WTF? The New York Times Again Violates Its Own Standards Because Bringing Down The President Is More Important

The “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage,” pompously sub-titled, “The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World’s Most Authoritative Newspaper,” has always inveighed against the paper publishing vulgar or obscene words. In particular, it has never allowed the printing of the word “fuck” or any version of it anywhere in the paper. On one occasion, the Times stage reviewer had to review a play with “fuck” in the title without ever revealing what the title was.

Ethics Alarms has consistently held that 1) if a vulgar word is a substantive part of the news story, then a newspaper should print the word. Codes like “the f-word,” “F-bomb,” and “f—” convey the word fuck, so why not just print it? The practice is juvenile (remember the camp song  “Shaving cream”, in which a line that was set up by a previousl line rhyming with “shit” and suggesting “shit” would substitute “having cream! Hilarious! Well, if you were 11…) and yes, the position here is the same regarding so- called taboo words like “nigger.” In 2015, there was a huge uproar after Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison muttered “Fuck that nigger” behind his handinto a live microphone after answering a post-Final Four game news conference question about Wisconsin player Frank Kaminsky. Yet despite the  fact that the words he used were the issue, no newspapers, and certainly no TV news outlet, actually reported the words.  I wrote,

It took me 15 minutes and visits to six web sites before I could find out exactly what it was that Harrison said.  Most sources vaguely reported that he had uttered “an expletive and a slur,” or plunged readers into a game of “Hangman” with the statement being reported as “_ _ _ _ that _ _ _ _ _ _.” The Washington Post settled on “[Expletive] that [N-word].” Which expletive??? This is ridiculous, and as inexcusably bad journalism as refusing to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that caused the Paris massacre.  The story is about what Harrison said, and it is impossible to inform readers about the incident without saying exactly what was said.

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2019: The NCAA Tournament, Colbert, Chris Rock, And Bullshit

Good Afternoon!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad for some reason, and that was his favorite hymn. It’s an Easter hymn, but our church always had the choir sing it on the special spring service. My unusually musically talented friends knocked it out of the park at my father’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. It also has the advantage of being composed by Arthur Sullivan, just like “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “Tit Willow.”

1. Fill out your brackets, and enable corruption. It’s the NCAA tournament again, and again, helping the schools and the NCAA and the networks make money off of the destructive and corrupt culture of big time college basketball is ethically indefensible. The New York Times wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it did recently write about the dissonance, beginning,

Every March, millions of Americans fill out brackets (more than 40 million people, by one count), cheer the underdogs and tune in on television. Others buy tickets to the games, wear jerseys of their favorite teams and let wins and losses dictate their mood. Yet fans who follow college basketball closely know about the game’s intractable relationship to corruption. Even many who come just for March Madness must know that the real madness is not always on the court.

A wide-ranging and fear-inducing F.B.I. investigation into college basketball recruiting continues to ensnare big-name colleges and little-known crooks. It is why Louisiana State, for example, is playing without its head coach, Will Wade, and why Auburn recently had an assistant coach suspended and a former assistant plead guilty of conspiracy for accepting bribes.

This week, the lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in exchange for concealing information he had about illicit payments to recruits. He has since revealedsome allegations on Twitter….

The Times doesn’t bother to go into the related problem of how basketball distorts academic goals, sucks away resources that should be used for education, and usually leaves its athletes no better educated than they were when they arrived. As you might expect, the Times’ writer is too ethically incompetent to provide and enlightenment. For example, he quotes one ethicist as saying, “…Someone thinks, ‘Gosh, this is unethical, but I love it so much, and my friends and I have such a good time rooting and cheering that I’m going to participate anyway.’” That description could also be used to justify gang rape. Can we have a little nuanced clarification? Then the Times writer, John Branch, offers these ill-devised analogies:

“Such internal debates permeate our culture. Is it O.K. to dance to a Michael Jackson song, to laugh to a Louis C.K. joke, to watch a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein? To cheer for football knowing what it may be doing to players’ brains?”

Let’s see: wrong, wrong,wrong, and…right.  1 for 4.

A Michael Jackson song isn’t corrupt, or unethical: it’s art. He’s dead: dancing to the song does not enable the misconduct. A joke is a joke regardless of who tells it, and again, laughing at a C.K. joke doesn’t make it more or less likely that he’s going to masturbate in front of a female colleague. Workplace misconduct doesn’t taint the work product, and nobody has claimed that movies themselves are culturally corrupting, or that Weinstein’s films harmed the actors in them.  Cheering for football is a legitimate comparison, because the sport itself is the problem, just like college basketball itself is the problem.

Continue reading

Asshole vs. Asshole, And How To Avoid Starring In It

If you are old enough, you may remember the long-running comic  in Mad Magazine called “Spy vs Spy.” It was kind of a wordless Roadrunner cartoon with a Cold War vibe, and not especially funny, but I just thought of it for the first time in decades. (Incredibly, it is apparently still running in Mad, though the magazine itself is sinking fast.) I was considering this ridiculous story…

…It started small, but disputes over a Kansas man’s alleged violations of his homeowner association’s rules has led to a complex legal battle that is now the most expensive of its kind. Owner Jim Hildenbrand, has been locked in conflict with the HOA of Avignon Villa Homes since he moved there in 2012…

What began with a disagreement over the placement of a satellite dish and a decorative wall has escalated into a legal back-and-forth that has cost both parties at least a combined $1 million. It is the most expensive HOA dispute in the country.

It is also yet another example of the increasingly common societal phenomenon of “Asshole vs. Asshole.” These are ethics breakdowns where two parties in disagreement decide that making the other side pay for daring to have an adverse position overwhelms whatever the original objectives of the two parties were. It is reminiscent of the kinds of disputes parents—the good ones, anyway–arbitrate between siblings. “You’re both right,” Mom or Dad will say, “And you’re both wrong. You have reached the point where the escalation of anger and retaliation is the problem, not what you think you are arguing about.. Work it out. Compromise. See it from the other one’s perspective. And if you don’t, we’re going to punish both of you.”

In the case of Mr. Hildebrand and his fascist Home Owner Association, both sides say it’s the principle of the thing. As any reader hear know, I am a believer in and a practitioner of taking stands for principle, but knowing when this is essential (Do NOT apologize for speaking the truth or bucking the mob) and destructive is a critical life skill. The trick is keeping emotion out of it, and engaging in ethics problem solving. Asshole vs Asshole occurs when hate, and anger, and the desire to teach that jerk a lesson blinds both parties to common sense, the Golden Rule, and the human duty to seek peace, not war. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

Why I Won’t Be Using Frank’s Red Hot No Matter How Good It Is

I know, I know. I’m like King Canute trying to command the seas, or Grandpa Simpson, shaking his fist and shouting at clouds.  I don’t care. If the culture and societyare going to allow America to be coarsened beyond all reason, at least I’ll be able to say that I wasn’t complicit.

All of my posts on this topic are basically the same; I know it. Here are a few…

[T]he Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, to which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting.

…Here is what Ethics Alarms said in response to Heineken’s gay-themed vulgar ad about “flipping another man’s meat”:

‘There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it…the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.”

On the general topic of giving up any efforts to keep public discourse within civil boundaries, a January 2016 post concluded,

Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt,fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading, That’s where we’re heading, if enough people don’t have the guts and common sense to say, and fast,”Oh, stop it. Learn to speak like an adult.”

Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as a sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” to code “fucking,” and K-Mart thinks it’s funny to use “ship” to suggest “shit,” because who doesn’t want to think about shit? We make our own culture in the end, and if we want to live in a cultural pig sty, then that’s where we will live. Apparently no one cares, or not enough of us, anyway.

In 2015,  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial featured the tags “Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  I wrote,

“Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Two years later, Volkswagen has Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees” (Dean’s version above is better, a joy)  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples who own it engage in vigorous sexual intercourse.

Now Frank’s Red Hot is being praised for it’s new, catchy slogan, originally uttered by an elderly actress (because old people being vulgar is always hilarious, for some reason): “I put that [shit} on everything.” Continue reading

They Seem Like Good Ideas…But Not Really. Clarence Darrow Knew Why.

I. The Daily Telegraph officially apologized “unreservedly” to Melania Trump and agreed to pay her “substantial damages” for an article it published last week. Mrs. Trump had sued the paper in British courts.

The paper said its Saturday Magazine cover story “The Mystery of Melania” this month contained false statements, as her lawsuit claimed. It wrote,

Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family.  Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.

We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump.  They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.

We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.  As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her leg

Continue reading

‘Tis The Morning Before Christmas Ethics Warm-Up, 12/24/18!

Merry Christmas!

1 Christmas gift ethics. What’s your opinion of a relative who says that the only thing she wants for Christmas is for family members to donate to her favorite leftist candidate for City Council? I don’t recall the Christmas tradition being “Make people do whatever you would do” Day, do you? Let’s have a Christmas Eve poll!

2. Change: I now believe “the wall” is necessary and the President’s resolve is ethical. My change of heart comes after watching all Democrats and many Republicans simultaneously say they want secure borders and then continue to encourage illegal immigration with their rhetoric and votes. The wall is necessary to send an unequivocal message, which has been Trump’s message since he announced his candidacy: “Come here legally, or don’t come. If you get here by breaking our laws, you are not welcome and will never be welcome, no matter what you do.”

Correctamundo!

Anti-Trump GOP Senator Bob Corker claims that the showdown over authorization of funding for the Wall is a “made-up fight, so the president can look like he’s fighting, but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure.” It’s not a “made-up” fight at all. Republicans have been afraid to upset Hispanic-Americans and Democrats want nice, reliable, left-voting poor folks to swell the voting rolls, so they have sent deliberately mixed messages, particularly regarding the “Dreamers.” If a wall did nothing other than stop “migrant caravans,” it would be worth it.

Trump also promised a wall. Breaking promises is not the same as a lie, unless the promise was a lie when it was made, but Trump, who we have been told lies incessantly, has also been far more determined to fulfill campaign promises than any President within memory. (Obama promised to address the national debt. He promised to have the most transparent administration in history. He promised  that lthe use of chemical weapons by Syria would be the “red line.” He promised to be President of all the people, not just Democratic base demographic groups. He promised that if you like your heath care plan…well, you know the rest.)

It is the Democratic position on the wall that is a sham, because the money involved is a relative pittance. They are grandstanding, and the President is not.

3.  Slot machine ethics. How did I miss this? Three Las Vegas visitors who hit multi-million dollar jackpots playing slot machines are fighting the casinos’ efforts to void the pay-offs on the grounds that the machines “malfunctioned.” The episodes all occurred earlier this year. Unless there is a prominent notice on or around the slots pointing out that there is a limit to the payoff in any single play and specifying what the limit is, I think the casinos are obligated to live with losing whatever one of their evil, manipulative, Skinnerian machines cough up.

This isn’t like a malfunctioning ATM machine. Players are led to believe that whatever comes out when they pull the lever or push the button is theirs. If casinos can say that their machines malfunctioned and they are not responsible for the result, then gamblers should have the same option: “I’m sorry, but my limit on gambling losses was just $500. I shouldn’t be responsible for the additional $10,000 I lost on blackjack, because I malfunctioned.” Continue reading