Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Sunday Ethics Round-Up, 1/20/2019: Blogging Angry

Yeeee-hah!

I’ve been angry all day about the absolute perfidy and vicious dishonesty of the news media, magnified by the hate-fed gullibility of my friends on social media. I wanted to wait until my fury subsided before composing the warm-up. No luck.

1. The most egregious example of incompetent, biased, mob journalism yet? Meh. That story of how online left-wing gossip site BuzzFeed concocted a fake report that suggested impeachable conduct by Donald Trump, and how it was accepted without question by the mainstream media which spent all day feeding a buzz about imminent impeachment until the Mueller investigation had to make a public announcement that the story was crap? The New York Times had it on page 11. The original false story, of course, was on the front page, above the fold. Just for giggles, I checked to see what Rachel Maddow was saying at MSNBC, since she is supposed to be the Best of the Worst, and MSNBC had been reveling in a virtual impeachment orgy. I guess she has been learning at the knee of Al Sharpton; maybe his office is next to hers. She went full Tawana Brawley. Rachel’s spin was that just because this didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldnt have happened, because we all know that Trump should be impeached and thus this doesn’t really change anything. Then she brought on the editor of BuzzFeed who told her audience that he stands by his story.

I’ve been feeling a lot like Cassandra lately. Long ago I concluded that Maddow was a charismatic fraud, smug and pursuing an agenda, and completely untrustworthy. “Oh no!” protested several of my moderate and progressive friends in the ethics field. She’s wonderful! Funny! Fair! Never biased!

One reason I’m angry is that so many of my friends have allowed themselves and their integrity to be corrupted. I expected better of them. Maddow is an ethics corrupter.

2. Then there was the Catholic schoolboy in the MAGA hat. This was a flash Ethics Train wreck I stumbled upon it on Facebook: one of my friends there posted a CNN link with a video about an ugly episode after the March for Life in which a group of Catholic school teens wearing MAGA hats harassed and mocked an elderly Native American man who was engaged in some kind of religious ritual. In response to a comment, my friend wrote that this was one more ugly example of what the current “racist environment” had created—in other words, it’s all Trump’s fault. Since the guy is in a profession in which integrity as well as objective and unbiased consideration of facts is part of the job description, I felt this cheap shot was not only unwarranted but misleading to others who might regard him as more than just the usual Facebook goof, and so I noted that a) wearing a Trump campaign cap doesn’t make you racist and b) because someone misbehaves wearing a Trump hat no more implicates him than wearing a Boston Red Sox cap implicated Alex Cora. His response was to write me a terse note demanding that I not comment on his edicts, and then he blocked me.

That turned out to be just  the beginning. I hadn’t followed it, but the story turned out to be yet another manufactured fake news story in support of an anti-Trump narrative. The video was deceptively edited. The Native American Man confronted the kids, not the other way around, and a couple of them smirked at the old wacko beating a drum in their faces. He turned out to be a serial activist who had pulled such stunts before, trying to provoke confrontations. He, it turned out, was mocking the boys, not the other way around. Meanwhile, a radical Black Nationalist group was also shouting at the kids. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/19: It’s Fake News Day!

Welcome to the Ethics Alarms Dead Zone!

Increasingly, almost nobody comes here on Saturdays. For me, Saturday is when I have time to catch up on ethics issues, and that’s fun for me. Everybody else doesn’t find ethics fun? How strange…

1. Another day, another fake news story designed to thrill and energize the “resistance.” BuzzFeed published a “bombshell” about Michael Cohen, that impeccably reliable witness, telling investigators that President Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about his pre-election hotel plans—odd that, since there is nothing illegal about planning to build a hotel in Moscow. Without checking sources, without considering the media source’s record of those of the reporters (one of whom has a well-documented pattern of making stuff up), the mainstream media was off to the impeachment races, with CNN and MSNBC in particular talking about almost nothing else all day.  Then, as the day edged into evening, the Mueller investigation dropped its own bombshell, taking the remarkable step of declaring the BuzzFeed story a lot of hooey.  Some pundits on the Right who trust today’s incompetent news media as much as I do even suggested that BuzzFeed knew its claim was false all along, but were confident that nobody could prove it except the Mueller investigation itself, and of course it would never speak up. The same logic was behind Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes autobiography hoax (Irving assumed that the reclusive Hughes would never come forward to expose him—but he did.)

The Daily Caller quickly compiled a list of eleven previous botched news reports related to the “collusion” narrative, and it was not all of them by any means. I haven’t checked, but I am quite sure that there were not this many mainstream media headline-generating news stories that proved to be false in the past ten Presidencies combined. What will it take for the industry to declare its performance a crisis? What will it take for even the “resistance” to conclude that their pals the journalists are hacks? Blogger Ann Althouse is so disgusted that she has taken to drawing rat cartoons and diagramming the sentences in anti-Trump screeds. “How embarrassing for the Trump haters,” she writes. “I didn’t even write about the BuzzFeed story myself. I’m so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.”

Why isn’t everybody? It isn’t just bias that makes you stupid. Hate makes you stupid too. Worse than that, it makes you LOOK stupid.

Entertaining accounts of the BuzzFeed fiasco are here and here. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/18/2019: “The Pussy-Grabber Plays,” And More

1. The Comment Of The Day That Wasn’t. An aspiring troll calling himself “Alan P Siegfried, PharmD” attempted to post a debut comment on “Prophesy Confirmed: SNL And Our Nation Of Assholes,” which concerned Saturday Night Live mocking the war wounds of then candidate, now Congressman Dan Crenshaw as part of a campaign of ad hominem attacks on Republican. I considered making the post a Comment of the Day, as I have in the past with especially amusing rants, but it’s not that funny. I am going to reproduce it here, though, first, to provide another example of the kind of approach that the Comment Policies explicitly warn against. You don’t get leave to comment here by insulting me or condescending to your host, much as I am in thrall to the wisdom of pharmacists. I don’t know how someone can think that it is ethical to enter a house and immediately to start vomiting on the furniture, but commenters who do think that aren’t going to be tolerated. I also thought the attempted comment would be instructive on the question of why the current imbalance between commenters on the Left and Right here or late. Recent progressives have been arriving sneering and spitting; new moderate and conservative oriented readers have been acceptably civil. Why is that, I wonder? Here is the post, and my comments follow intermittently:

How many adults did you see ‘roll with laughter?’

This is called “a bad start.” I wrote that the mockery of Crenshaw by snickering Pete Davidson had the SNL barking progressive seals roaring with laughter, which it did. The first line also was signature significance, apparently suggesting that the vicious disrespect of a wounded veteran was mitigated if the laughter was muted. “Ah!” I say, when a comment begins like this. “An idiot!”

Or is that conjecture from a big city gal who dine went and lost touch with reality??

Wait—I’m a “big city gal”? I don’t even identify as one. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/17/19: The “Why?” Edition

WHY is it a good morning?

1. Why are some people missing their ethics alarms? A family member owned a horse as a pet, and when the horse got old and infirm sold it to a slaughterhouse for dog food. This caused a long-running rift with the Alexandria branch of the Marshall clan, in which my wife will capture spiders and gently release them into the wild while singing “Born Free.” However, the family horse-trader is a saint compared to Fallon Danielle Blackwood, 24, a veterinary student in Alabama, who offered shelter for rescue horses only to profit by secretly selling the animals to Mexican slaughterhouses.   She was arrested on a similar charge last year in North Carolina.

Though the current charges involve just  13 horses, Stolen Horse International, a nonprofit that helps find lost or stolen horses, says Blackwood may be behind the disappearance of dozens more. Her MO was to  reach out to those in need of help caring for their horses and offer the equines  a loving home at her farm near Boaz, Alabama.

Well, I hear veterinary school is expensive…

2. Why do the news media and the public let Democrats get away with the “immoral and ineffective” talking point? I discussed this in detail here. The latest to use the self-contradictory rhetoric was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), who denounced President Donald Trump’s “quest for a racist and sinful big wall” between the U.S. and Mexico during a speech on the House floor, and followed up with a tweet calling the wall “hateful and ineffective.” Now it’s “sinful” to enforce the borders, is it? How does someone make the argument that border security is “racist” and simultaneously claim that they are in favor of border security? If trying to keep illegal immigrants out is sinful and racist, how can the claim that border security is desirable be anything but hypocrisy?

This argument depends on listeners not paying attention, being complicit in an open borders strategy, or having the IQ of a mollusk.

3. Why do people this inept keep getting elected to Congress? At a Washington reception billed as a “celebration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (API) members of the 116th Congress,” Hawaii Democratic Rep. Ed Case said that he felt like “an Asian trapped in a white body.” How awful! Trapped in a white body! Yechh! Pooie!

Pandering to racists is a bi-partisan activity, especially in the Aloha State, where hostility to whites is open and palpable. Continue reading

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The Lawyer Version Of “The Hader Gotcha”

“GOTCHA!”

My legal ethics colleagues have their briefs in a bunch over a case in which an enterprising news media reporter dredged up old, old —but scintillating!—professional discipline on two lawyers taking on the defense of a much-hated defendant in a sensational and heinous crime.

One had been suspended for taking client money, but was eventually reinstated. The other had been reprimanded for having a sexual relationship with a client. The idea, of course, was to make the lawyers look bad. The issue is whether this is a fair use of attorney discipline, especially in the latter case.

The episode is similar to the Hader Gotcha, which we have discussed here several times, in which deep social media divers look for embarrassing youthful social media posts from the past, even from teen years, to use to turn the public against the individual, or at least to force the target to grovel an apology. It is also similar to the Brett Kavanaugh hit from Dr. Blasey-Ford, though I doubt this would occur to my overwhelmingly “woke” legal ethicist friends.

The lawyer raising the issue represents attorneys faced with disciplinary complaints, and asks why this is happening, feels that it is unfair, since the discipline wasn’t recent and had nothing to do with the current case, and thinks it is wrong that the reporter didn’t bother to talk to the bar association or the lawyers themselves to get proper context. He also asks whether anything can be done about it, including, perhaps, not publicizing some varieties of lawyer discipline.

The lawyer also asks,

Do I need to warn my clients that a collateral consequence of discipline is that if they ever take a high-profile case, the press might dredge up old dirt when covering the case?

This is too easy:

  • Welcome to the internet age! No, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this, except to create a more ethical culture of journ…sorry, I couldn’t get that out without laughing.
  • The legal profession has never been able to explain to the public, and apparently not to journalists either, though they should be less ignorant, that representing accused criminals and guaranteeing even guilty citizens their rights isn’t an adverse reflection on a lawyers’ character. As a result, someone will always think it’s fun, justified and fair to look for dirt in a defense lawyer’s personal or professional past. Thanks to the web, it’s easier than ever.
  • Yes, you need to warn your clients. I’m surprised you weren’t doing so already.
  • And it’s not just legal discipline. Anything potentially embarrassing that can be found on the web, including social media posts [Lawyers: Don’t use Twitter!] can and will be dug up and weaponized.
  • As a result, past discipline, and any other potentially embarrassing information about a lawyer now falls into Rule 1.4 territory, information the client has a right to know and must be informed about in order to participate in his or her own case.
  • No, all lawyer discipline should be reported. The public has a right to know.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/19: Blacks With White Privilege, A Home Trump Derangement Test, Defending “Hamilton,” And More…

Got up on the wrong side of the bed today..

…and trying to recover.

1. Finally! The Ultimate Trump Derangement Home Test! This is wonderful, and we owe a debt to CNN for making this available. NeverTrump neocon Max Boot, who has been a “rseistance” ally since the 2016 election and who also writes op-eds for the Washington Post, presented this hilarious—but don’t tell anyone you are using the to test hilarious—visual aid to his recent Post screed:

Isn’t that great? I initially thought it was a Saturday Night Live parody, but how could that be, when SNL is all Trump Derangement All The Time itself? All you have to do is show this to a suspected TDS sufferer, and wait for the response. Hearty laughter followed by something along the lines of,” Wow! I didn’t think even CNN would stoop this low, but there it is!”, and you know your friend or family member has escaped the jaws of madness. If the subject’s reaction is to point and shout, “See! See! I told you the election was rigged!”, then it’s time for cold compresses and a 911 call.

Once again, I miss the fevered passion of the self-exiled Trump Deranged commenters on Ethics Alarms, to see exactly how far gone they are, if they are. Hilarity was bound to ensue.

I was tempted to do a whole post showing how every one of Boot’s “reasons” are strained circumstantial evidence at best or utter nonsense at worst, but two words, “confirmation bias,” pretty much covers it, along with a third, “desperation.” Meanwhile, just as self-amusement, I’m working on the list of reasons why Max Boot might be a Russian agent. So far I have Dilbert’s Scott Adams’ observation that while the pitiful Russian fake news on social media couldn’t divide the country, hysterical anti-Trump conspiracy theorists are doing a good job serving Russian interests by undermining the Presidency; Max’s “Boot” code name, which evokes George Orwell’s’ famous metaphor for Communist totalitarianism; and that Curly Howard hair cut, the choice of international anti-democracy villains in James Bond films,  “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” TV’s “The Black List” and everything in between.

That’s only three, though. Suggestions welcome.

2. Is this good news or bad news? “Family Guy,” Seth McFarland’s nastier, cheaper, uglier rip-off of “The Simpsons,” has announced that it will be “phasing out” homophobic jokes. It’s certainly good news if this includes the disgusting and unfunny running gag about the old man next door to “The Family Guy” who has sexual designs on Peter’s idiot son, I guess. The problem is that the only feature of “The Family Guy” that made its intentionally tasteless and offensive humor excusable was that the show was cruel and unfair to everyone, pretty much equally. If the show is now bowing to victim-group pressure, how long will it be before its only targets are white men, conservatives, Fox News and Donald Trump?

If McFarland and the show are now afraid of being politically incorrect when political incorrectness is a career death sentence for everyone else, then it should just kill the show, rather than wander the airwaves hollowed out and submissive like the brainwashed Winston Smith at the end of “1984.”

Oh-oh. Second Orwell reference already today… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/2019: I Am Cleopatra!

Good morning, Ethics Lovers!

1. Coming attractions. Rep. Steve King is now officially a human ethics train wreck, but boy, it would be nice if we could trust the news media. I will be writing a full post on this matter soon, but in the meantime, if someone can find me the full text of the alleged “interview” with the Times that generated King’s infamous “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” statement, I would be very happy. The link used by all sources reporting on the interview and its aftermath, including the link used by the Times, goes to Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics.”

But that’s not an interview! It’s an anti-King hit piece. I wanted to see the context of King’s remark, like, say, the question that evoked it. Is that too much to ask? All we get, however, is this:

Mr. King, in the interview, said he was not a racist. He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)

At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

That’s telling us about the interview, not the interview itself, and doing so while poisoning the well. More later. However, the fact that the Times won’t provide the unredacted interview itself is troubling.

2. Trump Tweets. Finally I can compliment a good one. This morning the President said, in the climax of a tweet, “They got caught spying on my campaign and then called it an investigation.” I’m critical of Trump’s communications skills, but you can’t do better than that. I also strongly suspect that he is correct. Continue reading

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