Tag Archives: fake news

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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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/18: A Train Wreck Update And A Post On “Democratic Norms”

Good Afternoon…

Why is the warm-up so tardy today? You don’t want to know...

1 The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck takes an unexpected turn, which is hard to do for a train...Feminist Katie Roiphe is being widely attacked by the #MeToo mob for her  Harper’s essay ,“The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter Feminism Is Bad for Women.” Her thesis: with women reveling in a new-found power to destroy men’s reputations and careers with mere accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace or on a date, women’s advances in society are likely to be reversed based on basic suspicion and fear.  The mere news that she was preparing the piece was enough for Roiphe to be called, on social media, Roiphe reported, 

“pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original?”

The threat of criticism of the online “shitty media men” spreadsheet that gathered anonymous allegations of sexual misbehavior for the purpose of destroying the careers of those on it prompted the  unethical website’s creator, Moira Donegan, to out herself, which she did proudly and to remarkably little criticism from women, who feel pressure to remain silent from peers, Roiphe says. Asks Kyle Smith in the National Review,  “Is a movement that effectively silences even mild dissent by mostly like-minded people something to be proud of?”

One feminist who has been critical of the #MeToo witch hunt tendencies from the start is “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon, who writes, “Women of past generations worked so hard to be treated as men’s equals. Now every woman has to be looked at like a walking lit fuse.” Of course this is happening: I predicted it too. As Smith writes at another article in the NY Post, many men are no longer willing to be alone with female colleagues: Continue reading

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I Almost Forgot: A Final Observation Regarding The President’s Fake News Awards

I intended to end this post regarding President Trump’s Fake News Awards with what I felt was an important observation, and when the post became longer than I intended, I forgot to add it.

So I will add it now:

Presidents shouldn’t hand out compendiums of fake news and poor journalism at year’s end. Journalists should. Newspapers, like the Times, Post, and Wall Street Journal. Broadcast news organizations, like the major networks and CNN. They should do it because it’s important, and because it’s news.

They should do it because they should want their readers and viewers to know that they care about biased, incompetent news reporting, and recognize how damaging it is to the public and our democracy.

They should do it to prove that they know what unethical journalism is. They should do it because true professions are capable of self-policing, and maintaining ethical standards by pointing out serious breaches. Bar associations publish the names of lawyers who have been disciplined and what they did to violate the profession’s rules. Professions that try to protect their worst members have sided with them and against the public they are pledged to serve.

If news organizations treated unethical journalism as newsworthy, reporters and editors would know that someone was watching who knew when they were cutting corners and crossing lines. The public would know that when  the news media betrayed the public trust, the profession wouldn’t circle the wagons, make excuses, or deny anything was wrong, but instead publicize the misconduct, explain why it was unacceptable, and admonish the miscreant.

News organizations don’t do this, do they? Oh, CNN will attack Fox News, and Fox News will criticize MSNBC, but that has nothing to do with ethics, and everything to do with partisanship and competition. If the New York Times were trustworthy, it would regularly report on its own biased stories and fake news, as well as those of  CNN and Fox News. If CNN were ethical, it would treat the disgraceful bias and incompetence of its colleagues—and itself—in 2017 as the vitally important news story that it is.

That none of the news organizations have the integrity and courage to cover this story tells us everything we need to know about the current state of journalism in the United States of America.

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Filed under Character, Journalism & Media, Professions

Well, I Guess There’s No Way Around It: Considering The President’s Fake News Awards

I don’t really care what the President says is fake news. What matters on Ethics Alarms is what I decide is fake news. His much ballyhooed list of fake news items ignore that many inexcusable examples that have nothing to do with him, like various stories designed to impugn conservatives and normal people because journalists think they are stupid, or intentionally misleading headlines, or when reporters sneak false characterizations into their “news stories” as facts, or publishing gossip as fact using anonymous sources,  or passing along falsity in the course of reporting a related matter, as in this instance, when NBC’s reporter said, “President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” — a jab at her Native American ancestry.” (Psst! NBC! Senator Warren has no Native American ancestry.)

However, Ethics Alarms is duty bound to assess the President’s “2017 Fake News Awards,” which he released last week.

No, I don’t believe he should be releasing such awards. It’s beneath the Office,  and he isn’t Seth Myers. (If there were a a fair, satirical comic who made any attempt at partisan balance, this would be a good gimmick for him or her. There isn’t. That’s another problem.) Here is the list, with comments from me:

#1. “The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

Comment: Ugh. Signature significance for bad staff work and stupidity: the very first item isn’t fake news, wasn’t news at all, and didn’t even occur in 2017.  On election night in 2016, Krugman stated a prediction and an opinion, and made as ass out of himself. That’s certainly not news. So right off the bat, we know that the 2017 “Fake News Awards” are more about using these items as an excuse to trumpet Trump’s successes.Got it.

If I didn’t have to, that would be sufficient to make me stop reading, or caring.

#2. “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

#3. CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

Comment:  #2 and #3, both covered on ethics alarms, are the crown jewels of the fake news collection, among the  hundreds that shredded the mainstream media’s reputation for trustwortiness durin the year.  For the Whataboutists out there—and you know who you are!—these two alone destroy the “But Fox News was just as unfair to Obama!” baloney. In 8 years, no story broken by Fox were as unforgivable as Ross’s bombshell claim that Brian Ross went live on ABC last week and announced the fake news story that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians, that smoking gun that all “the resistance” had been searching for, dreaming about, wishing were out there. It triggering a massive stock market sell-off. Seven hours later, ABC sheepishly admitted that it was President-elect Trump who had made the request of Flynn, which is called “being President.”    Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay, and ABC said he wouldn’t be trusted to cover the President any more. This itself was outrageous: if he’s so biased that he can’t cover the President, Ross is too unprofessional to be a journalist at all, certainly at ABC News. (Maybe for the Hooten Holler Gazette.) So far, Ross has yet to resurface, though his exile was supposedly up.
Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Let’s See If MSNBC Has The Integrity To Fire Joy Reid…Because, You Know, It Should

“Yippee! There go all them Democrats and minorities!”

(I didn’t mean for this to turn into Our News Media Stinks Day, I really didn’t. But our news media stinks…)

People keep asking how the mainstream news media can back away from the abyss, stop being an enemy of the American people a true profession is duty bound to serve, and start re-instituting professional standards into the rotting, putrid news business. Firing reporters, pundits and anchors who fail to meet minimum levels of objectivity, honesty, independence and competence would be an excellent start. These partisan hacks behave as they do because they know they can get away with it.

Take, for example, MSNBC’s Joy Reid and this  episode of runaway journalism bias and incompetence cascade.

The National Review’s David French wrote an essay about the possible outcome of a nuclear strike on an American city, as a response to the false alarm in Hawaii. He’s a military veteran and a substantive commentator; I usually admire his work more than this piece. I see what he was trying to do, but “a nuclear strike isn’t as bad as people think” just isn’t a position worth taking, in my view.

Well, as I know as well as anybody, they all can be gems. [Update: French criticized the article as well, saying, “On re-reading it, I’m slightly embarrassed. The post is so basic and simple that it barely scratches the surface of decent prepping. As something of an amateur prepper, I have thousands more words I could unleash. But this wasn’t a magazine piece. It was a blog post.”]

Here is part of what he wrote in the original article, titled, “If a Missile Alert Sounds, Prepare to Live”:

The bottom line, even if a nuclear weapon as big as the largest North Korea has ever tested were to impact squarely on Manhattan, the vast majority of New Yorkers would survive the initial blast. A strike would devastate central Honolulu but leave many suburbs intact. If the missile misses a city center even by a small amount, the number of initial casualties plunges dramatically.

Only a rabid partisan attack dog could read French’s exhortation to  survive rather than surrender to panic in an emergency as an ideological or even a conservative piece. Newsweek, however, which has devolved into the scum on the sides of the bottom of the journalism barrel, described the article with this headline:

“NUCLEAR WAR? IT WON’T GET YOU IN THE SUBURBS, CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE TELLS READERS”

Divisive, misleading, unfair, and inflammatory. Then, to make its smear explicit, Newsweek wrote this:

Amid heightened tensions with nuclear armed North Korea a conservative magazine is telling its readers not to worry about a potential nuclear strike because they live in America’s suburbs and countryside. An article published Monday in the National Review reassures readers that nuclear war—and North Korea’s arsenal—shouldn’t cause them concern because a nuclear strike will mostly vaporize those in major cities while suburbanites will come out largely unscathed….

During the 2016 election, Trump won 50 percent of the vote in suburban America and 62 percent of the vote in small cities and rural areas compared to Hillary Clinton’s 45 and 34 percent performance in the regions. Conservatives tend to prefer small towns and rural areas, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, with 46 percent of liberals preferring city life compared to just 4 percent of conservatives who said the same.

Nice. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson [UPDATED]

“Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable. […] You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on. And that is what you should do. But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.”

—–University of Toronto Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson responding to a British Journalist who asked him in an interview, “Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?

When the interviewer, Cathy Newman, was unable to muster a response, Peterson said,  “Ha! Gotcha.” To her credit, Newman replied,

“You have got me. You have got me. I’m trying to work that through my head. It took awhile. It took awhile. It took awhile.”

I’ll give her credit for having sufficient integrity to admit that she hadn’t thought the issue through, but that’s all I’ll give her credit for. What Peterson said should be obvious to any half-conscious and minimally educated individual. The episode is less about great truths dawning as the result of a sage’s perceptive words than it is about the relentless shallowness of journalists, making their presumptuous efforts to mold the thought and opinions of anyone else not just ridiculous, but infuriating.

Can you sense that I’m losing patience with journalists today? Perhaps it was hearing this, from non-doctor, non-smart person, fake-news purveyor for anti-Trump shill CNN Alisyn Camerota yesterday:

“So in 2009 the president’s calcium score, before he was president, was 34. In 2013, before he was president, it was 98. Today it’s 133. And as you see from the little cheat sheet, fine print below, a score of over 100 means a high risk of heart attack or heart disease within three to five years.”

…leading to this graphic…

But the President’s physician. asked directly by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical authority, said he did not:

Never mind. A CNN doctor who has never examined the President feels empowered to contradict the doctor who has, and who is responsible for his health. With any normal patient, Gupta’s conduct would be a breach of medical ethics, interfering with the doctor patient relationship. In this case, since the news media can get away with anything, it’s just one more example of arrogant, unethical journalism, manufacturing fake news.

Or perhaps of wishful thinking.

 

UPDATE: Moments after I posted this, CNN sent me this graphic with Dr. Gupta’s smiling face:

Yeah, I’d like to cut right to the facts, but on CNN, the snark, bias, stupidity and opinion make the facts all but impossible to detect. Talk about irony! What are ‘”facts” to you, Doctor? Indeed, what are “facts” to your whole network?

 

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Ethics Update On The “Shithole” Scandal: More Dunces, Hacks, Hypocrites And Liars

When we last left the ‘Shithole’ scandal, now being cited routinely up and down the news media as proof positive that the President is a racist, we knew the following:

1 Unnamed sources “briefed on” or “familiar with” the President’s meeting with select lawmakers regarding an immigration deal told the Washington Post and others that President Trump “grew frustrated with lawmakers” when he learned that part of the proposed deal protected immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and said,

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

2. Despite the fact that these “sources” had no direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting they did not attend, the New York Times characterized them as having “direct knowledge,” which was impossible. The news media also represented these accounts based on briefings as fact, with headlines such as the Times’ “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

3. In a series of tweets, the President denied the characterization of what he had said.

4. Senator Dick Durbin, while not expressly quoting the President, told reporters that Trump had said things “in the course of his comments which were hate-filed, vile and racist,” and added, “I use those word advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that Oval Office that any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

5. Nonetheless, the news media, in its subsequent coverage in cable news shows and on the web, treated the claim that Trump had said what the second-hand, anonymous sources had claimed, and used this as a departure point for a general discussion of how racist and vulgar the President was. CNN commentators used the term “shithole” over a hundred times.

6. Websites and blogs with commentators capable of fairness and objectivity, like Ethics AlarmsAlthouse, and Powerline, were forced to accept arguendo (I’m sorry, but I love using that word) the anti-Trump narrative’s assumptions in order to point out that calling countries that are, in fact, “shitholes” is not a racist statement about the people in those countries. This, of course, is how Big Lie propaganda works. You have to accept the lie in order to debunk it.

To sum up, then: The news media reported as fact what were in truth  disputed comments in a private meeting, and the representation of these as truth solidified during the day and evening, and through yesterday.  Now we get headlines like this one, in Entertainment Weekly: “Anderson Cooper chokes up while discussing Trump’s ‘sh–hole’ comment”

Updated Comments and observations: Continue reading

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