Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/6/2019: State of the Union Ethics, And More

Hello, Austin!

At least, that’s what I’ll be saying later today, as I arrive in the Texas capital to give my country music ethics seminar, sung by the remarkable Mike Messer, to a group of over a thousand corporate lawyers. It’s certainly better than lying around coughing, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

1. Update: Facebook still won’t accept Ethics Alarms links. This is seriously depressing me. I can’t get Facebook to respond or explain, and so far WordPress hasn’t been any help either. In the past, posts here have attracted tens of thousands of Facebook shares; most got at least a couple. Now there are none. This affects traffic, it affects everything. On one level, I’m tempted just to leave Facebook entirely. It’s not a very pleasant place these days, and the company is despicable. That doesn’t solve the problem though. After all the work and time I have spent trying to develop the blog, watching its readership and circulation go backwards is infuriating. I also don’t know how paranoid I should be about all of this.

2. State of the Union notes. The speech is always political theater, and largely irrelevant unless it is botched or something weird happens, like “You lie!” or Obama attacking the Supreme Court. I find it amazing that so many pundits couldn’t keep their cognitive dissonance in check, and give some semblance of an honest, if grudging, analysis of what one would have to call an excellent performance—and that’s all the SOTU speech is, a performance— by Donald Trump standards, and a wise performance from a Presidential perspective. At a time of near maximum divisiveness, the speech was upbeat, optimistic, and patriotic. You have to really, really hate the man to condemn that speech….and that’s how most of journalists and pundits feel. I especially liked Salon’s “Donald Trump 2019: Same lying racist he was last year.”  CNN’s Van Jones was also self-indicting, saying,  “I saw this as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop. He tries to put together in the same speech these warm, kind things about humanitarianism and caring about children, and at the same time he is demonizing people who are immigrants in a way that was appalling.”  On the other side of the wacko divide, Ann Coulter called the speech “sappy” and was upset because Trump didn’t talk more about the wall. Is there anyone other than Coulter than wants him to talk more about the wall? We need a special confirmation bias clinic for these people. Also: Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Once Again, Snopes Proves It Cannot, Should Not, And Must Not Be Trusted

I definitively laid out how lazy, biased and deceptive Snopes is, here and elsewhere.  Yet Google and Facebook still rely on the fact-checking site. This is signature significance: it can only mean that these businesses want biased standards to rule the day. The Daily Caller just called out a typical example of Snopes’ unethical work. As with its spinning for Hillary Clinton that I flagged in 2016, this is egregious and irrefutable.

Here is a meme that has been circulating on the web:

It’s a lie, fake news, wrong, however you want to describe it. It’s just not true. The X’s are through some people who weren’t members of Congress. X’s also cover the faces of Jodey Arrington, Ron Estes, Liz Cheney, Michael Burgess, Patrick McHenry, Jason Smith, Bradley Byrne, Markwayne Mullin, Paul Mitchell, Glenn Grothman, Doug Lamborn, and Tim Walberg, all of whom were re-elected. There were other errors as well. Politico reporter Jake Sherman observed that the meme “is actually more incorrect than correct.”

In other words, a typical internet meme.

Nevertheless, Snopes fact-checker Bethania Palma ruled it accurate. To do so, she used Snopes favorite trick, falsely characterizing what the claim was. Palma rated it “true” that “The Congressional seats of almost three dozen Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare were lost to Democrats in 2018” when the meme clearly said that everyone in the picture who was Xed voted for repeal and was voted out of office. Her claim is pure deceit. “In the meme, red ‘X’ marks were drawn through the faces of 33 lawmakers who purportedly were rejected by voters in the 6 November 2018 midterm elections,” Palma wrote. Wrong. They weren’t all “lawmakers,” and they weren’t all defeated. Continue reading

Nah, Snopes Isn’t A Spinning, Left-Biased Fake Fact-Checking Organization! OK, I’m Kidding, It Really Is. [UPDATE]

If you hear about a social media company of a media organization that cites Snopes and a reliable authority, that’s all you need to know. They’ll lie to you, just like Snopes, and probably to assist a progressive political agenda.

Here’s an especially blatant example of Snopes’ fake fact-checking, as opposed to what they claim to do, which is to check fake facts, from 2016. It’s actually pretty funny.

The fact being checked:

Bernie Sanders has been criticized as hypocritical for only paying his interns $12 an hour despite his campaigning to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Snopes’ unbiased and objective analysis:

WHAT’S TRUE: Bernie Sanders pays his interns $12 an hour.

WHAT’S FALSE: Bernie Sanders pays his staff workers $12 an hour.

Ah! It’s misleading to say that Bernie, who said during the campaign,

“Millions of Americans are working for totally inadequate wages. We must ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. The current federal minimum wage is starvation pay and must become a living wage. We must increase it to $15 an hour over the next several years.”

was a hypocrite who, as a meme circulating in 2016 claimed, he only payed his “staff interns” $12 an hour while simultaneously campaigning to raise the national minimum wage of $15.

Says Snopes, spinning like mad: Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/18: Lies, Boycotts, Boos, and More Lies

1. Update: We discussed earlier the accusations by former staff that Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) had used his Congressional staff to perform personal tasks for him, his wife, and his dog. Now he has announced that he will not seek re-election, because he needs to deal with his alcoholism. As we know from many previous example, alcoholism is the go-to excuse for all manner of misconduct. In truth, it doesn’t make anyone misuse public funds, it doesn’t make anyone turn their staff into domestic help. This is a face-saving lie in most cases. In any case, good riddance.

2. Never mind football, what matters most is division and protest. DNC co-chair Keith Ellison actually tweeted this:

Yes, he is advocating a boycott of the NFL because the owners have decided that their ticket-purchasers should not be required to watch protests on the field before kick-off. Ellison and the other fans of making every aspect of American life a source of political discord believe that the protests, incoherent as they are, are more important than the games. He would inflict financial losses on a business for a completely reasonable policy, because it doesn’t further a progressive agenda. And, of course, those most harmed by a successful boycott would be the players. Continue reading

Snopes’ Credibility Death Spiral: Presenting The Straw Man Fact-Check

Apparently the recent example of Snopes resorting to proving a “claim” false that nobody serious was claiming wasn’t an anomaly, but a new strategy. Here, Ethics Alarms commenter Tippy Scales discussed the struggling urban-legend-turned-partisan-hack-site post in defense of ESPN’s ridiculous removal of Asian -American Robert Lee from a football broadcast because he shared a first and last name with Robert E. Lee. Its spin: the accusation that “ESPN Fired Announcer Robert Lee Because His Name Sounds Like the Confederate General’s? was wrong! Except that was not what happened, nor what critics of ESPM were objecting to.

Why would Snopes do this?  Tippy  opined that Snopes “couldn’t stand having to confirm something that went against their worldview, so they invented a reason to avoid it.” The real reason appears to be even worse than that. Snopes’ current game is to mislead readers by convincing them that criticism from the right is dishonest and absurd, by searching for self-evidently idiotic accusations and then disproving them…which isn’t difficult when the accusations were dredged up from the social media swamp by Snopes specifically to debunk.

Today’s example is hilarious. Snopes:

Fact Check: Was Barack Obama President During Hurricane Katrina?

Twitter users tried to pin the blame for Katrina relief issues on Obama, though he wasn’t even president when it hit New Orleans.

CLAIM: Barack Obama was president when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
RATING: FALSE

ORIGIN: As damage from Hurricane Harvey continued to grow in Texas in late August 2017, some Twitter users sought to defend President Donald Trump’s response to the disaster by criticizing the actions of his predecessor, Barack Obama during similarly pervasive flooding in Louisiana in 2016. Other users took that argument even further, knocking Obama for not “doing enough” to help Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/23/17”

Like Baltimore removing its politically incorrect statues, here I am in the dead of night trying to catch up with the Ethics Alarms Comments of the Day.

By the way, of all the statues taken down and under attack, the one I can most sympathize with is that of Chief Justice Roger Taney. There is only one reason anyone remembers Taney, and only one thing a statute to him can symbolize: the Dred Scott decision, which he authored. Since it is, by acclamation, the single most disastrous Supreme Court decision in the nation’s history, having a statue of Taney standing in front of the Maryland state house is difficult to defend.

Taney is something of a tragic figure. The rest of his judicial career was distinguished, but that is a bit like saying that the rest of that performance of “Our American Cousin” was terrific. He actually thought the Dred Scott decision would avert a civil war by settling the slavery question once and for all. He was not an evil man, just a horribly misguided one.

There is a street named after Taney in Alexandria. Every time I pass the sign, I think, “This is weird.” Who defends the Dred Scott case? Who has defended it in the last 150 years?

But I digress.

Tippy Scales is an undercover journalist, registering his period disgust at the ethical collapse of his profession here because it is not safe to do so elsewhere. He filed this Comment of the Day two days ago, on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/23/17

(I’ve linked to the topics and posts he  has referred to within his post.)

Let’s review the past few days… Continue reading

If Snopes Is Trying To Claw Its Way Back To Credibility And Respect, This Is Certainly A Good Start…

One of the most trafficked posts on Ethics Alarms in 2016 was this one, almost exactly one year ago, in which I described the deterioration of the Snopes “urban legend” website into a partisan, social justice mouthpiece that was spinning for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.  It recieved so many shares that Ethics Alarms was a target of Hillary’s paid online trolls, who wrote almost identical comments with the same talking points. Few posts here have ever resulted in so many banned commenters. Since that post designating Snopes as an Unethical Website, I stopped using the site, as I said I would until it repented and reformed…

With all the misinformation on the web, a trustworthy web site like Snopes used to be is essential. Unfortunately, a site that is the purveyor of falsity cannot also be the antidote for it. I’ll miss Snopes, but until it acknowledges its ethics breach and convinces me that the site’s days of spinning and lying were a short-lived aberration, I won’t be using it again.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Snopes’ reputation is thoroughly tarnished. Thus I can’t tell whether today’s sudden counter-partisan effort is born of sincerity or a survival instinct, but it is certainly welcome, and a shock.

The new post is titled,

The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas: An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration

I find the article somewhat meandering and scattershot, but it still constitutes an important effort to splash cold water on the anti-Trump fever. That splash should be especially effective because Snopes had established itself as such a reliable ally to those doing the lying Snopes condemns.

To my knowledge, none of the other alleged fact-checking columns have been this direct and this thorough in pointing out the phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has been discussing for more than a year. We shall see if the new entry was just a ruse so Snopes could recover lost readers and start spinning for the Left again with renewed influence. I recommend wariness. Nevertheless, this essay is much needed, and we should give credit where credit is due.