Saturday Morning Ethics Update, 2/6/21: Day Before The Super Bowl Edition

CTE brain

This was a Friday morning warm-up that kept getting bumped, with my investigation of the TIME article that dropped yesterday finally bumping it all the way to now. As several have noted in the comments to that post, when real conspiracies rear their dark and slimy heads, it makes suspicion of other conspiracies not just more likely, but reasonable. In my case, for example, as Big Tech has joined social media in squashing news and opinions unpalatable to our rising progressive masters, Ethics Alarms, for no reason that I can see, is suffering through its worst non-holiday week in traffic in years. Meanwhile, I am suddenly getting email after email telling me that my blog isn’t turning up in Google searches the way it should. Hmmmm.

Stop it, Jack. “That way madness lies.

1. Sometimes the profit motive helps, sometimes it doesn’t. One more note about TIME’s piece: there have been many articles recently about how journalism ethics are a a myth and need to be regarded as such, because the major news organizations are chasing clicks, ads and dollars, not truth, justice, or the American way. This argument has some obvious truth in it, but it is often used to exonerate journalists from pushing the political agendas of the Left, which they obviously do. The country is still very conservative in many ways; the Fox News model was spectacularly profitable; why doesn’t the profit motive inspire more balanced coverage, especially since there is a market for it? Is it just a coincidence that news rooms (even Fox News’) are nearly exclusively made up of Democrats and socialists? TIME was the perfect candidate to break ranks: an iconic mainstream media name, quickly fading into irrelevance and obscurity. Desperation topped loyalty to the team, and, ironically, betrayal led to an ethical result, even though it was motivated by non-ethical considerations.

2. “Cancelled” or put out to pasture? Fox News has cancelled the Lou Dobbs show, even though it is the top rated show on Fox Business News. “There is only one-way to look at this announcement…. corporate U.S. media is in the tank for the cancel-culture policy against all things President Trump related” writes the conservative blog “The Last Refuge.  “P.e.r.i.o.d.” I’m not so sure. I thought Dobbs was losing it several years ago when he suddenly appeared on the air with his previously white hair died caramel brown, and his enthusiasm for Donald Trump has often crossed the line into unprofessional cheer-leading. He’s 75, and Fox New may well have wanted to get him off the air before he had to be pulled. (Why won’t any of these guys retire?) Dobbs is also one of the three Fox News hosts named along with the network after voting software company Smartmatic filed its $2.7 billion defamation suit.

Continue reading

A Lesson In Ultimate Utilitarianism: Israel’s Nazi Hit Man

Israeli special agent, Otto Skorzeny. No, I’m not kidding.

There are few better examples of how extreme versions of “the ends justifies the means” can be adopted as an ethical course than the strange, and oddly under-publicized, story of Otto Skorzeny.

Do you know the tale? I didn’t, until today. This is a good day to consider it, being the anniversary of the date Hitler’s minions invaded Czechoslovakia.

 Skorzeny was born in Vienna in June 1908. He joined Austria’s branch of the Nazi Party in 1931 when he was 23. He worshipped Hitler. When the Nazi army invaded Poland in 1939, Skorzeny left his construction firm and volunteered  for the  SS Panzer division that served as Hitler’s personal bodyguard force. He took part in battles in Russia and Poland, and was probably involved in exterminating Jews.

In 1944, Skorzeny handpicked 150 soldiers in a plan to foil the Allies after they landed in Normandy on D-Day. Dressing his men in captured U.S. uniforms, he procured captured American tanks for  to use in attacking and confusing Allied troops from behind their own lines. This mission more than anything else earned Skorzeny two years of interrogation, imprisonment and trial after the war ended. Somehow, despite being one of Hitler’s favorite SS officers, he still managed to be acquitted in his war crime trial in 1947. The Führer had even awarded Skorzeny the army’s most prestigious medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for leading the rescue operation that rescued Benito Mussolini from his captors.

After  Skorzeny’s acquittal, newspapers called him one of the most dangerous Nazi criminals still unpunished. Typically brazen, he capitalized on the notoriety by publishing his memoirs,  including the 1957 book “Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Autobiography of Hitler’s Commando Ace.”

Skorzeny did not reveal in his books how he escaped from the American military authorities who held him for a year after his acquittal, perhaps saving him from more charges and another trial before the Nuremberg tribunals. The escape was rumored to have been assisted by the CIA’s predecessor agency, the OSS, which he assisted in some special operations after the war. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

I’m not exactly a fan of lawyer/muckraker/journalist Glenn Greenwald, but I’m getting there. Greenwald certainly has an ideological agenda, and it informs both his choice of topics and the slant of his reporting. However, in an age where the mainstream journalism establishment has made the tragic decision to be largely  a propaganda organization for its one favored political party, and has willfully misinformed the American public in pursuit of that party’s interests, primarily power, Greenwald stands out for his non-partisan approach, his consistent standards, his integrity, and most of all of late, his refusal to participate in counter-factual condemnations of President Trump for conduct that the news media has either shrugged away or tolerated in the past from other Presidents.

Greewald’s latest broadside against the hypocrisy comes in gloriously unrestrained The Intercept piece about the attacks on President Trump for his attitude toward the , Trump’s Amoral Saudi Statement Is a Pure Expression of Decades-Old “U.S. Values” and Foreign Policy Orthodoxies.

The title is true beyond question; I pointed out the same fact here, writing in part regarding the Khashoggi murder and the New York Times editorial calling the Trump administration’s policy response “a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire”:

The question of how far the U.S. should go in pursuing its own interests while excusing unethical or immoral acts by foreign governments is an enduring one the stretches at least back to the United States alliance with Stalin in World War II. Outside of the fact that [ the Khashoggi murder] involves a journalist, however, the Trump “guide,” even stated in deliberately pejorative terms, seems to me to vary not one bit from the standards used by previous administrations, including the Obama Administration. China…Cuba…Iran…and yes, the Saudis, who have overseen state-sanctioned brutality and human rights outrages affecting whole classes of people, not just one journalist, for a long as anyone can remember.

Trump’s “new blueprint,” it seems to me, varies from the old blueprint not one bit. Whether the old blue-print is necessary or defensive is another issue.

Well, that was comparatively nothin’ from me as an ethics rebuke, a pea-shooter compared to Greenwald’s  tour-de force. His conclusion is uncompromising and irrefutable: Continue reading

Doesn’t Islam Endorse Sportsmanship? Even In The Olympics?

At the Rio de Janeiro Olympics today, Egyptian Olympic judo fighter Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent Or Sasson.

After Sasson defeated El Shehaby he put out his hand, which is customary in judo. Competitors are expected to either shake hands or bow at the beginning and end of matches. El Shehaby, however, insulted his opponent by rejecting the gesture and backing away, shaking his head. The referee called him to returnto the mat to bow, and he gave a perfunctory nod. Then he walked off.

Ah, that glorious Olympic spirit! Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: The Washington Post Editors

“On Thursday, while in Pakistan, Secretary of State John F. Kerry was asked in an interview how the United States — a champion of democracy around the world — can justify supporting Egypt’s military crackdown. Mr. Kerry’s reply was inexplicable. He said, “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence. And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment so far. To run the country, there’s a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy.” It is one thing to be cautious and avoid using the word “coup,” which could trigger a cutoff of Egypt’s $1.5 billion annual U.S. aid package. But it is quite another to assert that Egypt’s military is “restoring democracy” when it has just removed an elected president from power.”

—–The Editorial Board of The Washington Post last week, expressing consternation at Sec. of State John Kerry’s double-talk regarding Egypt

Democracy is restored in Cairo!

Democracy is restored in Cairo!

Yes, the “quite another” thing that the Post dare not name is called “lying your fool head off.” Perhaps you prefer, “acting as if everyone in the world is an idiot.” Or better yet, “destroying any last shred of credibility the Obama Administration may have.” John Kerry, of course, as anyone who followed his 2004 presidential campaign with his hand-picked President-in-Waiting, John Edwards knows, already has none.

The Secretary of State of the United States of America, with a straight face and carrying the authority of the Obama Administration, actually said that a military coup—which is, you know, and everybody knows, is what this was—“restored democracy”!  Never mind that history has witnessed many, many military coups—a couple in Egypt, in fact—and they virtually never “restore democracy,”  nor was there a smidgen of a chance that this one would. Continue reading

The State Department Wins A Jumbo With The Kerry Yachting Caper: Reflex Lies, Corrupt Culture

"Hey, what are you going to believe, the photo or what we tell you?"

“Hey, what are you going to believe, the photo or what we tell you?”

Tell me again how there is no reason to believe that the Obama Administration tried to mislead us regarding Benghazi.

And I’ll laugh in your face.

Nicely, of course.

Today the State Department, faced with a network offering undeniable proof that State was lying about the whereabouts of Secretary of State John Kerry during the collapse of the Egyptian government, a certified international crisis, admitted that its leader was on his boat recreating “briefly,” as had been previously reported by a CBS producer who saw him. This was not before, however, the State Department did what the Obama Administration has shown that it will do routinely and reflexively when it senses that it has screwed up: lie, lie, lie.

From CBS: Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Forensics: The Cairo Embassy Statement

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Mitt! Mitt….get off the tracks!

Thus did the U.S. Embassy in Cairo respond to the growing local uproar over a cheapie anti-Islamic film produced in the U.S. and put on the internet. The statement preceded the disruption at the embassy itself as well as the deadly attack later, purportedly with the same motivation, on Libya’s U.S. embassy. Mitt Romney said, shortly after the latter,

“The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached,” Romney told reporters. “Protesters were inside the grounds. They reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

Later, Romney issued a statement that said, in part,

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

The next morning, the White House distanced itself from the Cairo statement. “An administration official tells ABC News that ‘no one in Washington approved that statement before it was released and it doesn’t reflect the views of the U.S. government,’” ABC News reported. Later, both the State Department, in the person of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama, issued new statements. Clinton:

 “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior [in Benghazi], along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear–there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.”

Obama:

“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”

Naturally, the media got its oar in. Typical on the left was the Washington Post, which editorialized by calling Romney’s critique a “crude political attack,” asserting that the Cairo statement was before, rather than after the attacks on the two embassies, and declaring that President Obama’s statement “struck the right chord.”  On the rightward side of the ideological divide, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto criticized  both Obama and Clinton, saying, “…neither the president nor Mrs. Clinton vigorously, or even limply, defended the right of free speech.”

What’s going on here? Continue reading

The Egypt and Libya Embassy Attacks: So, Are We Going To Have An “Everybody Make An Insulting Film About Muhammad Day” Now?

Why not? It’s your right!

“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” said Steve Klein, a consultant on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s anti-Islam, Muhammad-bashing film. The film is apparently the reason two U.S. embassies were attacked yesterday, resulting in the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and others. That was the “this” Klein was referring to. Nakoula and his Isreali backers set out to make a film that denigrates both Islam and its prophet, knowing what the response in Muslim nations has been to such things, as well as the deaths caused by podunk bigot pastor Terry Jones, with his Quran-burning stunts.

Now people are dead, the Arab world is inflamed, and the perpetual tinderbox known as the Middle East is ready to ignite. The online film has had almost no audience yet, but don’t worry: international violence was probably part of the marketing plan. Maybe Nakoula will be really lucky, and have his First Amendment-protected agitprop start World War III, and he can take his place in history next to Gavrilo Princip, in the coveted “Insignificant Jerks Who Started World Wars” category.

Indeed, as an American citizen, Nakoula has a sacred right to make any movie he wants, write any book, draw any cartoon, burn any book. Americans have a sacred right to be irresponsible, and thanks to electronic communication, they can now be irresponsible on a grand scale, disrupting diplomacy, inciting international unrest, fanning racial, ethnic, international and religious discord. That means that sometimes an exercise of  the right of free speech can be legal, cherished, and terribly wrong. Among those times are when you know that shooting off your metaphorical mouth has a strong probability of getting people other than you killed.

I agree that there is something amiss when “The Book of Mormon” is winning accolades on Broadway, knowing well that if the satirical musical targeted Islam instead of Mormonism the Great White Way might be running red with blood. I agree that it reeks of a double standard when columnists like Charles M. Blow can tweet about Mitt Romney’s “magic underwear” but American Muslims are immune from similar indignities because, well, they might kill us. This elevates instability, intolerance and lack of respect for human life to an asset, and that is itself intolerable—but what is the solution? Charles Krauthammer, condemning our Egypt embassy’s conciliatory response to the mob attack on it  yesterday, said that our response should be “Go to hell.” In this he was endorsing the response of the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day crowd, which decided that an organized, mass insult to Islam was the intelligent response to one Islamic terrorist intimidating Comedy Central into censoring South Park. Their reasoning: “You can’t kill us all.”

They can kill our Ambassador, though, can’t they?

Since there is no justification for hateful, intentional denigration of anybody’s religion, there should be a bright line between caving to Islamic threats over satire and humor, which is disgraceful and un-American, and not setting out to agitate the Arab street with calculated insults, which is the domain of Jones and Nakoula. The latter is flagrantly irresponsible and reckless, and should not be condoned or excused, Constitutionally protected though it is. Nakoula, it was reported, was in hiding for his life.

If so, good.

“We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” said his colleague. Having to fear for one’s life seems like a fair punishment for someone who knew his hateful, rinky-dink movie might get other people killed and cause mass violence, and made it anyway.

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Sources:

Graphic:  No Short Corners

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

Exceptionalism and the United States of America’s Grand Ethical Dilemma

Today’s morning headlines were full of violence in Syria, Bahrain, Libya, and the threat of new conflict in Egypt, as popular uprisings against entrenched dictatorships continue to grow. As the U.S. tries to somehow avoid a lead role in the international intervention in Libya, the question looms regarding its responsibility to other nations whose people yearn to be free—or at least freer. As important as what America ultimately decides to do will be for the futures of these nations, the U.S. economy, and foreign relations, something far more important is at stake. These difficult choices once again challenge the United States to affirm or reject its ideals, the very essence of what has made America what it is.

We have come to these crossroads four times before. Continue reading