Category Archives: language

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2018 President’s Day Edition:

Good Morning, George, Tom, Teddy, Abe!

I’m in a bad mood. Maybe it will pass.

1 No Presidents Day post this year.  I usually do a special Presidents Day post. I never thought I would ever feel this way, but I’m thoroughly sick of writing about the Presidents after the last year. I blame “the resistance” for this along with the news media, both of whom have created a related but separate ethics issue by relentlessly attacking, disrespecting, mocking and undermining President Trump. [Of course, for those who are interested, this epic post, from 2015, was about four years’ worth of Presidents Day material, and this one, also from that year, is my personal favorite of all the entries here about my favorite 45 Americans. Does President Trump have a Julia Sand out there somewhere? We can only hope…]

Yesterday Ann Althouse, strafing the news media’s obsession with the ridiculous publicity-mad porn star whom Trump either did or did not have an affair with and to whom his to slimy lawyer Michael Cohen paid hush money, was attacked on her own blog by commenters who accused her of  defending the indefensible—you know, the President of the United States, who was never allowed a single second when the entire country unified behind the winner of a hard-fought election, and as one wished him good fortune and success. Not a second.

Ann usually doesn’t get involved in her blog’s comment threads., but she responded this time:

You Trump haters made it so boring to hate Trump. I don’t even like Trump, but you people annoy me.

Above all, I believe Trump won the election, and he deserves support as he attempts to carry out the responsibilities America entrusted to him. We need to help him, not try to screw him up at every turn. I think it’s outrageous what has been done to him, and I regard it as an attack on democracy.

I have always found that once the President is elected, we should accept the result and support him when we can and look to the next election if we can’t. I think the “resistance” is a rejection of democracy…

That is about as perfect an expression of my feelings as anyone could compose, including me. It has been this blog’s position from November 9, 2017 on, and I have never wavered from it. I knew this was basically Althouse’s stance as well, since so many of her posts reflect it, but it is gratifying to have another serious blogger I respect express it so clearly. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

“The Indefensible ‘Nigger’ Double Standard,” The Sequel!

From Princeton comes exactly the same scenario that I wrote about in March of 2016.

This time, it was anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen who used “nigger” multiple times during a lecture this week in his Anthropology 212 course, “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy and Pornography.” “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a nigger?” Rosen said, in the context of describing “what is acceptable as free speech and what is not.”

Several black students walked out of the class in protest, two registered a complaint, and now Princeton has vowed to sponsor “a dialogue” with students. This gives far  too much legitimacy to their objections.  The students enrolled in a course about hate speech, blasphemy and pornography, and protested when the professor said an offensive word?

The school’s response should be “Stop looking for ways to be offended and to put others on the defensive, learn the meanings of the concepts of ‘intent,’ education,’ and ‘context,’ and grow the hell up.

As the 2016 post about the identical nonsense at the University of Kansas concluded, “Context matters, and in the case of nigger, the only context that matters is what the word was intended to communicate. The “context” of the speaker’s skin color does not matter.”

I am happy to be able to post that clip from “The Life of Brian” again, in which an official condemning a man for uttering the taboo “Jehovah”is executed for saying the word in order to condemn him.

I wonder if those Princeton students would get the joke.

[A related post is here.]

________________________

Pointer: Other Bill

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, language, Race

Salon Declares That God Is A Bad Writer

Morons.

Valerie Tarico, psychologist and writer who runs a gimmicky ethics blog,  and her editors at Salon decided that it would be clever and smart to launch a frontal attack on the Bible, and by extension most devout Christians, by arguing that because the book is full of, according to her, “mixed messages, repetition, bad fact-checking, awkward constructions, inconsistent voice, weak character development, boring tangents, contradictions, passages where nobody can tell what the heck the writer meant to convey,”  it isn’t authentic:

“Millions of evangelicals and other Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible was dictated by God to men who acted essentially as human transcriptionists. If that were the case, one would have to conclude that God is a terrible writer. Many passages in the Bible would get kicked back by any competent editor or writing professor, kicked back with a lot of red ink—often more red than black…This doesn’t sound like a book that was dictated by a deity.”

The obvious intent of the Tarico and Salon was to mock the Bible, not engage in a serious examination of its origins, and ridicule Christians who revere it. There is no benign justification for this mission; it is just gratuitously nasty, disrespectful, and anti-Christian. Ethics Alarms no longer has a vocal, militant atheist among its regular commenters—Where have you gone, tgt? The blog turns its lonely eyes to you!-–but I suspect even he would find this essay irresponsible. It is especially so since the essay begins with an ignorant proposition which so many commenters flagged that Salon pulled down the post. Nobody claims that God dictated the Bible. Then there are the related matters of multiple translations, translations of translations, and the undisputed fact that different authors (including, many scholars believe, William Shakespeare) from different periods wrote separate parts of the book in their own words. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, language, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship

KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial

We have discussed here the increasingly common phenomenon of companies building their TV ads on the juvenile gag of suggesting a vulgar, obscene or rude word, or a topic not discussed publicly in polite society but not really saying what is clearly implied.

Kraft Heinz Company advertised its products with a TV ad in which a boss caught  his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, with the tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.” Get it? HAR! Heineken featured a gay-themed beer ad about “flipping another man’s meat”–“Huh? It’s just barbecue! You must have a dirty mind!.” Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” in phrases suggesting “fucking,” and K-Mart uses “ship” to suggest “shit.” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has run commercial featuring the tags Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  Last year, Volkswagen had Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees”  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples within engage in vigorous sexual intercourse, unless they are tying to use pogo sticks.

This is corporate America accelerating the coarsening and vulgarizing society, endangering manners, and helping to make boors out of our children. Quoting Ethics Alarms quoting Ethics Alarms the last time I wrote about this: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Kaboom!, language

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2018: Tolstoy And The News [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1  Thanks, Leo! I think.. Althouse reminded me of a Tolstoi quote that offers the perfect explanation of why bias makes you stupid:

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”

Researching this one led me to another quote from the Peasant Count:

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life”.

The quotes explain more of what is going on in the culture, journalism and politics right now than I am comfortable thinking about…which means that I am perpetually uncomfortable.

2. Someone please explain why we have not had this made crystal clear to us...This morning I heard Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator whom I regard as an honorable and ethical public servant, note while talking about the unfolding FISA scandal that Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Russian dossier, was paid in part by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to assemble the material, for which he visited Russia and engaged with sources there. Wait…what? This made Steele an agent of the Clinton campaign by definition, and means, therefore, that the Clinton campaign was “colluding” with Russia during the Presidential 2016 campaign, to “meddle” with U.S. elections.

[UPDATE and Correction: This is what the honorable and ethical Senator said. In fact, since Steele was a former spy, he couldn’t go to Russia. He did, however, engage sources who did, and who made contacts with Russians. Legally, this makes little difference. An agent who uses an agent to do the work of the principle is still responsible for what THAT agent does. ]

But the statement above is inaccurate. ] This constitutes more evidence of Clinton “collusion” than Mueller’s year-long investigation has uncovered regarding the Trump campaign, since, as far as we know, it has uncovered no such evidence at all. Is Mueller investigating Democratic “collusion”? If not, why not? The argument that Clinton was engaged in exactly the kind of activities Trump’s campaign is being accused of has been brushed off as crazy Fox News talking points by the mainstream media. It seems pretty clear now that this is a false and deliberately misleading representation, even before we arrive at the problematical use of the document by the FBI and the Justice Department. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Comment Of The Day: “Trevor Noah’s Critics”

Bravo: a  deft,  quirky and thought-provoking comment about “how difficult writing and reading is and how easy misunderstandings are born”—and my own careless—or not!—phrasing was the writing at issue.

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Trevor Noah’s Critics:

Jack,

In the sentence,

version 1. We should respect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

I guess you meant expect instead of respect.

version 2: We should expect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

And even then, I, with English as a second language, would read ‘ should expect’ firstly as “To consider likely or certain” but given the current climate that is not a given anymore. Therefore, to emphasize the (intended?) meaning of ‘expect’ as “To consider obligatory; require” the following sentence would have been clearer to me,

version 3:We should demand consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

Flash of insight: By pondering your sentence and rewriting it I realized that your sentence is fine but that I bracketed the sentence in a wrong way; which is made possible given the complexity of two polarities involved in this sentence:

a. consistent standards and integrity versus hypocrisy
b. [treat them with] respect versus treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

Lets name the different parts of the sentence,

A: [should respect
B: consistent standards and integrity
C: hypocrisy
D: treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

The bracketing I now think you meant is: { A { B_C } } versus { D }

The bracketing I understood first was: { A { B } versus { C } } versus { D }

But in bracketing the sentence in my way, ‘respect’ felt awkward once reading part D. That’s when I backtracked to A and thought-up ‘expect’. while thinking, “Just another typo by Jack and/or wrongly suggested/inserted word by the word processor.” Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, language

How The Fact Checkers Cheat: A Case Study

“AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

A promising journalism watchdog website has come to my attention: Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News). On the “About” page we learn that it

…is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting….MBFC News follows a strict methodology for determining the biases of sources….MBFC News also provides occasional fact checks, original articles on media bias and breaking/important news stories, especially as it relates to USA politics…

This is a relatively new site, launched in 2015.  It is unusual in that it aims to find both conservative and liberal bias alike. It will be interesting if it can keep to the middle of the road with all the crazy traffic coming at it from all directions. As Ethics Alarms can attest, this is harder than it looks.

The first example of MBFC News’s work (for me) is promising. As readers know, I distrust  factcheck sites and fact-checkers, as well as the periodic fact-checking exercises by sources like CNN. While sometimes a particular fact-checker may be fair and responsible, the same source can be overwhelmed with bias in another instance, and use dishonest or misleading means to discredit some disliked politician, usually a Republican. Some prominent fact-checkers. like Snopes and Politifact, are routinely biased and exist primarily to make progressives smile. Others, like the Washington Post’s “The Fact-Checker,” Glenn Kessler, have good days and bad days. At least Kessler tries; like many of his breed, however, he never learned what a lie is.

My favorite of the fact-checker services has long been FactCheck.org., which also tries to be even-handed, and is more careful than Kessler. Thus I was impressed to see that when MBFC News set out to see how fair the fact-checkers were when they examined Donald Trump’s State of the Union Message, it examined the best. So did I, and was hunkering down as I prepared a post on what appears to be the Annenberg Foundation’s project’s capitulation to “the resistance.”

How I love it when someone else does my work for me, and does it well.  In an article that factchecks the Factcheck.org factcheck (whew!) of the speech,  Karen O’Connor Rubsam writes,

“First, there are some global observations regarding the Factcheck.org article. Factcheck.org seems only to identify what they perceive as incorrect statements.  To be unbiased there should be some commentary on the entire address along with an overall assessment as to how much was “factual” versus “not-factual.”  A more thorough reporting of the entire address can be found here. Additionally, as shown below, factcheck.org introduces opinion and “biased words” in much of their fact-checking. Further, there appears to be some bias in how factcheck.org transferred the salient points from their analysis to the Summary bullet points.  Accurately reporting in the summary bullet points is important since many readers will just read the bullet points.”

Read it all at the site, which deserves the traffic, much as I would love to put up the whole thing. Two examples should suffice: when I read the Factcheck.org analysis, these points, far from the worst,  caused me to conclude that the site had finally started playing typical factcheck games and gone over to the Dark Side, where bashing the President is deemed more important than being fair and truthful. (I promptly exiled it from the Ethics Alarms links): Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Public Service, The Internet