Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.

Duh.

I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Yes, Catherine Gregory Should Be Fired”

Well, this is depressing. Is it too pessimistic? I think so. I hope so.

I wish I knew so.

Here is Michael R.’s Comment of the Day, a trenchant and timely analysis of the underlying factors that culminated in the post, Yes, Catherine Gregory Should Be Fired:

The current Democratic college faculty, journalists, and politicians have shown how dangerous the political correctness of the 80’s and 90’s was. They are the product of that philosophy embraced by the Left and the Democratic Party. People disputed how bad it was at the time, but now we see the true effects of excusing it, ignoring it, and Democrats still voting for the Left. Let’s not pretend they all just became unhinged recently because of Trump’s election. They have been this way for a long time, it is just that people excused it or denied it. Even today, every single person I know who is a Democrat STILL denies the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Why wouldn’t they, it is the same media we had 10 years ago. All the news coverage of George W. Bush was just as unreliable as the current coverage of Trump, they just weren’t as blatant as they are now (remember Dan Rather, remember the NYT and CBS fake news story on election day about weapons of mass destruction?).

In 10 years, hate speech will be illegal and hate speech will be anything the Left doesn’t like. Roughly 60% of college students, in survey after survey, already think it is illegal to express opinions they don’t like. Since about half of college students are Democrats, it suggests that ~100% of the future Democratic voters, representatives, governors, Presidents, and judges, will view it as illegal. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: C. J. Hopkins

Imagine a hard-left satirist with the perspective, courage, integrity and skill to perfectly skewer the outrageous conduct of Democrats, progressives and “the resistance” since Nov. 8, 2016, accurately explain what’s so foolish and dangerous about it, and to still be funny in the process. You have just imagined C.J. Hopkins, an expatriate American writer who deserves a round of Hallelujahs from anyone who doubted that there were still clear thinkers on the left end of the ideological spectrum, and that the only kind of satire that could survive the Trump Presidency involved Alec Baldwin.

I read Hopkins’ essay “The Year of the Headless Chicken” out loud to my wife, and we were both sick with laughter mid-way through. Congratulations and gratitude are also due Counterpunch, a progressive website that ran it.

Just a sample to whet your interest… Continue reading

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Got It, Nate: Polling Is A Fraud. NOW You Tell Us.

 

Before we find out what happens in Alabama, I want to get this issue out there.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook in part,

“When did the polling profession go to Hell? Today a Fox poll shows Roy Moore 10 pts behind, and a local Alabama poll shows him 9 pts AHEAD. I’ve never seen anything like it. Moore has been edging ahead since last week, and now he’s losing again? Why bother with polling at all, if they can’t do better than this?”

This prompted two friends to send me to 538, the realm of alleged genius stat-head Nate Silver, who was pronounced the guru of election prognostication in 2012, and who became just another false prophet after failing as miserably in 2016 as everybody else. Silver posted an thorough, honest and disturbing explanation for the discrepancy, and one that didn’t include “Fox News is lying.”

It is worth reading; must reading, really. [Here it is.] The tipping point for me was this graph…

…to which Nate responded,

“Although releasing 10 different versions of the same poll may be overkill, it illustrates the extent to which polling can be an assumption-driven exercise…”

CAN be?

What I derive from Silver’s explanation is that polling doesn’t work any more, but the news media, politicians and pollsters want us to think it does.  There is no longer a reliable way to access a fair sampling of subjects, and the biases of pollsters create either unconscious or deliberate distortions in the poll results. This was always true to some extent [ DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!] but now we are looking at a “science” that is about as reliable and trustworthy as astrology. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/11/2017: Boston, Racism, Morality And The Media’s Continuing Conspiracy

Good Morning!

1 That’s my town! Spotlight, the Boston Globe investigative team that was the focus of the Academy Award-winning film about its crucial role in exposing the  Catholic Church’s child-molestation scandal, has published the results of an investigation into racism in Boston. Nobody who lives in Boston or did for any length of time (like me) can find that the conclusion of the Spotlight team qualifies as news: Boston is an overwhelmingly white city—the whitest of all the major metropolitan areas—which may have softened its traditional hostility to African Americans, but that so far hasn’t changed the impression among its black residents that they are outsiders, and tolerated rather than welcome.

I love Boston, and would move back there in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean uprooting my life in unpleasant ways. The report, however, is depressing, for that ironic feature of the city was a blight on it when I lived there, and decades have failed to change it significantly.

2. Not “Morality Alarms”. Let me stick this in quickly.

A commenter on the most recent Comment of the Day on the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy sent in a defense of the baker’s conduct based on Scripture. I stated,

I dismiss this argument out of hand.

2000 year old biases are now called ignorance. They can be justified as of their time, but pretending nothing has changed since then is indefensible and willfully obtuse. The taboos against homosexuality were a matter of common sense when procreation was essential to a tribe’s survival. Before there was psychological research and knowledge of brain chemistry, ignorance about homosexuality was excusable, and even natural. 2000 years is a long time. There is no excuse for pretending that it isn’t, that human beings haven’t learned, that knowledge hasn’t expanded, and that ancient texts are not often dangerously and cruelly out of date.

In two follow-up comments I wrote, stitching them together,

That’s not reasoning or argument, and this blog is about ethics (what’s right?) not morality (what does God say is right?)…At some point discrimination and prejudice is still discrimination and prejudice. “The Bible says I should be prejudiced” is better, sort of, than “I just hate these people,” but it also is a cover.

Needless to say, an argument that relies entirely on the Bible is just an appeal to authority. That’s not a reasoned argument, but a declaration. Nor is it possible to argue with God, who works in mysterious ways, meaning that “but that makes no sense!” doesn’t work.

This isn’t a morality blog, and never has been. Simple as that. Continue reading

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“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t

“That’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more!”

—Popeye the Sailor, when he felt like I did while so many of my progressive friends were posting this op-ed by David Brooks.

Democratic posturing and moral outrage over Roy Moore’s support by Republicans is too much to bear. The hypocrisy and historical amnesia their caterwauling requires is truly nauseating. I could not believe that David Brooks of the Times would write about how the REPUBLICAN PARTY is rotting while the Democratic Party was wildly oscillating between defending a Congressman who had apparently harassed multiple staff members while in office because he was an “icon,” to playing the race card against its own Senator because he had been accused of conduct he denied years before he was elected, to dispensing with due process to demand that another Democratic Congressman resign, to forcing the Senator to resign (but probably only because their party controlled that State House), to forcing a vote on a shamefully contrived impeachment resolution, to all but guaranteeing the election of Moore because of revelations of the astounding sexual hypocrisy of their core allies among the news media, their key donors and their mouthpieces in Hollywood, while their bitter, losing Presidential candidate’s claim of a conspiracy to excuse her inexcusable defeat became less and less tenable as the investigation it spawned revealed itself to be incompetent and conflicted.

But the Republican Party is rotting.

Now, Ethics Alarms, unlike Brooks, unlike the Times, unlike MSNBC , unlike Hillary Clinton and unlike the Democratic party and any citizen so devoid of integrity to align with such a crew, can say the Republican Party is rotting. In fact, like Mr. Kimball would say on “Green Acres,” I will say it: the Republican Party is rotting. I can say it now because I said two years ago that it would commence rotting if it could not and would not stop Donald Trump from getting its nomination, something the party leaders had the power to do but neither the will nor the integrity. I said this, in various ways and with assorted provocation, right up to the convention.

Roy Moore? He’s minor rot, comparatively, and the Democrats don’t even honestly or competently argue what is most rotten about him. They want to concentrate on his “Deliverance,” hillbilly, low-life, dating preferences enabled by ignorant Alabama mothers forty years ago, when the man  today thinks he can defy the Supreme Court and the Constitution, thinks America was at its best under slavery, thinks women should be kept barefoot and pregnant, would love to see gays stoned to death, and wants a Christian theocracy to rule the land.

But that’s quibbling: Moore is certainly rotten, and the GOP doing anything but declaring him a human pathogen for the Senate and democracy is certainly proof of rot. Until, however, Republicans make Moore the keynote speaker in a future convention dedicated to condemning a “war on children,” I’ll handle the rot assessments, thanks, along with any other commentators, academics and citizens who didn’t spend the last, oh, half century or so extolling the likes of Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, and the Clintons.

The Democratic Party has happily celebrated, covered up and profited from rot. As Obi Wan would say, “The Rot is Strong Within Them.” Thus they are estopped from calling out rot anywhere. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/2017: Posts Collide! Journalists Self-Destruct! Women Undermine Themselves! And A Poll…

Good morning!

1  Bingo!  Amy Alkon, aka the Advice Goddess, has been staking out lonely territory as a feminist who feels the #MeToo mob and its attendant hysteria is setting the cause of women back, not advancing it. Here most recent post begins by mocking an LA Times hysteric who wrote that

“What happens when society ignores sexual assault? You get Lesotho, where girls aren’t even safe at the grocery store…”

Akon responded in part…

This sort of ridiculous hysteria — that our country is anything like a place where 19% of teenaged girls are forced to marry — makes things here cumulatively worse, not better.This is the safest, most modern, most individual rights-driven country in the world.

If you are in a profession where there’s a great deal of money and power, there are likely to be sociopaths of various stripes who will prey on you — whether you’re a man or a woman. No, sexual assault should not be ignored, but we also don’t help ourselves by turning an invitation out for a drink by a co-worker into some sort of victimization.

If it isn’t your boss trying to manipulate you into the sack when you want no such thing; if there’s no quid pro quo; if requests for a date stop when you ask for them to stop (or maybe after the second time), do you really need to identify as a victim?…

People have conflicting goals and desires. Any two people. Heterosexual men negotiate these with each other. They’re very comfortable with it — as am I, no matter what sex or sexuality you are or have. If one person isn’t holding the other down or saying “fuck me, or you lose your job…” …If there’s merely a need for a mild rebuff (like, “Sorry, I don’t date co-workers), well, this seems to me like a normal part of adult life.

I predict two things from the current hysteria (where, say, a stolen kiss from a drunken co-worker is equated with Harvey Weinsteining and may even be seen as a firing offense):

1. Employers will think twice about hiring women, especially when they have the option of hiring a commensurately qualified male.

2. Men will start seeing escort workers in larger numbers than ever, and it will become more acceptable than it’s ever been to pay for sex.

2. Who will save journalism, and when will it admit is needs saving? Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel‏ mocked the President for declaring his Florida rally “packed to the rafters” last week. Wiegel’s tweet included a picture of a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center.This was, it turned out, a mistake, but also a mistake brought about by confirmation bias, sloppiness, and hostility to the President. Once again, the news media handed the President the ammunition to discredit it, as it deserves to be discredited.Trump tweeted after the rally...

“@DaveWeigel WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in…Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!”

Weigel apologized, tweeting,

“Sure thing: I apologize…Was confused by the image of you walking in the bottom right corner…It was a bad tweet on my personal account, not a story for Washington Post. I deleted it after like 20 minutes. Very fair to call me out.”

Weigel is a well-known Washington Post reporter, and the fact that he botched this in his own name rather than the Post’s doesn’t diminish its harm to the credibility of the already reeling news media one whit. The apology was nice, but it was also unavoidable. While Trump certainly has primed journalist skepticism with his adversarial relationship to reality, reporters are supposed to be professionals, and leaping to conclusions without confirmation or sufficient evidence isn’t professional, or worthy of public trust. Fact: Weigel would not have done this to Barack Obama.

Weigel’s gaffe was minor compared to CNN’s fiasco the day before, or the Brian Ross episode at ABC, but it deserves to be considered as part of the same pathology. Wrote Glenn Reynold on his blog today,

In attempting to “denormalize” Trump, they’ve denormalized themselves. If they simply reported fairly and accurately, without their screamingly obvious bias, they’d be able to do him much more damage. But they can’t help themselves.

Bingo. They can’t help themselves, and the ethics alarms when bias looms just don’t sound. Today the New York Times has a front page story, complete with a creepy photo of the President, featuring a long, insulting quote from Nancy Pelosi about how “unprepared” Trump was for the job. Oddly, nobody thought, “Wait, did we publish anything like this about the most unqualified President elected up to that  point? You know, the last one?”
Continue reading

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