Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/18: The Media’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale Debacle

Good morning!

It’s  a Cognitive Dissonance Scale (CDS) fiasco! I know I’ve been flogging the scale recently, but it’s not my fault widespread ignorance of Dr. Festinger’s invention is running amuck. Here is the scale (again)…

Remember, the theory, born out daily in practice, is that we subconsciously move people, things and ideas up and down the preference scale according to their connections to other people, things and ideas with strong positive or negative scale scores. This was the theory behind Ram Trucks using Martin Luther King Jr. as a pitch man in the much-reviled Super Bowl ad, which we discussed in the post From The Scary Tales Of The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Files: The Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial.  [Incidentally, those Ram ad writers weren’t quite as dumb as I thought. While the response to the ad over-all indicated that the Mad Men miscalculated regarding the Scale, some data showed that they were right about the black audience, just not right enough. A Morning Consult survey of 1,579 U.S. adults who viewed the ad indicated that 48%  of African-Americans said the ad gave them a more favorable view of Ram, while 17% said it gave them a less favorable view of the bran,  and 30% said it made no difference. That means that MLK was so high on the African-American scale that his positive value even overcame the negative value of shameless exploitation, and that attaching King to the trucks did, in fact, elevate the product’s scale value.]

Looking again at the scale, let us assume that most rational Americans place North Korea very low. How low? How low can can you go? The poverty-stricken Asian nation is dragged down by the fact that it was (and technically still is) a hostile enemy of the U.S. in the Korean War It is a Communist nation, a dictatorship, a brutal dictatorship, a human rights criminal, and most Americans have “being threatened with nuclear weapons” quite low on their personal scales as well.

For the sake of argument, let’s say North Korea’s CDS value is -100. (Imagine there is a zero after all of the numbers on the scale; the N/S is really of infinite length in both directions.)

Now, what would you say is the scale’s value for the U.S. news media? Journalists are under the delusion that their positive numbers are high. They should be high, and they have always been high before, but the last several years of blatant bias and incompetence have lowered them considerably. For me, the news media is in negative numbers already, but just for the sake of the exercise, let’s say that the news media has a faintly positive public scale score of +20.

How about the Olympics? For some reason the Olympics still have a positive rating on the scale, though nowhere near where it once was. That positive rating is why NBC paid a fortune for the broadcasting rights, hoping for big viewer ratings, but also assuming that the high Olympics Cognitive Dissonance Scale score would yank the network’s own score up the scale.

I’ll peg the Olympics scale rating at +50. I don’t really believe it’s that high, especially the Winter version.

Finally, the last ingredient of this complex Cognitive Dissonance Scale excursion is President Trump. There is no way that the President of the United Sates is in scale negative numbers, which are distinct from poll approval ratings.  If he were a Pet Rock, the office, the history, and the symbolic nature of his role would take any President over the mid-line.  If the Olympics audience were entirely made up of “the resistance,” this would be another matter, but it is not. If anything, I would guess, though I don’t know, that the 30% or so  bitter Trump-haters among the public would tend to be less interested in the national pride orgy the Olympics typically presents than the less-deranged portion of the public. Again, for the sake of the exercise, I’ll put President Trump at -0-, neutral territory.

What has happened since the Olympics began is that the mainstream media has been gushing approval over the North Koreans–their athletes, their creepy cheerleading squad, and most of all, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong–all propaganda tools— while sneering disapproval at the President’s representative at the Games, Mike Pence. As some wags on social media have pointed out, this is roughly the equivalent of swooning over Eva Braun during the 1936 Munich Olympics. Wrote the Daily Caller, fairly and accurately, Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Sports

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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From Charles Murray, Thought-Provoking Words. Now What?

Here, in a Cato podcast featuring Charles Murray,we are presented with a troubling—and, I think, accurate diagnosis of a growing problem within American society. Murray worries that because of increasing social isolation and a removal from actual rather than remote and virtual life experiences, the American public is losing touch with core values essential to what makes this culture unique and productive.

The interview is 15 minutes, and raises two issues. The first is what Murray is directly discussing. The second is whether someone like Murray raising them can have any positive impact at all. Charles Murray is a bête noire. of the Left. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him a white nationalist. Many liberals regard him as a racist. I have read many of his works: I would call him someone who makes a good living pointing out unpleasant theories that wouldn’t help us solve society’s problems even if we could prove they are true. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan

Last year the Trump administration announced a proposal to amend a 2011 regulation prohibiting employers from collecting server tips and distributing them to anyone other than servers. If the new proposal is adopted, employers could theoretically use workers’ tips for  any purpose, as long as the workers who received the tips were directly paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The restaurant industry opposed the Obama regulation, and argues that more freedom would allow employers to share the tips of waiters and waitresses with other workers like busboys, greeters, cooks and dishwashers.

Labor advocacy groups and former Obama administration officials counter that the regulation would legalize employers stealing income from workers, since they could theoretically pocket the tips.

Your Ethics Alarms Economics/Labor/Human Nature Quiz of the Day…..

Is the proposed regulation fair, responsible and ethical, or not?

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz, Super Bowl Edition: Justin Timberlake’s Integrity”

John Billingsley elaborates on the import and implications of the troubling research results regarding the brain disease CTE and participants in contact sports, especially football.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz, Super Bowl Edition: Justin Timberlake’s Integrity:

I agree that with 99% of NFL players and 91% of college players showing CTE on autopsy there is no ethical justification for American football and we don’t need it. Do we actually need any contact sports? CTE has been demonstrated in participants in multiple other contact sports including basketball, boxing, ice hockey, rugby, soccer, wrestling, and baseball. Unfortunately, there is not as much information available about the rates of CTE in those sports. There was an autopsy study demonstrating CTE in the brains of 21 of 66 individuals who participated in different contact sports at various levels, but no CTE in the brains of 198 controls who had no history of participating in contact sports. A study looking at high school athletes who participated in various contact sports from 2005 to 2014 found that there were about 300,000 concussions annually. That study found that the sport with the highest rate of concussions adjusted for the rate of participation was girl’s soccer. A concussion does not mean CTE will develop but repeated head injury is the etiology of CTE. Continue reading

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Your Ethics Alarms Super Bowl Guilt Trip

You know that by watching the Super Bowl, you’re helping to kill and cripple young men, right?

Sure you do.

You and people like you watch the Super Bowl, maybe hold parties around it, allowing the NFL to make millions of dollars selling ads and merchandise off of the most watched sporting event of the year. And, of course, the popularity of the Super Bowl makes it the year’s #1 promotion for the billion dollar mega-industry that is the National Football League, and down the line, for billion dollar corrupt big time college football, and in places like Texas and other regions warped by the “Friday Night Lights” mentality, high school football, and further down the line, youth football, where kids a young as 8 begin getting the blows to the head that will help make them confused and dysfunctional in their fifties or earlier if they play long enough…and maybe even if the don’t.

Hey, these are great nachos! Is this a microbrew? Look at that funny ad!

The film above, “Concussion Protocol,” was released this month, and shows a compilation of every reported concussion this season. Directed by Josh Begley and produced by Laura Poitras,  it is believed to be a nearly complete compilation of the NFL’s reported 281 concussions this season, the most since 2012. The NFL, which is affirmatively evil, is spinning this as a good thing, pointing out that it means that players are self-reporting their head injuries more often.

Sure. That must be it. Bravo! Problem solved. DE-Fence!
Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports

Pssst! Climate Change Activists? This Is Why Nobody Trusts You…

Here is Houdini showing the Scientific American panel how spiritualists and mediums made bells ring. See his foot?

I once subscribed to Scientific American. We had to read it in high school, and I often used articles from the magazine in research projects. I also was a fan of its history, which intersected with my long-time love of magic and magic history. It was Scientific American, back in the 1920s, that created the special cash prize for anyone who could prove they had supernatural powers, or that paranormal phenomena was real. After a while psychics and other miracle workers stopped applying for the prize, because SA’s panel of experts always exposed them as frauds. The star member of that panel was Harry Houdini, in his post-performing second career as the enemy of charlatans and frauds

Thus it pains me to see the once great, dumbed-down vestige of Scientific American publish an article with this unforgivable headline, in front of content that is little better:

Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

And space aliens may have built the pyramids.

Actually, the article still has educational value, though no teacher is likely to use it properly. It is a wonderful example of poor critical thinking, bad science, the result of mixing science with politics, and how bias makes you stupid.  The author, Scott Waldman, doesn’t even try to hide the article’s weak logic and lame premise, beginning it with this:

The impacts of climate change are among the environmental challenges facing Iran that helped spark protests in dozens of cities across the Islamic republic.At least 20 people have died in the uprising, driven by the sudden collapse of financial institutions, low wages and mistrust of national leaders. Rising temperatures are seen by some experts as an underlying condition for the economic hardships that led to the unrest. A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran’s economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country’s hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

That tells any objective reader all he needs to know: junk ahead.  The old “some experts” ploy, eh? You can find “some experts” who will say anything, especially on TV. We just went through weeks of unethical speculation on whether the President was suffering from dementia based on “some expert,” a Yale professor of psychiatry who breached the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ethics protocols and was revealed as not to be licensed to practice anymore.You know. An expert.

Waldman himself isn’t an expert on climatology or even science: he’s a reporter, and his degree was in journalism. Funny, I’m so old, I remember when the articles in Scientific American were written by scientists. How quaint. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology