Tag Archives: factcheckers

Monday Ethics Afternoon Warm-Up, 8/6/18: Relatively Trivial Edition

1.  Facebook Conduct I Could Do Without Dept. A friend who happens also to be on Facebook just posted his opinion about a matter and added, “If you don’t agree,  don’t respond, just unfriend me.” I’m tempted to unfriend him for that. What a cowardly, lazy, arrogant stunt.

2. He’s also dead wrong in his opinion, which has to do with this “good illegal immigrant” news item. My friend thinks that the wife of a Marine should get a pass  despite being in violation of immigration laws because her husband served his country. I don’t disagree with the principle he’s espousing, but it’s not the law. If there should be law that gives some kind of leniency to the spouses of military personnel, then draft it, debate it, and pass it. The Marine fought for a nation of laws, not a nation where law enforcement makes up the laws as it goes along. This was the Obama approach: we just won’t enforce the laws against this particular group of law-breaker that we like.

3. How dumb can “cultural appropriation” complaints get? This dumb:

In women’s mag “Marie Claire,” Krystyna Chávez argues that deciding to pluck your eyebrows so that they are very thin is “cultural appropriation.” writing that she was was horrified when she saw a photo of Rihanna with her new, skinny eyebrows. Chávez writes in a piece titled “I’m Latina, and I Find Rihanna’s Skinny Brows Problematic.”  Unfortunately, as Katherine Timpf points out, a Louisiana State University student named Lynn Bunch wrote an op-ed last year declaring that  thick eyebrows that cultural appropriation:

“Current American eyebrow culture also shows a prime example of the cultural appropriation in the country. The trend right now is thick brows, and although a lot of ethnic women have always had bushy, harder-to-maintain eyebrows, it has only become trendy now that white women have started to do it.”

Boy, the outbreak of such serious statements of idiotic opinions makes me feel unsafe…because I’m afraid that I am surrounded by lunatics, in a culture that is encouraging warped values and reasoning to such an extent that for a disturbing number of Americans, no idea sets off the Stupid Alarms.

I may have to start a sister blog…

4. And you thought Trump Derangement Syndrome was silly.New York-based UMA Health, an online mental health marketplace, is providing free, confidential therapy sessions to Mets fans who are in emotional turmoil as a result of the team’s disappointing season, which cratered  is last week’s 25-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, the worst loss in Mets history—yes, even worse than any of the embarrassing drubbing the team received in its first, horrible season in 1962, when “the Amazin’ Mets” lost a record 120 games.

UMA says its tongue in cheek promotion is meant to bring attention to the important role of therapy, and to eliminate the stigma of going to a therapist.

That’s odd: I think the promotion does the opposite, suggesting that therapy is self-indulgent, useless, useless bunk, which it too often is. I have an amusing  personal story that explains my bias here, which I will leave for another time. If something is important your profession is to enlighten the world about its benefits, however, is it competent to promote it like this? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Character, Environment, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Marketing and Advertising, Sports

Wait…Maybe THIS, And Not The Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse Plastic Peeing Boy Controversy, Is THE DUMBEST ETHICS STORY EVER TOLD!!!

In July of 2016, I recounted this jaw-droppingly idiotic story, and confidently pronounced it The Dumbest Ethics Story Ever Told, Less than two years later, is has a challenger, and it took the combined ethics cluelessness and general cluelessness of serial ethics miscreants Facebook and Snopes to  create it,

BEHOLD!

Let’s meet the players, shall we? The Babylon Bee is not a hoax site of the sort that has often been designated as an Unethical Website here, but a satire site, and a pretty good one. The distinction isn’t hard to see. Hoax sites publish fake news stories that are specifically designed to fool people, and especially the news media, into thinking they are true. Their stories are often unlikely but not much more unlikely than the forehead-smacking things that Nancy Pelosi says or President Trump tweets regularly, and they are generally not especially clever or funny. Hoax sites also do not include the disclaimer that the site is not a legitimate news source where it is easily seen or read. Usually these are not even on the home page, or visible with every story. Satire sites, like the Bee, are skillful enough that nobody but morons–you know, like the people in charge of Facebook and Snopes, could possibly take their satire as fact. They also have a clear statement on the home page, like what the Bee includes in a black bar with white lettering on the bottom: The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.

Facebook you know, presumably. Perhaps you even know that, chagrined that it was the main platform through which Russians, bots and Lithuanian pranksters planted fake news during the 2016 campaign, has been taking various measures to combat “fake news,” though not the fake news that Facebook’s ideologically sympatico pals in the mainstream news media issue routinely. To help it identify the other kind of fake news, Facebook has allied with some well-known factcheckers, none of whom are completely trustworthy, and one less so than others, Snopes, which Ethics Alarms has exposed numerous times as biased, partisan, sloppy and untrustworthy. In my assessment, any organization, including Facebook but also news organizations, that relies upon or cites Snopes has condemned itself to the same category, which I will summarize for the sake of brevity as Unethical Hacks.

The Babylon Bee published a story with this headline: “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.”

ATLANTA, GA — In order to aid the news station in preparing stories for consumption, popular news media organization CNN purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to help its journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.

The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to “spin cycle,” and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.

One reporter was seen inserting the facts of a recent news story early Thursday morning.

“Okay, so we just slip in the location, the people involved, the facts of the story, and there we go,” he muttered as he fiddled with the buttons and dials on the machine. “Spin for five minutes on high, and we’ll have ourselves a news story.”

Now, just how stupid do you have to be not to comprehend that this is a joke? Ah, but those left-biased communications powers like CNN and Facebook stick together, so Facebook, because bias makes you stupid, and if you tended to be unethical and stupid anyway it can really make you stupid, thought this was a real effort to mislead facebook readers and pick up votes for Donald Trump or something, so it came down on the Bee like the Spanish Inquisition:

That’s right, Snopes checked whether CNN had actually purchased a giant washing machine! See?

It is similarly false that my uncle crossed a raccoon with a kangaroo and got a fur coat with pockets.  This isn’t false. This is called “a joke.” Ah, but Snopes feels that the giant washing machine tale was jussst a little too believable, so it is sinister enough for Facebook to take action:

Although it should have been obvious that the Babylon Bee piece was just a spoof of the ongoing political brouhaha over alleged news media “bias” and “fake news,” some readers missed that aspect of the article and interpreted it literally. But the site’s footer gives away the Babylon Bee’s nature by describing it as “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire,” and the site has been responsible for a number of other (usually religious-themed) spoofs that have been mistaken for real news articles.

If you click on “spoofs” in this part of the Snopes article, you discover that these were among the Bee stories that Snopes felt needed definitive sleuthing.

Did Jim Bakker Say ‘Trump Was Merely Sharing the Gospel with That Porn Star’?

Is Playing Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving Now a Federal Crime?

 Was Joel Osteen  Recently Horrified To Learn About The Crucifixion?

Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston to Pass out Copies of His Book?

California Christians Must Register Bibles as Assault Weapons?

Verdict: Both Facebook and Snopes think that Facebook readers and the public generally are idiots, and neither has the common sense and discretion to discern when a gag is so ridiculous that it cannot reasonably be blamed on its creator if some mouth-breathing clod believes it.

This fiasco has a nice punchline: the Babylon Bee’s latest story was this:

Snopes Launches New Website To Fact-Check Snopes Fact Checks

U.S.—Popular fact-checking site Snopes.com rolled out a brand-new spinoff site designed to fact-check previously published fact checks on Snopes.com, reliable sources confirmed Tuesday.

 The new site is called “Snopes Snopes,” and will comb through the original site’s articles in order to label them “True,” “False,” or “Clearly Biased,” assisting readers in discerning fact from fiction on the popular site which claims to debunk urban legends, hoax news stories, and satire.

“Our readers can now determine when a Snopes.com fact check is clearly erroneous or biased, with our help,” one Snopes fact-checker told reporters. “Rest assured that we will remain as neutral as possible when fact checking our own articles.”

“Up until now, the question everyone was asking was, ‘Who Snopes the Snopes?’ and now we have an answer,” she added.

At publishing time, Snopes editors had confirmed plans to launch a third site designed to fact-check its own fact checks of its own fact checks.

What do you think? Is this the new title-holder of The Dumbest Ethics Story Ever Told, or does the title still belong with the saga of Isabelle Lassiter, who called the police and filed a charge of sexual assault against a Japanese chef who jokingly squirted water on her using a plastic toy in the form of a little boy where the water was emitted from the “weiner” area, though, as the responding officer stated, “I observed the toy to have no penis and just a hole for the water to shoot out.” The plastic little boy was briefly taken into custody.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

When Ethics Alarms Not Only Don’t Ring, But Signal That They Might Not Have Ever Been Operable: PolitiFact Reveals Its Incompetence And Untrustworthiness Beyond All Reasonable Doubt

This is fortuitous timing! Yesterday Ethics Alarms praised a fact-check job by a supposedly non-partisan media bias watchdog site that critiqued Factcheck.Org’s analysis of the State of The Union. Today Bryan W. White informed us that the site in question favors PolitiFact, the vastly inferior factcheck site operated by the Tampa Bay Times. It is demonstrably one of the most left-biased and untrustworthy of all the fact-checking services. Bryan is a reliable authority on PolitiFact, having documented its partisan and dishonest work for years, and as co-creater of the PolitiFact Bias blog, for which he is the main writer.

Just in case there was any doubt about just how devoid of the necessary integrity and competence PolitiFact is for its mission, yesterday it announced that former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson had been hired to critique PolitiFact and enhance its trust and credibility. Alan Grayson.

KABOOM!*

The same Alan Grayson who sent a complaint to then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to prosecute a Republican activist  for starting an anti-Grayson parody website www.mycongressmanisnuts,com, mocking  Grayson’s typically hyperbolic site, http://www.congressmanwithguts.com,  suggesting  to Holder that Langley should be imprisoned for five years.  Now there’s respect for the First Amendment for you! What a perfect ally for a non-partisan media fact-checking operation, right?

Alan Grayson, the same politician I wrote this about in 20o9…

“Grayson is the Congressman whose explanation of the GOP position on health care was that “they want you to die.” He said that Dick Cheney speaks with “blood dripping from his teeth.” His mode of debate and persuasion, in other words, is insult and hyperbole. Respect for opposing views: zilch. Civility grade: F… He has endorsed unethical rules and plays by them…Grayson’s actions once again confirm a reliable rule of human nature: individuals who are habitually uncivil do not merely have a bad habit or poor self-control. They lack humility as well as basic respect and fairness toward others. The common, often uncivil but sometimes accurate  term for individuals like  Rep. Grayson is “jerk.”

and this in 2010… Continue reading

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Filed under Kaboom!, U.S. Society

“Fake News” Ethics: Top Ten Culprits (And Facebook Isn’t One Of Them)

pope-trump

“Fake News” is now a big topic in the news media, as it tries to lead public attention away from legitimate scrutiny of its own bias and incompetence, Facebook, in particular, is the target of this outcry, because the false narrative (should Facebook also be helped responsible for policing false narratives?) that fake news drove Donald Trump’s shocking victory is more palatable than the accurate narrative that Trump was opposed by the only candidate so corrupt, dishonest and inept that he had a chance of winning.

Here’s an interesting study of how Facebook’s algorithms circulates news stories that are made up. The focus on this kind of fake news, however, creates a fake picture of the problem that over-emphasizes hoax stories, many of which, apparently, come from teens in Macedonia exploiting American online gullibility for profit. The problem is that Americans are so ignorant that when some of them read a story that says  the Pope endorsed Donald Trump, they believe it. (Popes don’t endorse presidential candidates, and if anyone conscious thinks about it for five minutes, they should be able to figure out why.) The problem is that 40% of Americans are so lazy that they get their news from social media (and another chunk gets its news from comedy shows.)

The Blame Facebook theory is that because Facebook is foolishly relied upon by inept and gullible citizens to get their information about the world, Facebook has to take on the impossible task of vetting news items.

Facebook, however, is neither trustworthy nor competent to do this. Facebook is biased. Facebook is overrun with social justice warriors whose idea of what Facebook should censor is anything that offends them. For example:

Mark Zuckerberg had to fend off employees during the U.S. presidential campaign who wanted to censor billionaire Donald Trump’s posts due to alleged hate speech. Controversial statements by Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in December forced Mr. Zuckerberg to quash a mini-mutiny of staffers who threatened to quit if they could not delete the candidate’s posts. Sources close to the matter told The Wall Street Journal that some of the comments in question involved a plan to ban Muslim immigrants while the U.S. determines how to best combat the Islamic State group.

Biased selections regarding which news to print while censoring the statements of a Presidential candidate are at least as misleading as fake news.

Presumably Facebook won’t try vet the misleading, dishonest news stories, commentary, links and memes I see flooding Facebook every day, courtesy of my nice, friendly, smart, educated, completely left-biased and right-biased friends who throw absolute garbage out as truth and immediately receive dozens of “Likes” for doing so. These are a lot more visible and just as brain-muddling as any Macedonian fiction. Here’s one example from yesterday, and to the good friend who posted it, I love you dearly but you are gullible and irresponsible:

BREAKING: Trump Announces Plan To ELIMINATE Overtime Pay For 20,000,000 Americans

This is completely false, as one would learn, sort of, by reading the story. Republicans are going to review regulations established in the last 60 days and kill the ones they think are ill-advised, as the law allows Congress to do. One that might be in jeopardy is a recent  rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half overtime to employees who make under roughly $47,000. The article also eventually says that it is House Republicans who say they are targeting the rule. So, to summarize:

  • Trump announced no such plan.
  • Nothing is being eliminated, since nobody has received any extra pay to be eliminated.
  • The alleged regulation cancellation wouldn’t take away overtime pay, as the headline states, but the requirement of paying overtime plus 50%.
  • Killing the rule wouldn’t take away such overtime or ban it; employers would still be free to pay time and a half at their discretion.

In short, the headline is fake news, designed to attack Trump. This kind of fake news isn’t included in the linked study, and for good reason. If we fairly call misleading headlines fake news, Facebook would be charged with vetting the mainstream media constantly. What about real quotes, from supposedly reliable people, that falsely spread rumors or specious accusations? Jim Comey did not violate the Hatch Act, as Harry Reid claimed. Trump is not a Nazi, as Howard Dean just claimed. Those quotes are just as misleading than nonsense about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump, but they are real quotes, from well-respected people who are being irresponsible. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Social Media, U.S. Society

Irony: The Self-Proclaimed Child Advocate Who Will Become The First Woman President Will Be Preventing The First Child President….

Superman vs Batman is isn't...

Superman vs Batman is isn’t…

Donald Trump’s ridiculous, embarrassing—but typical!—“let’s see if we can lower the shameful level of rhetoric in this campaign even lower” statement at a campaign stop in Florida yesterday:

“Did you see where Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn? Me. I’d love that. I’d love that. Mr. tough guy. You know, he’s Mr Tough Guy. You know when he’s Mr. Tough Guy? When he’s standing behind a microphone by himself.”

He’s a child.

The news that the Affordable Care Act is falling apart exactly as it’s Republican opponents predicted would be potent ammunition for any competent and focused Republican candidate. Instead, he blathered briefly and inaccurately about the program, and allowed himself to be drawn into a silly hypothetical. time-travel fisticuffs challenge from Joe Biden.

Peggy Noonan observed last week that a sane Donald Trump—speaking of hypotheticals—would have beaten Hillary Clinton in a landslide, but that unfortunately the one who is running is nuts. Here we had another demonstration of that. In a real campaign, the looming collapse of the Affordable Care Act, passed without bipartisan support, sold with lies, and taken to the finish line using Parliamentary tricks, would have been a major issue in the campaign, dominating the debates, and providing a crisis for Democrats with this late campaign development. This was, after all, supposedly the “signature accomplishment” of the Obama administration: an irresponsibly complex law that its supporters didn’t understand or even read, triggering much of the middle class anger that created Donald Trump’s disastrous candidacy. Never mind. Trump, as always, didn’t bother to do his homework or get his facts straight, wouldn’t think through his comments sufficiently to be coherent, and finally couldn’t resist reacting the goading by Biden, who had said he wishes he was in high school so he could take Trump “behind the gym.” Thus Trump handed  the media yet another excuse to focus on something other than the real issues, and the failure of Barack Obama.

Well, I guess the fact that the GOP’s candidate for President is an idiot qualifies as an issue, but there are others.

I look forward to “fact-checkers” pointing to the Trump “lie” that Biden said he wanted to take him to “the back of the barn,” when he really said “gym.” That’s got to be worth at least four Pinnochios, right?

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media