Tag Archives: false narratives

Death By A Thousand False Narratives

If you read the New York Times and its pundits as your primary news source, hate the President of the United States, and are a sucker for confirmation bias (as most of us are), then you probably really do think that President Trump in on the verge of being prosecuted. He’s not, and the fact that the flagship-by-default of the journalistic establishment nonetheless encourages that misconception is all you need to know about the state of American journalism. It deliberately and incompetently misinforms the public to suit its political alliances and agendas, rather than informing the public objectively about what they need to know to govern themselves.

I hate to keep pointing this out, but the evidence keeps coming, and the deniers are increasing their volume. I’m so sick of this particular story that I could hurl. Unfortunately, I have an obligation as both a responsible citizen, an ethicist and a blogger not to allow these Big Lies to lie around unchallenged, because that’s part of the Big Lie method. People get sick of arguing, and the lie becomes truth by default. Well, I’d rather lose readers—and I have—than be complicit in that.

Today, for example, and prompting this mini-post, was this column in the New York Times Review section, by the managing editor of Lawfare. Its called “Mueller vs Fox News,” and the theory is the exact opposite of reality. Her claim is that Fox News is deceiving the public into thinking that Mueller’s investigation hasn’t uncovered what it has been looking for, a way to push the President out of office, when it has. “The evidence from the special counsel’s investigation is already damning, but it must contend with a haze of lies, confusion and ‘alternative facts,'” she writes.

That cut line is what made me read the piece, for I’m always looking for real, as opposed to hoped for, assumed, or misunderstood, evidence that the President illegally and unethically made a quid pro quo deal of some sort with Russia to steal the election. I don’t like cheating in any field, and I don’t care who does it. I also, however, know what cheating is.

There not only isn’t “damning evidence” relating to the President itemized in the column, there is no evidence at all, just the same Manafort and Cohen machinations we have been hearing about all week, plus the even murkier doings of conservative writer James Corsi, none of which constitute “collusion.” Nonetheless, the author posts a series of Orwellian, black-is-white/War is Peace pronouncements which are the precise opposite of reality—and the Times dutifully publishes them. For example, she writes, Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Distractions, December 1, 2018 [UPDATED]

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday ethics quiz: When I was 13, my mother decided to throw me a real surprise birthday by having my friends and relatives hiding in our basement, but to stage the ambush four full days before the actual anniversary of my birth. She sent me down into our (creepy, musty) basement on a pretext, and the 25 or so people leaping out of the dark screaming scared the hell out of me. I nearly fell down the stairs. On your real birthday, there’s something in the back of your mind that prepares you for the possibility of a surprise party, however remote. When the surprise comes on another day, it feels more like an attack. As a consequence of that trauma, I detest surprise parties, and am afraid of dark basements. My mother, who loved scaring people, was always proud of her “surprise party that was really a surprise.” I thought it was sadistic and irresponsible, and still do.

What do you think?

1. The Drag Queen Principal Principle? Readers here Know Ethics Alarms frequently explores the various ethical dilemmas raised when a primary or secondary school teacher allows herself to appear naked of nearly so on the web. The tag is “The Naked Teacher Principle.”

This is a variation I haven’t seen before, out of Great Britain, from the BBC:

Andrew Livingstone, 39, is the head of Horatio House in Lound, Suffolk, and he also has a second job outside of work, as an entertainer called Miss Tish Ewe. According to the Eastern Daily Press, his act contains explicit material.

Great Yarmouth Community Trust, which owns the school, said it had agreed guidelines with him to ensure “a separation between his two jobs”. Mr Livingstone’s act is labelled on Twitter as “Queen of Quay Pride and Great Yarmouth!”, and boasts he has performed in places including Cardiff, Bristol and Dundee.

Mr Livingstone was appointed in July as the head of the independent school, near Lowestoft, and its proprietors said he brought “considerable expertise in education and school improvement to the trust”.

The school said his drag queen act came up during checks, but that it did “not believe that the two jobs are incompatible, and agreed with Mr Livingstone clear guidelines to ensure that there is a separation between his two jobs, including the use of social media in promoting his act”.

Both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils said they had not received any complaints.

Note that the key factor in most NTP scenarios isn’t present here. The teacher’s employers knew about the individual’s unusual avocation and approved of it in advance: there was no unexpected revelations or publicity. Note also that this is England, where drag has a somewhat different tradition and reputation than it does in the U.S.

2. George H.W. Bush death ethics. a) Incompetence. Here is the Washington Post’s first obit after the former President’s demise yesterday:

b) Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! The New York Times dredged out the infamous photo it employed to help sink Bush’s reelection in 1992, purporting to show him being “amazed” at a supermarket scanner. Bush was “out of touch” with how real Americans lived, you see, unlike Bill Clinton, who “felt their pain.”  That was the false narrative the news media was pushing against THAT Republican President. It was a lie, of course. Times reporter, later editor, Andrew Rosenthal wasn’t even present at the grocers’ convention where the photographed scene took place. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, who only noted that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face, But President Bush was wondering at new  a new technology “regular” Americans would have wondered at too—a prototype  scanner that could weigh groceries and read corrupted bar codes.

c) Paranoia! Confirmation bias! Newsbusters and Instapundit found the Associated Press’s obituary nasty and biased. Read it. The piece is fair and accurate. Mine would have been much tougher. Bush joined James Buchanan as men who became President because they had held every other conceivable elected and appointed government post and it was the only step left. That’s a lousy reason to run for President, and both Buchanan and Bush learned that lesson the hard way.

d) This is how it is done, John. The Bush family made it known that President Trump would be attending Bush’s funeral. President Trump was much harder on the Bushes than he was on John McCain. [CORRECTION: I mistakenly and carelessly posted that the Bushes “boycotted” Trump’s swearing in. W. and wife were there; Jeb wasn’t, but he was not obligated to, and H.W. was old and frail enough that he had an automatic excuse, though I doubt that he was inclined to show up. I apologize for the error.] But living ex-Presidents and the one in office traditionally attend the funeral of one of the exclusive club. The Bush’s understand that respect for the Presidency takes precedence over dislike of the man in it. Continue reading

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Oh, NOW I Get It! People Are Furious At The Kavanaugh Confirmation Because They Believe Divisive Fear-Mongers And Partisan Liars Like David Leonhardt! [Part II]

New York Times hyper-partisan pundit David Leonhardt’s hate speech  in the New York Times was so bad, I couldn’t cover its ugliness in a reasonable length post. Here I pick up from Part I.

5. “publicly sought“; Lower and lower: Trump needled Hillary about her missing e-mails, and facetiously suggested that Russia should hack them so we could find out what was in them. This has been a disgraceful trope in the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, and citing it identifies the writer or speaker as an  untrustworthy hack.

6. “When national security officials raised alarm with Congress, before Election Day, leaders of the candidate’s party refused to act.”

It is nice that the columnist supplies the news links so we can read what he is falsely characterizing.  This is a good example: a typically slanted post by anti-Trump Fury Jennifer Rubin blaming Mitch McConnell for not agreeing to sign “a bipartisan statement of condemnation.” If there is anyone who thinks that the Obama administration was prevented in any way from taking measures to protect the election from the Russians because McConnell wouldn’t sign a statement, raise your hand. It’s like the old telephone game: Rubin makes a highly dubious claim, and Leonhardt cites it to mean something more dubious still.

7. “The foreign assistance appears to have been crucial to the candidate’s narrow victory.” Appears to whom? There is absolutely no evidence that Russians played a crucial or even significant role in Trump’s  upset. This is now Democrat cant, and wonderful example of bootstrapping: obviously Hillary’s loss proves the case, because they are sure that she shouldn’t have lost.

8. “He won with only 46.1 percent of the popular vote, less than 16 losing candidates over the years had, including Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Williams Jennings Bryan and the little-remembered Horatio Seymour.”  Yes, the Left is still complaining about the Constitutional rules of the system that all parties have played by from the beginning, and which has worked out extraordinarily well. What is Leonhardt trying to say? Apparently that Trump isn’t legitimate, so everyone should be angry that they are being governed by an evil pretender.

Psst! Idiot!! 46.1 % is also more than some prominent Presidential winners, like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton (twice), as well as some not so prominent, like John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan In other words, the statistic is cherry-picked trivia, and proves nothing whatsoever.

9. Sigh. The Supreme Court seat was not “stolen,” which falsely implies something illegal.  The GOP was within its legal rights not to allow Obama’s nomination come to the Senate floor. The plan was unethical, unfair and a ridiculous gamble that easily could have backfired, but “stolen” is a falsehood.

10. ” A brutal, partisan process that was made into the norm by Democrats during the Bork and Thomas hearings, and sent plummeting to new lows by the outrageous conduct of, again, Democrats, this time.” There, I fixed it for you, Leonhardt. Continue reading

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Oh, NOW I Get It! People Are Furious At The Kavanaugh Confirmation Because They Believe Divisive Fear-Mongers And Partisan Liars Like David Leonhardt! [Part I]

I know: I could spend all my time debunking unethical columns like Times pundit David Leonhardt’s piece a few days ago. However, since I noted in the previous post that I was puzzled by the fury of so many people regarding what was, in any objective assessment, a fair and competent—and, thank god, successful—effort by Republicans to prevent Democrats from shredding basic principles of justice and fairness in their desperate effort to preserve a favorable ideological balance on the Supreme Court as if they were entitled to it (They weren’t, because elections have consequences), I am obligated to inform the assembled that my puzzlement was cleared by his screed.

There are pundits like Leonhardt who are actively trying to foment fury and division, they are using false narratives, deceit and lies to do it, and newspapers like the Times and news networks like CNN and MSNBC are actively promoting the effort. I won’t waste my time and yours on the whole column, fun as it would be, but just this section:

If you’re not angry yet, you should be.

Let’s review: Decades ago, a businessman built a fortune thanks in large measure to financial fraud. His corrupt gains helped him become famous. He then launched a political career by repeatedly telling a racist lie, about the first black president secretly being an African.

This lie created an audience in right-wing media that made possible a presidential campaign. During that campaign, the candidate eagerly accepted — indeed, publicly sought — the illegal assistance of a foreign enemy. When national security officials raised alarm with Congress, before Election Day, leaders of the candidate’s party refused to act.

The foreign assistance appears to have been crucial to the candidate’s narrow victory. He won with only 46.1 percent of the popular vote, less than 16 losing candidates over the years had, including Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Williams Jennings Bryan and the little-remembered Horatio Seymour.

Having won, the new president filled a Supreme Court seat that his party had stolen with an unprecedented power grab. This weekend, the president finished filling a second seat, through a brutal, partisan process. During it, the president, himself an admitted sexual molester, mocked victims of abuse.

Together, the two new justices have cemented an extremist Republican majority on the Supreme Court. It has already begun acting as a kind of super-legislature, throwing out laws on voting rights, worker rights, consumer rights and political influence buying. Now, the court is poised to do much more to benefit the wealthy and powerful at the expense of most Americans — and the planet.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

That’s right: democracy doesn’t work when journalists are complicit in fomenting public division and violence to advance a political agenda. Continue reading

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“Antigone In Ferguson”: Embedding The Lie

Mike Brown’s father during a discussion after the performance.

“Antigone in Ferguson”  premiered at Normandy High School, Michael Brown’s alma mater, in September of 2016. Now the Harlem Stage is presenting it in New York City, Off-Broadway. A play is a play and art is art; artists are going to enable juvenile, half-baked and even destructive political ideas and themes, and playwrights will turn their perceptions of reality into stagecraft that they often are far more qualified to execute than the task of making sense out of the world. This drama was conceived and directed by the activist playwright Bryan Doerries in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri four years ago,  overlays the structure of the ancient Sophocles Greek tragedy with a distorted version of Brown’s death and its aftermath. The goal, says the sympathetic—complicit may be a better word—New York Times, is “to open the door on the thoughts and feelings aroused by the shooting of the 18-year-old Mr. Brown by a white police officer, and by the protests that followed. ”

The play is championed by the Brown family, which means that in part it exists to perpetuate a politically useful lie and the  apparently invulnerable narrative that Brown was the innocent, sweet-natured victim of a racist cop who murdered the teen in the streets of Ferguson, and then got away with his deed because the white justice system is bent on killing young black men.

This quite simply is not what happened. The racialist Obama Justice Department was eager to be able to show that the officer was a killer, but in the end, despite the sympathetic spinning of the news media for months, the evidence did not support that conclusion, and no charges could be brought. Mike Brown, stoned and freshly off roughing up a storekeeper, resisted a lawful arrest, tried to grab a police officer’s gun, and then, when he focused his imposing 300 pound mass on charging the smaller cop who arrested him, got himself shot—stupidly, needlessly. His friend on the scene, however, quickly concocted the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” exchange that never happened, and as that false version slowly twisted its way from slogan to protest to debunked myth, the facts of Brown’s case were neatly discarded for a narrative that advances the cause of division, anti-police bias, racial hatred, and more. Continue reading

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“Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/18: Bad Ideas, False Narratives, Fake News, And Hillary’s Delusion

Happy Friday!

(You too, Reuben..)

1 The persistence and peril of bad ideas. Civilizations and societies fail in part because terrible ideas take root in the public square, become  exploited by cynical and unscrupulous elites and power-seekers, and lead to policy and cultural disasters. The nation’s gradual acceptance of illegal immigration is such an idea: when the pluses and minuses of the Trump Presidency are finally totaled and compared, no one will be able to deny that taking a direct stand against illegal immigration without compromise or weasel words will be one of Donald Trump’s positive legacies.

Nonetheless, the news media continues to indoctrinate the public with the toxic concept that illegal immigration is acceptable, against all logic and experience. In yet another “good illegal immigrant” story—frankly, I’m sick of writing about them—the New York Times gives us this:

Like many of the immigrants detained this way, Mr. de Oliveira, a house painter, had no criminal history. To the Trump administration, the other thing they had in common was more germane: a legal but, until now, unenforced obligation to leave the country that had stuck to them for years, even as they pieced together lives and families in the United States.

In the later years of the Obama administration, the government mostly left people without criminal records alone, focusing instead on immigrants who had only recently arrived or had been convicted of serious crimes.

But the Trump administration emphasizes that everyone living here illegally is fair game for deportation, a policy that has bumped up immigration arrests by more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2017. Those who were ordered out of the country years ago are especially easy marks for an agency with limited resources for enforcement — especially if they walk straight into an immigration office.

Boy, that mean, mean Trump administration, insisting that aliens who steal a place in this country along with its benefits should have to return it even if they don’t break any more laws.  There is literally no logical or legally coherent argument or rationale to support any other position. I have never heard one, read one, or been able to imagine one. Would people support a policy that allowed citizens to keep the loot they stole in a single felony as long as they never broke another law? Perhaps they would, if politicians, big business advocates for cheap labor and unethical journalists kept promoting the idea over years and decades.

2. And then there are media-fed false narratives. On Headline News this morning, Lovely Robin and her cohorts were reviewing Time’s “100 Most Influential People” and picking their favorites. Who cares, at this pathetic stage of Time’s existence, what that rag decides? One of Robin’s colleagues designated Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old medal-winning Olympic snowboarder, as his favorite among the hundred. Does anyone really believe a teenage snowboarder is one of the 10,000 most influential people in the US, much less in the top 100? Is Time’s 100 really a list of  “people most likely to be on “Dancing with the Stars”? Has any medal-winner in a Winter Olympics ever been particularly influential, except maybe in the Ice Capades? Continue reading

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Mission Accomplished: Political False Narrative Established

From a footnote in Robert Weintraub”s “The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age” (2013, paperback edition 2014):

“Sanford, Florida would return to the civil rights foreground in early 2012, when an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a neighborhood watchman, mainly because he felt the hooded sweatshirt Martin was wearing looked suspicious.”

Weintraub is an author and baseball historian. I got the book, which is excellent, from my son for Christmas. The original hardback edition was published before George Zimmerman’s July 2013 trial, but the paperback edition could easily have been corrected. People have no reason to doubt Weintraub, or assume that he has a political agenda. Maybe he doesn’t.

When he wrote the above, the “Trayvon Martin was shot by a racist because he was wearing a hoodie and was racially profiled” had been the racially inflammatory narrative pounded into the American public for months by the news media, Democrats, black activists and, of course, the President of the United States. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus even wore a hoodie on the floor of the House. In fact, there was never a shred of evidence that race had anything to do with Zimmerman’s actions or Martin’s death, or that it was a civil rights story at all. George Zimmerman, the “neighborhood watchman”—at least Weintraub didn’t say he was a “white Hispanic”—“mainly” shot Martin because… Continue reading

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