Unethical Headline Of The Week, “Nah, The News Media Isn’t Promoting Fear And Panic” Division

What possible excuse can there be for this? There is none.

Let’s start with the “six wars combined” stat. That doesn’t count the  top six wars in  US history in combat deaths, each of which  also happen to have  had more than 10,000 deaths. The “battlefield” modifier is also a cheat: the headline actually calls deaths from the disease “battlefield deaths”! They aren’t battlefield deaths.  Meanwhile, the two earliest major wars in our history both had more than 10,000 military deaths, which is the usual way we tote up such things. The next three combined, The Iraq War (#9), the Philippine-American War (#10), and the Spanish American War (#11) add up to more than 10,000, so to  get to six you have to  carefully work around the list and drop in some wars nobody remembers.

But who thinks like that? We have have over 40,000 suicides every year. Almost 40,000 die ever year from car accidents. About 35,000 die every year from falls. 10,000 is less than the typical year’s deaths from fire, choking and drowning, and so what?

The headline is yet another cognitive dissonance trick: war is something we regard as especially horrible, so the idea is to get the public to associate the epidemic with wars, which involve violent death. Yeah, let’s really scare them .But the Wuhan virus has nothing to do with wars. The comparison doesn’t belong in the story, much less the headline. Comparing it with other pandemics and epidemics would be misleading enough.

The news media’s coverage of the Wuhan Virus epidemic  has been uniformly despicable: sensational, politicized, unreliable. At a time when a competent, objective press and broadcast media is essential—it always is, but in a national emergency especially so—journalism has dived to a new low.  None of the news media is beyond reproach: Fox News has frequently taken the opposite approach to the rest, hyping skepticism about the seriousness of the outbreak and various doomsday models, and spreading rumors and speculation as fact. Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Woody Allen! And Another Victory For The Illiberal Mob…

This blog certainly forces me to defend some  unsavory characters.

Woody Allen is one among the small group of artists who I find so personally repellent that I can’t enjoy their work even while recognizing and appreciating its excellence. That does not mean, however, thatAllen’s work is not important nor that his life and career lack cultural significance. As I wrote here,

“I found myself unable to enjoy any of Allen’s films after he cheated on his de facto wife with his de facto daughter. I also don’t believe in enriching, even indirectly, horrible people in their professional endeavors if I can conveniently avoid it.”

That, however, is a personal choice that I would never impose on others, nor on the arbiters and trustees of culture, as it would be unethical to do so. Thus I wrote, just a few days ago, of Ronin Farrow’s demand that his publishers refuse to hand Allen’s memoirs because he believes his sister’s account that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child,

“I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author.”

Now we learn that the publishers have been intimidated into dropping Allen’s book after all:

Hachette Book Group on Friday dropped its plans to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography and said it would return all rights to the author, a day after its employees protested its deal with the filmmaker“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said in a statement. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

But she added that Hachette executives had discussed the matter with employees and, “after listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”

There are those pesky rationalizations again! Oh, it’s a hard decision, so that excuses it from being a bad decision. This is 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision” again, which I reviewed yesterday. Next, we get this nauseating sequence, which perfectly embodies 64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”

The statement says that “We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard,’ and follows it up by saying that it will not publish this “challenging book” and thus this different voice and conflicting point of view  will not be heard. Seldom does such complete hypocrisy define itself in the span of so few sentences.

The “difficult” decision that contradicts the company’s stated values results from nothing better than cowardly capitulating to a mob carrying out the goals of cancel culture. In this case, those goals include infringing on free speech and the public’s right to know, if they want to know. Our democratic ideals and the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights have no chance of surviving if those who own and run companies like Hachette emulate the spineless administrators of educational institutions and dissolve into pools of passive submission every time holding to those ideals and principles threatens to entail a risk of sacrifice or adverse consequences. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/2020: “Rosie,” Hervis, And An Irish Idiot

Mornin’!

Boy, I wish I was in Fort Myers, at the Red Sox Spring Training camp, instead of at my desk, obsessing…

1. Report from the social media wars: The tone among the Facebook Borg has shifted dramatically. The Trump Hate is as strong as ever, but the lack of enthusiasm over Joe Biden is palpable, and the Bernie Bros. clearly see the writing on the wall. The posts by the more rational infected are full of hopes that Joe will be so weakened by age and dementia that he’ll let “good people” run the show. Most troubling of all are the discouraged Warren fans, who appear to have been permanently disabled. Even the fact that Massachusetts Democrats had reached the unavoidable conclusion that she was a fraud and couldn’t be trusted—for a “Favorite Daughter” of a state to finish third in a state primary is almost unprecedented—can’t penetrate those Trump Derangement hardened skulls. A genuine friend, not  a pure Facebook variety, wrote that he had read my “arguments” that Warren was a lying fraud and found them “unpersuasive.” This guy’s a tenured college professor! What I wrote weren’t arguments, they were facts. That the mainstream media  didn’t widely publicize those facts—more people know about the President’s typos than know that Warren lied about being “chased around a desk” by a male superior who was in a wheelchair at the time, or her false spin claiming that she had fought for female plaintiffs in a lawsuit where her client was a defendant corporation—is beside the point. The entire period from Trump’s election to the present has been an experiment is selective perception of reality. Every day now, I have to check my ethics alarms to prevent me from posting an intentionally pain-inflicting message that says to the people who have been trading “likes” and “loves” over daily hate-pieces of various levels of truth and have been excoriating anyone who points out the danger inherent to  efforts to undo an election:

“Your party is going to lose, and lose ugly. It’s going to lose because it rejected democracy, and behaved disgracefully, dividing the nation while accusing the President of exactly the misconduct they were engaging in themselves. And you, the mob, have applauded and cheered while they did this, attacking anyone who tried to bring rationality to the discussion. You deserve what’s coming. You deserve the misery it will cause you. I’m sure you will blame anyone and anything in sight, but it will be your fault for becoming weak, biased, arrogant, and hysterical. I hope that you will learn from the experience, but everything I have seen, heard and read since November 2016 tells me that you will only get worse—more angry, more resistant to non-conforming views, more doctrinaire and totalitarian in your attitudes. You had the intellect to behave otherwise, but lacked the integrity and courage to resist  peer pressure and groupthink. I have no sympathy for you.

2. This is a scam. My wife got an email offer from CVS for a “free gift” if she would fill out a questionnaire. When she prepared to submit it, she discovered that the “shipping fee” for the “gift” would be eight bucks, and would require her to send in all manner of personal information.  She deleted the whole thing having wasted 15 minutes she will want back on her deathbed. Our choices are to encourage the government to regulate this abuse of free speech, to find a way to punish the companies who engage in it, or to ignore these devices in sufficiently large numbers that they try something else less obnoxious, or more effective. Continue reading

Women’s History Month Ethics: Should We Remember Hanna Reitsch?

If Women’s History Month is truly intended to honor remarkable women whose stories have been neglected over time, shouldn’t we spend a bit of it learning about Hanna Reitsch?

Born in 1912, she was intrepid, irrepressible, bold and brave, and few women—indeed, few men— of her generation could claim the kind of exploits she had completed by the time of her death in 1979. Yet I’ll wager you never heard of her.

There was one teeny little problem with Hanna, though. She was a Nazi.

Hanna Reitsch was the first female test pilot in world history. She left medical school  in Germany to take up flying full time, and quickly became superb glider pilot. The Germans built gliders because they  fit through a loophole in the Treaty of Versailles, which forbade the defeated nation from  building “war planes.” Reitsch also did stunt flying in movies. At the age of 21 she broke the world’s flying altitude record for women (9,184 feet). More records and firsts were to follow after she became a test pilot in 1935: the women’s gliding distance record, the first woman in the world to be promoted to flight captain,  the first woman to fly a helicopter, the  world distance record in a helicopter, the first pilot  to fly a helicopter inside an enclosed space, and the women’s world record in gliding for point-to-point flight, among others.

Reitsch was made an honorary flight captain by Adolf Hitler, and  in 1937 she became a test pilot for the Luftwaffe, as she completely embraced National Socialism.  She  flew  German troops along the Maginot Line  during the Germans’ 1940 invasion of France; later in the war, she earned  an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables. Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-powered interceptor that she flew at 500 mph. Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class, after she crashed while testing the ME 163 and managed to record everything that had happened before she passed out. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 1/3/2020: “Those Who Don’t Understand The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Are Doomed To Behave Like Idiots And Not Know Why”

Who said that?

I did.

1. “This is Rose. Won’t you give to help her and people life her who suffer from crippling hatred of the President of the United States? Just a few dollars a month...”

A more vivid example of where anti-Trump hysteria can lead than these two tweets can hardly be found. The author is #MeToo activist Rose McGowan, Harvey Weinstein victim, conventional Hollywood progressive. These were her reactions to the unequivocally welcome news that General Qassim Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds force and the architect of terrorism all over the Middle East, was killed by a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport:

When a social media critic correctly pointed out the lunacy of that one, the former “Charmed” actress responded,

Would it be unfair to say that “Please do not kill us” was the message conveyed by President Obama’s craven and dangerous  nuclear deal with Iran, giving the rogue state billions of dollars in exchange for a (worthless) promise not to pursue nuclear arms capability until later, at which time there would be nothing the U.S. could do about it?

I heard these kinds of sniveling, “Better Red than Dead” protests many times in my youth. They come often from people so young,  inexperienced and ignorant that their confusion can be forgiven—a little–but also from older Americans—more frequently women, unfortunately, and make of that what you will—who have somehow reached maturity without learning that everyone, but especially this unique country, has to be ready to defend their values, and just as important, has to be able to communicate clearly that we will defend those values, with terrible force if necessary.

Over the last couple of decades, a large and influential segment of the progressive community has forgotten that. Fortunately, the majority of Americans have not.

2. How it works: The fact that President Trump is at the dead bottom of the cognitive dissonance scale for most Democrats means that anything he does and any result that would normally and objectively be regarded as positive if another President, especially a Democrat and particularly Barack Obama, were responsible drags that event or decision down below the midpoint into negative territory, unless someone recognizes that their opinion is being warped by psychological forces and biases beyond their control, and adjusts appropriately. Apparently none of the Democrats who have shot off their mouths since Soleimani‘s demise have such wisdom and self-control. Thus they are beginning critical comments with statements like this tweet by Rep. Andy Levin, which was typical:

“There is no question that Qasem Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. I feel no sadness at the news of his death. But I have serious concerns about this President’s execution of a potential act of war without authorization of Congress.”

 “He was a terrible, murderous enemy of our nation and we’re fortunate he’s dead BUT” is just not a smart message.

The President gave the order that resulted in the death of the Quds Force leader after multiple attacks against Americans and American facilities in Iraq that could be traced back to Soleimani.  The Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah began the exchange  with a rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base on December 27. A U.S. contractor was killed andmany Americans and Iraqis were wounded. The Pentagon concluded that  Soleimani ordered the attack. In response, the U.S. launched airstrikes against the militia, killing 25 militiamen. Members of the militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, an invasion of  American soil. Again, the Pentagon concluded that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.” After U.S. troops forced the attackers to retreat, the President made it clear that there would be harsh consequences for the episode. There was.

Iran’s leader had tweeted that there was “nothing” the U.S. could do. What kind of American does not take satisfaction in what occurred next? My view: only those in the powerful grip of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale.

Here’s Joe Biden: Continue reading

A Cautionary Tale: The Corruption Of Post Columnist Colbert King, Part II

Part I is here.

King refused to apply his usual ethics alarms to Obama, but continued to be a credible and objective analyst where the D.C. government was involved. He was an instant Donald Trump-hater, however. the second the 2016 results were known. I can understand reaction to the two-time runaway winner of the Ethics Alarms “Asshole of the Year” award. But King concluded Trump was a racist—his embrace of  birther accusations against his beloved Obama was enough to guarantee that—and once Trump was elected, King became the Post’s counterpart to Trump-deranged Times columnist Charles M. Blow, except that King at his worst is usually more endurable than Blow at his best.

King’s latest anti-Trump screed, however, shows how far a smart pundit can fall when the cognitive dissonance scale and confirmation bias work in tandem, especially when old age marches on and one is mired in both work and personal bubbles where a single bias dominates.

The column begins with one of my least varieties of fake news, future news, when a journalist sets out to push a negative view of a politician based on what he will do.  The headline is “It’s a good bet Trump pardons his felon allies. Here’s when that’s most likely.”

I don’t think it is a good bet, though it is certainly possible. King assumes it is a good bet, as his column makes clear (along with all of his previous columns relating to Trump) because he thinks of the President as a corrupt racketeer. King’s once nimble mind  is now incapable of imagining a justification for pardoning the “allies” in question, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort. I can: arguably all three of them were indicted and convicted because of the “resistance”effort to try to drive Donald Trump from office, and to send a message to anyone who might be of value to his administration that they would instantly be in cross-hairs if they dared to try to support the President. President  Trump might feel responsible for their plight, and use his absolute clemency power to relieve their burdens. If so, it would not be an unprecedented political or personal use of the pardon and clemency power. King reallywas just using this question as a pretense to vent about the President, whom he detests, shredding his own credibility in the process. For example, Continue reading

A Cautionary Tale: The Corruption Of Post Columnist Colbert King, Part I

Colbert King is 80 now, but he is still a regular columnist with the Washington Post. As a recent column demonstrated, he has finally fallen prey to the Post culture and no longer is what he once was: the rare pundit, in his case, a liberal one, who could be counted upon for fairness and integrity regardless of the topic. The one-two punches of Barack Obama and Donald Trump showed how cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias can corrupt the best of us, and make no mistake about it, King was once one of the best.

Although he is an African-American, he stood out for decades among his corruption- enabling black colleagues in consistently calling out the D.C. government’s corrupt leadership—notably Marion Barry but many others—on their arrogantly dishonest, venal and untrustworthy practices and attitudes.

Then Barack Obama happened. I listened in surprise on a local Sunday talking head show as King defended Barack Obama’s quiet, decades long assent to the black liberation (that is, anti-white, anti-American rantings of Reverend Wright, Obama’s “spiritual mentor.” Were these rationalizations I heard Colbert King uttering? King reliably mocked rationalizations, and yet here he was using them, notably “Everybody does it,” to defend  a black Presidential candidate’s approval and association with a black racist and demagogue.

Once Obama was elected, King got worse. Not only could Obama do no wrong, but those who criticized were enemies in his eyes; worse, King treated Obama’s appointees and cronies with similar reverence, a complete reversal from his approach to the  parade of incompetent or criminal black politicians in D.C.  Notably, he defended Obama “wing man” Eric Holder, the racialist Attorney General, when he was refusing to comply with a legitimate Congressional inquiry into the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious fiasco. His excuses for Holder and his attacks on Republicans were so redolent of partisan hackery that in 2012 I was moved to write my one-time Ethics Hero the “Open Letter”: Continue reading

The Most Important Question Raised By Another Fake Hate Crime Story: How Much Lousy, Irresponsible, Divisive, Biased Journalism Will The Public Tolerate And The News Media Refuse To Fix?

All over the major newspapers and news media last week was the ugly tale of another “hate crime.” 12-year-old Amari Allen, a black sixth-grader at a Christian, Northern Virginia private school, said that three white boys held her down and  cut off some of her dreadlocks.

The New York Times  and other news sources decided this was national news, just like a white Catholic school boy not having the right expression on his face when he was being harassed by a Native American activist.  More proof of racism in America! “They put me on the ground,” the girl recounted in an emotional phone interview”One of them put my hands behind my back. One put his hands over my mouth. One cut my hair. They were saying that my hair was ugly, that it was nappy.”  Why was this alleged episode of childhood bullying worthy of national attention? It was because Mike Pence’s wife Karen teaches at the school, the Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, about 15 minutes from my home.

This was cognitive dissonance manipulation. Pence’s wife teaches at a school where a black girl was racially harassed, thus the school is racially biased, thus Karen Pence is facilitating racism, thus her husband consorts with a racist, and it all leads back to that racist, President Trump. ( Big Lie #4)

With the same motivation,  the left wing websites enthusiastically promoted the story. Here’s the always shameless Daily Kos:

See the white supremacy hate crimes that Trump, Pence, and Republicans foster? The local NAACP immediately got into the act, talking about lawsuits.

Except that it didn’t happen. The Washington Post reported today that the girl has recanted, and her grandparents, who are raising her, have apologized.  Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/8/2019, As Tumbleweeds Roll Through The Deserted Streets Of Ethics Alarms…

Is anybody out there?

1. What’s going on here? The AP deleted a tweet on September 5 tweet attributing the murders of Israeli athletes  to undefined “guerrillas.” Someone complained: it then tweeted, “The AP has deleted a tweet about the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics because it was unclear about who was responsible for the killings and referred to the attackers as guerrillas. A new tweet will be sent shortly.” Finally, this was the tweet decided upon:

“On Sept. 5, 1972, the Palestinian group Black September attacked the Israeli Olympic delegation at the Munich Games, killing 11 Israelis and a police officer. German forces killed five of the gunmen.”

2. Wait: ARE there really “AI ethicists,” or just unethical ethicists grabbing a new niche by claiming that they are any more qualified for this topic than anyone else?

From the Defense Systems website:

After a rash of tech employee protests, the Defense Department wants to hire an artificial intelligence ethicist. “We are going to bring on someone who has a deep background in ethics,” tag-teaming with DOD lawyers to make sure AI can be “baked in,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who leads the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, told reporters during an Aug. 30 media briefing.

The AI ethical advisor would sit under the JAIC, the Pentagon’s strategic nexus for AI projects and plans, to help shape the organization’s approach to incorporating AI capabilities in the future. The announcement follows protests by Google and Microsoft employees concerned about how the technology would be used — particularly in lethal systems — and questioning whether major tech companies should do business with DOD.

I’m hoping that the Defense Department isn’t doing this, as the article implies, because some pacifist, anti-national defense techies at Microsoft complained. [Pointer: Tom Fuller]

3. Campus totalitarians gonna totalitary!  University of Michigan students and alumni aare demanding that the University to sever ties with real estate developer Stephen M. Ross , who is the largest donor in the University’s history. This would presumably include removing his name from  Ross School of Business, which he substantially funded. (His name is on other buildings as well) Did Ross rape women willy-nilly? Has he been shown to be racist? No, he held  a re-election fundraiser for the President of the United States. Continue reading