Ethics Alarms Expresses Its Gratitude To CNN For Providing Such A Superb Illustration Of “Fake News” As I Compile The Directory Of Same

The fake news category is “polls.”

Gallup released the results of a survey in which various attitudes regarding the pandemic were explored. One question asked “How soon would you return to your normal day-to-day activities” if “there were no government restrictions,” giving respondants four options to choose among. The most popular answer was “after the number of new cases declines significantly,” getting 40% in the most recent results. The least popular answer was “after a coronavirus vaccine is developed,” with  9 %  choosing that.

Here is how CNN reported the results: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/12/2020: I Admit It—I’m Fighting Hard To Avoid Getting Angry, Because I’m Not Ethical When I’m Angry

As we face these challenging times, we at Ethics Alarms salute the heroes, the indomitable, the resolute and the vibrant, who endure with good will and good cheer for the well-being of the community. We are Americans, and we are in this together, and

IF I HAVE to listen to insincere, calculated, virtue-signaling crap like this many more times, something is going to ‘pop!’ in my head and I’ll be  grabbing the nearest long, sharp implement and leaving the confines of these walls to begin the historic Alexandria Massacre.

Go ahead! Test me!

The rule in our house is that any channel that runs a commercial that begins with “In these..” or that shows someone wearing a facemask or looking at a webcam will be switched to another channel, never to be revisited during that day. If everyone follows this simple rule, and makes their policy known, maybe we’ll be able to halt this torture.

1.  What’s going on here? Is the idea now to proclaim how biased the news media is and the double standards it uses and mock those of us who care by showing there’s not a thing we can do with it? Is that it? Governor Cuomo actually said at a press conference yesterday  that the pandemic virus came from Europe in January and “no one knew” about it. “With all the sophistication, with all the public health organizations, with that whole alphabet soup of agencies, nobody knew the virus was coming from Europe,” the governor said, on the same day he finally retracted his deadly order requiring nursing homes to take in infected, elderly residents. Then he called the virus “The European Virus.” He really did. No, seriously. I’m not making this up.

The mainstream news media just ignored this idiocy yesterday, though President Trump calling the virus the Chinese virus, which except for the obscure papers Cuomo was apparently citing, is consistent with what most researchers have concluded about its origin, was attacked as racist because, you know, Big Lie #4.  Cuomo’s atrocious decision to expose nursing homes has also been barely covered in the left-leaning media.

2. If you are wondering why Ethics Alarms hasn’t covered in any detail the apparent emerging evidence that President Obama was intimately involved in the scheme to frame Michael Flynn, it is because there is literally no news source I can trust. Conservative sources are stating outright that Obama is squarely in “What did the President know and when did he know it” territory, with declassified documents indicating that Obama was aware of the bogus investigation and efforts to railroad Michael Flynn. The mainstream media appears to be doing what it did during Obama’s entire 8 years, which is refusing to probe suspicious activities and events, and maintaining the illusion that our first black President must be seen to be  as pure as the driven snow, because he was the first black President.  Unless a non-right wing source or reporter plays the role of the Watergate era Washington Post and “Woodstein” to get the truth out, we will be kept in the dark…and you know what the Post says happens in darkness. Continue reading

The Ethics Alarms Directory Of “Fake News”: Prelude

The first use of the tag “fake news” on this website was on March 4, 2015. That’s more than three months before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015; the oft-published claim that Trump launched the term “fake news” to deride the news media for criticizing him and his Presidency is, ironically enough, fake news.

The 2015 piece was about CNBC publishing as legitimate news a press release by an anti-vaxx group, a category of fake news called “Hearsay news” in today’s directory to come. I posted three more articles tagged “fake news” before Trump was elected. One of them was the Mother of All Fake News episodes, when the Boston Globe hit the news stands and front walks on April 10, 2016 featuring a satirical front page with headlines about a fictional, dystopian Donald Trump Presidency. “This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action,” went the introduction. I wrote in part

This is a spectacular  failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue….No paper published such a “future news” piece about the world under Nazi rule, or the race war if civil rights laws didn’t change. No respectable publication predicted a similar dystopian future under President Huey Long, or Joe McCarthy, or what a U.S. with open borders would look like, or what a Ron Paul style US with heroin for sale off drug store counters would lead to. That is because this means of political advocacy and commentary is reserved for the features and entertainment sections, not where facts are supposed to be, and where readers must be able to expect a reasonable attempt at truth, not a showboating effort to distort it.

The episode marked, as it turned out, the beginning of an epidemic of metaphorical canaries dying in the poisoned mine of American journalism. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/11/2020: NBC’s Tipping Point, Joe’s Gaslighting, A Judge’s Dead Ethics Alarms, And Kroger’s Grandstanding Backfires

It’s May!

1. More thoughts on “Meet the Press” and Chuck Todd. Pause now to reflect on last night’s post on the “Meet the Press” cheat, leaving out the key portion of AG Barr’s answer to an interview question, then having anchor Chuck Todd criticize Barr for not saying what he in fact said and that he withheld from his audience.

  • Does anyone think NBC’s “oops!” apology after being called on this by CBS (from whence the original interview came) and Justice (in a tweet by Barr’s spokesperson) is credible? The only way one could believe this was accidental is to assume there are no standards of review and oversight in network news. With all the preparation that goes into a weekly show, how could the anchor not review the entire interview he is planning on discussing? True, Todd is uniquely stupid for an anchor, somewhere in the Chris Cuomo range, but applying Hanlon’s Razor here strains the rule. This was almost certainly malicious.
  • The example ought to be aggressively and relentlessly shared on social media, with enablers and apologists being dealt with harshly. (I just posted it on my Facebook page. I know what’s coming. To hell with them.) This is a smoking gun and signature significance: a journalism culture where this happens is corrupt and agenda-driven The episode also ought to be a tipping point where the public, all of it, wakes up to how it is being manipulated by propagandists. Note I say “ought” but not “will.”
  • For this reason, the episode isn’t just about news, it is news. It should be a headline on every news broadcast and in every newspaper. “Meet the Press,” even as diminished as it is, still holds a symbolic place in the industry. This is a scandal, and an important one.
  • Is it of greater national and historical importance than most of the items on my Times front page this morning? Absolutely.
  • To those who will argue that Todd’s cheat was an innocent mistake that conservatives, Republicans and “Trumpers” are “pouncing” on, I would ask, “Where is the parallel instance of an Obama official, a Democratic leader, or a progressive being similarly misquoted on a network news show?” The closest example I can recall was when NPR falsely edited an interview with…Ted Cruz.
  • The standard increasingly becoming the norm in the mainstream media is not “how can we inform our viewers?” but rather “how can we advance our agenda by manipulating the content and get away with it?” The latter begins with the assumption that their partisan and ignorant audiences will tolerate being deceived, and that is how democracies die.

2.  The point when I stopped reading Joe Biden’s op-ed in the Post:President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps…”

The reason shifting blame and dividing the country is a familiar strategy is that Biden’s party has been doing this continuously from the moment Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “deplorables.” Well, let’s reconsider that: maybe the strategy started when President Obama’s mouthpieces began using “racist!” as the default response to any criticism of him, and “xenophobe!” as the response to those wanting to enforce our borders. Either way, Biden’s attack ( or that of whoever wrote it for him while he was working on his coloring book) is gaslighting. Imagine anyone trying to divide Americans over public policy!

PS: Here’s an Atlantic article from a few days ago: “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying.”

Post Post Script: Why look! “Dr. Gregg Gonsalves, who teaches about microbial diseases and law at the Ivy League school, took to Twitter recently to slam the administration, saying:

“How many people will die this summer, before Election Day? What proportion of the deaths will be among African-Americans, Latinos, other people of color? This is getting awfully close to genocide by default. What else do you call mass death by public policy?”

3. In related news...Yesterday, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms  called the shooting death of  black jogger Ahmaud Arbery “a lynching”and blamed President Trump. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Scripture, 5/10/2020: It Doesn’t Include “Forgiveness”

1. You know…Kool-Aid! Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) finally was forced into releasing the transcripts from the House’s investigation “collusion,” one of the more extensive of the multiple Democratic coup attempts. The Federalist explains, :

Former Obama administration defense official Evelyn Farkas testified under oath that she lied during an MSNBC interview when she claimed to have evidence of alleged collusion, a newly declassified congressional transcript of her testimony shows. Farkas testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on June 26, 2017, as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Lawmakers keyed in on an appearance Farkas made on MSNBC on March 2, 2017, in which she urged intelligence community bureaucrats to disseminate within the government and potentially even leak to media any incriminating information they had about Trump or his aides.

“I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama administration] people who left…[that] it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy,” Farkas said.

[…]

“Why don’t we go back to that sentence that I just asked you about. It says ‘the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their staff dealing with Russians,” [Rep. Trey] Gowdy said. “Well, how would you know what the U.S. government knew at that point? You didn’t work for it, did you?”

“I didn’t,” said Farkas, a former mid-level Russia analyst who left the federal government in 2015.

“Then how did you know?” Gowdy responded.

“I didn’t know anything,” Farkas said.

Writes Matt Vespa, in a distinctly partisan tone but completely accurately,

“Everyone who isn’t Trump deranged knew this was a pile of crap. How many “bombshells” have there been? How many have turned out to be nothing burgers, not even lasting 36 hours in the news cycle because there was never solid evidence to prove such a conspiracy? This is what happens when the entire myth was based on a political opposition research document—the Trump dossier—which was compiled by an ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele, whose anti-Trump efforts were funded by Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was probably never vetted by the FBI, given the glaring errors in it, and it was used as credible evidence to secure a spy warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official. It was biased political propaganda. This collusion delusion was already debunked in the original Mueller report, which said there was no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and shredded what was left of the unverified Trump dossier. The Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FISA abuses during the Obama administration also took a tomahawk to the dossier. The core of this collusion myth was already dead, but with the exoneration of Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, more pieces are falling off this dead collusion carcass. 

2. And no..I will not forgive, nor will I forget, the arrogant, biased and ignorant people who called me partisan and worse for fairly, objectively and correctly analyzing this historic attack on democracy and accurately calling it a soft coup attempt, one of many. Allowing people who behave this badly to expect forgiveness encourages them to keep being as destructive,  reckless and lazy, and to assume there are no consequences for their conduct. There are, and there should be.

There is a great deal that I will forgive. Not that.

3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Here’s Friday’s Times headline: “U.S. Drops Pursuit Of Flynn, In Move Backed By Trump.” Shameful. The case was dropped because there was irrefutable evidence that it was illegal and a set-up; that it was the epitome of a wrongful and corrupt prosecution. Never mind: the Times chooses to fuel the desperate spin the AUC (“Axis of Unethical Conduct”) is trying to put on this despite unequivocal evidence and documentation. This is a cover-up by Barr and Trump! Except it isn’t. But the New York Times, the self-proclaimed paragon of American journalism, is using its reputation and visibility to deceive Americans that it is.

I’m not forgiving or forgetting this, either.

4. I finally watched “The Post,” the star-studded film hymn to the glory of our newsmedia that recounts the mostly accurate tale of how the Washington Post and the Times published the Pentagon Papers.  The movie is dominated by progressive Hollywood icons Tom Hanks ( as Ben Bradley) and Meryl Streep (as Katherine Graham). The problem is that it falsely conveys to audiences—and, I believe, was intended to convey—the propaganda that the the Post and the Times are still serving the interests of the nation, the public and democracy by their relentless, courageous and objective search for the truth. As the entire “collusion” debacle proved, they are not (if they ever were). Let’s assume for the sake of argument that was what print journalism was like when the Pentagon Papers were published….in 1971. That was 50 years ago, a full half-century. Today’s journalism is as materially different from journalism then as today’s entertainment, drug laws, sexual mores and fashion would be  unrecognizable to a Seventies time-traveler.

Democrats Now Stand With Bill Maher On Tara Reade And Joe Biden, Which Tells Us All We Need To Know About #MeToo And Democrats

Former actress Rose McGowan, an alleged Harvey Weinstein rape victim, among the most dedicated #MeToo advocates, and a pariah in Hollywood for her penchant for calling out harassers (like Ben Affleck) and grandstanding hypocrites (like Alyssa Milano), directly accused Bill Maher of sexual harassment yesterday in a tweet:

This won’t trouble Maher or presumably his fans and viewers, because Maher has made it crystal clear for his entire, ugly career as a clown nose on/ clown nose off pundit that he doesn’t see anything wrong with sexual harassment. He believes women exist on earth for his convenience and pleasure. He is a pure misogynist, who has repeatedly called women who don’t conform to his ideological cast “cunts” and “twats” (as his audience guffaws). When Bill Clinton was battling through Monica Madness, Maher opined that Clinton should have said, ‘Yeah, I had sex with an intern, and I deserve to, because I’m President!” (Maher wasn’t kidding, just as Clinton  wasn’t kidding when he essentially confirmed Maher’s assumption by writing in his autobiography that he exploited Lewinsky “because he could.”) It goes without saying that Maher also thinks that #MeToo is a crock.

And I guess, based on so many of its vocal  supporters’ words and conduct recently, he must be right.

Do I believe that Maher said what McGowan claims? The former “Scream” star is perpetually furious, but she has also been consistently honest. Maher used (and probably still uses) his panels as a dating bar (Rose was really hot in the 90s), and his quote sounds like something he might say to an attractive  female guest; heck, he’s said worse on the air. Bill hasn’t responded yet; I bet that if he does, he’ll say something like, “Sure, I said it. Why shouldn’t I? It’s true!” And his peanut gallery will cheer.

This brings us to Maher’s pronouncement on his show last week regarding the Tara Reade accusation, which she elaborated on in a graphic interview with former NBC News and Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly last week. Continue reading

Saturday Afternoon Ethics Excursion, 5/9/2020: Putting The Wrong Thing On A Ritz [13 Typos Fixed!]

Hi!

1. Now THIS is incompetence...The makers of Ritz crackers have issued a nationwide recall of mislabeled Ritz cracker boxes after discovering that some packages labeled cheese really contained pairs of crackers with peanut butter between them, according to a statement posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s website yesterday.

Oops!

Fortunately, almost all Ritz fans regularly check the Food and Drug administration site.

2.  In the category of “professionals embarrassing themselves,” I offer this: Len Niehoff is a “Professor from Practice at the University of Michigan Law School” according to the editors at the Detroit Free Press. This is a bad start: I don’t know what a “professor from Practice” is. I assume they meant he teaches legal practice, or trial practice. Obviously they have no more understanding of law than the average guppy, which also explains why they published the professor’s article titled, “Law professor: Virus reveals we all need a class in evidence.” He begins,

“Numerous public officials and individuals have made dreadful decisions about how to assess and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19. Those errors reveal a fundamental flaw in our K-12 and collegiate education systems. We have failed to teach a subject of critical importance, and as a result have imperiled our health, our economy, and our republic. We teach it in law school. We call it Evidence.”

Hilariously, in his essay about evidence, the professor doesn’t  offer a single piece of evidence indicating any of that assertion is correct, or might be correct. He does offer, without evidence, statements like, “National and local political leaders have made decisions that ignored the evidence. Members of the general public have proved slow to accept the evidence. Measures adopted to help flatten the curve have been met with virulent protests, despite the evidence that they are working.”  Really? What is your evidence for those propositions? Those are opinions, not evidence.

Moreover, the rules of evidence he is extolling are specifically designed for trials, which involve very specialized forms of decision-making. Hearsay evidence, for example, is generally inadmissible in a trial, but in many other activities, it is valuable. Similarly, trials settle generally narrow issues. We don’t use trials, or juries, to settle more complex issues like “how long should we shut down the economy to minimize the effects of a pandemic?” The professor seems to be laboring under the delusion that it is clear what is and what isn’t relevant to such decisions.

One of my benighted Facebook friends posted this thing on Facebook as if it was meaningful. It is useful for one purpose: it is strong evidence for the proposition that if the only tool one has is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

3. Ringer ethics. In a famous 1992 episode of “The Simpsons,” evil nuclear power tycoon Montgomery Burns’ stacks his Springfield Nuclear Power Plant baseball squad with major league baseball players for the league championship game. Using “ringers” in such situations is unethical (but often permitted due to rules loopholes), but here is a story about something akin to Mr. Burns’ cheat that nobody seemed to mind.

In the late 1980s, a softball team known as Spike & Fat Boy was entered in a local softball beer league. The team included three active major leaguers, Kevin Mitchell, John Kruk and Randy Ready. Not only did they displace the regular players when they showed up (“You talk about pressure on a manager,” the team’s skipper says now, “What could I do? I had to put those guys in the lineup!”) and the three hit exactly as you would expect them to.

Says Ready, “We didn’t lose a single game. It was domination.”

Gee. What an achievement.

4. Laws and social distancing are for the little people. Great Britain had a juicy scandal when Neil Ferguson, a prominent  epidemiologist who advised the UK government on its pandemic response and  warned that it was possible that 500,000 British citizens  would perish if the  lockdown was disobeyed,  defied the lockdown himself (and obviously social distancing <cough>) in a rendezvous with his married lover.  He was caught, shamed, and resigned his government post. Opines Spiked in a tough editorial, the episode is significant in that it reveals

“…a great deal about the 21st-century elites and how they view their relationship with the masses. It’s one rule for them and another for us. They can carry on enjoying sneaky freedoms because their lives and jobs are important; we can’t because we are mere little people, whose silly work lives can casually be disrupted, whose love lives can be turned upside down, and whose families can be ripped apart. The Ferguson affair provides an illuminating insight into the new elitism..Ferguson’s scaremongering, his predictions of mass death if society didn’t close itself down, was the key justification for the lockdown in the UK. It influenced lockdowns elsewhere, too…Anyone who questioned the wisdom of the lockdown, or merely suggested it should be very brief, would find themselves being battered by Ferguson’s figures. Almost overnight it became tantamount to blasphemy to question these models…. It was the political class’s dodging of moral responsibility for tackling Covid without destroying the economy, and the media’s searing intolerance towards anyone who questioned the lockdown, which led to the ossification of his models into tablets of stone that you queried at your peril.”

Sound familiar?

The U.S. has had its Fergusons too. Senior White House adviser and First Daughter Ivanka Trump traveled from D.C. to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey to celebrate Passover, though she had posted social media videos urging “those lucky enough to be in a position to stay at home, please, please do so.”  Michelle Obama lectured Americans to stay home as her husband was putting on the golf course.  Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot had  her hair done by a salon stylist while demanding that citizens of her city eschew such frivolous services. The mayor of Beaumont Texas locked her town down, then went to a nail salon. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio put gyms on his “non-essential” business list, then went to one to work out.  Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell and his wife attended his grandson’s birthday party (using county resources in the process, a nice touch ) after ordering residents to stay home amid the Wuhan virus outbreak.  I do not doubt that plenty of other examples exist showing our betters behaving similarly, just  more discretely.

Sentiments like this, from Amy Johnson at Lifezette, are consistent with Spiked’s editor across the pond:

The global elites really do think they’re better than us. They’re riding high and mighty, collecting their paychecks and visiting their mistresses, as they lecture to us from their golden pedestals. Meanwhile, small business owners are watching what they’ve toiled and sacrificed for years to build crumble, as they and others deemed “non-essential” wonder how they’ll feed their families tonight.

Progressives, who increasingly sound like they want another Depression—all the better to “re-engineer society” (and, of course, defeat Donald Trump) , deride such assessments in the news media and social media as “right-wing conspiracy theories.”

Talk about evidence!