Tag Archives: defamation

Now THAT’S Defamation…

I don’t know what is so hard to grasp about the concept of defamation. The idea is that one must not assert as fact something about a person that is demonstrably false and that holds that person up to public ridicule or hostility, harming their reputation. It is easily distinguishable from opinion: it must be published “with fault,” meaning as a result of negligence (asserting a “fact” without checking that it is true) or malice (with the intent of harming someone’s reputation). Why is that difficult? I don’t know. This guy, however, really doesn’t understand defamation, and he was a radio talk show host. That’s like not understanding snakes and becoming a snake charmer. Yes, the ethics value being missed here is competence.

New Hampshire radio talk show host Michael Gill (above)  used billboards, his website and his radio show called “State of Corruption Radio” to call local businessmen, among other things, heroin dealers. A typical broadcasts included quotes like this:

“Now I told you, and I’ve been telling you, the heroin dealers are in this state are Anagnost and Crews. Now who are these people? Well a couple of the wealthiest men in our state. That’s how they got wealthy, okay? They have a warehouse. I brought this up. We had witnesses, distributing and unloading drugs and machine guns from trucks.”

Wait, what? Didn’t this guy have a lawyer? Didn’t the station have a lawyer? Any lawyer within hearing distance of a broadcast like that had a duty to rush to the station, break into the studio, and stuff a wadded up sock in Gill’s mouth. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/17: Richard Simmons, Stilettos, A Sarcastic Cop, And The Post Sides With Palin

GOOD MORNING SEPTEMBER!

1.Good riddance to August, which had the worst fall-off in traffic here relative to the previous year of any month in Ethics Alarms history. I only have theories, the main one being that last August’s surge was an anomaly fueled by the Presidential campaign and the fact that Ethics Alarms was analyzing the ethics deficits of Hillary, Trump, the news media and both parties in roughly equal measure, since they were misbehaving in roughly equal measure.  Since “the resistance” and their allies in the news media, academia and elsewhere decided to reject democratic institutions like elections and the office of the Presidency in their revulsion, and mount a dangerous perpetual assault on the President with the objective of  undermining his leadership and having him removed extra-Constitutionally, the left-leaning end of the blog-reading pubic has become rigid and unyielding, and unable to tolerate even considering any position but their own. I’m seeing it on Facebook, every day. Their position is indefensible on the facts, so they find any critical analysis of their conduct and attitudes unpleasant. Then again, it could be because Google is burying my posts for being insufficiently politically correct, or because I suck.

2. Here’s a perfect example of the kind of ethics issue that only deserves Warm-Up status: Melania’s shoes as she boarded Air Force One on the way to  Houston.

(She was in sneakers when she landed, and was mocked for that, too.)

The New York Times and other Trump-Hate news sources actually thought this fashion choice by the ex-model was worthy of criticism. In Melania Trump, Off to Texas, Finds Herself on Thin Heels , Vanessa Friedman spend hundreds of words dissecting how the stilettos were “a symbol for what many see as the disconnect between the Trump administration and reality.” Apparently the First Lady broke the “No high heels when leaving a disaster” rule in the First Family Ethics Manual. Letter writer Dennis Donalson correctly chided the Times, writing in part,

The fact that she wore high heels when boarding a plane, regardless of her destination, is not newsworthy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and shoes are just shoes, not “the go-to stand-in for more nuanced, complicated emotions and issues.” Give Melania, and us all, a break.

Dennis notwithstanding, I’ve decided stories like this are wonderful: they are smoking gun evidence for anyone who isn’t similarly deranged that the news media is so consumed with anti-Trump mania that it is literally unable to determine what is or isn’t fair, proportionate and reasonable coverage. If the Times thinks Melania’s shoes are such a big deal, no wonder it goes nuts over what the President says to the Boy Scouts…and no wonder it is no longer reasonable to accord such a paper any credibility or respect at all. Continue reading

47 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/17: Southern Poverty Law Center Edition

A Cayman Islands sunrise!

Good Morning, Everyone!

1.For the second time in two months, I had the wrong date on yesterday’s Warm-Up. This time, I was six days off. That’s incompetence, not malice. If I made anyone miss a birthday, anniversary of other appointment, I am so, so sorry.

2. D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an evangelical Christian ministry, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling the ministry a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights. The SPLC is an Alabama-based, self-styled  watchdog group that tracks tracks what it considers extremist organizations, and it publicly names organizations it considers hate groups. It considers hate groups to be any group that is sufficiently aggressive in opposing certain core progressive positions. The entire operation is a masterpiece of self-validating virtue. The name was carefully chosen to signal unimpeachable virtue: it’s “Southern,” so its stance against discrimination is obviously defient and in opposition to its surrounding culture and biases. Though little of its activity involves poverty, the name also signals charity and virtuous motives.  What’s a law center? Well. I grdauted from one, and that was a law school. The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t a law school, but doesn’t the name sound impressive? Originally, the SPLC acted as a public interest law firm (I would call its use of “law center” misleading, and a breach of several states’ legal ethics rules if it were still a law firm), but now it is a progressive activist and propaganda organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but part of its schtick is to designate organizations as hate groups because, well, they say so. Then the left-leaning news media accepts their verdict as fact. You will read articles saying that there are 917 hate groups in the U.S. No, there are 917 groups the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “hate groups.” .Many of the organizations on the SPLC’s list are undeniably racist and violent. Many are not, or may not be. Lumping them all together as “hate groups” is an effective way to demonize dissent. “Hate group” has no accepted definition, but SPLC defines a ‘general hate group” thusly: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized.”

Got it. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group by its own definition. To be a reliable arbiter of whether a group is promoting hate rather than a just a controversial policy position, a group would have to be non-partisan, objective and politically neutral. all things that the SPLC is not. This is an organization that designated groups that espouse view that it hates as hate groups.

I hate that. Continue reading

28 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

First Parmesan Cheese, An Now This: A Judge Bends Over Backwards To Let The New York Times Escape Its Abuse of Journalism Rights

Oh, we knew Palin had nothing to do with this wacko, but it sure felt good to stick it to her anyway…

Federal judge Jed S. Rakoff  has dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, ruling that she had failed to show that the Times  defamed her in its June editorial stating that she was responsible in part for the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others by the deranged Jared Loughner. Rakoff’s  ruling argued that the statements in the Times editorial were ambiguous (where have I heard this before?), and thus did not qualify as “provably false,” resulting in insufficient evidence that the Times had written the story with “actual malice.”

“[I]f political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity,” Rakoff wrote.

Right. Except that to write what it did, the New York Times Editors had to be unaware of what the Times itself had reported regarding Palin’s alleged culpability for the shooting. The Times reported, in great detail at the time, that the claim that Palin’s website had inspired Loughner was completely without merit.

A newspaper’s editors impugning a public figure by blaming her for multiple murders and the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman without checking its own reporting doesn’t qualify as “reckless disregard of its falsity”? If that isn’t reckless disregard, what is? Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

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

83 Comments

Filed under Animals, Around the World, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Rights

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

12 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

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

49 Comments

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