Major Ethics Alarm: American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes [Part 1: Signature Significance]

flag-american-crumbling

…and without trustworthy journalism, democracy cannot survive.

There was reason to hope that following its beyond miserable performance in its coverage of the campaign and election just concluded, American journalism would respond to reality and dedicate itself to repairing its broken relationship with traditional professional ethics. Poll after poll shows that the news media’s standing with the public has never been lower. Because the profession itself ought to be more keenly aware than anyone of how vital honest, fair and competent journalism is to the health of a democracy, one would expect that this would be a moment demanding brutal self-examination and rapid reform.

This is not what we are seeing, however. Consider:

  • Last weekend, ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviewed Donna Brazile in a New Year’s Day review of the election. I couldn’t believe it. She was introduced as a respectable commentator with no acknowledgment of her role in the Clinton fiasco and the news media’s disgrace. As Ed Morrissey wrote,

Why is Jonathan Karl interviewing Brazile in the first place? …It has been 62 days since CNN severed their ties with Donna Brazile over the fact (no longer an “allegation”) that she cheated during one of the Democratic presidential primary debates and attempted to cheat during a second one in Flint, Michigan. And yet ABC News is inviting her to sit down for a casual New Years Day chat like any other political analyst.

CNN shouldn’t have allowed her to be a staff member to begin with, since she was a partisan political operative. She used that relationship and exploited her conflict of interest to try to do what she could to  rig the election. She was exposed, lied by denying it, and fired. Now, after the election, she behaves as if nothing has changed, and ABC again presents her as a reliable analyst.

  • After WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed collusion and shockingly unethical ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign, as well as the campaign openly referring to such journalists as allies, none of the journalists so exposed have been disciplined, nor have any of the news organization employing them indicated that they were so much as troubled by the revelation.

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From The Man Who Would Be President, And Who Thinks That Rationalizations Are Cogent Arguments, A Perfect #22

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Just two weeks ago, I breathlessly announced that Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, against all odds. had pulled into a lead over Donald Trump for the 2016 Unethical Rationalizations Championship by giving us a perfect #22, the worst rationalization of them all. That’s this one:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. … It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now, Donald Trump never runs out of rationalizations; as I wrote in the Albright post, “Trump is capable of hitting the entire list of rationalizations, all 68 of them (including the sub-rationalizations) given the opportunity.” He also rose to the challenge posed by Albright quickly, for he not only gave America a Full 22, he did so in the context of arguing for an unconstitutional government breach of First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights on a massive scale! Bravo!

On Face the Nation  yesterday, talking about the Orlando shooting,  this idiot—sorry, sorry!—Mr. Trump said..

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country.Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. [DINDINGDINGDINGDING! There are two more rationalizations right there:#1, Everybody Does It, and  #3, Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”! I mean,this guy is a rationalization machine! ] And I hate the concept of profiling but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads. It’s not the worst thing to do.” Continue reading

Congratulations, Race-Baiters!

Stamp-Mission-Accomplished

On “Face the Nation” this Sunday, host Bob Schieffer mentioned to guest Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it was being reported that many African-Americans are worried the Secret Service would better protect a white president. “Eighty-five percent of all African-Americans that come to me mention what you just said, Cummings replied, “and I don’t agree with it.”

Well, that’s mighty big of the Congressman. He has been one of the many black elected officials who have periodically claimed that criticism of the President stems from a race-based hatred unrelated to his performance or policies. A responsible black leader would have said, not “I disagree” as if this was a matter for rational debate, but rather, “This is obviously unfair and untrue.”

I think the Congressman should have said, to be completely candid, something like this:

Eighty-five percent of all African-Americans that come to me mention what you just said,and I must say, Bob, I think Democrats, liberal pundits, Hollywood, the civil rights establishment, activists and many others like Chris Matthews—all of MSNBC, really—Bill Maher and Eric Holder, should pause to pat themselves on the back. After all, handed a shining opportunity to ease the tensions of racism with the election of a black President, we’ve managed against all odds to convert the majority of the U.S. African-American population into a paranoid, racist, fearful, whites-hating bloc that we should be able to keep voting Democratic for decades, while we convince the growing Hispanic-American population that whites hate them too. Of course, we have to appreciate the efforts of the media in painting that Trayvon Martin tragedy as a mad racist shooting  harmless child for “walking while black”—that helped a lot.

Luckily, whites don’t attribute all of the endless screw-ups of government agencies under the supervision of this black President to his hatred of them, or we might really have a race problem in this country. But that would be racist, anyway.  Actually, we could use that.”

 

 

Unethical Quote of the Week: “Face the Nation” Host Bob Shieffer

“The nation was plunged into shock. Nothing like this had ever happened.”

—“Face the Nation” host Bob Shieffer, looking forward to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, and describing the aftermath of the murder in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Wait…what???

Hey Bob...do any of these guys ring a bell?

Hey Bob…do any of these guys ring a bell?

As it is, younger generations have a tendency to assume that what is happening now is unprecedented, that every crisis is the worst crisis, that what they are experiencing is unique. The remedy to this self-centered, ignorant and crippling cognitive malady is education, resulting in perspective. Unfortunately, the schools are doing increasingly little to provide useful historical context, and our leaders find it useful to exploit the low-information voter (worker, driver, patient, parent, student) for its own devices.

That leaves the field of journalism. Journalists, however, do not generally go into the arena of describing the present because of any particular respect or appreciation for the past, so their ability to convey perspective is usually limited as well. Fortunately, there are still older, veteran, experienced pros like Bob Shieffer,  76 years young, who…who…who appears to be as irresponsibly ignorant of basic American history as the college goofs Jay Leno makes look silly on his “Jay Walking” segments. How is this possible?

What could Shieffer possibly mean by saying of JFK’s assassination that “Nothing like this had ever happened” that is not flagrantly misleading, careless, ignorant and wrong? For those of you as bad off as Bob, there had been three previous Presidential assassinations before JFK, and all of them were big deals. Lincoln’s was a bigger deal than Kennedy’s in fact, because the U.S. had barely finished a war, and Lincoln’s assassination caused legitimate fears that it was part of a second Southern assault. Let’s see…maybe we can give Bob the benefit of the doubt and find an explanation for his statement that doesn’t involve having to shop for rest homes: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Colin Powell

I will file this under "disillusionment."

I will file this under “disillusionment.”

Another prominent African-America leader lept on board the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmmerman Ethics Train Wreck Sunday, when General Colin Powell aided and abetted the increasingly successful effort by divisive activists to re-write the history of the George Zimmerman trial into an example of a racist all-white jury freeing the murderer of a black man in defiance of the evidence and justice.

Appearing on “Face the Nation,” the former Secretary of State said that he thought the jury’s verdict “will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there,” adding that he didn’t know if it would have “staying power.” Powell’s comment was an especially pusillanimous fog on the issue, not explicitly endorsing  the criticism of the verdict—“Now I never said it was questionable, just that it will be seen that way,” the General can claim—but appearing to support it nonetheless. How weak, irresponsible, and disappointing. Continue reading

See, Rush, This Is Why A Lot Of People Don’t Trust You

It doesn't matter what you do, Bob...there's no pleasing Rush.

It doesn’t matter what you do, Bob…there’s no pleasing Rush.

This afternoon, Rush Limbaugh was mocking Bob Shieffer, of all people, for calling out White House lackey Dan Pfeiffer for his various attempts to deflect the Obama scandal barrage.  During the appearance of Pfeiffer as a White House spokesman on “Face the Nation,” Shieffer said,

“You know, I don’t want to compare this in any way to Watergate. I do not think this is Watergate by any stretch. But you weren’t born then I would guess, but I have to tell you that is exactly the approach that the Nixon administration took. They said, “These are all second-rate things. We don’t have time for this. We have to devote our time to the people’s business.” You’re taking exactly the same line they did….and I don’t mean to be argumentative here, but the President is in charge of the executive branch of the government. It’s my, I’ll just make this as an assertion: when the executive branch does things right, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitancy of the White House to take credit for that. When Osama bin Laden was killed, the President didn’t waste any time getting out there and telling people about it. But with all of these things, when these things happen, you seem to send out officials many times who don’t even seem to know what has happened. And I use as an example of that Susan Rice who had no connection whatsoever to the events that took place in Benghazi, and yet she was sent out, appeared on this broadcast, and other Sunday broadcasts, five days after it happens, and I’m not here to get in an argument with you about who changed which word in the talking points and all that. The bottom line is what she told the American people that day bore no resemblance to what had happened on the ground in an incident where four Americans were killed….But what I’m saying to you is that was just PR. That was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn’t know anything about what had happened. Why did you do that? Why didn’t the Secretary of State come and tell us what they knew and if he knew nothing say, “We don’t know yet?” Why didn’t the White House Chief of Staff come out? I mean I would, and I mean this as no disrespect to you, why are you here today? Why isn’t the White House Chief of Staff here to tell us what happened?”

I’ve given Shieffer Ethics Hero status for this. Admittedly, in a competent, ethical journalistic environment, such a response to an obvious flack job like what Pfeiffer was peddling would be standard operating procedure, and with a Republican scandal-ridden White House, it might be. The news media’s pro-Obama bias is so strong, however, that Shieffer’s words are welcome, unusual and praiseworthy. So what were Rush’s objections? Continue reading

Herman Cain, the News Media’s New Sarah Palin

Calling Herman Cain an Oreo and an Uncle Tom is bad, but comparing him to Sanjaya? Is there no limit to media cruelty?

At least when the media and pundits decided to suspend basic principles of fairness and decency to attack Sarah Palin for the unforgivable crime of being an outspoken conservative woman (even before she had a chance to show she deserved to be attacked for other reasons), she had been nominated for Vice President. Business executive Herman Cain, a similarly reviled aberration from the expected norm as a black Republican, is now getting equally unconscionable journalistic treatment just for getting decent poll numbers.

I will move past the race-based attacks from columnists and the MSNBC hit squad that have explicitly referred to him as an Oreo, an Uncle Tom, a black man who “knows his place,”  “the GOP’s token,” and “the Sanjaya of the Republican field,” as well as the many demeaning references to him as a “joke candidate,” and go right to this weekend, when the Palin standard was on bright display.

Here is part of the interview of Cain on “Face the Nation,” after host Bob Scheiffer showed Cain’s bizarre web ad, which ends with his campaign manager taking a puff on a cigarette:

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Stay Classy, Mr. President: It’s Part of Your Job

Appearing on PBS’s “Inside Washington,” this week, veteran Democratic media cheerleader Mark Shields reached the conclusion that other Beltway pundits on the Left and the Right had reached before him: Democrat  accusations that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pumping foreign contributions into domestic campaign ads, in violation of Federal law, are baseless, and worse.  “It was absolutely fallacious on their part,” said Shields. “And they made it up, the White House did.”

President Obama, in his campaign appearances, has continued to suggest that this illegal tactic is occurring. The facts the accusation is based on was revealed by White House advisor David Axelrod when he repeated the accusation to an incredulous Bob Shieffer on last Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on CBS. Shieffer asked Axelrod if he had any evidence this was true, and Axelrod’s replay was,”Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?” He then called upon the Chamber to prove a completely unsubstantiated claim wrong. This is, of course, a small bore version of Adolf Hitler’s unethical “Big Lie” tactic. Hmmmm…where else have I heard this approach used recently? Oh, I remember: “If Barack Obama really is a U.S. citizen, why doesn’t he prove it?” One would think the White House and President Obama would find this tactic beneath them.

The sad fact is that in the past few weeks, almost nothing has been beneath the President’s dignity. Continue reading