Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/6/2019: Unethical Journalism, Free Press, “Gotchas!,” And Shut Up…

Good morning…

1. Now here’s a nice, professional, objective headline from the Times: ASSAILING HATE, BUT NOT GUNS.

Inexcusable. Several journalists have been arguing of late that it’s time for news organizations to openly and vigorously take a position on guns, and I bet you can guess which position that would be. (Of course, they have been taking that position for some time now, just denying it, like Brian Stelter denied that CNN’s coverage of the Mueller inquiry was slanted.) Have you been fooled?

The Times headline makes an assumption that is purely emotional rather than factual. There is nothing innately hateful about guns. “ASSAILING HATE, BUT NOT SPEECH”  would be an equivalent headline. “ASSAILING OBESITY, BUT NOT MASHED POTATOES”  is only slightly more idiotic.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias.

2. Speaking of unethical journalism…I was struck by a letter fromone of the knee-jerk liberals who frequent the pages of the New York Times Book Review supplement, which is always full of propaganda where it doesn’t belong (it is amazing how their guest reviewers can work in cheap shots at President Trump and the attendant Big Lies no matter what a book is about). Ellen Creane (she’s a community college English professor) wrote, “…Britain ultimately had to call on America’s democracy to save the island and indeed all of Europe. Who will America call on to save it from the current attacks on our free media? We must do this ourselves, strongly and now.”

Have you noticed the creeping trope that to criticize how our current journalists abuse freedom of the press is to threaten freedom of the press? I’m not sure if people believe this, thanks to thorough bombardment by the media itself (How dare you tell us how to do our job? Censorship!), or if the argument is just another intentional effort to protect an ally, and an unethical one, of the progressive culture wars. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2018: “Goodbye 2018, And Good Riddance!” Edition

Happy dying gasps of 2018!

1. Double standards inquiry: Will someone please explain to me why this magazine cover, which made O.J. Simpson blacker than he really is…

 

was universally condemned as racist, and this current cover of New York Times Magazine, making the late Aretha Franklin look like a ravenous rotting zombie from Hell..

…is just an artistic choice? (ARRGHHHHH!!!)

2. And speaking of looks…It is impossible not to notice that TV commercials are increasingly featuring overweight, ordinary-looking actors instead of the impossibly beautiful people who once were the automatic choices to sell products. This is an ethical development for the culture generally, and should help children develop more realistic aspirations regarding their own appearance. Now if only TV dramas would adopt the same inclusive casting policies—a particularly egregious candidate for reform is “law and Order” creator Dick Wolf.  His old series cast one eye-popping beauty after another as the male ADA’s sidekick, and now he is stocking his current NBC line-up of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, with police women, female firefighters and distaff doctors who would be right at home in the pages of Vogue.

3.  More on “Enemies of the People”: Novelist and conservative gadfly Sarah Hoyt has issued a spirited defense—okay, it’s a screed, a rant even— of President Trump’s characterization of the news media, going over ground I have covered (most recently here and here), but with special brio. Read the whole thing— she is mostly right, if a bit hyperbolic and inflammatory—but here are some highlights: Continue reading

Signature Significance For “The Enemies Of The People,” Part II

Thinking about this since posting Part I yesterday, I have realized that the denial of toxic mainstream media bias, and particularly the media’s efforts to bring down President Trump, is the ultimate Jumbo-–“Elephant? What elephant?” on a grand and unforgivable scale. Want some more elephants? There were oh-so-many of them in 2018, like…

and…

and…

and, in a slightly different context,

The unethical methods used by the anti-Trump mainstream news media to ensure public fear and hostility and to minimize support for the President are familiar by now. They include…

  • Framing facts and events, whenever possible, in ongoing anti-Trump narratives rather than just reporting them.
  • Outright fake news, including misleading headlines, negative spin that distorts understanding, innuendo without evidence, and giving prominence to minor or insignificant stories to imply that they are significant.
  • Using unethical leaks and hearsay without verification to embarrass or impugn the President.
  • Deliberately under-reporting positive developments.
  • Hyping developments by speculating on worst case scenarios for the President.
  • Publishing “future news,” suggesting dire events that might happen.
  • Applying hyper-critical standards to all Presidential words and actions, and actively seeking “gotcha!” fodder.
  • Applying news standards for Trump that have never been applied to past Presidents.

It isn’t necessary to review the whole ugly year of unethical journalism. The steady state of hostility was spectacularly demonstrated over Christmas when CNN and many other news sources reported that President Trump had broken a tradition among recent Presidents by not visiting the troops. Indeed, this embarrassing fiasco could stand as the ugly monument to what our journalism has become.  Wrote NBC:

On Christmas Day, President Donald Trump took part in a long-running practice of presidents who called troops stationed around the country and the world.But he broke from a recent tradition of actually visiting troops and wounded warriors….By staying home on Tuesday, Trump became the first president since 2002 who didn’t visit military personnel around Christmastime.

This was the epitome of fake news, because the President and First Lady were deplaning in Iraq as the false story was published. Only the eagerness of the news media for a negative “gotcha!” can explain such shoddy and nasty journalism. Nobody checked with the White House. The Trump-hating journalists couldn’t wait until after Christmas to report on what the President didn’t do on Christmas, which is as incompetent as it is unethical. Incredibly, some sources have still not removed the original false story.

Once that mode of attack failed, the news media seamlessly and apparently without any self-awareness slipped into attacking the President for making the visit and manufacturing outrage over how the visit was handled.

Both CBS and NBC framed the troop visit in negative terms. CBS Evening News fill-in anchor and NFL Today host James Brown announced,  “But we begin with a historic trip today for President Trump. His first-ever to a combat zone. The President and First Lady paid a surprise visit today to U.S. troops in Iraq. The Commander-in-Chief had been criticized for not visiting a war zone sooner.”

Let me state right now that I think it is certifiably nuts to send Presidents into war zones, ever. Nobody criticized FDR, Truman, or the multiple Presidents who presided over Vietnam for not visiting the troops to boost their morale. That was Bob Hope’s job. Send Bill Maher.

Then CBS chief White House correspondent Chip Reid found a way to compare Trump’s visit unfavorably to President Obama’s time in office, saying,  “It’s the first time the President has traveled overseas to visit U.S. troops in a war zone. Critics say it took far too long, especially compared to President Obama, who visited troops in Iraq in his first three months in office.”

Note the standard “critics say” trope in both instances, which is pure deceit. You’re the critics whose saying it, you hacks.

Next CNN decided, having been among the first to attack the President for not visiting the troops, to bash the President for going! Don Lemon, who no longer even makes a pretense of objectivity, said that he and his family “turned on CNN and we saw the President politicizing a Christmas message, it was like– we kept saying, ‘he’s like the Grinch.’ I’m being honest.”

Every Presidential troop visit is political, of course. It isn’t necessary, it is costly and dangerous, and it is political theater. Only in Trump’s case, however, is this considered a legitimate target of criticism.

Then Lemon attacked the President’s words and demeanor during the visit: Continue reading

Signature Significance For “The Enemies Of The People,” Part I

Perhaps no intemperate statement by the President has caused such excessive outrage as his accusation that the news media are “enemies of the people”—maybe it’s tied with his infamous “they’re sending murderers, they’re sending rapists” line when he threw his hat in the ring; I don’t know. It’s close. I think both comments were better off unsaid by him, but that is a matter of prudence and decorum, not truth. The murderers and rapists point was intentionally misconstrued by the news media to “prove” that Trump’s objection to illegal immigration was based on prejudice, rather than the rather obvious fact that illegal immigrants are breaking the law if they are the salt of the earth, and a lot of them are a lot worse. As the accuracy of the Trump’s characterization of the news media, its distortion of his Mexicans comment was one of many thousands  examples that prove the President right–intemperate, undiplomatic, perhaps unwise, but tragically correct. Bolstered by their Constitutional immunity from any consequences arising from horribly abusing their rights to print and say whatever they choose, the American news media has decided, virtually as a bloc, to

  • manipulate the reporting of the news to undermine this President of the United States and make it difficult, and, if possible, to govern;
  •  bombard the public with unceasing negative characterizations of the man, his words, his appearance, his habits, his past, his thoughts, his family, and his alleged private conversations;
  •  frame all of this within predetermined narratives concocted by his most virulent foes and detractors that were launched and burnished during the 2016, after his election, or shortly after he took office,
  • among them being that he is corrupt, that he is President only to make money through graft, that he is a fascist, an autocrat, and an aspiring dictator, that he lies constantly, that he is a racist, that he hates immigrants, that he doesn’t care about the nation or the American people, that he treasonous conspired with Russia to “steal” the election, that he is the worst possible leader for the country and should be removed as soon as possible, and
  • that he is insane, senile, unstable, stupid and a danger to civilization as long as he remains in office, and
  • that all previous standards, honors, traditions and basic amenities of respect that have been every previous President’s right from George Washington through Barack Obama must not be accorded to President Trump, and
  • nothing, absolutely nothing, he accomplishes or does can possibly be beneficial or praiseworthy. If it is, then he isn’t really responsible for it: It’s an accident, or not as good as it seems, or is hiding a sinister purpose, or that someone else, preferably Barack Obama, really deserves the credit, and
  • all of his critics, opposition and adversaries are right and praiseworthy, no matter how despicable and untrustworthy they have been in the past.

Continue reading

Jake Tapper, Julia Ioffe And The Anatomy Of An Ethics Train Wreck

I can’t even keep track of the subordinate ethics train wrecks and sub-train wrecks emanating from the Biggest Ethics Train Wreck of  Them All, the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, wherein the furious defeated Democratic Party/progressive/NeverTrump/news media collective set out to undermine the new Presidency, and to overthrow the Presidency if possible. This forms the backdrop, wrote Liz Shield yesterday, for

“every aspect of public discourse on Trump and Trump-related matters..the news on the Pittsburgh synagogue slaughter falls into this category and the strongest narrative on the tragedy is that Trump inspired this/is responsible because he hates Jews/is antisemitic/didn’t condemn the white supremacists or whatever flimsy excuses the resistance needs to blame Trump. In reality, Trump is probably the most pro-Israel president the U.S. has ever had…Those of us who are not in the #resistance are getting lectured on toning down our rhetoric from left-wing hysterics shouting all kinds of slanderous and intemperate accusations…So I am supposed to believe that calling Trump supporters Nazis, white supremacists, sexists, and homophobes is just the right thing to do but Trump’s rhetoric is pouring gasoline on a burning fire of crazy activists? Or perhaps violence in the name of the leftist agenda is just fine? I think that’s it.”

I agree. That’s it indeed. The same is obviously true of the level of rhetoric. Violent, hateful, extreme rhetoric has been coming from the anti-Trump news media for two years, and there are a lot more of them than there are of him, which is one. It takes an immense amount of journalism gall and the assumption of public  gullibility for the news media to argue that the President has created a culture of hate. Says Fox’s Lone Conservative Comic Greg Guttfield, “You want hate? You spend two years calling a guy Hitler, a racist, a traitor, and insane — then you blame him for violence cuz of nicknames?”

No previous President has been attacked using such extreme rhetoric or would have, and no President who was would have survived it without defending himself while calling his critics what they were.

[ A brief digression on “enemy of the people.” President Trump once again described the news media as the enemies of the people. I have, reluctantly, concluded that the label is accurate and justified, and that the President is right in affixing it. This has horrified many here. I agree that calling a crucial democratic institution a public enemy is extreme and dangerous. However,

…More dangerous to a democracy still is a crucial democratic institution perverting its professional and institutional obligations and using its public trust to attack and undermine the democracy it exists to serve;

…That is what the mainstream news media has chosen to do, rejecting objectivity and independence for a hard partisan alliance, depriving the public of a fair and truthful account of events and developing issues;

… The absence of a trustworthy and functioning journalistic establishment will, in the long run and if uncorrected, render our democracy dysfunctional and inoperable, to the detriment of the American public and the world.

…Therefore this deliberate, reckless course threatens the people, and since there is no unbiased Fifth Estate to warn them, it falls to the only remaining democratic institution with the ability to do so to assume the task, the Presidency.

….”Enemy of the people” is a shocking and damning accusation, and its full power is essential if journalists are to realize that they are on a destructive oath.]

This adversary position does place any ethical journalist left standing in peril of perishing in the crossfire, and being run down by the various careering trains despite his or her best efforts. On CNN’s “The Lead With Jake Tapper”this week,  GQ magazine correspondent Julia Ioffe was joined by David Urban, Symone Sanders (who is a documented idiot and bigot) and Mona Charen on a panel to discuss the effects of combative rhetoric, primarily the President’s. CNN’s Don Lemon’s statement that “The president of the United States is racist,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough assertion that “Even Albert Einstein may have ended up in a Nazi concentration camp with Donald Trump’s viewpoint on immigration,” and MSNBC’s Donnie Deutsch’s smear that “If you vote for Trump, then you the voter, you – not Donald Trump – are standing at the border like Nazis going ‘you here, you here!,” among others, were not discussed. Ioff, best known perhaps for being fired from Politico for suggesting that the President was having an incestuous relationship was his daughter (or in her words, was “fucking” Ivana), decided to compare the President of the United States to ISIS.
Continue reading

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/13/2018: Rally? What Rally? Bias? What Bias? Texts? What Texts? Spy? What Spy?

Huh. I didn’t know that ZZ Top were white supremacists!

Good Morning!

I just know this week will be better than last week…

…though these items certainly don’t inspire hope.

1. The dangers of “future news” That huge, scary rally in Washington where the nation’s capital was going to be descended-upon by all those white supremicists activated by Donald Trump’s election and rhetoric to celebrate last year’s Charlotteville riots? About two-dozen people showed up. I talked to friends in the District who said they were terrified of the rally. CNN, the networks, the Times and the Post had all headlined this major, major event, which would show just how much racism there is in America. This was fake news, straight up. It was imaginary, “future news,” a headline about what was going to happen because the mainstream news media wanted it to happen. Then they could bleat out the narrative that President Trump was inspiring racists to come out of the woodwork. Maybe someone would get killed, like in Charlottesville! Well, they could hope.

What investigation went into the determination that there was going to be a huge gathering of racists in D.C.? Clearly, not enough. 24? 24??? I could set up a rally of locals who think Gilbert and Sullivan should be taught in the schools that is five times that with some phone calls, texts and a Facebook post. It would take me a couple of hours. Yet the Times put the inevitability of this massive white supremacy rally on its front page. “After weeks of hype…” wrote the Times. Weeks of hype by the press.

Incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible. You know. As usual.

It is worth mentioning that the counter-demonstration to the imaginary demonstration was many times larger than two-dozen people.

2. In related news about non-news...The Boston Globe has been contacting newspaper editorial boards and proposing a “coordinated response” to President Trump’s criticism of the news media, especially his controversial “enemy of the people” rhetoric. “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” The Globe said in its pitch to fellow papers.

Talk about bad timing! We just had the explosion of the fake racist rally story. We have the Manafort trial being featured on the front page of most newspapers like it’s the O.J. trial, when  the majority of public has no idea who the man is and the trial details have nothing to do with anything newsworthy. We have the mainstream news media giving the claims of a reality show villain the kind of attention John Dean received for his Watergate testimony while it makes sure nobody knows that a Chinese spy infiltrated the staff of a powerful U.S. Senator for 20 years. Nah, the news media isn’t the enemy of the public! It just deliberately abdicates its duty to inform the public objectively , is engaged in a coordinated effort to bring down an elected President, has abused its First Amendment-bestowed immunity from the consequences of its conduct, and is working to divide the nation to the point where it cannot function. That’s all. None of this is good for the people or the nation, but that doesn’t make those intentionally harming both enemies, exactly….although off the top of my head,  I can’t think of a more accurate word for it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/9/2018: Searching For Something Positive In The Ethics News, Failing

Good morning.

1. Is it unethical to never be satisfied, or just human? Or just American? The Boston Red Sox are winning too much, and I don’t recognize my team.  Over the weekend, literally for the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for an opposing team and its fans. The poor Kansas City Royals (who are, I know, in the process of tanking) looked hopeless as the Red Sox swept a three game series. KC, not long ago a World Series champion, looks like it will lose 105 games or more. My team has always been the underdog. I don’t want to root for crypto-Yankees.

2. Yeah, I wish the President would just announce his SCOTUS pick and not make it into a circus.

3. Another Ethics Alarms Lost Post…A Carolyn Hax advice column from March missed  getting the post I intended at the time, and I just stumbled across the old file. A woman who had planned a huge wedding was jilted by her fiance shortly before the big date, as he ran off with an old flame. She asked Carolyn if she was wrong to be angry at invited friends and relatives who wanted her to reimburse them for non-refundable airline tickets, and to never want to have any contact with them again. Hax said that such people don’t deserve anything better, and ought to be written off in perpetuity.

That was an easy call for the relationship columnist, but I found  myself reflecting on other matters, like whether I have any friends and relatives who could be expected to behave that atrociously, venally and compassionlessly (relatives yes, friends, no, I think). Another question: what’s the matter with people, and how do they get this way? Someone you care about is slammed with a life catastrophe, and your first reaction is to demand that she pay for your inconvenience?

4. Yes, “enemy of the people” is accurate…From Glenn Greenwald (via Althouse): Continue reading