Flashback By Popular Demand, From The Ethics Alarms Archive: “Vintage Fake News: The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock”

Doomsday clock showing 3 minutes to midnight

I had completely forgotten that today is the day the Barry McGwire Fan Club or whatever the scientists who maintain the so-called Doomsday Clock call themselves behind closed doors reveal how close we are to destruction this time. From the Hill:

The famed Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight this year, the closest it’s ever been to the metaphorical point of the Earth’s destruction. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled this year’s setting for the clock at a news conference Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“Speaking of danger and destruction is never easy. If you speak the truth, people will not want to listen because it’s too awful. It makes you sound like a crackpot,” said former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), executive chairman of the Bulletin.

“Today we live in a world of vast, deep and pervasive complacency,” Brown added. “Even if there is a one-in-100 chance that these men and women before you are correct and we are truly in a dangerous moment, you would never know that from the president, from Republican leadership and from Democratic leadership.”

What a great job for Jerry Brown! Anyway, I had also forgotten that I had posted about this silliness in 2017, not long after President Trump had been sworn in, but several readers had not, and I received several reminders today. I went back and read the post, and it seemed appropriate to re-post it.

One update: at the end, I note that WWII songstress Vera Lynn, whose iconic rendition of the ballad “We’ll Meet Again” accompanied atom bombs exploding at the end of “Dr. Strangelove,” was 100 years old, and still singing. Well, I’m thrilled to report that Vera is now 102 , and she’s STILL singing. Here she is:

Take THAT, Doomsday!

***

I’m sure you have noticed that the scary Doomsday Clock, which tells us how long we have until “midnight,” aka. nuclear Armageddon, has been on the move again.

NBC News recently announced that the dreaded Clock was ticking like the soundtrack of “24 Hours, proclaiming: “Thirty seconds closer to global annihilation!”   The New York Times, which now averages at least eight “President Trump is a menace to civilization!!! ARGGH!!!” columns, editorials or news stories every…single…day, duly announced, “Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight.” Across the pond, the UK’s Independent stated as fact, “We’re closer to doom than any time since the Cold War!”

Why? Because the Doomsday Clock says so!

Can we officially make that “The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock?” This has to be the most useless and malfunctioning timepiece in recorded history.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day: this damn thing is never right.

The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists dreamed the gimmick up back in 1947 , and its initial setting was “seven minutes to midnight” as in…

What sense did it make to have a clock already set at seven minutes to 12? Why wasn’t it at least a seven-minute stopwatch? What was its setting during the Black Plague? Did the dinosaurs have a Doomsday Clock? Did a wise Diplodocus and a precocious Stegasaurus see a meteor coursing through the Jurassic skies and conclude, “Oh oh. Eventually one of those is going to land here, and we’re all toast. Move the Doomsday Clock to 80 million years before midnight, let’s settle our affairs, and tell the rest of the gang that the mammals are coming…”?

The group of egg-heads devising the clock explained that it symbolized ” the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine’s founders—and the broader scientific community—are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world.” OK, I can see that as a minor, fear-mongering news item in 1947—kind of like the climate change hysteria is now—but I would also say that when a group describes a peril as urgent and it hasn’t urged in 70 years, that isn’t just old news, it isn’t newsworthy at all. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Alternate History Ethics

In 2017, “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced that HBO  would carry their new original series “Confederate,” an alternate history show taking place in  an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War, creating a new nation in which slavery remains legal and continues as a modern institution. (yes, presumably they knew this was unlikely, bordering on impossible. )Their release added, “The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

While I generally dislike alternate history fiction (unless it involves extravagant revenge on unequivocal villains, like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,)” the genre, done well, has the potential to be enlightening and provocative, like Amazon’s The Man in the High Tower,” a series based on Philip K. Dick’s novel about a world in which Germany and Japan defeated the U.S. in World War II.

Now, however,  we learn:

…. HBO president Casey Bloys officially confirms to TVLine that the…long-gestating, controversial slavery drama Confederate will not be moving forward.

The 2017 announcement was greeted by the same people who want to see all statues of slave-holders and Confederate soldiers melted down (and the Confederate flag regarded with the same revulsion as the Nazi swastika) as a dangerous white supremacy plot. Benioff and Weiss even felt they had to make it clear in interviews that they knew “slavery was wrong.” Here’s an example of the social media brickbats the announcement of the series spawned in 2017: Continue reading

A Fake News Story About Fake News!

The New York Times end-of-year whine about how mean President Trump has been to the news media was headlined (in the print edition), “Trump Attacked News Media Even More in 2019.” That’s an assertion of fact. What does it mean? Well, the first sentence of the story reads, “On Twitter, President Trump deployed the phrase “fake news” 273 times this year — 50 percent more often than he did in 2018.” Is calling a story published by the news media “fake news” an “attack”? What if the story is objectively false or misleading as most—not all, but most—of those in question were?

For example, last week MSNBC aired an Iranian state media claim that the second round of rocket attacks on U.S. military installments in Iraq killed 30 U.S. soldiers, and that “we have just stepped over the precipice.” That’s irresponsible and lousy journalism. MSNBC hadn’t checked the claim, it just rushed it on the air. I don’t want to hear the Clintonian rationalizations that this wasn’t technically fake news, because the report was that the Iranians were saying that the 30 soldiers had been killed. It was a false report; it was misleading; it would upset the families of servicemen in the area (one journalist criticized it as “journo-terrorism”), and there was no excuse for it. If this kind of unprofessional hackery is criticized, by me, for example, is that an attack?

Such a characterization is more fake news. The news media is constantly pushing the dishonest and self serving position that to criticize journalists for their proven ethical breaches and betrayal of their duty to keep the public informed is to attack them, ergo this is an attack on journalism itself, hence it is an attack on Freedom of the Press, therefore it is an attack on democracy itself. Calling the news media on its now near complete transformation into a left-wing propaganda machine is, they surmise, is tarred by this false characterization built on successive unwarranted leaps of logic.

Journalists appear to really believe their own fake news in this case. I hear and read it over and over again: the decline in the public’s trust in news reporting, as reflected in many surveys and polls, is President Trump’s doing, as part of his grand plan to become a dictator. (See Big Lie #3). Their narcissistic delusion that they and their profession are beyond reproach is self-evidently in direct opposition to reality: the reason for the decline of American journalism’s credibility is its own, reckless , escalating dishonest, incompetence, bias and untrustworthiness.

The article is a good example of this itself. The second sentence in the piece says that the President “demanded ‘retribution’ over a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch.” Yes, that was self-evidently stupid, but what does a late night comedy show have to do with the news media? Nothing.

The article then moves on to another Big Lie it has repeatedly advocated,  #6: “Trump’s Defiance Of Norms Is A Threat To Democracy.”

The “norm” in this case is, I guess, a President remaining passive and prostrate while most of the journalistic establishment openly allies itself with your adversaries—even foreign adversaries, like Iran— and dedicates its reporting to destroying your ability to govern. The Times writes, “Mr. Trump’s vilification of the news media is a hallmark of his tenure and a jagged break from the norms of his predecessors: Once a global champion of the free press, the presidency has become an inspiration to autocrats and dictators who ape Mr. Trump’s cry of ‘fake news.’”

Calling this a “jagged break from the norms of his predecessors” is another variety of fake news: fake history, in which the news media deliberately or incompetently makes the largely historically ignorant public more ignorant by falsely describing the past. My “favorite” example of this kind of fake news was when Presidential historian Doug Brinkley was put on the air by CNN on election night to salve the despair of Hillary supporters by explaining that America seldom elects the same party to the Presidency three terms in a row. What he said was completely wrong on the facts, not wrong as an opinion, just false. Nobody challenged him; there was no correction. Continue reading

“Megxit,” A Royal Ethics Mess That The Brits Should Have Seen Coming

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have essentially resigned from their duties as British Royals . The Duke and Duchess of Sussex—remember, Harry is one of Price William’s backups,  likely to become King, if ever, in his dotage, if at all, and only if some catastrophe befalls his his brother’s offspring.   The couple announced  on Instagram yesterday,

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

What this means is a matter of great debate, but whatever it means, it’s unethical.

Prince Harry and Meghan are members of the Royal family, who are ridiculously compensated by British taxpayers to be living flags and cultural icons of Great Britain’s days of glory long past. That’s what they are. Being members of the Royal Family are their only claim to celebrity and significance, and, to Americans and anyone else who isn’t confused, that’s one wan claim at best. The Windsors are neither especially bright nor accomplished, though Harry’s great grandfather, the last King George, did play a part in helping to defeat Hitler in World War II, and his grandmother, the apparently immortal Queen Elizabeth II has done a respectable job assisting in Great Britain’s decline from a world  power to nation whose status outweighs its power and influence.

For senior members of British royalty to declare that they will be “progressive” royals is like a Pope announcing that he’s going to be a swinger. The Royal Family isn’t progressive by definition; it’s anachronistic.  It can’t be progressive, because the only progressive approach to the Royals is to jettison them, say goodby and thanks for fish and chips, and add their vast wealth to the national treasury to pay for national health care for a few years. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2020: On The Eve Of Destruction Edition!

ARRGH! WE’RE DOOMED! DOOMED!

Just kidding.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned Barry McGwire’s hilariously overwrought rendition of P.F. Sloan’s silly lyrics before. Everyone should listen to this song every few months or so to remind them that we were pronounced doomed 55 years ago, yet here we are. The lack of historical perspective and general knowledge about the real world of geopolitics is driving so much of the over-heated laments we are hearing and reading—I think laughing is a better response that rolling one’s eyes, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise. Yes, sometimes leaders and countries have to draw red lines, and it is always best if the world believes them when they do. It never believed Barack Obama.

1. Fake news, headline-style...Yesterday, the New York Times headline, in bold,  “this is really important!!!” point type, told us that Trump’s military advisers were “stunned” at his decision to kill Iran’s head terrorist. Oh, no! His decision was surprise? Tt came out of the blue? They had recommended against it? Well, no. The story under that intentionally misleading headline says that the President was presented with several options, and the pros and cons of all were discussed. They expected him to choose one of the other options, that’s all. “Stunned” carried negative implications that the facts didn’t warrant, so naturally that’s what the Times editors chose. All the better to undermine trust in the President.

2. Not all celebrities are America-hating dolts:

Continue reading

When Statue-Toppling Is Acceptable…

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has begun the process of removing Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee  from the U.S. Capitol, where each state has a statue of two state heroes. Ethics Alarms has been uncompromising in opposing the progressive movement to remove the statues of figures past generations admired and believed worthy of memorials and honors because of their achievements. The phenomenon is the essence of the deplorable “cancel culture,” where any transgression or past conduct viewed as repugnant in the light of “presentism” or political correctness is treated as justification to airbrush their lives out of our culture and history. Slaveholding has been the ultimate trigger for such airbrushing, even when the individuals being erased made crucial contributions to our nation. That criteria endangers our Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, without whom our nation would not exist.

Lee, of course, is the fulcrum of this battle. The Confederate icon  has long been admired for his character, loyalty and courage, as well as his brilliance as a military strategist. As the Confederacy has increasingly been regarded as fighting for slavery by modern historians (though it’s more complicated than that), Lee’s own sin of owning slaves is increasingly see as being compounded by his role in fighting to preserve the process, and committing treason to do it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 1/3/2020: “Those Who Don’t Understand The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Are Doomed To Behave Like Idiots And Not Know Why”

Who said that?

I did.

1. “This is Rose. Won’t you give to help her and people life her who suffer from crippling hatred of the President of the United States? Just a few dollars a month...”

A more vivid example of where anti-Trump hysteria can lead than these two tweets can hardly be found. The author is #MeToo activist Rose McGowan, Harvey Weinstein victim, conventional Hollywood progressive. These were her reactions to the unequivocally welcome news that General Qassim Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds force and the architect of terrorism all over the Middle East, was killed by a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport:

When a social media critic correctly pointed out the lunacy of that one, the former “Charmed” actress responded,

Would it be unfair to say that “Please do not kill us” was the message conveyed by President Obama’s craven and dangerous  nuclear deal with Iran, giving the rogue state billions of dollars in exchange for a (worthless) promise not to pursue nuclear arms capability until later, at which time there would be nothing the U.S. could do about it?

I heard these kinds of sniveling, “Better Red than Dead” protests many times in my youth. They come often from people so young,  inexperienced and ignorant that their confusion can be forgiven—a little–but also from older Americans—more frequently women, unfortunately, and make of that what you will—who have somehow reached maturity without learning that everyone, but especially this unique country, has to be ready to defend their values, and just as important, has to be able to communicate clearly that we will defend those values, with terrible force if necessary.

Over the last couple of decades, a large and influential segment of the progressive community has forgotten that. Fortunately, the majority of Americans have not.

2. How it works: The fact that President Trump is at the dead bottom of the cognitive dissonance scale for most Democrats means that anything he does and any result that would normally and objectively be regarded as positive if another President, especially a Democrat and particularly Barack Obama, were responsible drags that event or decision down below the midpoint into negative territory, unless someone recognizes that their opinion is being warped by psychological forces and biases beyond their control, and adjusts appropriately. Apparently none of the Democrats who have shot off their mouths since Soleimani‘s demise have such wisdom and self-control. Thus they are beginning critical comments with statements like this tweet by Rep. Andy Levin, which was typical:

“There is no question that Qasem Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. I feel no sadness at the news of his death. But I have serious concerns about this President’s execution of a potential act of war without authorization of Congress.”

 “He was a terrible, murderous enemy of our nation and we’re fortunate he’s dead BUT” is just not a smart message.

The President gave the order that resulted in the death of the Quds Force leader after multiple attacks against Americans and American facilities in Iraq that could be traced back to Soleimani.  The Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah began the exchange  with a rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base on December 27. A U.S. contractor was killed andmany Americans and Iraqis were wounded. The Pentagon concluded that  Soleimani ordered the attack. In response, the U.S. launched airstrikes against the militia, killing 25 militiamen. Members of the militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, an invasion of  American soil. Again, the Pentagon concluded that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.” After U.S. troops forced the attackers to retreat, the President made it clear that there would be harsh consequences for the episode. There was.

Iran’s leader had tweeted that there was “nothing” the U.S. could do. What kind of American does not take satisfaction in what occurred next? My view: only those in the powerful grip of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale.

Here’s Joe Biden: Continue reading