Tag Archives: “Animal House”

Snopes’ Credibility Death Spiral: Presenting The Straw Man Fact-Check

Apparently the recent example of Snopes resorting to proving a “claim” false that nobody serious was claiming wasn’t an anomaly, but a new strategy. Here, Ethics Alarms commenter Tippy Scales discussed the struggling urban-legend-turned-partisan-hack-site post in defense of ESPN’s ridiculous removal of Asian -American Robert Lee from a football broadcast because he shared a first and last name with Robert E. Lee. Its spin: the accusation that “ESPN Fired Announcer Robert Lee Because His Name Sounds Like the Confederate General’s? was wrong! Except that was not what happened, nor what critics of ESPM were objecting to.

Why would Snopes do this?  Tippy  opined that Snopes “couldn’t stand having to confirm something that went against their worldview, so they invented a reason to avoid it.” The real reason appears to be even worse than that. Snopes’ current game is to mislead readers by convincing them that criticism from the right is dishonest and absurd, by searching for self-evidently idiotic accusations and then disproving them…which isn’t difficult when the accusations were dredged up from the social media swamp by Snopes specifically to debunk.

Today’s example is hilarious. Snopes:

Fact Check: Was Barack Obama President During Hurricane Katrina?

Twitter users tried to pin the blame for Katrina relief issues on Obama, though he wasn’t even president when it hit New Orleans.

CLAIM: Barack Obama was president when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
RATING: FALSE

ORIGIN: As damage from Hurricane Harvey continued to grow in Texas in late August 2017, some Twitter users sought to defend President Donald Trump’s response to the disaster by criticizing the actions of his predecessor, Barack Obama during similarly pervasive flooding in Louisiana in 2016. Other users took that argument even further, knocking Obama for not “doing enough” to help Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

Introducing Rationalization #63. Irrelevant Civility and #64 A. Bluto’s Mistake

The most infuriating comment threads on Ethics Alarms are those in which one or more intelligent readers are desperately tying to dispute the indisputable ethics breach, and finding no substantive ethical argument because there are none, desperately throw one rationalization after another against the metaphorical wall to see if they’ll stick. They don’t of, course.

Occasionally, however, there is a benefit to the exercise: in their furious effort to find an legitimate argument while hunting through the rationalization dumpster, one of the protesters uncovers one that the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List had thus far missed. So it is with one of the most rationalization-choked exchanges ever to break-out on this site, the debate over the cast of “Hamilton” crossing multiple ethics lines, thick red ones, to exploit the  opportunity for political grandstanding occasioned by Vice-President Elect Mike Peck engaging in the benign and supportive act of attending their show. (The posts on this episode are here and here.) Not only was a new rationalization revealed#63, Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!”—but my thinking about that one revealed that I had also missed another one, distinct but related, #63A, Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

The total number of rationalizations on the list now stands at 80.

Rationalization 63. Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners

Three Ethically Perceptive Takes On The Election

Amidst all the hysterical “the fascists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes and misogynists have taken over! Run! Hide!” commentary—which, incidentally, is inciting violence far more directly than anything Donald Trump has ever said—a couple of non-right wing commentators have tried to bring some perspective and rationality to the question of what happened Tuesday. Naturally, they focus on ethics.

First, however, in contrast, I give you the vile pronouncements of Slate’s professional race-baiter and anti-white demagogue, Jamelle Bouie. His piece for Slate—I will not trust the site as long as they give a bigot like Bouie a forum—was called “White Won.”  Here’s a typical passage:

“After eight years of a black president—after eight years in which cosmopolitan America asserted its power and its influence, eight years in which women leaned in and blacks declared that their lives mattered—millions of white Americans said enough. They had their fill of this world and wanted the old one back. And although it’s tempting to treat this as a function of some colorblind anti-elitism, that cannot explain the unity of white voters in this election. Trump didn’t just win working-class whites—he won the college-educated and the affluent. He even won young whites. Seventeen months after he announced his candidacy, millions of white Americans flocked to the ballot box to put Trump into the White House. And they did so as a white herrenvolk, racialized and radicalized by Trump.”

Three observations: 1) This is the mentality that Barack Obama and the Democrats have encouraged and nourished, in order to derive maximum political benefit from dividing the nation, 2) what epic gall to call Trump’s 58% of the white vote proof of racism, when Obama’s 93% black vote in 2012, after a disastrous first term (though the second term made it look good by comparison), was happily regarded as “loyalty,” 3) The fact that Trump’s opponent was corrupt and insulted half of all voters had nothing to do with how anyone voted.

Oh: Bouie’s screed was sub-headed, “We are still the country that produced George Wallace. We are still the country that killed Emmett Till.”

I didn’t vote for Trump, but on behalf of my country, I am offended and insulted.

That’s enough of that toxic jerk. Here are three open-minded commentators who are trying to blunt the left’s calculated strategy of turning half the nation against the other.

1. Robby Soave: Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash

I’ll begin by saying that Trump’s win is attributable to anger over political correctness goes too far, but the Left’s increasing hostility to free speech, and non-conforming opinion was definitely a prime source of legitimate suspicion and distrust toward Democrats. It was certainly among the factors that finally convinced me not to vote for Hillary.  Soave also is patting himself on the back for playing Cassandra. There is a lot of this “I told you so” going around, as usually happens when the conventional wisdom is spectacularly wrong. It’s all moral luck, of course. The pundits and experts seeking recognition as geniuses are trying to capitalize on being at least as lucky as wise. Still, Soave was right, and many others saw what he did. The Reason journalist writes in part…

I have tried to call attention to this issue for years. I have warned that political correctness actually is a problem on college campuses, where the far-left has gained institutional power and used it to punish people for saying or thinking the wrong thing….I have warned that a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it.

…The left sorted everyone into identity groups and then told the people in the poorly-educated-white-male identity group that that’s the only bad one. It mocked the members of this group mercilessly….It called them racists….

There is a cost to depriving people of the freedom (in both the legal and social senses) to speak their mind. The presidency just went to the guy whose main qualification, according to his supporters, is that he isn’t afraid to speak his.

2.  Will Rahn:  Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press

This is Ethics Hero territory: a CBS reporter pointing an accusing finger at his employer and the rest of the profession. Journalists finally pushed their arrogance, incompetent and bias to the breaking point, and serious wounded—I hope killed—the public’s trust. They slimed Sarah Palin and got away with it; they distorted Mitt Romney to re-elect Obama. But handed a candidate so awful that all they had to do was tell the truth, the news media still decided that it needed to make sure its candidate won. Americans like fairness. When Trump said the the election was “rigged” because the news media was supporting Hillary, it was so obvious that he was right.

Rahn:

Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic. So much for that. …Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice…This is all a “whitelash,” you see. Trump voters are racist and sexist, so there must be more racists and sexists than we realized. Tuesday night’s outcome was not a logic-driven rejection of a deeply flawed candidate named Clinton; no, it was a primal scream against fairness, equality, and progress. Let the new tantrums commence! 

3. Mike Rowe, on Facebook

The “Dirty Jobs” reality TV star is perceptive, objective and articulate, and when asked his reactions to the election—he was not a Trump supporter—replied in part:

I know people are freaked out…I get it. I’m worried too. But not because of who we elected. We’ve survived 44 Presidents, and we’ll survive this one too. I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists. I’m worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them…

I don’t think Donald Trump won by tapping into America’s “racist underbelly,” and I don’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman. I think a majority of people who voted in this election did so in spite of their many misgivings about the character of both candidates. That’s why it’s very dangerous to argue that Clinton supporters condone lying under oath and obstructing justice. Just as it’s equally dangerous to suggest a Trump supporter condones gross generalizations about foreigners and women.

These two candidates were the choices we gave ourselves, and each came with a heaping helping of vulgarity and impropriety. Yeah, it was dirty job for sure, but the winner was NOT decided by a racist and craven nation – it was decided by millions of disgusted Americans desperate for real change. The people did not want a politician. The people wanted to be seen. Donald Trump convinced those people that he could see them. Hillary Clinton did not.

Finally, a bonus analysis to provide perspective: mine.

Last night, as often happens, a comment from a reader (and old friend) prompted a “Eureka!” moment. I realized how very American this election was, and gained some respect and a great deal of understanding for what happened. The commenter wrote about how terrified people were, and how a friend had told her that she was seriously considering suicide. She also said she was beginning to lose her confidence that “it can’t happen here.” I was watching video of protests and riots as I read this. I wrote (I edited this slightly):

And this is what the scaremongering does to the ignorant and weakminded, to be brutally blunt, and why the scaremongers need to cut it out.

Anyone who seriously sees parallels between Trump and Hitler understands neither, nor the corresponding historical context, nor the two nations and their very different cultures. Hitler rose because the Germans, who always had wanted a strongman, were desperate, and their self-esteem had been destroyed. Americans got tired of being pushed around, lectured, and being told that traditional cultural values made them racists and xenophobes. They decided to say “Screw that!” by electing a protest candidate whose sole function was to be a human thumb in the eye, because he was so disgusting to the people who had pretended to be their betters. Don’t you understand? It’s idiotic, but the message isn’t. It’s “Animal House”! and “Animal House” is as American as Doolittle’s Raid:

Otter: Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

In Germany, The Big Cheese says jump and the Germans say “How high?” In the US, the response is “Fuck you!” Obama never understood that. He and the Democrats are finally getting the “fuck you!” they have been asking for. I love that about America. And much as I hate the idea of an idiot being President, I do love the message and who it was sent to. America still has spunk.

I love spunk.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society

Stupid Cops Matter

Perfect match.

Perfect match.

In a case where Hanlon’s Razor (“Never assume malice is the explanation if stupidity will suffice”) applies but one can’t really blame a mother for thinking otherwise, police in Newark  inexplicably mistook an innocent pre-teen black boy for an adult robbery suspect and chased him through a Newark neighborhood with guns drawn. This is stupidity, not racism. Well, who knows: there could be racism mixed in there too, but what jumps out is the jaw-dropping incompetence.

Legend Preston, just ten years old, was fetching a basketball that had rolled into the street when he looked up and saw armed cops running towards him as if they meant business. So he ran.

“I was scared for my life,” Legend told reporters. “I was thinking that they were going to shoot me.” Good thinking, kid. If these cope were inept enough to get a ten-year-old  confused with Casey Joseph Robinson, a 20-year-old, dreadlocks-sporting perp with facial hair (he was arrested in the next block), who knows what they might do?

Legend was quickly surrounded by neighbors  who emphatically pointed out to the police that they were chasing a child, as the officers stammered that he “fit the description” of the criminal. Well, sort of. Okay, okay, now that we’re up close, we see that he’s under five feet tall, dressed like a kid, doesn’t have dreadlocks or facial hair, and looks nothing like the guy, except that he’s black, which means we also could also mistake him for Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, Morgan Freeman, or LeBron James. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, U.S. Society

The 69th Rationalization: The Patsy’s Rebuke, or “It’s Not My Fault That You’re Stupid!”

Ethics Alarms Rationalization 36 B, The Patsy’s Rebuke, or “It’s not my fault that you’re stupid!”closes a yawning loophole in the Victim Blindness rationalization set on the Ethics Alarms list.

Rationalization #36, Victim Blindness,  holds that a purveyor of unethical conduct should be exonerated if his victim “asked for” mistreatment or should have taken affirmative steps to avoid it, and #36 A, The Extortionist’s Absolution, holds that when there were sufficient warnings that a victim was at risk, that victim can’t complain about results he could have and should have avoided.  The newly minted rationalization, the 69th  on the list overall,  covers the related but distinct situation where deception, fraud or misrepresentation would be “obvious” to a perceptive, intelligent, educated individual, so nobody but the victim of that deception is blameworthy.

This was brought to my attention by a reader who raised the situation where statistics that may be technically accurate are used by activists to confuse, deceive, or mislead people who are either not sufficiently well-trained in math and statistics, or not adept at critical thinking. In this, The Patsy’s Rebuke has a kinship with #29 (a), The Gruber Variation, or “They are too stupid to know what’s good for them.’

Politicians, policy advocates, scientists, academics, lawyers and doctors, among others, all are prone to using 36 B to justify their adoption of deceit and obfuscation to accomplish their ends. Lawyers use jargon to sound authoritative and obscure meaning from laymen. Policy advocates quote statistics to “prove” what the numbers really don’t prove, counting on the inability of the trusting, inattentive, ignorant and gullible to see the flaws as insulation against rebuttal. By the lights of  The Patsy’s Rebuke, for example, making the false assertion that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced Presidential candidate ever can be rationalized by arguing, “Hey, that’s my opinion. I personally think being First Lady counts more than any other experience, and was counting it double. It’s not my fault that you are ignorant of Presidential history and too dumb to know how to google the experience of other candidates. I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I assume my readers are educated and informed.”

That’s a lie, of course. Advocates use statistics, falsity, jargon and ambiguity with the assumption, sadly justified, that most listeners and readers are both overly trusting and lacking in the training and acumen to know when they are being manipulated. If anyone is misled—and the intent is to mislead them— it’s their own fault for being stupid, lazy and ignorant.

It is not, however. Politicians, policy advocates, scientists, academics, lawyers and the rest have an ethical obligation to recognize the abilities of their likely audience (including those who will relay or interpret it, like the news media), and make their meaning as clear, direct and unambiguous as possible.

___________
Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

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Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana

If these idiots are off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it's none of the college's business.

If these idiots do this off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it’s none of the college’s business.

In an e-mail to undergraduate students and the Harvard community, University President Drew Faust announced that beginning with next year’s entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

The unrecognized single-gender social organizations are what is left of the old fraternities and sororities. When the Greek system was banned many decades ago (and Harvard was an all-male college), the frats reorganized as exclusive college clubs located in houses around Harvard Square in Cambridge. After Harvard merged with all-female neighbor Radcliffe College in the Seventies, sorority-like clubs emulated their male counterparts. In 1984, Harvard issued an ultimatum to the clubs to go co-ed, and the clubs responded by disaffiliating with the University.

Wrote Faust in part:

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values. The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students….Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under its name. Especially as it seeks to break down structural barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

Faust was following the recommendation of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s recommendations, who wrote in his report on the results of a “study”,

“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances. The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men. In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community…Ultimately, all of these unrecognized single-gender social organizations are at odds with Harvard College’s educational philosophy and its commitment to a diverse living and learning experience.”

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Rights, U.S. Society