Ethics Enlightenments, 12/11/21: Annual Lighting The Tree Nightmare Edition

Jerry Herman wrote a Christmas song; his arch rival Stephen Sondheim never did. Too mundane? No inspiration? One non-ethics related revelation I got from watching the remarkable Peter Jackson Beatles documentary was how the group tried to spark its creativity with collaboration and improvisation: this is an excellent analysis that dovetails nicely with mine. An ethics-related observation: What a rude, selfish jerk Yoko Ono is, and how disrespectful of his colleagues John Lennon was to tolerate her conduct. As a director, I would never allow a spouse or significant other to exercise that degree of interference with the creative process. It distances the cast member involved from the rest of the team, and creates an inherent distraction. Generally I don’t like any bystanders or audience in rehearsals, and never any I would consider hostile, which Yoko obviously was. The other three Beatles did an amazing job feigning disinterest, neutrality and blindness, usually acting as if she was invisible, like a ghost.

1. Look! I have something almost nice to say about the New York Times! Ross Douthat, of late the boldest of the Times conservative columnists, was given the prime editorial slot for his piece, “Can the Press Stop A Trump Restoration?” I assume that he didn’t compose the title, which misrepresents the thrust and tone of what he wrote, though it wonderfully accurately expressed that “enemy of the people” vibe of the Times and the mainstream media generally. The press has no business asking the question, because the press has no business to try to help or hinder any political candidate except by reporting news, facts and the truth, and allowing the public to make its own choices.

Douthat obviously agrees, writing, “A journalism that conspicuously shades the truth or tries to hide self-evident realities for the sake of some higher cause will inevitably lose the trust of some of the people it’s trying to steer away from demagogy — undercutting, in the process, the very democratic order that it’s setting out to save. I think this has happened already.”

Gee, Ross, ya think? The essay was obviously inspired by a column by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank who made the risible claim that President Biden’s media coverage has lately been as negative as or even more negative than Trump’s coverage through most of 2020. Like everything Milbank writes, it’s a deceitful comparison at best: Trump received negative coverage regardless of whether his policies were working or not, regardless of what he said or the exaggerated attacks against him. Biden has been criticized because his first year in office has been virtually unspinnable, just one disater after another. Never mind, argued Milbank: with a Trump resurgence looming, reporting the facts means that “my colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”

That position is as unhinged and blind as it is frightening. Criticizing a President who has enabled mass violations of the Equal Protection clause, assisted attacks on free speech, tried to recruit the news media into even more blatant state propaganda, proposed neutering the Supreme Court, attempted unconstitutional mask mandates, persecuted one set of rioters over another due to race and party affiliation and other abuses and threatened parents who dissent from leftist indoctrination by public schools with FBI harassment is anti-democracy? Ironically, the Times, by highlighting Douthat’s evisceration of Milbank, is also attacking its own announcement during the 2016 campaign that it felt obligated to tilt its coverage to help elect Hillary Clinton.

Maybe, in addition to the fact that the Times enjoys exposing its rival’s weaknesses, it is finally realizing that Douthat is right, as he notes,

[T]he essential problem with the idea that just a little less media neutrality, a little more overt alarmism, would put Trumpism in its place [is that]…[Y]ou can’t suppress a populist insurgency just by rallying the establishment if suspicion of the establishment is precisely what’s generating support for populism in the first place. Instead, you need to tell the truth about populism’s dangers while convincing skeptical readers that you can be trusted to describe reality in full.

Unfortunately for the Times and the Post, that ship has sailed.

2.  So why do you ally yourself with people like this? Sarah Silverman, who got an EA “Ethics Quote” nod for calling out the awful Joy Reid on her deliberate lies in smearing Florida Governor Ron De Santis, was shocked that progressives attacked HER for suggesting that journalists shouldn’t deceive the public. One her podcast, the opinionated progressive comic ranted,

“We’re so divided, we can’t even criticize the people on our own side, we can’t even critique anyone in your own party without punishment. One of the hosts of The View was like, ‘What hubris for Sarah Silverman to accuse a black woman of not reading.’ Oy! I fucking surrender! I cannot believe I need to say this but I did not criticize Joy Ann because she’s black, but because she’s a Harvard educated journalist with the responsibility ideally of showing the whole picture and not just a piece of a picture. Joy Ann, like so many of our favorites on these 24 hour news channels, is both a journalist and a political commentator. But where do we get just the plain old news? I need a news outlet that’s just the facts, something that I can like, draw my own opinion. That would be so nice. I’d like to draw my own conclusions sometimes. Good grief, you dare criticize anything in your own party, and you’re the enemy, and that kind of black-and-white thinking [is] on both sides. But obviously, I’m on the left. That’s what I care about. It’s such a turnoff to me.It feels very not liberal to me, it feels like right-wingish!”

So let’s see: when the Left acts like the lock-step Facts Don’t Matter ideologues they are increasingly evolving into, it reminds Silverman of the Right. Oh, somebody tell Sarah that Joy Reid is not “a Harvard-educated journalist.” She’s a Harvard-educated film studies major who got into punditry by being hired by a series of stations looking for African-Americans to opine.

3. One more little seldom mentioned consequence of the lock-down: suicides are way up, especially among the young. There is now a popular website operated by two shadowy figures calling themselves “Marquis and Serge” that encourages and assists young members to kill themselves, as other users cheer them on. I was going to make the site a Ethics Alarms “Unethical Website,” but decided it was hardly necessary: nobody needs an ethicist to figure out that a killer website is unethical, I hope. In this Times article about the site, you have to wade through over a thousand words to find out it’s name: Sanctioned Suicide.

What is that: “All the news that’s fit to print that we don’t want you to read”?

4. The tree is lit.

7 thoughts on “Ethics Enlightenments, 12/11/21: Annual Lighting The Tree Nightmare Edition

  1. One more little seldom mentioned consequence of the lock-down: suicides are way up, especially among the young

    Until when?

    That is the question lockdown proponents can never answer.

    It is not surprising some young people concluded that the answer is, “Never”.

    A president who ran on restoring normalcy is dealing with a pandemic that stubbornly refuses to depart

    I would point out the media could have buried the pandemic even six months ago if it wanted to.

    The Omicron variant seems to be less deadlier than Delta, never mind OG SARS-COV-2. The media, instead of fueling more panic, could have declared victory.

  2. Just happened upon a YouTube video today that takes a look at the AI program used to “prove” Biden’s coverage is worse, and finds it wanting.

  3. As I mentioned the other day in a reply comment, the New York Times shouldn’t be equated with the rest of the so-called mainstream media. Especially since things started to go sour for the Biden administration and it started to be clear that Covid was endemic, the Times has run a striking number of columns as well as – more importantly – deeply reported news stories from the field on inflation, the ongoing possible move of certain racial minorities toward the Republican Party, and the increasingly evident mistakes in certain Covid mitigation efforts that may have provided little benefit in exchange for making many other physical and mental health problems in America worse.

    The Times is a large, complex organism with many cross-currents. And I mentioned that when you see one of these against-the-grain stories or columns, an interesting sport is to open the reader comments and watch the majority of the commenters fight with or get openly angry with the newspaper itself. Or watch the reply comments to the minority of initial comments thanking the Times for the article multiply and mushroom, just like you see on Facebook if your friends group tends strongly to the left hemisphere of politics and someone goes rogue. I see far fewer of these challenging articles at the Washington Post, whose comments section, in any case, is essentially the typical garbage yell-a-thon on the Internet.

    I understand why it’s difficult for people who are further to the right to see this about the New York Times, which ALSO – no question – runs some of the most jaw-dropping, ultra-far-woke columns that seem almost nonsensical. You featured one of those the other day that got pilloried from across the responsible political spectrum. I get it – but I encourage everyone here to take a breath, look past this, and see the variety of things they have on offer at the Times. That includes you, Jack. I have found it beneficial in my daily news consumption, or at least as daily as I can make it. Thanks for listening.

  4. 3.) I’ve yet to see an analysis of the estimated “life years” saved by the lock-downs versus lost by the corresponding increase is suicides and drug overdoses (both of which presumably skew young). My guess is that we would have been better off following the approach proposed by the “Great Barrington Declaration”.

  5. One would think that ethics alarms aren’t necessary to determine that a website that helps people commit suicide is unethical, but Switzerland would disagree. The government there recently gave the green light for a new suicide pod. 3D printed, biodegradable, portable, allows the occupant to kill him or herself in less than a minute with a flood of nitrogen.
    And Germany allows assisted suicide as well, but only if you have the Wuhan virus vaccine.

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