Tag Archives: biased journalism

Comment Of The Day: The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions

putin

Ethics Alarms is grateful to reader Greg, the author of this first Comment of the Day of the New Year, for supplementing the recent post here, and providing a critical and more detailed assessment of the intelligence community’s much ballyhooed report on its conclusions regarding Russian cyber-attacks during the 2016 election, with the alleged purpose of defeating Hillary Clinton.

I am particularly relieved that he shares my own reaction to the report, which simply did not deliver on what was promised by James Clapper in the hearings earlier in the week. Oddly, the news media and almost everyone I know miraculously seem to think it did.  The two key issues I, and I assume everyone, wants clarified is 1) whether Russia was indeed trying to elect Donald Trump, as opposed to generally gumming up the works, embarrassing the likely President (Clinton, of course), undermining public faith in the democratic system, and basically making everyone involved look like fools, knaves, and boobs (Note that Trump appeared to be handling his side of that task all by himself) , and 2) did their efforts in fact have any effect on the results? Answering the first clearly and decisively is essential to understanding the second: to most people, if Russia’s actions were designed to make Trump President, and in fact Trump did shock the world by becoming President, this creates a rebuttable presumption that in fact the Russian Government, and Vladimir Putin in particular, did affect the results of the election. That millions of people regard the matter in this way is certain, because we know that millions of people are desperately searching for some conspiracy or sinister outside agency to explain an event that shattered their expectations and world view.

We also know that the false belief that the sequence Conduct  A is intended to cause Result B, A occurs,  B occurs after A, ergo A caused B, is widely accepted, because public school  teachers are too busy teaching that the United States oppresses minorities  to get around to logic.  Now, that sequence is utter crap, validating, among other things, superstitions and rain dances, but never mind most people think that way.

Yet the report provides no evidence to support the intelligence community’s conclusions in either matter. I find that incomprehensible, and also irresponsible. What the report does  say, in essence, is, “Trust us, we’re experts,”  and leaves the rest to confirmation bias. Could the authors not have provided some evidence to support these conclusions? If not, why not?

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions:

This so-called “25-page report” is almost entirely padding and filler. I read it and I don’t see anything in it that adds to what we knew before the report was issued. Continue reading

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The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions

The first page of the Joint Analysis Report narrative by the Department of Homeland Security and federal Bureau of Investigation and released on Dec. 29, 2016, is photographed in Washington, Jan. 6, 2017. Computer security specialists say the technical details in the narrative that the U.S. said would show whether computers had been infiltrated by Russian intelligence services were poorly done and potentially dangerous. Cybersecurity firms ended up counseling their customers to proceed with extreme caution after a slew of false positives led back to sites such as Amazon and Yahoo Inc. Companies and organizations were following the government’s advice Dec. 29 and comparing digital logs recording incoming network traffic to their computers and finding matches to a list of hundreds of internet addresses the Homeland Security Department had identified as indicators of malicious Russian intelligence services cyber activity. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

From The New York Times today:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report they delivered on Friday to Mr. Trump.

The officials presented their unanimous conclusions to Mr. Trump in a two-hour briefing at Trump Tower in New York that brought the leaders of America’s intelligence agencies face to face with their most vocal skeptic, the president-elect, who has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s role. The meeting came just two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration and was underway even as the electoral votes from his victory were being formally counted in a joint session of Congress.

Soon after leaving the meeting, intelligence officials released the declassified, damning report that described the sophisticated cybercampaign as part of a continuing Russian effort to weaken the United States government and its democratic institutions. The report — a virtually unheard-of, real-time revelation by the American intelligence agencies that undermined the legitimacy of the president who is about to direct them — made the case that Mr. Trump was the favored candidate of Mr. Putin.

The Times story is a mostly fair, if incomplete, description of the report itself, which is a provocative, disturbing and infuriating document. Damning? I don’t know about that. Anyone can damn something, but to be sure the damning is just requires evidence.

Observations and Questions:

1. The report isn’t evidence of anything. It just isn’t, and anyone or any source that states otherwise is misleading us. It would not be admissible as evidence if Russia or Putin were on trial in the U.S. for trying to influence the 2016 election. The document is a statement of opinions after analysis of material and sources we are not allowed to see. At the beginning, the report goes to great lengths to explain why this is, and the explanation is sound. Unless, however, the position we are supposed to take is that the intelligence community is to be assumed to be 100% correct, uninfluenced by bias, and  ought to be believed without reservations despite the presence of hard evidence, the declassified report is a statement by experts of an analysis based on experience and study, of exactly what, we don’t know.

2.Regarding the Times story: the intention of the news media to undermine the Trump Presidency and bolster Democrats who want to blame their candidate’s defeat on anything but her own weaknesses and conduct  appears to be on display in the Times story. For example, we have this statement:

“The Russian leader, the report said, sought to denigrate Mrs. Clinton, and the report detailed what the officials had revealed to President Obama a day earlier: Mr. Trump’s victory followed a complicated, multipart cyberinformation attack whose goal had evolved to help the Republican win.”

The leaping to the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefor because of it”) is both a human tendency to be avoided and well-known. This statement appeals to it, intentionally, or incompetently. The fact that Trump’s shocking victory came after the cyber-attacks does not mean or even suggest that the attacks were responsible for that result. The Times immediately, in the next sentence, even states that “The 25-page report did not conclude that Russian involvement tipped the election to Mr. Trump.” Well, those are mixed messages. Do I, based on the uninterrupted anti-Trump attitude of the Times in its headlines, placement of stories, tone and pitch of news reports, op-eds and editorials, conclude that the mixed message is intentional or sparked by negligence seeded by bias?

I do.

3.  Much further down in its story, the Times admits, Continue reading

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The “Russian DNC Hacks”: Who Do You Believe, And Why Should You Trust Them?

russia-sign

Here at Ethics Alarms, the starting point for ethical analysis is the question, “What’s going on here?” It’s impossible to reach a fair and useful conclusion about where any conduct falls on the right/wrong scale unless one has a clear picture of what the conduct is--what happened and why. The still percolating saga of the  hacked Democratic National Committee e-mails so far defies ethical analysis, because so many of the key facts are in doubt, so much of their impact is a matter of speculation, and virtually all of the participants, sources and advocates for one interpretation or another are untrustworthy.

I have never seen anything like it.

“What’s going on here?” I really have no definitive answer, but lets slog though the muck:

I.   Some of what’s going on here is that Democrats, progressives and Clinton bitter-enders are making a concerted effort to use the fact that troubling DNC e-mails were released to the news media and the internet late in the Presidential campaign to prove the theory that Russian interference with the election was responsible for the victory of Donald Trump. This, they argue in turn,  justifies regarding Trump as an “illegitimate President,’ thus justifying ignoring the election results, defying the election results, impeaching Trump immediately, blocking his swearing in, treating him in discourse and conduct as if he had just been convicted of beastiality rather than elected President, “doing something” to “stop him,” and obstructing anything he tries to do to govern.

Another way of putting it is that Democrats want to throw the nation into something perilously close to a Constitution crisis, a revolution, a civil war, and the unraveling of the nation itself because they couldn’t manage to win an election that should have been a breeze, and they refuse to accept accountability.

2. This, I can say without restraint, is unethical beyond question, and despicable as well.

3.The Russian hacks theory is the fourth wobbly leg of the Democratic Party’s  “We refuse to accept the results of the election because Trump is unfit to be President as shown by the fact that he said he might not accept the results of the election” position. The other legs: 1)  the Electoral College isn’t a legitimate way to choose a President, even though it would have been if it elected Hillary Clinton, and should be retroactively repealed, discarded or defied 2) Trump was elected by morons, racists, xenophobes, woman-haters and morons, while the virtuous, intelligent Americans voted for Hillary, and they know best, and 3) The head of the FBI, who saved Clinton’s candidacy by a very generous interpretation of her highly suspicious conduct after a strangely informal interrogation, thus causing Republicans to question his independence and integrity, intentionally sabotaged Clinton’s coronation by keeping his public promise to Congress that he would alert it if there were any new developments.

Since these are 1) ignorant 2) anti-democratic and 3) ridiculous, all adding up to pathetic and desperate, the weight of the whole effort now rests on Leg #4.

4. Much of the mainstream news media is bolstering that leg by short-handing the story in headlines and print as Russian “hacking of the election.” This characterization is a lie. The ongoing Ethics Alarms Fake News Project, which is dedicated to settling on what “fake news” is (another “What’s going on here?” inquiry) questions how this is any less fake news than “Pope Tells Followers To Support Trump.” Both are intentional lies, designed to confuse and mislead, with the mainstream media lie far more insidious, since only microcephalics are even a long-shot to buy the Pope story, whereas the Democratic Deranged, unhinged by confirmation bias and an inexplicable trust in journalism, are eager to accept the Russian lie. Fact: nobody, anywhere, has alleged that the Russians “hacked the election.” The only way an election gets hacked is when there is interference with the vote totals. “The claim that the ‘election was hacked’ is a bit of a misnomer,” writes former CBS reporter Sheryl Atkinson. “There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.”

No, the term “bit of a misnomer” is a misnomer for “lie.” I would describe Atkinson as a hack by engaging in such equivocation to shield her colleagues, but that might confuse people. Continue reading

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2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck Ethics Dunce: Jan Chamberlin…It’s The Golden Age For Irrelevant Grandstanding Jerks!

"Pssst...is that HITLER in the audience?"

“Pssst…is that HITLER in the audience?”

Jan Chamberlin, a singer for the 360 member Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sent a resignation letter to the choir president and choir members. Who is Jan Chamberlin, and why is this by any stretch of the imagination news?  She is no one of special note, except that she crafted her resignation an insult to the President Elect of the United States, ignorantly and absurdly. That, according to the news media, and that alone, makes her today’s 15 minute star. She wrote in part:

“Since ‘the announcement,’ [ that is, the cataclysmic announcement that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would perform as part of America’s celebration of Inauguration Day on January 20 ] I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony. I have reflected carefully on both sides of the issue, prayed a lot, talked with family and friends, and searched my soul . I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in the choir for all the other good reasons. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.”

But Jan is thoroughly infected by whatever virus it is that has led so many left-leaning Americans to conclude that all previous standards of respect, honesty, decorum, fairness, civility, common sense and civic duty have been suspended because a manipulative, corrupt and incompetent Democratic Party nominee for President defending the awful record of the current Democratic President somehow managed to lose an election.  Thus the singer concluded that a sensible course was to make a play for historical footnote status, and metaphorically spit on the country, the public and its chosen leader before he has spent a second in the Oval Office.

Naturally, the news media, bidding to be even more roundly distrusted and reviled than its performance during the last year has  made it, responds like Sea World seals. Continue reading

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Unethical Website Of The Month: AWD News

My best guess: "AWD" stands for "Assholes Wanting Destruction."

My best guess: “AWD” stands for “Assholes Wanting Destruction.”

You might think that AWD News gets this coveted Ethics Alarms Honor by having one of its hoax news stories prompted a threat of nuclear retaliation against Israel by Pakistan’s Defense Minister.

You would be wrong. That embarrassing response from a Pakistan official with a penchant for saber rattling is just moral luck. The story that “The former Israeli Defence Minister has threatened to “destroy” Pakistan-after Pakistan said on Thursday it will send Sunni fighters to Syria” was a hoax, and since no other news source was reporting it, the fact that Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, allowed his confirmation bias to take over his brain, and leaped to the assumption that it was accurate just shows that Pakistan has an irresponsible fool in a key government position.

Imagine that. Continue reading

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Two From The “Bias Makes You Stupid” (Or The “Fake News”?) File:

trump-boos

1. “Newsweek”reporter Kurt Eichenwald reported via Twitter that Iowa supporters of president-elect Donald Trump booed astronaut and former Senator John Glenn when Trump mentioned his recent death. This “news” gave Trump-haters and Trump voter-haters everywhere more to justify their hatred, and the tweet (above) prompted thousands of retweets and likes….

fake-boosNever mind. It didn’t happen. The crowd was booing anti-Trump protesters, not Senator Glenn. Eichenwald sheepishly retracted the “scoop.”

2.Yesterday morning, MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle claimed on the air that  Fox News was holding its Christmas party at President-elect Donald Trump’s recently opened Washington hotel, in the course of a discussion of Trump’s conflicts of interest. What a great example of how the conservative media is in bed with Trump—almost as much as the mainstream media was coordinating with the Clinton campaign!

Unfortunately, Fox News hasn’t held its annual party yet, and has scheduled its actual party at a hotel that isn’t affiliated with Trump. Ruhl had to issue an apology and a retraction.

In response to the recent Ethics Alarms post about the hypocrisy and dubious motives behind the mainstream media’s sudden obsession with the “fake news” crisis, some commenters argued that EA is confounding good faith journalism mistakes with the real “fake news,” a term that should be narrowly used when a source intentionally issues a false story “maliciously.” The spectrum, however, is too seamless to parse this way. Continue reading

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Announcing “The Fake News Ethics Train Wreck,” And Related Developments [UPDATED]

train-wreck-air

This morning I checked four news sources and caught stories about”fake news” in all of them. Some of this has been fueled by the flesh-meltingly idiotic Comet Ping Pong pizzeria story out of D.C., which culminated in a moron named Edgar Maddison Welch firing an AR-15 inside the joint, saying later that he was horrified at the reports that the establishment was at the center of a child sex ring run by…wait for it…the Clinton campaign. He got some bad information, Welch told authorities.  Ya think???

No, Ed, you got a really bad education in America’s rotten public schools, and before that you were playing hop-scotch when the brains were handed out.

What prompted Ethics Alarms to officially move the fake news uproar into Ethics Train Wreck status, however, was the interview CNN had this morning with two small business owners in the same block as the evil pizza place. “The internet isn’t regulated like it could or should be,” one said, with no comment or clarification from CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. Politicians are among those who have to address this problem, agreed her partner.

In other words, we need internet censorship. Oh, they did say that citizens should be a bit more discerning before grabbing an AR-15 and shooting up a pizza parlor because someone on Instagram said that John Podesta was selling little girls and boys, but obviously the big arm of the State has to step in.

In other developments:

  • The fake Washington Post news story about fake news that I highlighted here may prompt a defamation law suit from one of the organizations that the Post accused, without checking their source, of spreading fake news.

“You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” James A. Moody, attorney for Naked Capitalism, a finance and economics blog with a stated mission of “shedding light on the dark and seamy corners of finance,” wrote to the Post. “You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”*

Highlights from that 120-page report:

  • Since 1980, U.S. GDP per capita growth has been far below its long run average, and since 2007 it has been almost negligible.
  • Deterioration in the quality-to-cost ratio for healthcare, housing and education is dragging down economic growth. After spiraling price increases, these sectors accounted for 36 percent of total national spending in 2015, up from 25 percent in 1980.
  •  The U.S. population’s health has stagnated or even declined on several measures since 1980, especially for the working-age population.
  • Housing costs have swallowed up a larger share of income without a corresponding increase in quality.
  • Educational quality is weak and stagnant at all levels. The U.S. education system has failed to instill any measurable gains in the cognitive performance of children and young adults for decades, as U.S. students and adults struggle with poor rates of literacy and numeracy despite high spending growth.

You know…”a strong economy.”

Would you like to speculate on which fake news had a greater likely impact on the popular vote for President—the Pope’s endorsement, Podesta’s pizza parlor sex ring, or that nifty Democratic policies had the national economy working like a Swiss watch? Continue reading

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