Op-Ed Columnist Kathleen Parker, Case Study: Why A Truthteller Can’t Be A Weenie

You are so NICE, Kathleen! Now please find a another job where that's an asset.

You are so NICE, Kathleen! Now please find a another job where that’s an asset.

“I tend to be generous with the benefit of doubt,wrote Kathleen Parker, the mildest of conservative Washington Post columnists, in a recent effort at punditry. That’s an understatement, but then, understating is what Parker does. She also excels at writing equivocal near-condemnations that end up in pretzel form and stuck in dead-ends of ambiguity when clarity is called for.

This makes her very useful to the mainstream media, which like to present the illusion of balance while rigging the game. When I see her on a Sunday morning “roundtable” as one of the conservative voices recruited to spar with sharp, aggressive, no-holds barred progressives like Kathleen van der Heuvel  or Van Jones (and a left-biased moderator), I know that the discussion will make any uninformed viewers believe that the truth consists of the midpoint between progressive spin, and Parker smiling and raising her eyebrow. She is, in short, a weenie. A nice weenie, to be sure, but when your job is battling in the marketplace of ideas, unyielding politeness, measured words, and the insistence that all sides have merit—which is often, indeed usually true–results in shorting her side, and giving the contest to the combatant with no such reticence about full-throated advocacy. Parker isn’t wrong. Parker is incompetent at her job, as it has evolved. Thus when she accepted a co-hosting gig in a CNN “Cross-Fire” clone as the Right commentator to Eliot Spitzer’s Left, he completely dominated her (he was also a bully and a boor in the process) until Parker left the show, frustrated and humiliated.

I was horrified recently to discover that Parker had written a column about the President’s non-apology apology that tracked closely with mine (posted the following day), because I dreaded  Ethics Alarms readers concluding that I was cribbing from her. Her column was also notable for its theme, which was signaled by its opening sentences: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Website of the Month: The Florida Family Association”

Proam comments on boycotts, in today’s Comment of the Day regarding the post, Unethical Website of the Month: The Florida Family Association:

“Unless I am mistaken, The American Family Association (AFA) has a long-running and ongoing boycott call against the other large hardware chain, Home Depot, stemming from the corporation’s continued kindness toward persons whose sexual practices are objectionable to AFA. To my knowledge, Home Depot has not caved. I don’t know whether the AFA-led boycott has had any effect on Home Depot’s business. I wonder if Lowe’s examined Home Depot’s situation prior to its decision – if it’s even relevant.

“Over time, I have become a much more selective and reluctant boycott-joiner. I would like to think that any boycott I might join would be so justified, so humanitarian, so economically and morally and ethically correct, that even the collateral damages and unintended consequences would be tolerably recoverable, or “for the best in the long run” – but I know I’m dreaming. A boycott just seems more and more to me like a “nuclear option” a la Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One day I may feel I have no other option, but then, I will know ahead of time that abiding by it (a boycott) won’t soothe me any more than having never taken part in it, even if I ‘win’.”

Unethical Website of the Month: The Florida Family Association

"Hey, wait---where are the terrorists?"

Organized bigotry is un-American, and organized bigotry under the banner of American values is misrepresentation. That’s what can be found on the Florida Family Association website here, as it simultaneously engages in several of Ethics Alarms’ most deplored conduct: bias, dishonestly accusing others of bias, bullying, boycotting, and worst of all having success at bullying and boycotting. I suppose I should add to that list making its readers stupid, because its arguments will do that too.

The Florida Family Association is offended by The Learning Channel’s latest reality show, “All-American Muslim,” which shows American citizens who happen to be Muslims pretty much living, acting and sounding like you and me, except when they are practicing their religion. I think it is, unlike most TLC series, an excellent idea. American attitudes toward  Muslims since September 11, 2001 are substantially based on ignorance, the kissing cousin of bigotry and the mother of fear. Learning more about American Muslims can only be beneficial to all, but The Florida Family Association views the program as a plot:

“The Learning Channel’s new show ‘All-American Muslim’ is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.  The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.” Continue reading

Dubious Ethics Studies, Part I.

Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell (Blink) and the one-word titled books he has inspired, we are being exposed to more social science research than ever before, much of it with relevance to ethics. I’ll admit to using some of these when they support my point of view, and that is the problem: what such studies supposedly signify often tell us more about the biases of the analysts than the behavior of the subjects. Two recent studies illustrate the point. Continue reading