Headline Ethics: Today’s Ethics Rot In A Few Well Chosen Words…

I decided on this format after being click-baited by a headline in the Times: The Dobbs Decision Revealed How Weak the Pro-Life Movement Really Is. In fact, the Dobbs decision itself revealed nothing about the pro-life movement whatsoever. The decision wasn’t a response to the anti-abortion activists; it was a down-the-line legal rebuke to an old SCOTUS decision that was as offensive to the Constitution as Dred Scott. The actual column was about how disappointing the response of pro-life legislators has been (in the author’s view) by not moving faster to ban abortion entirely. How can a decision “reveal” a reaction to it that only can occur after the decision is rendered? Moreover, it should be apparent that while many anti-abortion advocates do not believe there should be not an absolute right to end a human life in the womb, many, like, say, me, acknowledge that abortion is an ethically complex problem that cannot be resolved without careful balancing of interests. That’s not “weakness.” That’s “accepting reality.”

Here are some other headlines that signal ethical confusion:

  • These Two Big Unknowns Make the 2022 Midterms Unusually Unpredictable: The Democrats and progressives with access to web megaphones are doing everything they can think of to assure the dwindling number of loyal Democratic voters that the well-earned wipe-out heading Joe, Chuck and Nancy’s way might not happen. Jonathan M. Ladd’s “unknowns” are emblematic of the sad state of leftist contempt for the electorate. “First, no one knows exactly how much the Republicans’ new lower education, lower social trust voting base will turn out without Trump on the ballot or in the White House. Will relying on these voters make it harder for Republicans to get the typical midterm out-party bump?” Ladd writes. This is a Democratic mouthpiece theme of late: anyone who votes against the Democratic Party is stupid, ignorant, obsessed with MAGA conspiracy theories and in love with Donald Trump. The vast majority of Trump supporters/Trump toleraters support the ex-President’s policy positions, not him personally. It’s amazing the the left keeps deluding themselves into thinking such beliefs as wanting secure borders, enforcing laws, ending the right to abortion, being tough with China and Iran and opposing “good” racial discrimination are the result of a cult of personality. It’s similarly amazing that even after Hillary’s “deplorables” insult, the Left and its allies still openly argue that Republican voters just don’t understand how wonderful Democratic policies and politicians are.

  • “Nina Totenberg is the exception, not the rule, and NPR leaders should say so.”

In this mind-blowing, pretzel-logic rationalization-fest by NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride, the fact that NPR’s SCOTUS reporter Nina Totenberg recently admitted being a close personal friend of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg while covering the Court ( though she never  revealed this to NPR’s audience) was OK because Totenberg is just so, so special. Ethics Alarms readers will recognize this argument as The King’s Pass, #11, one of the most insidious of the rationalizations. McBride also brings us the opinions of NPR managers who argue that such conflicts of interest are a good thing:

Managing Editor for Standards and Practices Tony Cavin told me he wished more reporters would develop similar ties with their sources so that they could garner insights to share with their listeners.  “As with any serious reporter who covers a beat for many years, it is to be expected that Totenberg would become friendly with some of her sources. Not all became Supreme Court justices,” he wrote in an email. “Her relationships with her sources have given NPR’s audiences a front row seat on developments at the nation’s highest court, an institution not known for transparency. We’ve heard the criticisms but we’ve yet to hear specifics of a story that Totenberg allegedly didn’t cover, slanted or changed in some way as a result of her relationships with her sources.”

CEO John Lansing also defends Totenberg’s work. “Nina Totenberg has covered the Supreme Court for four decades, and her knowledge of the Court and her expertise are unparalleled. Her work has won numerous awards for editorial excellence over the years and provided NPR listeners with thoughtful and insightful coverage of one of the nation’s most insular institutions,” Lansing wrote to me in an email. “As President and CEO, I respect the firewall that protects our editorial integrity and leave decisions about our journalism to our journalists. I have full confidence in the editors who have worked with Nina over the years and to this day oversee her work…

The house journalism ethicist writes, “Many in the American public are looking for reasons to trust or distrust journalists. Armed with knowledge of Totenberg’s friendships, some will doubt her work, some will question all of NPR and others will extend their distrust to all journalists.”

Gee, I wonder why?

  • NBC retracts erroneous Paul Pelosi story that fueled conspiracy theories. What a coinkydink! The strange details in an episode that has yet to make sense that were released by NBC, making the attack on Paul Pelosi look even less like a home invasion than it already appeared to be, were mysteriously retracted by network citing unstated “standards.”  Now the retraction is “fueling conspiracy theories,” says the Washington Post, meaning fueling legitimate skepticism about a convenient narrative being used by Democrats to claim Republicans are encouraging political violence. The report, firs aired on “The Today Show, was that Paul Pelosi, after opening the door to police officers, walked “several feet” back toward his assailant and away from police. “Why Pelosi didn’t try to flee or tell responding officers he was in distress is unclear,” NBC’s reporter said in his original report, suggesting that Pelosi wasn’t in immediate danger when police arrived. The report concluded, “We still don’t know exactly what unfolded between Mr. Pelosi and the suspect for the 30 minutes they were alone inside that house before police arrived.”  NBC’s releasing the account and then suddenly vaporizing it jsitifies doubts about the whole episode, so the Washington Post is riding to the rescue.

What’s going on here? I have no idea. But we don’t have all the facts, and the facts we have been given are strange and ambiguous. It is a smoking gun of Democrat desperation that they would try to use such a story as a campaign issue. All this does is reinforce distrust of them and the news media that is so furiously spinning for them.

  • Is gender bias hurting Kathy Hochul?  How I long for a time when female politicians, gay politicians and “politicians of color” could just deal with criticism and opposition like every other target of substantive criticism and not default to claiming bias. Hochul is an accidental governor of New York, has not accomplishes anything on her own, but has givene plenty of clues that she isn’t to be trusted, like her arbitrary masking edict (stating the kids are used to masks now, so its no big deal) and her insulting claims that Republicans are making up the crime issue.
  • Say Goodbye to Healthcare if Republicans Win This is an oldie but goodie for Democrats: scaremongering about evil Republicans the traditional way by claiming that they will eliminate popular programs when no Republican has suggested anything of the kind. I have also seen claims that the GOP wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. (Both should be means-tested, and the SS age should be raised, but never mind: Republicans don’t even have the guts to do that.) To be fair, at least this kind of fear-peddling to old folks is less damaging and dangerous than the “vote for us or the US. will turn into Nazi Germany!” message the DNC setteled on as its campaign refrain. Which brings us too the one honest and ethical headline in this bunch:
  • Democracy Is Not on the Ballot  On  conservative writer Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter, he calmly and accurately eviscerates the current last-ditch Democrat talking point. It’s behind a paywall, but his first two sentences say enough:

Dear Reader (Including those of you who dropped your lattes): You’re all losing your frickin’ minds.  Okay, maybe not you, specifically, but a lot of people are.

And the more that are, the better Democrats think they will do next week.

13 thoughts on “Headline Ethics: Today’s Ethics Rot In A Few Well Chosen Words…

  1. Goldberg is brilliant. Bill Maher has jumped on the Death of Democracy bandwagon and the comments on Yahoo’s article regarding this are generally pointing out that voters making their choices in a free and fair election (because the administration will not dare say that this is not a free and fair election – until after the party loses on Tuesday) is actually what democracy is.

  2. Tucker Carlson gives a nice round up of the “democracy is at stake!” talking point’s ubiquity:

    OBAMA: Democracy is at stake in this election, Nevada.

    KATIE PHANG, MSNBC: He made it clear that democracy is at stake this November.

    ALI VELSHI: Democracy is at stake this November.

    AL FRANKEN: Our democracy is at stake.

    ADRIAN FONTES, ARIZONA SEC OF STATE: Our democracy is at stake.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: The future of our democracy is at stake.

    KATIE HOBBS: We all know democracy is at stake.

    MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC: This is the most important election coming up because democracy is at stake.

    LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC: Nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake.

    Dems sure are obedient to their masters behind the curtain.

      • “And they don’t even make any attempt whatsoever to disguise the fact they’re part of a scripted Greek chorus.”

        Probably indicative of how they perceive their audience, and they may very well be correct.

        “Dems sure are obedient”

    • Watched that clip from Tucker on RCP. He was excellent addressing that, and also Biden’s speech.


      I was just reading some stuff from the Cook Political Report, courtesy of Legal Insurrection, and this struck me:

      “We have long anticipated that the Georgia Senate race … will go to a December 6 runoff if neither candidate hits 50 percent.”

      What an incisive analysis! Kind of took my breath away.

      I sometimes want to reach through the screen and shake these people. Do you not have an editor? Do you not bother to read what you just wrote? Before you came to this conclusion, just what were you thinking would happen if no one got 50%, in Georgia, in an election?

      Yeah, I know it’s a (relatively) small thing. So was ‘purp walk’. But you get paid to write for a living.


      And yes, it does occur to me that I’m leaving this comment on a blog whose owner is the king of the typo. Or actually not — Jack has some but this is not his day job. We don’t see his presentation quality content — which I’d wager is damned good.

      It’s more like when you see a jarring typo in a book. You know that many people had to read (and effectively approve) that typo before it got into print.


      We now return you to your regularly scheduled election denialism.

  3. Assuming that the Republicans do win big this Tuesday, how soon can we expect our Democracy to die? Will the 2024 elections still be held, or will the ultra-MAGA fascists have done away with them? Maybe CNN and MSNBC can ask the Democrats to answer those questions after the returns come in.

    • Our democracy will die as soon as the defeated Dems don’t get what they feel should have been their first paycheck. That will be the death of democracy for them: having to figure out how to make a living some other way.

  4. An excellent question, but why wait. There’s a bunch of Sunday news shows tomorrow. Maybe Fox News could get one of these democracy is On The Ballot folks on and ask this as a follow up.

    “If the ultra-MAGA Republicans do take control of the Congress, when do you expect them to cancel the 2024 election? Do you think President Biden would veto that, and would they be able to override a veto (since democracy would be dead at that point). Or would the Congress just vote Biden out of office?

    I just watched ‘Olympus has Fallen’ — perhaps that is what will happen if the Ultra-MAGA Republicans win next Tuesday. The North Koreans assault the White House, but this time they succeed in killing both the president and vice-president. Voila! Meet President Kevin McCarthy.

    Oh my

    • I was under the impression that the Speaker is chosen by House members so why should Kevin McCarthy be assumed to be the new Speaker should Republicans take control of the House. The same would be true for McConnell in the Senate. We need new real leadership in both chambers who have the verbal and political skills to communicate a resonating message across all constituencies.

  5. RE: Nina Totenberg,

    “We’ve heard the criticisms but we’ve yet to hear specifics of a story that Totenberg allegedly didn’t cover, slanted or changed in some way as a result of her relationships with her sources.”

    I could ask the same thing about the claim that Trump was a Dictator. I have heard the criticisms but not the specifics.

    The statement by the editor is a tactic the left uses all the time regarding conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety. Without knowledge or equivalent access to the source one can never know the specifics of a story that was omitted, slanted or changed. Any criticism is usually met with a demand for proof that it harmed another or specific examples of behaviors. This is an effective tactic that requires the opposition to have numerous relevant facts to spew back – if you get the chance as they talk over you.

    We need to learn these tactics, use them against our opponents and learn to defend against them when used against us.

  6. Okay, you moronic Democrats, I’ll say it again. The elections are the key, the mainstay of our democratic Republic. Some elections have had positive results, some not so much. But the election itself is our demonstration of democracy at work. How can any party imply that if the election goes ‘the wrong way’ that it will likely be the last one? Fearmongering. And stupid fearmongering. Any 5th grader knows better, and I am highly insulted that the Democrats all think we have IQs of 70. Fear and stress do bad things to rational thought, and I see it in the Democrats now. And only getting worse.

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