Tuesday Ethics Titillations, 6/22/2021: Too Much MSNBC, I Know


So close to Fathers Day I would be remiss in not remembering June 22, 1944, when President Roosevelt signed the ethical G.I. Bill, unprecedented legislation devised to compensate returning G.I.s for their gallantry, sacrifice, and service to their country in World War II. I owe my very existence to the law, as my father met the lovely Greek girl Eleanor Coulouris on the campus of the school that the G.I. Bill allowed him to attend. She was a secretary in the Office of the President of the College That Shall Not Be Named. Jack A. Marshall, Sr. would wave to her as he passed beneath her third floor window in Massachusetts Hall in “The Yard,” and she would smile and wave back. After several weeks, the retired Major gathered the courage to go up to meet her, and asked for a date. He proposed to her before their second one, and she said no. Things went better after that.

1. No weenies in Randolph, New Jersey! The Randolph Board of Education voted 8-1 Monday to restore its school calendar that showed all New Jersey state and federal holidays, including Columbus Day. In May, the board had voted wokely to change Columbus Day to Indigenious Peoples’ Day, and when Italian Americans, among others, objected, the body voted to remove all holidays from the calendar, which would only read “Day Off” in the interests of “diversity and inclusion.” Morons. Conservative media “pounced,” as the mainstream media likes to say to deflect the blame when its team gets caught doing something really stupid. About 400 citizens showed up at a public session to object. USA Today reported that “some” people accused the board of being influenced by “woke” beliefs and “cancel culture.” Gee, ya think? There were calls for the school board to resign. State Sen. Anthony Bucco, who represents Randolph in the NJ legislature, said eliminating Columbus Day “was bad enough,” but the board’s decision to go even further allowed their “pursuit of diversity to spiral into division.” “I woke up and found out that my town had turned into a nationwide embarrassment,” said John Sharples, a Randolph resident. Few supporters of the board’s brain-dead decision showed up.

So the board backed down. There is a lesson in this. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

2. Should I post this to Facebook? I’m really tempted to post this on Facebook...MSNBC’s smug and smirking host Rachel Maddow, whom many of my Facebook friends cite as their North Star for honest reporting, accused the conservative cable outlet One America News (OAN) of being a paid propaganda outlet for the Kremlin in 2019, announcing that “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” OAN sued Maddow, MSNBC, and its parent corporation Comcast, Inc. for defamation, alleging that it was demonstrably false that the network, in Maddow’s words, “literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

Obama-appointed federal judge, Cynthia Bashant, dismissed the lawsuit in 2020 on the grounds that even Maddow’s own audience understands that her show consists of exaggeration, hyperbole, and pure opinion, and therefore would not assume that such outlandish accusations are factually true even when she uses the language of certainty and truth when presenting them (“literally is paid Russian propaganda”).

In concluding that Maddow’s statement would be understood even by her own viewers as non-factual, the judge emphasized that what Maddow does in general is not present news but rather hyperbole and exploitation of actual news to serve her liberal activism:

“On one hand, a viewer who watches news channels tunes in for facts and the goings-on of the world. MSNBC indeed produces news, but this point must be juxtaposed with the fact that Maddow made the allegedly defamatory statement on her own talk show news segment where she is invited and encouraged to share her opinions with her viewers. Maddow does not keep her political views a secret, and therefore, audiences could expect her to use subjective language that comports with her political opinions. Thus, Maddow’s show is different than a typical news segment where anchors inform viewers about the daily news. The point of Maddow’s show is for her to provide the news but also to offer her opinions as to that news. Therefore, the Court finds that the medium of the alleged defamatory statement makes it more likely that a reasonable viewer would not conclude that the contested statement implies an assertion of objective fact.”

Funny—this damning opinion wasn’t reported in the mainstream news media at all. How strange! (Ow, my tongue just broke through my cheek…)

Maddow’s own viewers, ruled the court, expect and desire that she will not provide the news in factual form but will exaggerate and even distort reality in order to shape her opinion-driven analysis. In sum, ruled the court, Rachel Maddow is among those “speakers whose statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of fact.”

Well I knew that, and maybe you knew that, but do you think that most MSNBC viewers know that—or my Trump Deranged Facebook friends? I don’t. [Source: Glenn Greenwald]

3. Speaking of MSNBC, Joy Reid makes Maddow look like Walter Cronkite in trustworthiness and professionalism. After a segment of her show in which she criticized in absentia Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo, who has emerged as the most vocal critic of using Critical Race Theory to indoctrinate students and employees, Rufo posted a clip from the interview and challenged Reid to debate him about CRT on her show. “She knows that I will crush her critical race theory apologetics any day of the week,” he tweeted. Reid tweeted in response, “Why not just contact my booking producers like a normal person, rather than going with the White Man Demands option?”

The public needs to push MSNBC to stop allowing its talking heads to engage in outright anti-white bigotry like that. Rufo’s race is irrelevant to the debate, or should be. This is the ultimate double standard: a white journalist who decried an African American taking the “Black Man Demands option” would be suspended pronto, on MSNBC, on Fox News, anywhere. And Rufo didn’t “demand” a debate, or anything. But I’m sure Joy’s viewers “expect and desire that she will not provide the news in factual form but will exaggerate and even distort reality in order to shape her opinion-driven analysis….”

4. How desperate is conservative news to mock Jen Psaki? This desperate: here’s a headline today from Citizen Free Press: “Fly lands on Jen Psaki’s head…

5. Kick her off the team. Transgender BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe, an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team, wrote in March 25, 2020 on Facebook, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium. This is what they focus on during a pandemic. Hurting trans children.” Fox News dug up the post, raising the question why the U.S. should have an athlete competing in its name who has publicly announced an intent to embarrass her country. Oh, not any more, she says now!

She told Fox News that the now-deleted post was not intended to convey a disdain for America. Rather, it was an attempt to “take a stand against fascism”:

“Anyone who thinks that I don’t care about the United States is sorely mistaken. One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it’s not all of the bad things that we’re known for. I take a stand against fascism because I care about this country and I’m not going to let it fall into the hands of fascists after so many people have fought and sacrificed to prevent fascism from taking hold abroad. As a citizen who wants to be proud of my home country, I’m sure as hell not going to let it take hold here.”

Anyone who thinks you don’t care about the United States, Chelsea, probably read your statement that your “goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.”

That wasn’t some old tweet from the distant past, or when she was, well, he was back then, a middle school student. This was last year. A unequivocal statement, even one made in anger, evincing a desire to misbehave on the Olympic Games podium should be grounds for disqualification. And, of course, as a biological male, she shouldn’t be allowed to compete in a women’s event anyway.

18 thoughts on “Tuesday Ethics Titillations, 6/22/2021: Too Much MSNBC, I Know

  1. Two points:

    On Number 2: sure, post it on Facebook. As I recall, a bunch of people posted a similar thing when a Court threw out a case against Tucker Carlson (or somebody) because no one would believe he was stating facts. It was very similar to the Maddow language. Of course, his critics were thrilled with the implication that his viewers are stupid.

    On 4, there was no link to the Psaki article. I would not be surprised if this was inspired by the big deal that was made about the fly landing on Pence’s head during the debate last year.


    • John Cabot, aka Giovanni Caboto, another Italian sailing under the English flag, was the first European man to land in North America proper after Columbus.

    • Arco della Costa, Verona

      I am an Italian-American. My roots are deep in an ancient soil, drenched by the Mediterranean sun, and watered by pure streams from snow capped mountains.

      I am enriched by thousands of years of culture. My hands are those of the mason, the artist, the man of the soil.

      My thoughts have been recounted in the annals of Rome, the poetry of Virgil, the creations of Dante, and the philosophy of Benedetto Croce.

      I am an Italian-American, and from my ancient world, I first spanned the seas to the New World.
      I am Cristoforo Colombo.

      I am Giovanne Caboto, known in American History as John Cabot, discoverer of the mainland of North America.

      I am Amerigo Vespucci, who gave my name to the New World, America.

      First to sail on the Great Lakes in 1679, founder of the territory that became the State of Illinois, colonizer of Louisiana and Arkansas, I am Enrico Tonti.

      I am Filippo Mazzei, friend of Thomas Jefferson, and my thesis on the equality of man was written into the Bill of Rights.

      I am William Paca, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

      I am an Italian-American; I financed the Northwest Expedition of George Rogers Clark and accompanied him through the lands that would become Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. I am Colonel Francesco Vigo.

      I mapped the Pacific from Mexico to Alaska and to the Philippines; I am Alessandro Malaspina.

      I am Giacomo Belinimi, discoverer of the source of the Mississippi River in 1823.

      I created the Dome of the United States Capitol. They call me the Michelangelo of America. I am Constantino Brumidi.

      In 1904, I founded in San Francisco the Bank of Italy, now known as the Bank of America, the largest financial institution in the world; I am A.P. Giannini.

      I am Enrico Fermi, father of nuclear science in America.

      I am Steve Geppi, founder of Diamond Comics, the largest distributorship of comics on the planet.

      I am the first enlisted man to earn the Medal of Honor in World War II; I am John Basilone of New Jersey.

      I am an Italian-American.

      I am the million strong who served in America ‘s armies and the tens of thousands whose names are enshrined in military cemeteries from Guadalcanal to the Rhine …

      I am the steel maker in Pittsburgh, the grower in the Imperial Valley of California, the textile designer in Manhattan, the movie maker in Hollywood, the homemaker and the breadwinner in over 10,000 communities.

      I am an American without stint or reservation, loving this land as only one who understands history, its agonies and its triumphs can love and serve it.

      I will not be told that my contribution is any less nor my role not as worthy as that of any other American.

      I will stand in support of this nation’s freedom and protect it against all foes.

      My heritage has dedicated me to this nation. I am proud of my heritage, and I shall remain worthy of it.
      I am an Italian-American.

      By Angelo Bianchi, Esq. 1982

      I’d like to add in a few more names, like military commanders Ray Odierno and Peter Pace, singer Frank Sinatra, scientist Enrico Fermi, saintly orphanage founder Mother Cabrini, and so on, but I think you get the point. You wipe us off the calendar, you wipe off a hell of a lot more than just a name and a day, and we. just. wont. stand for it!

  2. 2. Look for your Facebook Borg friends to cheer the fact that the right-wing wackos lost their case against Maddow without bothering to read the opinion. It’s about the narrative, not the facts.

    • So, the court has taken judicial notice of the fact MSNBC is not a journalistic enterprise. Good. I hope the appeal takes that opinion and shoves it down that judge’s throat. Is this some sort of new exception to libel and slander? It reminds me of the SCOTUS opinion regarding you can’t underpay chefs to make their food more attractive. This turns libel and slander law on its head. Insanity.

    • It won’t happen, Steve. I doubt there would be any consequences at all if she did burn a flag on the podium. And the “retraction” is as big an insult to her country. I’d like to ask her what exactly a fascist is. She doesn’t have the faintest idea. And why is BMX an Olympic sport anyway? Next skate boarding?

  3. I can’t help but think how fun it would be if more “hosts” were sued for their on air statements. Just think! We could end up with MSNBC and CNN etc. being regarded as opinion channels instead of news channels, with viewers expected not to take them seriously. Who would be left as a credible source of news?

  4. I suspect that if I worked hard enough at it, I might be able to put the following into a coherent narrative. But what I have is a collection of thoughts that may or may not be related to each other. Here goes, anyway…
    Greenwald waited 13 months to comment on the Maddow case. If he really wants to know why more people didn’t know about it, he can start by looking in the mirror.
    The ruling that OAN pay Maddow a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees is outrageous. I didn’t know that part.
    If I’m interpreting the Maddow and Carlson cases accurately, the former exaggerated enough to render her assertion untrue; the latter just completely made stuff up. My initial thought was that there’s a difference of degree but not of kind. I wonder if that’s actually backwards, though…
    I agree with the general idea of discouraging SLAPP lawsuits, but I disagree with Greenwald that the decisions on both these cases were the correct ones. In both instances, so-called journalists asserted as fact what was actually conjecture at best: not “opinion” or obvious exaggeration (“our candidate annihilated their candidate,” etc.) but rather flight of fancy. Maddow even used the word “literally.”
    As for the assertion that no rational person would believe those assertions as statements of fact: nonsense. Whereas most of us have at least some skepticism, the fact is that depending on your political views, you’re likely to believe one or the other of Maddow or Carlson when they say something that appears to be a statement of fact. Most of us are capable of viewing conclusions (opinions) through the filter of foreknowledge of the speaker. But this is different.
    To wit: I disagree with the political conclusions of virtually everyone who visits this site, or at least those who comment. So I roll my eyes at the “Democrats hate America” rhetoric and scroll down the page. But when someone posts a quotation or a statistic or whatever, I’m going to believe in the veracity of the information and in the good will of the poster until and unless I have clear evidence to the contrary. That’s what lost when Maddow or Carlson abuse their position.
    To be sure, my own response when someone, anyone, says something that just sounds a little “too good (or bad) to be true,” is to do some research. But not everyone responds that way, especially if they’re predisposed to believe the “journalist” in question. And not everyone has the time to fact-check assiduously. The networks know this; that’s what makes the practice so insidious.
    Fact-checking organizations—PolitiFact, Snopes, FactCheck, etc.—tend to be pretty good at literally finding out the facts, but they can’t resist the impulse to tell us what those facts “mean.” If you read only the decision—how many Pinocchios or whether it’s Pants on Fire—without the rationale, you’re just substituting one set of opinions masquerading as facts for another.
    The other recent noteworthy case of a defendant in a defamation suit claiming “no one would believe me,” of course, was Sidney Powell. That case is a little different in that she may actually have a case. Anyone who promises to release damning evidence instead of… you know… releasing damning evidence is either profoundly dishonest or delusional, and can probably be disregarded immediately.
    There is some grey area in some cases. Let’s say there’s some statistic that 73% of Americans believe X. If someone says “about three-quarters,” no one bats an eye. Leave out the “about,” and it’s still regarded as an approximation and acceptable. But say “75%,” and it’s a lie… not an outrageous one, but a lie nonetheless. And at what percentage does “three-quarters” not seem legitimate anymore? 73 is okay, but 71 is beyond the Pale?
    I suppose all this fits together somehow. Or perhaps not.

    • It fits together just fine, C, and I know I couldn’t do better on this topic, or probably as well either. I was also puzzled about when Greenwald found out about the case, and also why I didn’t know about it. The range of his current mission at substack seems to be a bit wider than when he was the star of The Intercept; is it also possible that he just missed that story, or decided that he had been pummeling Maddow enough at the time? He went after her hard after the Mueller report.

      I spoke to several lawyers yesterday about the Madddow case, and all of them thought the ruling was nuts and would be overturned on appeal. Yet I see no indication that this is happening.

      • I used to watch Maddow frequently… haven’t seen her show at all since early in the ’16 election cycle. She’s very smart, but was saying what she was supposed to say as a liberal/feminist talking head (at MSNBC’s insistence? because of ratings? because she read her own press clippings?) rather than using that intellect to help viewers get to the truth, even then.
        I’m reminded of why our Admissions Office doesn’t necessarily like me. I’ve been the departmental rep at the big university-wide “showcases” for prospective students for years. Someone from admissions heard me telling a prospective student that whereas we do musicals, we don’t have a musical theatre program per se, and there are three other state schools in Texas that do. So they got upset with me because “we lost a student” (whom we probably wouldn’t have gotten anyway), What actually happened, of course, is that the mother of the student next in line had heard me say that we might not be the place for someone interested only in musicals… so when I told her son that we’d be a good fit for him, she and he believed me. He came… and stayed through graduation.
        Sometimes telling the truth is a pragmatic as well as ethical choice. Too many politicians and journalists have forgotten that… or never believed it to begin with.

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