Tag Archives: defamation

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/13/2017

1. Is the concept that people and groups who have ugly or even essentially un-American beliefs and positions still ave the right to express them, advocate them, and do so without being attacked, and once attacked, have the right to defend themselves like any other citizen really so hard to grasp? Is it also controversial after all these years? Based on the echo-chamber garbage I’m reading on Facebook and on blogs like The Huffington Post, it would appear so.

2. I haven’t been following the Taylor Swift groping lawsuit, have you? I’m not sure it justifies following, though it does follow the path of campus sexual assault accusations. To summarize for those of you with higher priorities, pop superstar Taylor Swift was in the midst of a 2013 tour when  she hosted a meet-and-greet for fans in Denver. David Mueller, then a DJ for the radio station KYGO, came to the event and posed for a photo with Swift and his girlfriend. Here is the resulting photo, courtesy of gossip site TMZ:

Swift said that Mueller reached under her skirt and molested her from behind. Her security team ejected the DJ and complained toMueller’s employer, KYGO, which fired him. fired him. In 2015,  Mueller filed a defamation suit against Swift,  denying that he touched her intimately and demanding millions in damages for his lost job and sullied reputation. She has counter sued for a single dollar.

As with many sexual assault cases tried in a civil setting or by a university kangaroo court, this lawsuit will come down to who the jury believes, and the photo, which is the only evidence. (Mueller says that he recorded a two-hour phone call with KYGO the day after he learned of  Swift’s complaint, and had a copy of the audio file on his laptop and on an external hard drive, and  his cell phone too, but he spilled coffee on and then lost the laptop, while the external hard drive inexplicably stopped working. Then he threw out the cell phone.  Sure. ) In its article about the case, Vox says,

“America has long had an unspoken understanding that famous women have no real right to bodily autonomy. Women in general aren’t understood to have much right to bodily autonomy in America: hence rape culture, hence comments about rape like, “if a man walked around with a suit made of $100 bills, he’d expect to be robbed, wouldn’t he?” that make women’s bodies analogous to money. But because fame already comes with diminished expectations of privacy, celebrity women are considered to be especially fair game.”

Fake history. I was certainly not taught this, nor did I “understand it” to be true. There are, and have always been, pig assholes who think like Vox describes, but they have been regarded as assholes for decades. This is feminist bigotry at work, stated as fact. As a civilized male who was raised to respect women and their bodily autonomy, I find the trope that all men, especially those on college campuses, are nascent rapists political propaganda of the most despicable kind, and not worthy of the seriousness accorded it by female Democratic Senators, publications like Vox, Obama’s Education Department and feminists. My reading of the case is that Swift made the unfortunate but understandable choice of continuing to pose for the picture while this creep was fondling her butt, but that Mueller will have a difficult time proving defamation—the burden is on him, not her—and is likely to lose, not in small part because Swift, a trained PR whiz, was a spectacularly effective witness. ( Question from the plaintiff’s counsel: Why did your skirt look undisturbed in the photo if my client had his hand under it as you claim?  Swift: “Because my ass is located in the back of my body.” Continue reading

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The Trustworthy New York Times, Whose Editors Don’t Read Their Own Paper

I was stunned when the New York Times, after a Bernie Sanders supporter engineered a sniper attack on a group of Republican Congressmen (Steve Scalise is still hospitalized) published an editorial including the “everybody does it” argument that Republican rheteric had activated madmen too, reminding readers that there had been a  “clear” and “direct” causal connection between Palin’s PAC’s “targeting” of Gabrielle Giffords’ district and Jared Loughner’s murder of six people in Tucson. How could they be dredging up this old smear again, after it had been so thoroughly debunked? It seemed like a desperate, vicious deflection.

The  theory had caused an extended and heated debate at the time of the Tucson attack, with left-biased media pundits, including the Times’ Paul Krugman and others, attempting to silence conservatives by arguing that their harsh “eliminationist rhetoric” had put Gifford in the crosshairs, literally. The Left’s prime scapegoats for the shootings were the most vocal conservative  critics  of President Obama and the Democrats at the time, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.The smear was transparent and dishonest; eventually even President Obama rejected it in the best speech of his tenure as President. It was also quickly disproven by the facts. Loughner, if anything, was a progressive lunatic. His written rants suggested no influence by the Right at all, and certainly no indication that Palin’s use of a crosshairs graphic to indicate Democrats “targeted” for defeat at the ballot box had even been seen by the killer, much less set him on his murderous path.

The revived lie was taken down online within a day, though not before the Times’s rival for the title of  “Parper Most Willing To Devastate Its Reputation To Destroy Donald Trump” issued a merciless ‘factcheck.”  The falsehod was also put into print. Several lawyers suggested that Palin had grounds for a defamation lawsuit, even though, as a public figure, prevailing in a lawsuit would require her to prove “actual malice.” Palin did sue.  Sure enough, The Times is denying malice by arguing that it made an “honest mistake.” But how could it be an honest mistake, when the Times itself had published reporting that finally proved Loughner was no devotee of Palin or Limbaugh.

For the Times editors to claim they made an honest mistake, they must insist that they were unaware of what had been prominently published in their own newspaper, under their own oversight. Sure, that’s certainly the kind of professionalism, competence and care one expects from the flagship of American journalism. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/1/17

 

Good Morning, World!

1. Follow-Up on the 7/28 morning post: Sometimes a popular public figure’s words and conduct so obviously show a deficit of character that I wonder if those who admire him or her are not paying attention, or are creeps themselves. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is officially in this category. First, I do not care for foreigners who obsessively bash our leaders, however bashable. They don’t have standing, in most cases, and their opinions are by definition uninformed if they don’t live here. Most obnoxious of all, however, in Rowling’s case, was her indefensible conduct regarding her recent infamous fake news tweet that circulated to her mob of followers a deceptively edited video showing President Trump cruelly ignoring a boy in a wheelchair, when he in fact stopped, crouched, and spoke to the child. She did this (“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou” was the snotty accompanying comment) on July 28, and the same day it was widely debunked, with the actual video being circulated on the web. No response came from Rowling, even as her tweet and libel continued to be liked and retweeted by “the resistance.”

On July 30, even CNN’s Brian Stelter, with extra time on his hands because his alleged news media ethics show avoids criticizing bias in the news media, flagged the bad tweet, and asked why Rowling hadn’t retracted it. Come on, Brian, you know why! It is for the same reason CNN continues to use unethical journalism to attack the President: they don’t believe he’s worthy of fairness or honesty.

Finally,  after various conservatives dredged up this year-old tweet from Rowling to show her hypocrisy and shame her with her own chosen words…

and after left-wing, fellow Brit Trump-basher Piers Morgan expressed frustration with her, and after PunditFact, a spin-off of PolitiFact, rated Rowling’s claim “Pants on Fire,” and after the boy’s mother herself denied that Rowling’s version occurred, the author finally retracted the tweet and took it down. She also tweeted this unethical apology:

Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proferred hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage, multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction. I very clearly projected my own sensitivities around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologise unreservedly. These tweets will remain, but I will delete the previous ones on the subject.

This is a miserable apology, containing the stinking tell of the non-apology apology, “if anyone was offended” in this case the equivalent “if that caused any distress.”  The two people she non-apologizes to had no reason to be “distressed,’ since the tweet wasn’t an attack on them. This is not an apology at all, since it does not apologize ..

…to the person fraudulently attacked, President Trump, as well as his family and supporters

…to those deceived by her retweeted lie, and

…to the people who trusted her and became accessories in the false attack

…for taking four days to take down a lie that had been thoroughly exposes as one.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, it is a bottom of the barrel #10:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

This rot is actually worse than a #10, as Rowling dares to ladle soppy virtue-signalling onto it. She only falsely attacked the President of the United States and spread a lie around the world because she is so, so sensitive and concerned about the treatment of handicapped people! Don’t you understand? It’s because she’s so compassionate and good that this happened!

It is my experience that good people can usually manage a sincere and remorseful apology to those harmed by their words or conduct.

2. This unethical lawsuit could sustain a stand-alone post, but I refuse to devote one to it as a matter of principle. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, Social Media, Sports, Unethical Tweet

Infowars’ Alex Jones, Purveyor Of The Most Untrustworhy Political Website North Of “The News Nerd,” Provides One Of The Most Disingenuous Apologies Imaginable

A few stipulations:

1. Anyone who for a second thought it was anything more than a bad spoof that John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were engaged in a child sex ring operating out of a D.C. pizza joint has gone waaaay beyond “Bias Makes You Stupid” to “Bias Makes People Who Are Stupid Already Too Dangerous For Human Companionship.”

2. Anyone who believes anything that appears on the conspiracy blog “Infowars” is a sitting duck for the next Ponzi scheme.

3. My theory is that Breibart pays Jones to make it look reliable and objective by comparison. And it gets its money’s worth..

The so called Pizzagate conspiracy theory held that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring centered around Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. There was never any evidence to support it, and more importantly, was ridiculous on its face. It did not originate with Alex Jones, the proprietor of far right Infowars, but since it was uncomplimentary to Democrats, Jones was supporting Donald Trump, and he has also claimed on Infowars that the 9/11 attacks were  carried out by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown  was a hoax concocted by anti-Second Amendment fanatics, the Pizzagate theory fit right in to the rest of the BS. Thanks in great part to Jones,  the hoax circulated on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, flourished in online forums frequented by idiots, and produced more static interfering with a rational approach to a crucial election.

This hoax, unlike, say, the claim that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, had measurable consequences. The pizzeria, its owner and his employees received death threats. Their business has suffered. Nearby businesses have also been adversely affected, and the hoax even spread to several other pizzerias around the country for some reason.The restaurant was closed for two days in December after Edgar M. Welch, one of the above referenced idiots,  showed up at Comet Ping Pong to “investigate,” and fired a semiautomatic rifle  inside the pizzeria. Welch pleaded guilty on Friday to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm. Good. One idiot down.

Now Jones has issued an apology. It was obviously crafted by lawyers: Comet Pizza had demanded one in February, and by law Jones had one month to retract his libel (arguably liable) to avoid being sued. The month would have been up this weekend. Here is that apology, with key sections bolded and numbered to make commenting here easier: Continue reading

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When Ignorance, Unethical Character And Abuse of Power Converge: The Persecution Of Ann King and Susan Hines

woman_being_handcuffed

Anne King of Washington County, Georgia, was furious at her former husband and called him out on Facebook.

Susan Hines, a friend of King’s, responded..

“POS — give me an hour and check your mailbox. I’ll be GLAD to pick up the slack.”

Unfortunately, King’s crummy father of an ex-husband is also an ignorant jerk with a badge. He is Captain Corey King of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, and used his power in this small town to have both Anne her supportive friend arrested and tossed in jail for absolutely protected free speech on social media. First the captain filed a police report with his colleague, Washington County Sheriff’s Investigator Trey Burgamy. Then Washington County magistrate Ralph O. Todd  issued a warrant requiring the two women to appear at a hearing.  Officer King was the only witness, and afterwards Magistrate Todd issued warrant  charging Anne King with criminal defamation:

“SUBJECT DID, WITHOUT A PRIVILEGE TO DO SO AND WITH INTENT TO DEFAME ANOTHER, COMMUNICATE FALSE MATTER WHICH TENDS TO EXPOSE ONE WHO IS ALIVE TO HATRED, CONTEMPT, OR RIDICULE, AND WHICH TENDS TO PROVOKE A BREACH OF THE PEACE, SPECIFICALLY, SUBJECT DID MAKE DEROGATORY AND DEGRADING COMMENTS DIRECTLY AT AND ABOUT COREY KING, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING A BREACH OF THE PEACE.”

The Georgia law she was charged with was ruled unconstitutional decades ago, and is no longer on the books.

Details, details. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: “The Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas [UPDATED]

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

Baseball, and all its annual ethics puzzles, begins in about two weeks when Spring Training gets underway.  Meanwhile, I have to tolerate everyone talking about Tom Brady and the Cheating Patriots as the NFL makes billions encouraging  Americans to cheer for the gradual lobotomizing of young athletes for their pigskin entertainment. Still, even the off-season of America’s Pastime provides ethics fodder.

Frank Thomas, the 6’6″ 300 pound ex-first baseman, never was suspected of using steroids before he was elected to the  Hall of Fame, in part because he was naturally so huge and strong that if he had used steroids he would have ended up battling Godzilla in Tokyo. “The Big Hurt,” as he was called, was and is an outspoken opponent of steroid use in baseball, but speaking at  the annual White Sox fan convention last week, he proved that he is an ethics bush-leaguer.

The recent Hall of Fame vote  elected two players, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, long rumored to be users of performance enhancing drugs, and the vote totals showed  increased support for uber-steroid cheat Barry Bonds and accused steroid-user Roger Clemens. The New York Post reported that Thomas said, without mentioning names, after he was asked how he felt about the election results, Continue reading

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Remember California Attorney Mary Frances Prevost, Who Plagiarized Ethics Alarms? Guess What!

Yup, I saw THIS coming...

Yup, I saw THIS coming…

She’s been suspended.

For the third time.

Good.

To recap…Back in 2012, Mary Frances, who  describes herself on her website as “California’s Top Criminal & DUI Attorney,” posted an essay allegedly authored by her called  “The Trayvon Martin Case Trainwreck: George Zimmerman’s Attorneys Need To Shut Up!”

Oddly, it was posted the same day and shortly after my Ethics Alarms post, “Next To Board The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck? Why, The Lawyers, Of Course!”

Mary Frances’s was almost word for word the same post, plus some original material at the end. She had ripped me off. She hadn’t even tried to disguise it. This is called stealing, and I believe, shows that an individual lacks the honesty and trustworthiness to practice law.

I took three deep breaths, wrote a post about her plagiarism, e-mailed Prevost and required four things. First, an explanation if she had one; then an apology, a retraction, and proper credit. I didn’t demand damages, as I could have.

Mary Frances’s response was astounding. She didn’t have the courtesy to respond to my e-mail, but went on Facebook to accuse me of plagiarizing her, a neat trick, since my post pre-dated hers. Then she insulted me repeatedly, apparently unaware of how hypocritical it is to claim another lawyer is lacking in legal analysis skills and writing ability when you just published his essay as your own. I posted her whole rant here; it is deranged, making it especially funny that she accused me of being “off my meds.”

The Facebook post was defamation per se: malicious, and deliberately false. I contacted a California attorney, who agreed it was defamation, but said that based on her reputation, he felt it would  not be worth the money, the trouble or all the attacks she was capable of to go to war with her. He also dissuaded me from filing an ethics complaint, saying that unlike some states, California frowns on ethics complaints when there are grounds for lawsuits, and also tends to discount complaints from non-California lawyers.

“Just wait,” he said. “She’ll get hers. Lawyers like this almost always do.” Continue reading

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