Tag Archives: confirmation bias

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Month, Terrifying Thoughts Division: Daniel Greenfield”

Conservative journalist David Greenstein made a provocative speech before a Tea Party group in which he posited a “civil war,” defined by him as when a political party rejects a lawful Presidential election and refuses to accept the legitimacy of any government it does not dominate. I admit that offering up such inflammatory analysis for comment is the pedagogical equivalent of tossing a hand grenade in a room, but there is method to my madness, beginning with my conviction, documented here since  November 2016, that much of the Democratic Party is denying the legitimacy of the last Presidential election, and is actively working to find a way to remove President Trump without having to defeat him in the next one.  I believe that this is among the most damaging and dangerous political developments, and ethics outrages, in U.S. history, and one that has been intentionally covered up by an unethical news media with the same agenda.

Greenstein’s speech placed the matter front and center, and I guessed, correctly, that it would get a lot of attention, though the speech has been largely ignored by progressive commentators, even as numerous Democrats, announced that they would boycott the State of the Union message, a traditional yearly symbol of a unified people.  I also assumed that it would pose an interesting challenge for readers here, specifically the challenge of keeping bias out of their  analysis, since, as we all know, bias makes you stupid.

Chris Marschner did an especially good job of this, and here is his excellent Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quote Of The Month, Terrifying Thoughts Division: Daniel Greenfield:

 After listening to his speech I came away with a completely different take on the overall message. To me, he was chastising professional governance. I do not consider it irresponsible demagoguery but an merely the idea that we have gotten away from citizen governance and allowed our governing bodies to be overtaken by a ruling elite that uses its power to obtain more power. In doing so, they have created a civil war that rages within our society which helps them retain power.

Given that the speech was being delivered to a South Carolina Tea Party group his ideas would be readily accepted; and why not? Nationally, Tea Party groups were disparaged by the I.R.S, Anderson Cooper with his vulgar teabagger comments, the Congressional Black Caucus, and left leaning political commentators. Typically, they were characterized as racists, rednecks, rubes, and others that cling to their guns and religion. We know who made the clinger statement. Disparagement and ridicule is the modus operandi of power seekers and those with few abilities or achievements. It works because they know that if someone challenges them the challenger will become the target of ridicule; it becomes psychological extortion.

If asked whether I agree with the statement that the paramount objective of Mueller’s investigation is to remove the President I would have to answer that I don’t know. I do know that current evidence would lead someone to believe that a criminal charge is the objective. I made the point several days ago that seeking an obstruction charge without having the ability to prove an underlying charge of conspiracy is prima facie evidence of not seeking justice but merely to obtain a conviction. This is especially believable given the coordinated efforts to find multiple avenues for removal from office. Continue reading

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Two Ethics Heroes : Media Critics Jeff Greenfield And Howard Kurtz

 

Maybe there are some cracks in the wall. God, I hope so.

Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.

The sharp contrast with Greenfield and Kurtz’s remarkable candor that marks most of their industry was on display today, as The Washington Post held a series of panel discussions and aired live video around the theme “Americans & The Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News.” One  segment featured Post political reporter Dan Balz, one of the Post reporters I would categorize as a straight-shooter most of the time, talking to PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and Fox Special Report host Bret Baier. Woodruff’s comments were obtuse and depressing, but typical of most journalists and their defenders.

 BALZ: Judy you said something recently  I want to read to people: “You shouldn’t go into journalism if you want to win a popularity contest. If you’re doing your job, there are always going to be people who criticize your reporting. But we’ve never been at a place like we are today where there’s practically an entire industry around criticizing the media and holding the mainstream media up as suspect [ Balz didn’t read, but she also wrote, “and out to destroy an entire political philosophy in this country.” Well I said “most of the time.”]. I think the term ‘fake news’ has done a lot of damage to the media.” Describe the damage.

WOODRUFF: The damage is in the minds and the eyes of people who are consumers all across the country. And you see it in the polls. You see it in this [Knight Foundation] poll, a lessening of trust in the news media. I believe – it sounds corny, but I believe so passionately that a free press, free media, the role that we play, news media in our democracy, is part of what holds democracy together. And if enough Americans start thinking the press is not to be believed, that we are to be shoved to the side, regulated, or treated, controlled in some way, then I think we’ve got real problems. Even if it doesn’t get to that point, and they just don’t believe what we’re doing, then I think our democracy is weakened, and I think that’s what’s happening.

Got that? It’s the critics who are undermining the news media, not the unethical news media conduct that justifies the criticism! This quote is astounding. Journalists like Woodruff don’t see anything wrong with how they are doing their job, or rather not doing it. What harms democracy, Judy, is journalists behaving so unethically that the the public loses trust in them, not the criticism.

Now here are the two Ethics Heroes that do not parrot Woodruff’s defensive spin: Continue reading

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Ethics Update On The “Shithole” Scandal: More Dunces, Hacks, Hypocrites And Liars

When we last left the ‘Shithole’ scandal, now being cited routinely up and down the news media as proof positive that the President is a racist, we knew the following:

1 Unnamed sources “briefed on” or “familiar with” the President’s meeting with select lawmakers regarding an immigration deal told the Washington Post and others that President Trump “grew frustrated with lawmakers” when he learned that part of the proposed deal protected immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and said,

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

2. Despite the fact that these “sources” had no direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting they did not attend, the New York Times characterized them as having “direct knowledge,” which was impossible. The news media also represented these accounts based on briefings as fact, with headlines such as the Times’ “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

3. In a series of tweets, the President denied the characterization of what he had said.

4. Senator Dick Durbin, while not expressly quoting the President, told reporters that Trump had said things “in the course of his comments which were hate-filed, vile and racist,” and added, “I use those word advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that Oval Office that any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

5. Nonetheless, the news media, in its subsequent coverage in cable news shows and on the web, treated the claim that Trump had said what the second-hand, anonymous sources had claimed, and used this as a departure point for a general discussion of how racist and vulgar the President was. CNN commentators used the term “shithole” over a hundred times.

6. Websites and blogs with commentators capable of fairness and objectivity, like Ethics AlarmsAlthouse, and Powerline, were forced to accept arguendo (I’m sorry, but I love using that word) the anti-Trump narrative’s assumptions in order to point out that calling countries that are, in fact, “shitholes” is not a racist statement about the people in those countries. This, of course, is how Big Lie propaganda works. You have to accept the lie in order to debunk it.

To sum up, then: The news media reported as fact what were in truth  disputed comments in a private meeting, and the representation of these as truth solidified during the day and evening, and through yesterday.  Now we get headlines like this one, in Entertainment Weekly: “Anderson Cooper chokes up while discussing Trump’s ‘sh–hole’ comment”

Updated Comments and observations: Continue reading

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Public Confidence And Trust (1): Observations On Gallup’s Trust In Occupations Poll

I’ve been following the Gallup organization’s yearly polls on public attitudes toward institutions and occupations for a long time. The results are in for 2017. I’ll discuss the ethics implication of the Gallup occupations poll first; Part 2 will cover the institutions.

The occupations poll tends to fluctuate more year to year, and is most interesting as viewed a competition. Who are most trusted and regarded as most honest? Who are least trusted? Nurses have been ranked #1 in public trust for 16 straight years. I guess this means not too many people watch “Nurse Jackie.” I assume the consistently high rating is because we tend to trust people we have to trust, thus confirmation bias, and because there haven’t been any major nursing scandals or “Angels of Death” in the news. As you will see from the chart, medical doctors are trusted much less. I think that’s the result of an illusion.

Only six professions rate as more than 50% “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards: nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors, police officers and pharmacists. The honesty rating of pharmacists dropped five points since 2016, however, and it an occupation that has sometimes finished right behind the nurses. Gallup guesses that the opioid crisis is to blame, and maybe that’s right, though I would think the doctors who prescribe the drugs are more to blame then the druggists who sell them.

Public views of the clergy have fallen like a Chinese space station. Before the Catholic Church child molesting scandal in 2001, the clergy was very trusted at the high 60% level. Now it is all the way down to 42%, though the total of high trust and average trust is still 85%. I think the film “Spotlight” hurt, as it should have.

Occupations that I would regard as having positive public trust include those whose high trust+average scores are higher than their low trust+average scores. That group, in addition to the occupations already named above, includes day care providers, judges, auto mechanics, nursing home operators and bankers. I think in all of these cases, the public has no real idea about how trustworthy these occupations really are. We just hope they are trustworthy, so again, we have a result that is polluted by wishful thinking. These people are entrusted with the welfare of our children, our cars, our parents and our money, plus the justice system. They better be trustworthy. Ignorance is bliss.

I confess amazement that Wells Fargo scandal didn’t result in lowered trust for bankers. Continue reading

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The New York Times’ “Lessons From A Year Talking Race”: Not Fake News, Just Divisive And Misleading Propaganda

“Over the past year, we have hosted weekly live conversations about race and ethnicity on Facebook, tackling topics that ranged from black royalty to Latino baseball players to Asian-American slurs. RaceNYT, as we call the segment, is an extension of the crucial coverage on race — in America and beyond — that appears in The New York Times. We see it as a chance not only to explore important stories of race and what they mean to society, but also to give you, our readers and viewers, a chance to join the conversation.

These subjects are not always easy to talk about. Why, for instance, is affordable housing built mostly in poor, heavily minority areas? What are the terms about race that make us uncomfortable? And what do the United States and major institutions like universities owe the descendants of the enslaved people they profited from?

We explored these issues and more with a wide range of guests, including political strategists, filmmakers, academics and Times viewers. Here are five takeaways from the show…”

Thus spake the New York Times, online a couple of days ago, and in today’s print edition. What are stated as “takeaways” are, however, the product of confirmation bias, dubious assumptions, and efforts at political manipulation. For example…

Like racial minorities in the United States, Indigenous Australians are often relegated to the fringe of society, Craig Quartermaine, an Aboriginal television reporter and comedian, told us. “We’re window dressing,” he said.

Why this is unethical: Comparing the problems of Indigenous Australians to “racial minorities in the United States” is unsupportable. A comparison with indigenous North American populations would arguably be valid.

Madeline Vann reached out to us, wondering how she should handle the racially offensive remarks she was hearing in her community. She is a white freelance writer in Virginia.

Why this is unethical: Uh-uh. Ethics foul. You can’t tar a community like that without giving concrete examples. I live in Virginia: I almost never hear any “racially offensive remarks.” The New York Times core audience is the same group that believes it is “racially offensive” to object to NFL players using stadium time to issue half-baked protests they can’t articulate during the national anthem. The Times’ supposedly open inquiry on race begins with the assumption that the nation is racist. That’s called a bias. What kind of remarks are you talking about Madeline? How many, how often and from how many people?

“The first year of the Trump presidency has been marked by a vast racial chasm where perspectives often exist in different worlds.”

Why this is unethical: Wow, all that division in such a short time! This statement is deceitful. The reason there is a vast racial chasm is because the previous administration had eight years to put it there, and the because the news media fully committed to the project. The Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Trump Inauguration, because part of the campaign strategy against him was to declare he was a racist, and that anyone who voted for him was a racist. That was a strategy developed into an art form to protect Barack Obama from legitimate criticism, and keep his loyal African American base angry and afraid.

Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of a “white Hispanic” was politicized by Obama and the CDC to widen that “chasm,” and it occurred midway through the Obama years. In 2012, Joe Biden said that the Republicans wanted to put blacks “back in chains.” Black Lives Matter wasn’t a creature of the Trump administration. Black college students didn’t start demanding “safe spaces” without whites and special privileges after Trump’s election: they did it before. The historical airbrushing madness to use slavery to justify erasing any references to the confederacy was an Obama era phenomenon that has extended into Trump’s administration. The Oscars were bullied into making race a criteria for artistic honors during Obama’s administration.

The more I read that quote, the more misleading and intentionally dishonest it seems.

The Muslim-American activists Aber Kawas and Dalia Mogahed told us how they felt last month when the authorities quickly described an attack by a Muslim man in Manhattan as terrorism, while that term was never officially applied to a white man who fatally shot more than 50 people in Las Vegas weeks earlier.

“Pretty much we define terror attacks as something that’s done by a Muslim,” Ms. Kawas said. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/2017: Posts Collide! Journalists Self-Destruct! Women Undermine Themselves! And A Poll…

Good morning!

1  Bingo!  Amy Alkon, aka the Advice Goddess, has been staking out lonely territory as a feminist who feels the #MeToo mob and its attendant hysteria is setting the cause of women back, not advancing it. Here most recent post begins by mocking an LA Times hysteric who wrote that

“What happens when society ignores sexual assault? You get Lesotho, where girls aren’t even safe at the grocery store…”

Akon responded in part…

This sort of ridiculous hysteria — that our country is anything like a place where 19% of teenaged girls are forced to marry — makes things here cumulatively worse, not better.This is the safest, most modern, most individual rights-driven country in the world.

If you are in a profession where there’s a great deal of money and power, there are likely to be sociopaths of various stripes who will prey on you — whether you’re a man or a woman. No, sexual assault should not be ignored, but we also don’t help ourselves by turning an invitation out for a drink by a co-worker into some sort of victimization.

If it isn’t your boss trying to manipulate you into the sack when you want no such thing; if there’s no quid pro quo; if requests for a date stop when you ask for them to stop (or maybe after the second time), do you really need to identify as a victim?…

People have conflicting goals and desires. Any two people. Heterosexual men negotiate these with each other. They’re very comfortable with it — as am I, no matter what sex or sexuality you are or have. If one person isn’t holding the other down or saying “fuck me, or you lose your job…” …If there’s merely a need for a mild rebuff (like, “Sorry, I don’t date co-workers), well, this seems to me like a normal part of adult life.

I predict two things from the current hysteria (where, say, a stolen kiss from a drunken co-worker is equated with Harvey Weinsteining and may even be seen as a firing offense):

1. Employers will think twice about hiring women, especially when they have the option of hiring a commensurately qualified male.

2. Men will start seeing escort workers in larger numbers than ever, and it will become more acceptable than it’s ever been to pay for sex.

2. Who will save journalism, and when will it admit is needs saving? Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel‏ mocked the President for declaring his Florida rally “packed to the rafters” last week. Wiegel’s tweet included a picture of a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center.This was, it turned out, a mistake, but also a mistake brought about by confirmation bias, sloppiness, and hostility to the President. Once again, the news media handed the President the ammunition to discredit it, as it deserves to be discredited.Trump tweeted after the rally...

“@DaveWeigel WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in…Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!”

Weigel apologized, tweeting,

“Sure thing: I apologize…Was confused by the image of you walking in the bottom right corner…It was a bad tweet on my personal account, not a story for Washington Post. I deleted it after like 20 minutes. Very fair to call me out.”

Weigel is a well-known Washington Post reporter, and the fact that he botched this in his own name rather than the Post’s doesn’t diminish its harm to the credibility of the already reeling news media one whit. The apology was nice, but it was also unavoidable. While Trump certainly has primed journalist skepticism with his adversarial relationship to reality, reporters are supposed to be professionals, and leaping to conclusions without confirmation or sufficient evidence isn’t professional, or worthy of public trust. Fact: Weigel would not have done this to Barack Obama.

Weigel’s gaffe was minor compared to CNN’s fiasco the day before, or the Brian Ross episode at ABC, but it deserves to be considered as part of the same pathology. Wrote Glenn Reynold on his blog today,

In attempting to “denormalize” Trump, they’ve denormalized themselves. If they simply reported fairly and accurately, without their screamingly obvious bias, they’d be able to do him much more damage. But they can’t help themselves.

Bingo. They can’t help themselves, and the ethics alarms when bias looms just don’t sound. Today the New York Times has a front page story, complete with a creepy photo of the President, featuring a long, insulting quote from Nancy Pelosi about how “unprepared” Trump was for the job. Oddly, nobody thought, “Wait, did we publish anything like this about the most unqualified President elected up to that  point? You know, the last one?”
Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/17: The New Truthers

I have an early morning D.C. Bar program to do, and my goal of getting up at six after watching the second season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix (and waiting for someone to accuse Eleven  of sexual assault …this is how Netflix’s luck is running these days) until 1:30 am was missed spectacularly, to this is a quick ethics thought rather than a true warm-up.

The thought?

The “Russiagate” is this President’s “Birther” conspiracy, his “Truther” smear, and the 2016-17 model of “Bush stole the election.”

I realized this while reading one of our esteemed commenters who obviously believes Donald Trump made some nefarious deal with the Russians to sabotage Hillary. He really believes this. So does my sister, who I know a lot better, and has never before been prone to seeing Bigfoot under her bed or Nessie in her toilet.

This idiot also believes:

“We just have to, like the slogan says, stay woke; just stay woke, be careful, because I can see the wheels turning now…we’re marching toward impeachment, there’s no question about it. If that happens, are we prepared? Because it’s going to happen, So we have to make sure, Rev. Sharpton, that we are prepared when this happens so we don’t just wake up one day blindsided. I think it’s just going to get so tight and it’s going to close in and then everybody is going to be indicted around this president, and then he is going to realize he is probably next on the list. And I think he is going to come up with an excuse like ‘somebody is trying to kill Barron, and so I’m going to resign.’”

Who actually said this in public, so it could be recorded fr posterity? Why, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), that’s who, the objective member of the Congressional Black Caucus who the news media relied on to give an objective assessment of the tone of President Trump’s bereavement call to the widow of a serviceman killed by ISIS in Niger. Her characterization of Trump’s remarks as “insulting” and, by extension, racist, were sufficient to launch more than a week of attacks on the President’s competence and compassion.

I don’t doubt the good Congresswoman’s sincerity; I’m sure she believes this fantasy. I’m sure she believes those hats she wears aren’t ridiculous too. Nonetheless, there is no justification for her certitude, and only hate, confirmation bias and a refusal to abide by basic rules of logic cause her to believe what is now the fourth in a 17 year line of unethical partisans manufacturing a narrative to delegitimize an elected President.

Once again I am sorry that the Ethics Scoreboard is offline (I have to get around to fixing that), because in several posts there during the Bush administration I predicted where the Democratic strategy of claiming that Gore actually won Florida would lead: massive distrust, polarization, and a tit-for-tat payback cycle that would do massive harm to U.S. society. Many Democrats still claim that the 2000 election was stolen. Then the more hyper-partisan and conspiracy theory-prone of them moved on to Truther theories that Bush and Cheney somehow and for some reason engineered the 9-11 attacks.

I’ve talked to these people. I’ve read their websites. They are mad as hatters, but it all begins with the fact that they don’t trust Bush, Cheney and the Republicans because they stole the election. Actually, these crackpots have more substance to base their conviction on than the “Russiagate” theory contains. When Obama was elected, the same thing occurred: conservatives (and racists) could not accept that an inexperienced, far left ideologue like Barack Obama, with ties to America-haters like Bill Ayers and Reverent Wright, could be President. So they came up with, and many somehow believed— the Birther foolishness, easily the most absurd of the anti-President disinformation slanders yet. Continue reading

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