Category Archives: Journalism & Media

From The “Why We Can’t Trust The News Media” Files: The Megyn Kelly- Alex Jones Interview Fiasco

Here is the sequence of events:

1. Newly minted NBC “star” Megyn Kelly announced that she would be interviewing infamous right wing political troll and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on a segment of her new show.

Jones is a fringe media figure and a proven liar, but he has been cited positively by President Trump, and has successfully caused some wide-spread comtoversy and offense, such as when he claimed that the Newtown massacre was a hoax. There is nothing wrong with interviewing such figures; indeed, it is important to interview them. provided ethical journalism standards apply.

Unfortunately, as this episode demonstrates, journalists no longer know what those standards are.

2. In order to persuade Jones to agree to the interview, Kelly promised him—Jones had a tape—that he would be treated fairly. Note: when you tell someone they will be treated fairly in order to have him trust you, your definition of “fair” must be his definition of “fair.”  If he is thinking, “Ah! She will be neutral rather than adversarial, and will not be looking for gotchas!,” but she meant, “It’s fair that I fillet you like a trout, you bastard!” then the interview subject has been deceived.

3. The parents of the victims of the Newtown shooting, as well as their sympathizers and allies, protested the interview, as I wrote about here, saying that NBC was giving Jones a platform. Sympathy and grief are not excuses for censorship. The fact that the parents hate Jones suggests that they shouldn’t watch him be interviewed. They should not seek to interfere with my right to see how he presents himself, and companies (like J.P Morgan) that responded to the threatened boycott by pulling their ads told me that they will go as the winds blow, no matter how totalitarian the direction it might be.

Good to know. To hell with them.

4. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking of progressives with muddled values,  wanted NBC to pull the segment.. The NBC affiliate in Hartford refused to air the episode because the “wounds of that day that have yet to heal.”

Yes, by all means, journalists should never report news or do stories that might upset anyone.

5. Showing the integrity of a sneak-thief, NBC and Kelly furiously re-cut the interview and added a segment in which some Newtown parents could attack Jones.

6. Before the interview aired, Alex Jones released audiotape showing how egregiously Kelly misled him.

7. The interview aired last night, and reviewers were satisfied that Kelly was “tough enough” with Jones, and signaled with her voice, facial expressions, tone and questions that she thought he was scum. “Short of waterboarding him,” one critic wrote, “I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods.”

Ugh.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich

“On Friday, June 16, 2017, Laura Loomer, a patriot activist and journalist, took the stage at Shakespeare in the Park’s performance of “Julius Caesar”, a performance where liberals applaud as President Trump’s assassination is shown in full bloody detail. Laura was arrested for speaking out against this performance.”

Lucian Wintrich on the right wing blog Gateway Pundit, describing the disruption of the Shakespeare in the Park “Julius Caesar “production

What makes a blog post especially unethical? Oh, many things: misstatement of facts, ignorant analysis, sensationalism, incompetence, not being able to distinguish right from wrong and good from bad, appeal to bias and stupidity. Wintrich’s post, absurdly called “Proud Conservative Woman Was Arrested Friday at Trump Assassination Play – Help Pay Her Legal Fees *HERE*!” has all of this and more.

The conservative woman, along with her conservative male partner in attempted censorship, has nothing to be proud of. She’s proud of emulating the leftist crypto-fascist students who have been using intimidation and riots to prevent conservatives from speaking? She’s not a patriot, since patriots don’t intentionally ignore core American principles like freedom of expression and speech whenever they feel like it. The word Wintrich is looking for in his limited vocabulary is “hypocrite.”

She was also not arrested for “speaking out” against this performance. This can only be a lie, or Wintrich is too stupid to be allowed to put his shoes on by himself. You cannot be arrested in the U.S. for “speaking out,” and nobody ever is. He is trying to inflame the stupid and ignorant, or he is stupid and ignorant. Laura, the jerk, was arrested for interrupting a theatrical performance that she had absolutely no right or justification to disrupt. Just so there is no mistaking his dishonest, inflammatory and ignorant description as entirely deliberate, Wintrich, the hack, repeats it, writing,

“The left keeps calling President Trump a fascist dictator, but speaking out against assassinating a Democratically elected President apparently gets you arrested in New York City.”

Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Blog Post, Unethical Websites

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/19/2017

1. The number of pundits, talking heads and formally respectable citizens on social media who have implied, suggested or come outright and said that Rep. Steve Scalise deserved to be shot because of the political positions he espouses should be an ethics alarms trigger for progressives and Democrats, but so far has not been. MSNBC’s Joy Reid:

“[I]t’s a delicate thing because everybody is wishing the congressman well and hoping that he recovers, but Steve Scalise has a history that we’ve all been forced to sort of ignore on race,” Reid said. “He did come to leadership after some controversy over attending a white nationalist event, which he says he didn’t know what it was.

He also co-sponsored a bill to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. He voted for the House healthcare bill, which as you said would gut health care for millions of people, including three million children, and he co-sponsored a bill to repeal the ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Because he is in jeopardy and everybody is pulling for him, are we required in a moral sense to put that aside at the moment?”

What? What’s a “delicate thing?” Absolutely opposing and condemning people shooting elected officials they disagree with is a delicate thing? It’s not a delicate thing at all. It is an ethically mandatory thing. Reid, and all the seriously ethics-deficient people on Facebook calling Scalise’s shooting “karma” are rationalizing assassination and violence, using weasel words. They are beneath contempt at this point in their lives, and need to be told so, repeatedly, until they get some help. They are directly validating violence as a legitimate political tactic.

2.  It will be very difficult to convince me that the horrific increase in opioid addiction and related deaths is not at least partially fueled by the surrender of the culture to the pro-pot lobby. I have long predicted this would happen once the government gave its blessing to recreational drug use on any level. The logical jump from “using this drug that incapacitates you and makes you unproductive, stupid, and a burden on society is just fine,” to “using this drug that makes you even more unproductive and might kill you is a crime  because it’s bad for society” is too great for a lot of people, and we already knew that. Never mind: the  well-to-do pot heads will never admit they were wrong, and this is an especially vicious genie that will not be tricked back into its bottle.

Salon has a list of proposed policy measures to combat the opioid epidemic. Not surprisingly, “Stop glamorizing and enabling recreational drug use” is nowhere to be found. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/18/2017

1. After I criticized Prof. Glenn Reynolds for  his “tit for tat” reaction to the conservatives who disrupted the Central Park production of “Julius Caesar,” I noticed that he had posted a more moderate, ethical and responsible reaction to the same event, writing,

“I’d rather live in a world where this sort of thing wasn’t done at all. But it’s not clear that we’re better off living in a world where it’s done all the time, but only by lefties.”

Muuuch better, professor. Thank-you.

2.

This photo of a “teacher of the Year” being ostentatiously gay in a White House photo with the President was originally posted at the Huffington Post with the headline, “Gay Teacher Photobombs Trump With Fan.” Fake news, but never mind: the photo went viral with the teacher, Nikos Giannopoulos, being hailed for making a disrespectful gesture of defiance, since the LGBT community is committed to the narrative that the President is anti-gay. (He isn’t, but facts and the narratives of “the resistance” are not correlated.)

This account was unfair to both Giannopoulos and the President. I was ready to make him an Ethics Dunce—when you are a guest, you don’t set out to embarrass your host, President or not—until I checked the story. In an NPR interview, the teacher was asked about the President’s reaction to the fan, and replied,

In other words, both the teacher and Trump behaved impeccably, and the President displayed no hostility to a gay pride salute at all. Under no circumstances, however, can anything this President does or says be presented in a positive light. He’ll never be impeached that way. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/17/2017

1. If you haven’t yet read them, Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on Chris’s brilliant Comment of the Day regarding ideological and partisan hate—plus Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on the same post, are all especially worth reading, not that all Comments of the Day by Ethics Alarms readers are not. I apologize for an unusually long intro to Steve’s post, but I had been holding on to a lot of related material from the day past on the topic, and it was either use them there or be redundant later. This meant putting Steve-O’s COTD after the jump, which is why I’m giving an extra plug to it now.

2. There were two significant criminal trial verdicts yesterday: the guilty verdict in the trial of  Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman charged with murder for using text messages to persuade her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself, and the acquittal of the Minnesota police officers who shot and killed black motorist Philandro Castile during a traffic stop. I’ll cover the Carter case later.

There were the obligatory riots after the verdict acquitting Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile in his car after he told the officer that he was carrying a legally registered firearm and then reached for his wallet to show the officer his license. This is just the latest cattle-car in the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, the familiar pattern of a badly-trained cop, a dubious police stop, poor judgment by a victim, and a needless death. I would compare it to the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, where the officers involved weren’t even indicted.

Why in the world would a motorist tell a cop in that situation—Castile had been officially stopped for a broken tail light, but in reality because he was black, and the officers thought he resembled a suspect in a crime who was also black—that he had a gun? This could be interpreted as a threat, and obviously Yanez saw it as one. The verdict looks wrong at a gut level, but it is easy to see how the jurors were thinking: they placed themselves in the officer’s position. They would have been in fear of their lives, so they couldn’t find a way to pronounce Yanez a murderer for doing what they could see themselves doing under similar circumstances. This was a legitimate case for reasonable doubt under the law. Police officers, however, are supposed to be less likely to panic than a typical juror. Castile is dead because of incompetent police work, but the criminal laws don’t allow different standards to be applied  for different occupations, not should they. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Social Media

Incompetent Polling + Confirmation Bias + Lazy Analysis= Fake News

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, reports the Washington Post. The writer then goes on to explain why this “surprising result” occurred. The main thesis: Americans are now so far removed from farm and food production that ignorance is epidemic.

I have no doubt that too many kids aren’t properly informed by the adults in their lives about basic facts of food and agriculture., just as I know that the average American has trouble placing the Civil War and World War I on a timeline, can’t name more than ten Presidents, and thinks JFK was “great.” I also have no doubt that 7% of the American public is dumber than a box of whoopie cushions.  Taking a poll result like this one at face values, however, shows why the news media was so sure Hillary Clinton would win.

Ann Althouse nailed it in a brief post she calls : “There’s nothing dumber than forgetting that other people might have a sense of humor and are screwing with you.”:

“When you’re studying something among people you look upon as commoners, you’d better stop and wonder: Am I the Margaret Mead?”

(If you are unfamiliar with the Mead reference, this will help.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/16/17

1. It looks like Bill Cosby is going to be acquitted, and probably rightly so, though probably for the wrong reason: bias. The jury is deadlocked, and I’d bet my head that one or more hold-outs just can’t accept the fact that that nice Cliff Huxtable would do those horrible things unless the victim consented somehow. Cheat on his wife. maybe. But not that.

Celebrity defendants whose public images are benign begin criminal trials with automatic unreasonable doubt built-in; this is part of the reason O.J. and Robert Blake (“Baretta”) avoided murder convictions. Celebrities with less sterling reputations are not so fortunate: had Bill Cosby been the one who shot a woman he barely knew at his home under strange circumstances, he would have probably been acquitted. Unfortunately for Phil Spector, the pop record producer had a well-established reputation for being nuts. The reasons Cosby can be acquitted for just reasons is that the victim is on record calling and chatting with him dozens of times after she was drugged and sexually assaulted, and because only one of the 50 or so Cosby victims was allowed to testify to show a pattern of behavior. The standard of  proven  guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is intentionally difficult to meet. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Cosby is guilty, and his eventual acquittal won’t change my certainty. Nonetheless, those attacking the verdict and the jurors will be wrong, just as they were with O.J. and Casey Anthony.

2. One more thing regarding Cosby: yesterday I heard a CNN anchor who was about to interview another Cosby victim describe the woman as someone who has accused Bill Cosby of “inappropriate conduct.” The host caught herself, sort of, by adding, after a pause, “to say the least.” The woman claimed she had been raped. Even the anchor couldn’t bring herself to attach to dear, funny, sweet Cos such a heinous crime, so she engaged in craven equivocation. “Inappropriate conduct”?  Belching at the dinner table is inappropriate conduct. Drugging trusting young women and raping them is entirely different.

This is CNN.

 I regard a broadcast news journalist stating that Bill Cosby has been accused of “inappropriate conduct” misleading, incompetent, and fake news. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture