Fake News Watch: 1. The Graves

This was another bad week for media trust, or would be, if the news media would fairly report its own unethical behavior.

Sometimes my instincts serve me well. I have piles of New York Times articles lying around my office, all intended to be the basis of future posts. Back in October, I was preparing to write a post based on this story and this one, about “evidence that 215 children were buried on the grounds of a British Columbia school, one of the many in Canada set up to forcibly assimilate them.” The stories about mass graves started arriving in May of last year, and the allegations were horrific. “In the past four weeks, two Indigenous communities said they have discovered hundreds of unmarked graves of children who may have died at the schools of disease or neglect, or even been killed,” wrote the Times.

I didn’t write that post; something about the story seemed off to me. This was true despite the fact that my confirmation bias regarding misdeeds on the part of the Catholic Church, which ran the schools, is strong.

It didn’t seem off to the mainstream media, though. CNN reported a “gruesome discovery.” The Washington Post wrote that the “mass grave” “dragged the horror of Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people back into the spotlight.” The unmarked burial place of children was reported to the public as fact. The photo above, from the National Post, was captioned, “Hundreds of children’s shoes remain in place at a memorial outside the Alberta Legislature building in Edmonton on Monday May 31, 2021. A vigil was held Sunday May 30, 2021 in memory of the 215 indigenous children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of a former Roman Catholic church residential school in Kamloops, B.C.”

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Golden State Warriors Owner Chamath Palihapitiya

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay. You bring it up because you care and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”

—–Golden State Warriors owner Chamath Palihapitiya, in an interview.

This statement, classic signature significance, neatly explains why the National Basketball Association remains metaphorically in bed with the brutal regime in China, why the Biden Administration refuses to hold the country responsible for its role as an international outlaw (and inflicting its virus on our population,economy and the world), and if you change just one word, why the United States allowed Hitler’s Final Solution to proceed as far as it did.

Give credit where it is due: at least Palihapitiya is being honest. As for his fellow owners, we can see that they feel exactly the same way through their conduct, but prefer not to say so out loud. It might cut down on the profits from souvenir NBA jerseys. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Mailbag! Those Pesky Atheists…

Yesterday’s post about the “After School Satan Club,” as expected, quickly prompted a lot of intense commentary. One esteemed commenter, recently maligned stated “No one has ever been able to satisfactorily explain to me why hating one religion makes you a hater but hating all religions makes you an intellectual.” After receiving positive feedback on that statement, the commenter later suggested that Ethics Alarms “provide a little bit more analytical view of things, since [the host] belongs to no religion but is also not hostile to religion generally.”

Sure.

As a threshold matter, hate is not conducive to ethics. Hate is an emotion, a strong bias, and bias makes you stupid, as we all presumably know, since that is a theme here. Since hate makes you stupid, one cannot say that hating religion, or anything, makes one an “intellectual,” of all things. There are some kinds of human conduct that justify hate: genocide, murder, torture. I would add betrayal, child abuse, totalitarianism, corruption by public servants, bigotry…there are things (and people) that it can be justifiable to hate (though Clarence Darrow’ nostrum to “hate the sin, never the sinner” is an ethical standard worth considering. Whether Darrow believed that, or practiced it, is open to debate. He was also an outspoken atheist, or as he called himself, an agnostic in the sense that there was no way to “know” for certain whether God existed or not. He was pretty sure of “not,” though.)

Taking “hate” out of the argument, there are still good reasons to rationally determine that certain religions, sects of those religions, or the organizations that support them, are unethical, and do more harm than good in the balance. I can think of three right now, but I have neither the time, space or inclination to get into a religion by religion debate. One is a world religion, one is a denomination of a world religion, and one is a scam.

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From Great Britain, A “Laws Are For The Little People” Scandal, And From The Prime Minister, A Terrible Apology

Boris Johnson, Great Britain’s eerily Trump-like Prime Minister, was caught behaving like Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Dr. Deborah Birx, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, John Kerry, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, just-exited NYC mayor Bill de Blasio,  and others in the U.S. who have violated the restrictions they placed on the public’s liberty and right to the pursuit of happiness in their embrace, at least officially, of Wuhan virus panic.

Three days ago, an email “emerged,” as they like to say now, showing the PM’s  private secretary inviting people to a lawn party at 10 Downing Street while the rest of the country was under a strict pandemic lockdown. The cheery missive concluded, “bring your own booze!” Continue reading

RETRACTED! “The Guardian’s “Person Of The Year” Poll Disaster” [Updated]

Well, once again, I was lied to, fooled, and made an unwitting accomplice in a fake conservative news scam. Worse, I was led to the fake story by three sites I already have had bad experiences with, and thus should have been wary. ( Though memeorandum also pointed me to the story, and that is a reliably non-partisan aggregator.) As is usually the case in such situations, confirmation bias, mine, was at the heart of the mistake.  In the end, this is my responsibility, and thus my fault. I know better.

If I were Al Sharpton or Dan Rather, I might argue that what I wrote about the Guardian could have happened this way, so the article is accurate, though not true. I’m not, though. Here’s what really happened: the Guardian closed down not a poll on “The Person of the Year,” but reader nominations. It is true (maybe) that J.K. Rowling received the most nominations, but the nominations were closed because it was time to close them. She’s still on the slate of candidates.

I apologize to Ethics Alarms readers, commenters, the Guardian, J.K. Rowling, oh, everyone. And if I ever trust those sources again, hit me over the head with a brick when I’m not looking.

Thanks to Phlinn for catching this when I did not.

UPDATE: None of the sites that have run this botch have clarified or retracted it, except this one, as of 7:30 am the next day.

And there it is, right at the bottom in tiny print. The British paper “The Guardian” ran an online poll to determine readers’ 2021 “Person of the Year,” and then suddenly pulled the plug. Why would they do that?

They did it because J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” books, was winning the poll handily.  Rowling is currently a pariah with transgender activists for her quite reasonable assertions like insisting that human beings with penises cannot accurately be called “women” just because they want to be, and that the movement to recast what have been called women as “persons with uteruses” is ridiculous. She has refused to grovel an apology like most public figures threatened with “cancelling” because of views that differ from Leftist cant, and instead has doubled down repeatedly. Earlier this month she mocked Scotland’s law enforcement policy that allows accused rapists to self-identify as female, tweeting, “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.” Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Break, 12/29/21: Alexa Goes Rogue

I think I’m going to feature “Jingle Bells” here every day until New Years. Here’s a version by that infamous slavery fan, Nat King Cole:

December 29 is one of the bad ethics dates: the U.S. Cavalry massacred 146 Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on this date in 1890. Seven Hundred and twenty years earlier, four knights murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket as he knelt in prayer in Canterbury Cathedral in England. According to legend, King Henry II of England never directly ordered the assassination, but expressed his desire to see someone ‘”rid” him of the “troublesome priest” to no one in particular, in an infamous outburst that was interpreted by the knights as an expression of royal will. In ethics, that episode is often used to demonstrate how leaders do not have to expressly order misconduct by subordinates to be responsible for it.

1. I promise: my last “I told you so” of the year. I’m sorry, but I occasionally have to yield to the urge to myself on the back for Ethics Alarms being ahead of the pack, as it often is. “West Side Story” is officially a bomb, despite progressive film reviewers calling it brilliant and the Oscars lining up to give it awards. What a surprise—Hispanic audiences didn’t want to watch self-conscious woke pandering in self-consciously sensitive new screenplay by Tony Kushner, English-speaking audiences didn’t want to sit through long, un-subtitled Spanish language dialogue Spielberg put in because, he said, he wanted to treat the two languages as “equal”—which they are not, in this country, and nobody needed to see a new version of a musical that wasn’t especially popular even back when normal people liked musicals. The New Yorker has an excellent review that covers most of the problem. Two years ago, I wrote,

There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind. Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.

Not for the first time, people could have saved a lot of money and embarrassment if they just read Ethics Alarms….

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Of Course Bishop Tutu Deserves Statues…Then Use The Same Standard To Get Our Toppled Statues Back Up

Wow. Here I was expecting to be reading nasty post-mortems on the despicable Harry Reid before his corpse was cold, and instead a wave of negative punditry appeared about, of all people, revered Desmond Tutu, whose body is only slightly cooler. The controversy? Nobody doubts that he played a major role in ridding South Africa of apartheid. In 1984, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (whatever that’s worth). However, as the Times of Israel sees it, “underneath the godlike humble appearance was an insidious anti-Semite and anti-Israel vein that throbbed and surfaced in writings, public speaking, and conversation.”

In the U.S., the opposition to honoring Tutu was joined by lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who told Fox News that by the standards the U.S. was now holding its metallic and rock honorees to, Tutu is unworthy. He said on the air,

The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things, a lot of good things on apartheid, the man was a rampant anti-Semite and bigot?…When we’re tearing down statues of Jefferson and Lincoln and Washington, let’s not build statues to a deeply, deeply flawed man like Bishop Tutu. Let’s make sure that history remembers both the goods he did and the awful, awful bads that he did as well….He didn’t talk about the Israel lobby, he talked about the Jewish lobby. He minimized the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. He said that getting killed in gas chambers was an easy death compared to apartheid. He said that Jews claimed a monopoly on the Holocaust. He demanded that Jews forgive the Nazis for killing them…[Tutu] encouraged others to have similar views and because he was so influential, he became the most influential anti-Semite of our time…The bottom line is that at a time when people are reckoning with the careers, of people with mixed legacies, whether it be Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others, we have to include in a reckoning of Tutu his evil, bigotry against Jews, which has existed for many, many, many years.

I don’t care to dispute the fairness or accuracy of the case that Tutu was an anti-Semite. His worshipers are already doing that; I note that Wikipedia, which, like every other information source today, just can’t play it straight, shaded its article about Tutu this week to note his support for the Palestinians while adding that he professed a “simultaneous belief in Israel’s right to exist.” (The two positions are impossible to hold “simultaneously.”) It doesn’t matter; for the purposes of the ethical analysis, I will accept that Tutu was as much of an anti-Semite as Dershowitz says. Continue reading

Ethics Resuscitation,12/23/21: Lift, Spirits, LIFT!

Boy, has today ever been a rotten prelude to Christmas! There’s nothing like feeling like Bob Cratchit and Scrooge at the same time….Hit it, Judy!

Yeah, easy for YOU to say…

1. Admittedly, it’s hard to be unusually unethical on a phony show like “Paranormal Experiences,” but I was fascinated to see how actual news footage of a dog rescue would be tied into the show’s theme. A dog was viewed by a crowd at New York’s East River as it desperately dog-paddled for land, then panicked and began swimming in circles. A police officer dived into the freezing (and filthy) water and grabbed the dog by the collar, getting bitten in the face and hand in the process, to tow the canine to safety as the crowd cheered him on. How was this “paranormal”?

As one onlooker explained it, the officer was a water rescue specialist, and the crowd had gathered for a ceremony honoring him. It couldn’t be a mere coincidence that a drowning dog just happened to turn up during that ceremony for that officer, could it? No, something supernatural was afoot! Such a coincidence can’t happen by itself!

Yes, it can, and does, every day, many, many times, you moron. A TV episode like this makes the public stupid and superstitious, which makes them easy to manipulate and con. Given enough time and random events, anything that can happen will happen, and the proclivity to see portents and miracles in standard chaos-driven events undermines life competence.

Where do you think the term “lucky dog” came from?

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2021: Fake News, Fake Religion, Fake Competence…And Maybe Fake Accusations, Not That It Seems To Matter

Tonight, starting at 6 pm, EST, I’ll be facilitating a three hours CLE seminar via (yecchh) Zoom for the D.C. Bar. You can use the credits for other bars’ mandatory ethics requirements, so if you need them, I’d love to have you in the group. It’s all interactive, of course. I’ve been doing a year end legal ethics wrap-up, usually a re-boot of a seminar I present earlier in the year, for, oh, almost 20 years now. It’s not too late to register. The information is here, along with a promotional video I made a few months ago. They say video takes away 15 pounds of hair…

On the Christmas movie front: one Christmas movie that needs no ethics critique is 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife,” an inexplicably under-seen classic film starring Cary Grant (as a very un-Clarence-like angel), Loretta Young and David Niven. It is as good as any of the Christmas classics and better than most, with a religious undertone that is missing from most of the others. In its time, “The Bishop’s Wife” was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture. Grant’s performance is especially deft, as he walks an extremely thin line, both in the plot and in his interpretation of the character. I was wondering last night why it hasn’t been remade, but it was: there is a 1996 musicalized version directed by Penny Marshall with Denzel Washington replacing Grant, Courtney Vance taking over for Niven, and Whitney Houston as a singing version of Loretta Young’s character. Justifiable remakes of classic films have to have a “why,” and this one’s justification was apparently that every classic with white stars has to be remade with black ones, or something. The reason I had never heard of it is that the film was generally regarded as inferior to the original, but I am going to have to track it down now and see for myself.

1. Believe all women/accusers/”survivors”… And if a career and a life is ruined unjustly, well, you gotta break some eggs to make an omelette, right? Chris Noth of “Law and Order,” “Sex in the City” and “The Good Wife” fame is now out of a job, having been fired from his supporting role on the CBS/Universal series “The Equalizer.” The reason: a Hollywood Reporter story revealed allegations of sexual assault against Noth by two as yet un-named women, one who says Noth sexually assaulted her in 2004 in Los Angeles, and another who alleges he assaulted her in his New York apartment in 2015.

Jeez, you’d think he had been nominated for the Supreme Court or something. Noth has denied the accusations, but never mind: they are enough, before any investigation, any trial, even any identification of the accusers, to get him “cancelled.”

Seems unfair, somehow….

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‘Values? What Values?’ The Most Admired People In The World

This depressed and discouraged me, so you might as well be discouraged too. Here’s the list of the 20 most admired men and women worldwide, according to a YouGov.com survey.

The  study surveyed “more than 42,000 people” in 38 countries and territories, and who knows how accurate it is. I would assume that the relative standings are pretty meaningless. However, I offer these observation based on the fact that we are supposed to admire people based on what they have accomplished that we regard as good, right and beneficial to humanity, and the values they exemplify in their lives. Envy is something entirely different. Thus my first observation is that the lists demonstrate that a decisive number of those surveyed do not comprehend the distinction between admiration and envy.

My second is that I see little evidence that values played a major role in the choices at all, and maybe any role.

Others: Continue reading