiltrated by informants, sometime multiple informants who do not know each other, in order to cross-check and verify information. If the writer of the book in question tricked her way into talking with representatives of the organizations who had web sites, it is unlikely that she spoke with anyone with any real gravitas.
    The “white supremacists” I worry about are those that the Left is in the process of creating daily, by telling white people that race and color trump all other considerations, and that everything that they consider “wrong” with America is the fault of white people, who must be punished. What happens when great masses of white people begin to take the Left at their word, evaluate the threat and decide to push back instead of rolling over? I am afraid there is a whirlwind waiting to be reaped.

    • I think you are on to something there. There are a lot of white people who are swallowing and even pushing the BLM line, but there are a lot more getting tired of being told that this world would be better if they didn’t exist. Frankly, I think all this BLM stuff is damaging the relationship between the races, not helping it.

        • Absolutely. I also think it’s placing this nation at its most vulnerable. The United States is strongest when we are UNITED, like at the beginning of the War on Terror. Unfortunately, I think the combined circumstances of the pandemic plus BLM ON TOP OF all the disunity fostered over the past four years (maybe even five, if you count all of the campaigning) have resulted in a nation that is possibly irretrievably broken. This nation right now has so many fracture lines that it looks like Mr. Joker, the repeatedly shattered china clown in the Wizard of Oz.

          “Dorothy could see that in spite of his pretty clothes of red and yellow and green he was completely covered with cracks, running every which way and showing plainly that he had been mended in many places.”

          Here’s the thing – if this nation’s people are so busy attacking one another, who is watching for attacks from outside? If this nation is attacked, how is it supposed to mount a proper response? I think that if something like 9/11 were to happen today, the response would be very different. Instead of the first responders being lionized, you’d see a lot of sneering at them and comments to the effect of every cop less is probably one more young black man who’ll live. Instead of everyone uniting behind the president, you’d hear almost instant choruses condemning the president for letting this happen on his watch. Instead of everyone raising a flag, you’d see those who did sniffed at as quaint and retro, with many black and brown and young people saying “thanks, but we’ll sit this one out.” Meantime the attackers laugh.

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