Not Just An Unethical Statement, But An Unbelievable One: The New York Times

There’s nothing quite like starting the day with a head explosion.

A New York Times story today about the start of Sarah Palin’s libel suit against the New York Times—Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest?—contained this astounding statement:

The Times has denied those allegations, rebutting the notions that it would ever knowingly print something false…

The thrust of the Times objective, unbiased analysis of the lawsuit against the Times is that “Ms. Palin’s evidence is weak,” but she might win anyway, thus creating one more danger to democracy by weakening freedom of the press.

The evidence is weak? The Supreme Court decision in The New York Times Company v. Sullivan held that for public officials to prove defamation, they had to show not only that a news story was false and harmed their reputation, but that the story resulted from “actual malice,” involving printing a claim or allegation with “reckless disregard for the truth” or knowing it was false. Palin is suing because a Times editorial in 2017 stated that when Rep. Gabriel Giffords was shot by a lunatic in 2011, the crime had “clear[ly]“ been incited by a map circulated by  Palin’s political action committee showing 20 congressional districts that Republicans were hoping to win, including the one held by Giffords, labeled by stylized cross hairs. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Jaunts, 1/22/2022: Feeling Much Better, Thanks!

Just a bit of fatigue hanging on from whatever it was that laid me low this week, so now I have no excuse at all for all these half-done posts lying around…

1. Here’s a Lack Of Self-Awareness classic from the Huffington Post: “My Gentle, Intelligent Brother Is Now A Conspiracy Theorist And His Beliefs Are Shocking.”

To begin with, writer Sue Manchester’s “intelligent brother” doesn’t sound very intelligent, since she says he believes that

“…there’s a tunnel from Washington, D.C., to LA that takes half an hour on a bullet train. There’s a whole fucking society that lives underground. In Australia, there’s [a tunnel] all the way around the continent and it’s being used for human trafficking and organ harvesting and basically using human beings like cattle. JFK found out about it 50 years ago, and it’s taken 50 years to drive them out”

Not to be nit-picky, but 50 years ago JFK had been dead for 9 years, and Bro sounds to me like he needs psychiatric help. Sis, however, uses him as a symbol of all conservatives, and after blaming his delusions on cognitive dissonance, tries to slip a cognitive dissonance trick by the reliably woke and deranged Huffington Post readers, writing that  “leaders who spread conspiracy theories to the ‘captive minds’ of their followers.. take[s] pleasure in both self-aggrandizement and the destruction of others….” like Hitler and Jim Jones and guess who? Yes, Donald Trump, of course, all who “appeal to masses of people who feel powerless, deprived and downtrodden…terrifying half of us but emboldening the other half.” It soon becomes evident that Manchester just subscribes to different imaginary theories than her brother, like the belief that the National Rifle Association employs “fear and conspiracy and hatred of ‘the other'” to “drive and win political races, as well as drive record sales of unhealthy firearms” like all those “automatic weapons” flooding the streets. Winchester tells us she (unlike her brother) is “balanced” because she’s a Libra…yes, she believes in Astrology. Her conspiracy addled brother, in contrast, believes that the news media hides things from the public! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask”

What follows is Null Pointer’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask”.

The Introduction to it is here.

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The media transformation from relatively accurate reporting to lying about everything has been a sight to behold. It was an incremental process that started with bias and evolved into just making stuff up.

The media started out by omitting a fact or two they didn’t like from coverage. No need to confuse anyone with extraneous data that might be interpreted wrongly. The media has a duty to keep people informed with easily interpretable information.

This bias led to the next bias stage, which entailed neglecting to cover stories that were inconvenient to a narrative. People don’t need to know everything. They only need to know the important things. If you report unimportant things, people might get distracted from the important things. The media has a duty to keep people informed of all the important things and they cannot do that if people are distracted by unimportant things.

Then the media started adding opinions to straight news articles and presenting them as fact so people wouldn’t get confused. You have to explain to people why the facts they are looking at don’t say what a normal person would think they say, you see. It is important to be clear. Clarity is important when informing people of things! You cannot just tell people the facts, you need to explain them. Otherwise people might have opinions that conflict with the truth. Then they might question the truth, and questions lead to confusion and misinformation. Confused, misinformed people don’t know the truth. The media has a duty to inform people of the truth. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask” (Introduction)

This is a little different: I’m going to take up an entire post with the introduction to Null Pointer’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask.”

This is because the topic of his comment, the gradual devolution of American journalism into what he describes as a continuous slippery slope into complete fiction with an agenda, dovetails so conveniently with a post I was already in the process of writing. “Why not invent a source and say what you think they ought to say?” Null asks. “Then, once you are making stuff up, why not go one step further and just start printing whatever you can imagine? Who cares about the actual truth?”

The fact is that journalists increasingly do not care about “the actual truth.” They no longer see that as the mission of journalism. They see journalism as a tool for social change and political virtue, and feel justified and empowered in doing all all of what Null Pointer describes to that end.

Ted Koppel, the iconic host of ABC’s “Nightline,” has been one of the few voices from broadcast news to try to expose the damage being done by progressive media bias. His opportunities to do so to a large audience have been few: compare the number of times you have seen Koppel opine on the state of journalism compared to Dan Rather, an advocate for manipulated facts for “the greater good,” meaning Progressive Utopia. In 2019 Koppel declared that Trump was “not mistaken” in his belief that the liberal media is “out to get him”—hardly a “Eureka!” worthy observation, but one that Left continues to deny—while it holds one-sided hearings in an investigation designed to find some way to lock Trump up before he can run for President.

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Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask

Compared to the above mass fake news about mass graves that have not, in fact, been verified, NPR’s bit of false reporting on Supreme Court intrigue seems trivial, and is. NPR’s longtime liberal-leaning Supreme Court reporter impugned Democratic Party boogie man Neil Gorsuch—He stole Merrick Garland’s seat!—by writing that Mean Neil was trying to kill Justice Sotomayor ( who “has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death” from the Wuhan virus) or something, because he refused to wear a mask despite Justice Roberts “asking” him to.  Sotomayor, therefore, has to participate in the Court’s work via Zoom. Gorsuch is, apparently, fully vaccinated, and doesn’t have the virus. Continue reading

Fake News Watch: 1. The Graves

This was another bad week for media trust, or would be, if the news media would fairly report its own unethical behavior.

Sometimes my instincts serve me well. I have piles of New York Times articles lying around my office, all intended to be the basis of future posts. Back in October, I was preparing to write a post based on this story and this one, about “evidence that 215 children were buried on the grounds of a British Columbia school, one of the many in Canada set up to forcibly assimilate them.” The stories about mass graves started arriving in May of last year, and the allegations were horrific. “In the past four weeks, two Indigenous communities said they have discovered hundreds of unmarked graves of children who may have died at the schools of disease or neglect, or even been killed,” wrote the Times.

I didn’t write that post; something about the story seemed off to me. This was true despite the fact that my confirmation bias regarding misdeeds on the part of the Catholic Church, which ran the schools, is strong.

It didn’t seem off to the mainstream media, though. CNN reported a “gruesome discovery.” The Washington Post wrote that the “mass grave” “dragged the horror of Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people back into the spotlight.” The unmarked burial place of children was reported to the public as fact. The photo above, from the National Post, was captioned, “Hundreds of children’s shoes remain in place at a memorial outside the Alberta Legislature building in Edmonton on Monday May 31, 2021. A vigil was held Sunday May 30, 2021 in memory of the 215 indigenous children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of a former Roman Catholic church residential school in Kamloops, B.C.”

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Black Like Us

 Confirming my own half-baked research, apparently African-American actors are indeed disproportionately represented in TV commercials now. American Thinker records,

In the United States today, the White population (not including Hispanics) is 57.8%….Blacks comprise 14% of the U.S. population but appear in 50% of commercials. White actors now appear to promote health insurance, gold, loans, and some medicines. Moreover, if a White person appears in a commercial, he/she is usually old, sick, a freak, or at the very least, an appendage to a Black partner. If there’s a doctor on the screen, he’s usually Black, while the patient is usually White. Caucasian young men appear in only 4% of the commercials! If some aliens began to study the population of Planet Earth through our TV commercials they would have a somewhat distorted picture of Americans, to put it mildly.

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Ethics Observations On An Article That Ruined My Day

It’s difficult for me to formulate complicated arguments when I’m drugged to the gills and sick, so I am, reluctantly, delaying a couple of pieces on the metaphorical runway to catch up on what other people are writing. Big mistake. I just finished a substack post by Paul Musgrave, a political scientist and writer whose newsletter is called “Systematic Hatreds.” It takes its title from a line in “The Education of Henry Adams,” one of my father’s favorite books: “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” Musgrave, whom I never heard of before, is writing about how he teaches what he calls “the post-legacy media generation.”

It is clear early on in his depressing piece that that almost no one in that generation has heard of Henry Adams, or John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, and probably not John Adams either. There’s an excellent chance few have even heard of Morticia Addams, Charles Addams, or know that Eric Adams is the latest mayor of New York City. In fact, it’s quite fair to conclude that none of these soon-to-be-crucial citizens know much of anything at all, because they do not read—literally, do not—and get whatever information the do get from similarly handicapped peers on social media. Musgrave is in the trenches, and he writes,

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Comment Of The Day: “More From The Bulging ‘It Isn’t What It Is’ File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus

With today’s Comment of the Day, Jim Hodgson weighs in on bad analogies as well as related matters. Bad analogies are a frequent topic here, and The Great Stupid may represent the zenith of bad analogies in our culture—at least I hope and pray it is.

My father, who, like me, was a lawyer who seldom practiced law, maintained that “everyone” should get a law degree, because the kind of critical thinking that law school teaches is no longer available in most colleges. (Once it was taught in grade school). One concept legal arguments rely on constantly are analogies. This is why I found Ruth Marcus employing such a wretched and irredeemable one in the Washington Post so depressing and infuriating. Striking down a vaccine mandate not supported by the law is inconsistent with the Court running its own operations with requirements that those who come into contact with the mostly high-risk Justices have to take very precaution is hypocritical? How? Why? Marcus is a Harvard Law School grad: she was taught better reasoning than that.

I see terrible analogies everywhere. Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler was ridiculous, but comparing the January 6 riot ( when “our government was almost overthrown last year by a guy wearing a Viking hat and speedos,” as Marco Rubio deftly put it) to Pearl Harbor was more ridiculous still, and the Vice President did that, more than once. Was making that idiotic analogy worse than the President calling limits on mail-in balloting the equivalent of Jim Crow laws? Or worse than claiming that enforcing the nation’s borders is “racism”? Actually, this might be a fun parlor game: “The Worst Analogy.”

Here is Jim Hodgson’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus”…

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Misleading analogies and false equivalencies are among the favored tools of today’s “journalists.” The Progressive Left and the media (but I repeat myself) have a clear agenda and it isn’t good for the republic. Forty years ago, I railed against the (comparatively mild) bias of news anchors; nowadays they look almost Fox News-ish by comparison.

Marcus and her ilk aren’t really trying to convince “searchers for the truth,” they are merely reinforcing the beliefs and attitudes of those in the “woke bubble” and reaching out only to the easily swayed. I spend a few hours most days reading a variety of news sources online, trying to get an accurate and more complete view of national and world events and issues than I find from any single source. I know not everyone makes this effort, and I regularly refer friends and family to articles and sources (including E.A.) that I think will improve their understanding of issues and events. Continue reading

AARGH! The University of Michigan Firing Its President Made Me Think About Bill Clinton Again!

Mark S. Schlissel, the president of the University of Michigan, was fired  yesterday after an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents His relationship with a subordinate at the university had been revealed by an anonymous whistleblower who was, ironically, named Linda Tripp. Nononono! I’m sorry: damn flashback again.

The Board easily concluded that Schlissel had violated university policy and behaved “in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university.” His employment was terminated effective immediately, canceling a contract that would have continued paying him his base salary of $927,000 for four more years. The letter to Dr. Schlissel informing him that he was being fired said the complaint had arrived on December 8. “There can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan,” the letter said.

The month long investigation triggered by the anonymous tip revealed dozens of email exchanges using “inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” and showed that Dr. Schlissel used official business to carry out the relationship. His conduct was “particularly egregious,” the letter said, because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, handing out pens to feminists like Bella Abzug after signing into law an anti-sexual harassment…no, I’m sorry, that was Bill Clinton.  Schlissel had only used the occasion of a university provost, Martin Philbert, being accused of sexual misconduct in August 2020 to send a letter to the university intoning that “the highest priority” was to make the university “safe for all.”

Dr. Schlissel, who is married and has four grown children. His wife, in response to the firing, immediately declared his demise to be the result of a vast right wing conspiracy. DANG! There go those flashbacks again!

I vowed a while back not to write any more about Bill Clinton. It was, as a few of you remember, the revolting ethical blindness revealed by Clinton’s defenders during Monica Madness and the even more revolting hypocrisy by passionate feminists who refused to condemn the POTUS’s text-book sexual harassment of a lowly intern (Bill supported abortion, you see, so that gave him immunity) that got me into the ethics blogging trap in the first place.

As an ethicist, I found the rationalizations being thrown out to get Clinton off the hook copious and nauseating, beginning with “Everybody Does It,” Number One, and including the worst of all. #22, “It’s not the worst thing!” Even though Clinton used Monica Lewinsky as his personal inflatable sex doll in his workplace, during work hours, with the knowledge of other subordinates, Democrats and pundits insisted on dismissing this as “private, personal conduct.”

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