Most tweets, even the very stupid and vicious ones, are not truly unethical because they are just opinions, and as opinions, simply self-indictments by nasty, bigoted, or not very smart people. However, the tweets of certain individuals—elected officials, scholars, journalists, scientists, experts in various fields and, unfortunately, celebrities—carry extra weight and the potential to persuade. When tweets by those people are dishonest or misleading they are irresponsible, and to be irresponsible is to be unethical.
Sarah Jeong is on the New York Times editorial staff, which means that she is trusted by the nation’s (supposedly) most trustworthy newspaper. Yet that tweet is one more example of the mainstream media denying or distorting reality to bolster the party and administration they put in power. The Biden administration is desperately spinning to deny the seriousness of the out-of-control inflation on its watch, but for journalists and pundits to assist them is unethical and despicable. The consumer price index indicates that, from last September to this September, Americans have seen beef prices rise by 18%; gas prices by 42%; furniture prices by 11%; electricity by 5%; and used car prices by 24%. Consumer prices for October, the most recent month with data, jumped by 6.2% compared to what they were a year prior. That’s the highest yearly jump in three decades. But a Times staffer of some notoriety says it’s a nothingburger, affecting the rich more than the rest.
Twitter, of course, doesn’t regard this as disinformation, since it supports a Democratic President’s disastrous fiscal policies.
Inflation is not a frivolous concern created by panicking, self-interested rich people; nor are rich people currently “flipping their shit” because their assets aren’t doing as well as they’d like. Inflation is something that’s making things significantly harder for the non–”pajama class”—those roughly 79 percent of workers (estimates vary) who do not work remotely, but must commute to their in-person jobs day in and day out, incurring the burden that comes with the rising price of gas. It’s something that’s making it significantly harder for families to feed their kids. It’s something that’s throwing a wrench in some people’s plans to travel for the holidays, as rental cars and hotel rooms have gotten a good deal pricier than before. And it’s something many Americans probably don’t appreciate being lied to about….choosing flippant tweeting over thoughtful analysis is a bad look for New York Times contributors who really ought to be more concerned with the plights of everyday Americans forced to tighten the purse strings for reasons far beyond their control.
It’s worse that that. Allowing a proven bigot, sexist, anti-white racist and extreme ideologue like Jeong to represent it is signature significance for any news organization. An ethical company doesn’t do it; a responsible company doesn’t tolerate it; a trustworthy company doesn’t have someone like Jeong around at all. You may have forgotten this post, which is relevant to this morning’s first as well, when the Times first hired Jeong:
In February, The New York Times announced that it had hired Quinn Norton, a journalist and an essayist from Wired Magazine, as the editorial board’s head opinion writer on technology. Almost immediately, the paper fired her after someone turned up years-old tweets by Norton in which she used anti-gay slurs, and one in which she retweeted a racial slur.
I will interject here that a newspaper cannot afford to have an editor with a record of using anti-gay slurs. She is not like a baseball player, whose work has absolutely nothing to do with his social and political views, and her tweets, though old, were made as an adult working in journalism. I presume the Times just did a lousy job vetting a new hire. I do not fault the paper’s actions., which is why I didn’t write about the episode in February.
Now, however, the Times has filled the same position with Sarah Jeong, whose old tweets make Sonny Gray look like Saint Francis of Assisi, if he used Twitter, which he probably didn’t. From The Federalist:
Far from merely retweeting a single offensive post, Jeong likened an entire race of people to “goblins,” compared their conversations to animals urinating, and declared that skin color entirely determined whether an individual was awful or not.
In one tweet from 2014, Jeong wrote that white people are “only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” “Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants,” she wrote in another. In yet another post, Jeong approvingly posted a chart which indicated one’s value as a human being was based entirely on the color of one’s skin. “The science is indisputable,” she wrote. “Theoretically you can’t be racist against white people,” she wrote in a separate post before claiming that white people smell like dogs.
“#CancelWhitePeople” she demanded in one tweet.
“White people have stopped breeding,” she wrote in another. “You’ll all go extinct soon. This was my plan all along.”
“White men are fucking bullshit,” she wrote.
In another post, Ethics Alarms had this montage of Jeong’s racist, sexist, bigoted tweets:
I guess if you hire someone already prone to this kind of public expression, deliberately misleading people about inflation is as Hyman Roth would say, “Small potatoes.”