Tag Archives: democracy

Conundrum: Is CNN’s Dylan Byers An Ethics Dunce, Or An Ethics Hero?

Midnight  Friday morning,  CNN was analyzing the GOP’s perplexing win in Montana’s special election for the House of Representatives—perplexing to Ethics Alarms because the winner, Gianforte, is a dishonest thug, but perplexing to CNN because their reporters were desperately hoping for a sign that voters were turning on President Trump, something their network has been working on for many months.  CNN’s Media reporter Dylan Byers then blurted out this remarkable statement:

“There’s this conversation that’s happening among people following the news industry, which is how can we bridge the sort of gap between all of those conservatives who don’t trust the media, and get them to start knowing that, you know, we’re acting in good faith, with good intentions? Maybe you can’t, because they’re not even listening. From the second, it’s not as though they’re reading the article and considering it, or listening the audio and considering it. They’re just not paying attention to it, because  they don’t trust us.

And this, by the way, you look at the tapes of Trump there. Two things have happened. One, over the course of several decades, the conservatives have done a masterful job at capitalizing the waning trust in media and using it to their advantage. But a second thing has happened, too, which is, on occasion, more than the media would like to admit, we have not told the story of conservative Americans, disenfranchised Americans, who believe that they are losing their country. The story we have largely been telling is a story that is more or less in step with the arc of history as defined by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It does not mean we favor them to win. It just means that sort of vision of a progressive future, a global future, and that is not one that resonates with so many conservative American voters.”

“The story we have largely been telling is a story that is more or less in step with the arc of history as defined by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

It is notable that none of the three journalists on the panel with Byers challenged this damning characterization. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day (1): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

 

Suddenly there is a bumper crop of Comments of the Day on Ethics Alarms; two more are slated for re-publication today, both in response to Spartan’s provocative opinion that she would leave a gym that allowed white supremacist Richard Spencer work out there, even if he restrained his urge to heil. 

First up is Mrs Q, a relatively recent addition to the ethics colloquy here, and one who has distinguished her self quickly for non-nonsense posts of clarity and purpose. Her reference in this post to the “socialist shithole” of Portland was especially timely: yesterday we learned that the city’s social justice warriors had driven a local burrito business to close for the offense of “cultural appropriation.”

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

…In my mind I don’t see myself as a quadruple minority. Yes my skin color is brown, I’m a lady married to a lady, work from home due to disability…but I don’t think of myself in terms of “special classes.” I’m probably more like a country conservative old school hippy stuck in a socialist shithole (Portland OR). However how do you think many of the young white liberals here tend to treat me? Well some dismiss me because I don’t agree with their stances. I’m called a traitor or “uncle Tom” by those who speak “anti-racism” because I don’t see myself as a victim & have no problem with people thinking so-called racist thoughts.

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”

My initial response to this comment by Spartan on the post about Richard Spencer being harassed while trying to use his gym membership and the gym’s response of kicking him out rather than his harasser was in part:

“A very clear and well-stated exposition of an unethical point of view that many misguided people agree with…thus imperiling our pluralistic society.”

It troubles me greatly that so many intelligent Americans are thinking this way in 2017.

Here is Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

This guy is a public figure and he will be recognized. He chose to be in the limelight. Gym members are allowed to quit their memberships because they don’t want to work out with an asshole. Now imagine (in liberal Old Town) that 75% of the members decide to quit their memberships at this gym because they don’t want to be around him. The business will now suffer.

I used to go to this gym, and I can tell you that I would not want to be around this man. So, although I would not circulate a petition or demand that the gym expel him, I would quit my membership. And, I probably would tell all of my friends why, so I imagine many of them would quit as well. Also, keep in mind that this gym is super tiny — you are pretty much forced to interact with other members.

In this scenario, the gym might end up closing because of lack of membership. So, this is trickier than you make it out in your hypothetical. I am not obligated, as a private citizen, to be polite or even silent around odious human beings. While I do not support a gym’s decision to terminate membership based on political (although I’m being generous here) beliefs, the fact is that people can vote with their feet.

Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria, VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too

Let me be clear what you are saying, Professor: when you engage in harassment and bullying, that’s good, but if the bad guys do the same thing, it’s despicable. Do I have that right?

Last week, controversial speaker and white nationalist Richard Spencer was working out at the Old Town Sport&Health gym where he is a member, minding his own business,  when C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, recognized him and got in his face.

“Not only are you a Nazi — you are a cowardly Nazi,’ ” Fair says she told him.  “I just want to say to you, I’m sick of your crap — that this country belongs [to people like you]. . . . As a woman, I find your statements to be particularly odious; moreover, I find your presence in this gym to be unacceptable, your presence in this town to be unacceptable.”

Spencer called for a trainer, who happened to be black, to stop Fair and allow him to go back to working out.

“Seriously? This superior race of a white man needed the help of a female African American? What kind of martial race member is he?” Fair wrote in a post about the incident. Fair continued to harass Spencer, and another gym member stepped in to defend him. Fair said she told the woman, “Right now you’re being ignorant, and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.”

So, naturally, Old Town Sport&Health terminated the professor’s membership for bullying and harassing other members.

Just kidding! It terminated Spencer’s membership for having the audacity to hold different views than Professor Fair. Whether Alexandria kicks him out of town on the same theory, as Fair believes is the right thing to do, is unknown.

Boy I hate it when people make me defend racists. I especially  hate it when smug, self-righteous totalitarians and noodle-spined, unprincipled  gym owners make me defend racists. Nonetheless, Spencer was the abused victim here, Fair was the offender, and she, not he, should have been told to work out somewhere else.

I’m so weary of reading about restaurants that give discounts to diners who pray, and bar owners who declare that no Democrats are welcome and Maine propane dealers who tell their customers that they can freeze to death if they voted for Donald Trump. I’m tired of pointing out what should be obvious to everyone in a pluralistic society, but suddenly isn’t, particularly, it seems, to proto-totalitarians like the Georgetown professor, who is doubtless hard at work indoctrinating her young charges into believing that those with non-conforming views should have their rights taken away for the greater good. I detest Spencer’s views, but I consider Fair and her kind the far greater threat to the nation, in part because there are so many of them. Continue reading

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20 Ethics Observations On The President’s Charge That Obama Tapped His Phones

In the first week of March, in the midst of the over-blown flap regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ two meetings with the Russian ambassador, President Trump issued arguably his most explosive  tweet yet:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!.

Later, he  tweeted,

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

It has been more than a week, and we know only a little more about what prompted this extraordinary accusation than we did then. However, there are some relevant ethics point to be made. Here we go…

1.  It is irresponsible and unpresidential to issue tweets like this. It is also unfair. If the Trump administration wants to make a formal complaint, charge or indictment, or announce an investigation, it should be made through proper channels, not social media. That stipulated, he will not stop doing this, and at some point we will have to accept it. Is this how Presidents communicate? It is now.

2. Thus the tweet is unethical even if it is true. However, the fact that it is unethical, or that Trump the Liar sent it, doesn’t mean it is untrue. An astounding number of pundits and journalists have made exactly that assumption, proving their bias against the President and their knee-jerk defensiveness regarding former President Obama.

3. The tweet cannot be called a “lie,” and anyone who does call it a lie based on what is known is revealing their confirmation bias.

4. One more point about the tweet itself: the fact that it has a typo and the level of articulation of the average 9th grader is itself an ethics breach. The President should not sanctify carelessness, or seem to embrace it. He is a role model.  Nor should a significant charge be written in haste, as this obviously was.

5. There seems to be a significant possibility that the President was trolling. Having had enough of the months long, absolutely evidence-free news media and Democrat innuendos that his campaign was coordinating election tampering with the Russians, he may have decided to make a sensational, unsubstantiated charge of his own to get the Russian hacking speculation off the front pages. If it was trolling, it was excellent trolling. The McCarthyism purveyors  deserved it; the accusation was a deft tit-for-tat,  one of the President’s favorite rationalizations.

6. As an example of what Trump has been and is being subjected to, we have Rep. Keith Ellison, vice-chair of the DNC.  He told Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s “New Day last week,”

“This is stunning when you think about it. Far worse than Watergate, when you believe a hostile foreign power engaged in an attempt, and with the collusion of the sitting administration to manipulate an election.”

By sheerest moral luck, Camerota that day was feeling ethical, so she actually corrected a Trump-basher from her own party, said, “Well you don’t know that,” and pointed out that there is no evidence of collusion.

“I’m not saying there was collusion, I’m saying those meetings indicate that there could be, and I think that needs to be investigated,” Ellison then said, immediately after saying there was collusion.

These are awful, vicious, conscience- free people who subcribe to total political war and the ends justify the means. They are trying to bring down an elected government without winning an election. Even that does not justify treating them unethically, BUT… Continue reading

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Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing

accessdeniedWASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) — The Trump administration ramped up its war against the press Friday, blocking several major outlets from a scheduled White House press briefing.The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were among the news organizations excluded from the meeting, reportedly an untelevised gathering with the press instead of the usual on-camera briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

I am not aware of the specific reasons for the action, but:

1.  I read the New York Times daily. It is routinely making every effort to present the actions of the Trump Administration in a negative light, often engaging in outright deceit to do it. It is behaving, as it has for years, as a Democratic Party organ.

2. CNN simply teems with anti-Trump hostility, in the tone of panel discussions, in the framing of the news, in the sneers and body language of its talking heads. This is not ethical journalism.

3. Politico is left-biased, but I haven’t followed it closely. The LA Times has conditions for use that I can’t meet. I’m not sure how biased they have been.

4. There is nothing per se unethical about a Presidential administration deciding that a news source it considers untrustworthy, unreliable and allied with groups that want to literally bring it down should be treated accordingly. Competent, unbiased, fair and ethical journalism is not an excessive requirement.

5. The response to Trump’s very clear warning to the news media last week was, “You can’t stop us, and we will be as hateful as we please.” This is his response to that. Hubris has its consequences. After MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host Mika Brzezinski ‘s comment this week, some attitude adjustment seems to be mandatory. She said of the President,

“He is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”

No, Mika, actually leaders always  lead, which always means trying to persuade the public.  That is their job. You job is to keep the public informed without telling them what to think, since as this statement proves, you don’t think all that well. At all.

6.  I am surprised that the Washington Post wasn’t shut out as well, especially after a slime job like this story.

7. Would I recommend this action by Trump? No. But it is a defensible response to a real threat to his ability to govern, and an informed democracy. It may not be a responsible or prudent response.

8. The best response would be for journalists to start doing their real job, and report the news fairly and competently without aligning themselves with political agendas.

____________________________

Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

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Comment Of The Day: “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”

sailfishReader Greg boldly ventures into the perilous waters of distinguishing among what the news media calls lies, especially when they involve President Trump. His piece is also a fortuitous companion to this post, which I was completing when his appeared.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”:

The media coverage of “Donald Trump’s lies,” and most recently of the stupid Sweden controversy, conflates several different categories of statements and treats them all as being equally serious. For example, let’s suppose Trump tells this story at one of his rallies:

“I was out on the boat – last week with Bill Clinton – just off the coast a few miles away from Mar a Lago – one of the great resorts of the world, by the way — and pulled in a 9-foot sailfish, the biggest sailfish ever caught. The biggest in those waters. It was a hell of a fight – gigantic fish almost pulled me overboard, one of the hands grabbed me and saved me really, kept me from going in – (Trump mimes himself almost falling into the water and being pulled back, to comic effect) – a Cuban immigrant by the way, a legal one and America can be proud of him.”

And let’s suppose that the next day the New York Times prints a front page story hysterically denouncing this story as a lie. When we read the article, we may find out that Trump’s story was any of the following:

1. An outright lie: Trump has never caught a sailfish in his life.

2. An exaggeration to make Trump look better: The exaggeration may be relatively slight (the sailfish wasn’t 9 feet long; it was 8 feet, which is still an awfully big fish) or gross (it was a 4-foot sailfish, which is puny).

3. An enhancement to make the story more entertaining: Trump is actually a terrific fisherman. He didn’t need any help and never came close to falling into the water.

4. A statement that Trump made without regard to its truth or falsity: The hand has a Hispanic accent but Trump has no idea whether he is a Cuban immigrant or not. He added that part to the story because it supports one of his pet policy positions. Actually, the hand is an American citizen born in Miami, and he is of Guatemalan ancestry, not Cuban.

5. An ignorant, lazy but honest error: The captain flattered Trump by telling him that his sailfish was the biggest ever caught in those waters, and Trump never bothered to look up the facts in a reputable reference source. Actually Trump’s fish was a full foot short of the record.

6. Mis-remembered: The way he remembers it, he was fishing off Mar a Lago that day, but actually he was 1,000 miles away, off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

7. True, but Trump’s thoughts are so much faster than his tongue and his syntax is so garbled that the story gives a false impression: Trump actually caught the fish 5 years ago while fishing with Tiger Woods. Trump didn’t mean he caught the fish with Bill Clinton last week. He meant that he just now had a fleeting thought about an interview with Bill Clinton that he saw last week on TV, which reminds him that he once read in the New York Post that Clinton had gone deep-sea fishing with Ron Burkle, which reminds him of his own triumph with the sailfish. As Trump so often does, he was sharing his train of thought, in a disjointed way, with his audience. The surprising thing is that, often, his gestures and tone of voice convey his meaning clearly to his friendly audience, even though it is completely lost on a hostile press and in transcripts.

8. Either true or false, depending on your point of view: Trump was actually fishing near the Bahamas, 100 miles away from Mar a Lago, which he considers pretty close but the Times considers pretty far. The Times accuses Trump of lying in order to attract fishermen to his resort at Mar a Lago and boost his own profits.

9. True, but said in a context that creates an unfortunate impression, at least in the mind of a hostile press: After the sailfish story, Trump segues into a story about the movie, Jaws, where the protagonist shot a great white shark with a high-powered rifle (“a great, great thing,” says Trump, “and there are a lot of good people in this country – second amendment, NRA – Obama and Clinton wouldn’t let you shoot a shark like that — but now that I’m president you and good Americans like you will have the freedom to do that”), which leads the Times to accuse Trump of shooting sailfish and supporting people who shoot endangered great white sharks and other species of endangered fish and possibly having shot endangered fish himself and maybe even having shot endangered whales and dolphins.

10. True in every detail, but the Times is calling it a lie anyway: The Times says the story creates the false impression that the fishing is good near Mar a Lago, which Trump is implying in order to boost profits from his resort, but the truth is that big sailfish over 7 feet long are rare in those waters and Trump’s record-setting catch was a fluke. Continue reading

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