Category Archives: “bias makes you stupid”
“When Trump criticizes “all types of racism” he’s using false equivalence to wink at those who peddle in the distortions of white grievance. It makes a mockery of our history and our present. It’s not calming and unifying. it’s provocative and divisive. And it’s intentional.”
—Dan Rather, in a recent tweet, signaling his virtuous acceptance of the convenient falsehood that anti-white racism isn’t racism at all.
Rather is saying it is “false equivalence” to call all forms of racism equally wrong. The level of ethical obtuseness required to make this statement is high and airless. For one thing, it is based on consequentialism, the fallacious but common misconception that the consequences of an unethical act make it more or less ethical. No one would seriously dispute that anti-black racism has more than lapped the field regarding the pain, harm and death that it has caused. That historical fact does not make anti-white racism any better, or an even-handed condemnation of both a “false equivalence.” Rather’s reasoning is poisoned with rationalizations, like “it’s not the worst thing” and “they had it coming.”
What is dangerously “provocative and divisive” is the double standard enablers and apologists for anti-white racism are trying to justify.
Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs
1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.
For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.
There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.
2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.” Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.
It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.
What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading
Comment Of The Day: Afternoon Ethics Jolt, 8/3/2018: “A Lawyer Finds A New Way To Be Unethical, Verizon Makes Our Kids Obnoxious And Ignorant, And The Times Decides To Show Its Colors…”
Today’s example from baseball of why the world will never get less stupid: Jayson Werth, the former firebrand outfielder for the Phillies and Nationals who retired from professional baseball in June (about a year too late, based on his miserable 2017 performance), blathered on in a podcast interview espousing ignorance over knowledge.
“They’ve got all these super nerds, as I call them, in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players… I think it’s killing the game. It’s to the point where just put computers out there. Just put laptops and what have you, just put them out there and let them play. We don’t even need to go out there anymore. It’s a joke….When they come down, these kids from MIT or Stanford or Harvard, wherever they’re from, they’ve never played baseball in their life…When they come down to talk about stuff like [shifts] … should I just bunt it over there? They’re like, ‘No, don’t do that. We don’t want you to do that. We want you to hit a homer.’ It’s just not baseball to me. We’re creating something that’s not fun to watch. It’s boring. You’re turning players into robots. They’ve taken the human element out of the game.”
Back in the late 1970’s, a man named Bill James, blessed with an amazing ability to look at problems without the pollution of conventional wisdom began writing a little publication in his spare time down in his basement that examined how baseball was played, what practices statistics supported, and which they did not. He revealed, to take just one example, that managers were habitually batting as lead-off players who were speedy runners but who didn’t get on base very often because they never walked. This almost universal practice cost teams runs and victories. He showed that a player with a .300 average who seldom took a base on balls was a less effective offensive weapon than a player with a much lower batting average but a higher on-base-percentage, the result of being more selective at the plate. Somehow this obvious observation had never occurred to anyone whose actual profession was managing baseball teams.
Every year, and in articles in between for journals and statistical publications, James proved over and over again that baseball was being played astoundingly ignorantly. A “great” base stealer who only was successful 70% of the time was costing his team runs, because the statistics show that the the risk of an out is usually a far greater cost than the extra base is a benefit. The sacrifice bunt is almost always a bad percentage play, increasing the odds of scoring one run slightly, but greatly reducing the chances of scoring more than one. A player’s statistics were vastly influenced by the quirks and dimensions of his home park, creating illusions of abilities and flaws that were mirages.Virtually all baseball players reach their peak value at the ages of 27-29, and decline rapidly thereafter: James wrote that paying big salaries for 30-years-old-plus stars was a losing gamble, comparing it to buying a watermelon at a premium price after the previous owner has eaten the fruit’s heart out and pronounced it delicious.
I began reading James books in the 80’s, and found him to be a truly original and courageous thinker. (The concept and term “signature significance,” an Ethics Alarms staple, comes from James.) From the beginning, however, his research was ridiculed by front office executives, managers and player, many of whom were challenging his research on the basis of a limited intellect, a high school degree and statistical knowledge that consisted of reading box scores. They appealed to authority—their own—to refuse to acknowledge indisputable, mathematical, logical realities. Eventually one or two young turks did pay attention, like Oakland’s Billy Beane. He hired his own numbers-cruncher and used the principles of the fledgling discipline James helped launch, sabermetrics, the statistical analysis of baseball, to win championships with a minimal budget. It also got him a book written about his success, “Moneyball,” and a movie based on the book where Beane was played by Brad Pitt.
Sweet! Continue reading