Category Archives: “bias makes you stupid”

Comment Of The Day: “Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?”

I have been remiss of late posting Comments of the Day, and will be trying to catch up. Today produced one to get me going again: Isaac’s continuation of the theme of the post, the way the media reveals its bias and incompetence to anyone who reads a journalist’s analysis of a topic on which the reader has independent expertise.

In the thread on the same post, I learned something: that there was a name for the facially absurd phenomenon that the same people who recognize how thoroughly the news media botches topics that the readers understand well will still assume that the news articles, features and analysis on topics they don’t know well are accurate. Reader Alex posted this quote from a hero of mine, the late, great, Michael Crichton, MD, novelist, science writer, screenwriter, contrarian:

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

Here is Isaac’s Comment of the Day on the post, Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Yup.

I thumbed through an issue of Newsweek years ago, when the cover was for an article called “Our Mutual Joy” and the premise was that the Bible was in favor of gay marriage.

Regardless of what you think about it, that premise ain’t true. The article, by Newsweek’s official religion editor, Lisa Miller, was just pages of total bunk, including this statement: “nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women.” Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month, Also Stupid: CNN Host Don Lemon

“In the court of public opinion, Jussie has lost. He’s lost the fight in the court of public opinion, and that’s where his battle is. Legally … if it’s jail time, if he has to do probation, if he has to pay whatever, but in the court of public opinion…It matters. And he lost that because of how—and not his fault—but maybe people were, I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives, who knows? But it was handled poorly.”

—CNN host  and Jussie Smollett pal Don Lemon, blathering incomprehensibly and incompetently on his CNN show yesterday about the actor’s hate crime hoax being exposed.

Several commenters referenced Lemon’s nonsense in the comments to this morning’s Smollett-heavy post, but I was inclined to let them pass, having decided long ago, especially after his juvenile moderation of the gun control “debate” involving the Parkland kids, that Lemon is such a poor journalist and such an emotion-soaked, biased analyst that he’s not worth my time to criticize. But like Lewis Black’s story about the stray overheard comment ( “And if it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college“) that keeps churning in your head until it acts like an aneurism and kills you, Lemon’s idiocy kept churning and churning in my brain. How does this amateurish fool have a job on the air? Is it because he’s gay, black and cute? Surely that isn’t enough to justify CNN regularly giving such a dummy a national platform. Heck, Jussie Smullett is gay, black and cute. I can’t believe he’d make less sense than Lemon. It’s hard to believe anyone could. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/20/2019: MAGA Cap Day Edition

Good Morning!

No, I’m not going to wear a MAGA cap today, though I am sorely tempted. The Second Niggardly Principle inveighs against it: just because some people are offended by something based on ignorance or bias doesn’t mean its right to intentionally trigger them, much as they may deserve it.

“Make America Great Again” had, and has, many legitimate and defensible interpretations, and it could have been adopted by either party at many times in our history. Democrats put a racist spin on Trump’s slogan in 2016 because that was how they had responded to all criticism of the Barack Obama Presidency for 8 years, and the tactic was effective, if divisive and despicable. The current tactic is to attcahe racism to any supporter of the President who wears the hat, thorough narrative-supporting fake news like the “racist smile” of a Catholic teen at the Lincoln Memorial and the recent Jussie Smullett hoax, which led the news media to accept the fantasy that MAGA hat wearing thugs were roaming Chicago looking for minorities to assault.

The idea that electing someone with the personality, qualifications and character of Donald Trump could possibly make America greater seemed ridiculous to me during the campaign, and still does. That still does not mean that Barack Obama and his administration did not make the nation significantly worse: weaker, less financially stable, more divided, and less committed to democracy, individual initiative, free enterprise, the rule of law, and civil rights. Under President Trump, despite himself, many of those trends have begun to reverse themselves. Good. I would not say that this has made America greater, not with an ongoing effort on the Left to overthrow Trump’s Presidency without the inconvenience of an election, and not with racial, ethnic and gender divisions being deliberately widened by Democrats for perceived political gain.

I also wouldn’t wear a MAGA cap because the “again” rankles me, and always has. The United States is great, which does not mean it is perfect, or that it should not constantly strive to meet the dauntingly high ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Gettysburg Address. Ironically, it is those who seek to demonize the slogan who really don’t think America is great, and who want to deconstruct it. They have to be fought, and rebutted, and exposed. Wearing a cap, however, is not the way to do it.

1. Unfortunately, these MAGA cap hate stories aren’t fake. An employee at Van’s, a clothing store in Kansas demanded that a teenage boy take off his MAGA hat, and when the boy refused—good for him— didn’t, the employee said “Fuck you!” according to the boy’s mother, who witnessed the exchange.

“He did nothing to you,” the mother says she told the employee. “What did you say to my son, to my 14-year-old?”

“I’m sure he’s heard it before,” the employee responded. You know: “everybody does it.” And besides, Democrats say its the right thing to do.

She complained, and Van’s fired the jerk.

The episode in Tennessee was scarier: A  man was arrested over the weekend after pulling a gun on a Sam’s Club customer who was wearing a MAGA cap, WBKO 13 News reported.  Eventually the media and Democratic narrative about what the hat means—it’s like KKK hood, you know— is going to get someone killed. Continue reading

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Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: CBS Correspondent Lara Logan [Updated]

This was tough: I also was tempted to label the story an Ethical Quote of the Month (see below) or even an Ethics Quiz; after all, is someone really a hero for simply stating in public what any honest, unbiased, objective observer already knows to be true, and what should be obvious to anyone paying attention? I decided that the answer to the latter is yes. She’s a hero if virtually her entire industry has been working overtime to deceive the public into believing otherwise.

In a recent interview, former CBS News Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan [CORRECTION NOTE: In the original version of this post, I incorrectly stated that Logan was still with CBS.]  stated unequivocally that the mainstream news media is disproportionately liberal, and that the imbalance undermines journalism and fair reporting. She told retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland in a podcast,

“Visually, anyone who’s ever been to Israel and been to the Wailing Wall has seen that the women have this tiny little spot in front of the wall to pray, and the rest of the wall is for the men. To me, that’s a great representation of the American media, is that in this tiny little corner where the women pray you’ve got Breitbart and Fox News and a few others, and from there on, you have CBS, ABC, NBC, Huffington Post, Politico, whatever, right? All of them.

And that’s a problem for me, because even if it was reversed, if it was vastly mostly on the right, that would also be a problem for me. My experience has been that the more opinions you have, the more ways that you look at everything in life.”

Logan also said that the press coverage of President Trump shows how the news media distorts its reports  so that “there’s no grey. It’s all one way.” Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2019: Best People, Worst Candidates, Noisiest Spectators, Battiest Activists

This where Clarence Darrow and I are headed…

Weekend Greetings from Ethics Alarms!

1. I’m on the way to New Brunswick, New Jersey for a President’s Day legal ethics CLE seminar for the New Jersey Bar. This is my Darrow program, and my long-time Clarence (18 years!), Paul Morella, is unavailable, so taking on the role will be Bruce Rauscher, who received a Helen Hayes nomination (that’s the D.C. Tonys) for playing the prosecutor in my production of “The Andersonville Trial.” Like so many expert prosecutors, Bruce is now moving over to the defense because the money is better.

2. KABOOM! Ann Althouse found this disturbing dead canary in the mine: over 10 thousand people online thought the cartoon below was racist:

Althouse seems to miss the significance of this: she asks if anyone “gets” humor any more. That’s not what’s going on here. A stunning number of people really believe that voting—or hiring, or admitting college applicants—on the basis of merit is racist. This belief itself is racist, as well as destructive, illogical and batty, but that’s what culture will do to you eventually, if you don’t have a strong foundation of ethical values and critical thinking skills.

How can you argue with someone who “thinks” like this? Are they beyond hope?

3.  More Warren The Demagogue. I was going to let this go, because so many Democrats are embarrassing themselves of late and I don’t want to give more ammunition to those who accuse me of right wing bias. But Professor Turley flagged this blatant example of Senator Warren’s demoagoguery and his reaction was identical to mine, so I’ll let him take over:
Continue reading

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