More On The Atlantic’s Big Lie

The news media and politicians keep using the Big Lie tactic because, sadly, it works.

One reason such lies work is that, unfortunately, people just aren’t, on average, very smart or attentive. The Atlantic Monthly’s two-year old “scoop” that the President had denigrated American servicemen during a trip abroad according to four “officials” who nonetheless didn’t have the integrity or courage to take responsibility for their story was self-evidently a pro-Biden smear job, identifiable both by its timing and its journalistic inadequacies. It arrived when there was legitimate news that was favorable to the President, yet the phony story received most of the ink and air time, even from Fox News and the conservative media, the latter of which discussed the rottenness of the tactic rather than its substance.

As Big Lies go—this was a micro-Big Lie, other than the recurring and still surfacing  macro-Big Lies that have served as the foundation of the relentless anti-Trump assault since the 2016 election—this one was rather well constructed, being based as it was on one of Trump’s stupidest and most damaging utterances, his campaign swipe at  John McCain and Vietnam prisoners of war. It was not a sub-Big Lie, relying on one of the Big Nine, because, after all, this one draws its strength from a fact: the President is an asshole, and unlike other recent asshole Presidents like Obama and Clinton, he doesn’t even try to hide it.

Nonetheless, the fact that a well-proven anti-Trump organ published this just as the riots were starting to take their toll on Joe Biden’s hate-fueled support and had to use anonymous sources to create it was, or should have been, plenty to allow even the semi-dim among the public to discern what was going on. Then came the multiple claims that Fox News and others had “confirmed” the story, which, of course, they hadn’t. This was incompetent and embarrassing, and it was immediately obvious to me, as it should have been for anyone with a modicum of education and two brain cells to rub together. I saw the “confirmation” report right after completing the September 4 post about news media disinformation, and wrote,

Fox saying it “corroborated” what Trump said is flat out false. If someone tells NBC I’m an anteater, and I deny it, then ABC talks to the same lunatic who says I’m an anteater and he repeats his accusation, did ABC corroborate that I’m an anteater?

Yet, incredibly—yes, after all this time, I still find the the lack of basic critical thinking skills among so much of the public hard to believe–a lot of people couldn’t see this. I know it sounds arrogant, but I have to regard this episode as either an IQ test or a corruption test: if you don’t see what’s going on, either you’re not very bright, or you are allowing yourself to enable lie.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a whole essay for the slow-witted about what the news media is doing here , unfortunately, slow-witted Americans don’t read The Intercept. He begins by recalling one of the worst CNN false reports pushing the Russia collusion coup effort, now down a memory hole, as CNN (and its fixer Brian Stelter) still insist that the networks reporting on that debacle was impeccable. Greenwald writes,

Very shortly after CNN unveiled its false story, MSNBC’s intelligence community spokesman Ken Dilanian went on air and breathlessly announced that he had obtained independentconfirmation that the CNN story was true. In a video segment I cannot recommend highly enoughDilanian was introduced by an incredibly excited Hallie Jackson — who urged Dilanian to “tell us what we’ve just now learned,” adding, “I know you and some of our colleagues have confirmed some of this information: What’s up?” Dilanian then proceeded to explain what he had learned:

“That’s right, Hallie. Two sources with direct knowledge of this are telling us that congressional investigators have obtained an email from a man named “Mike Erickson” — obviously they don’t know if that’s his real name — offering Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. access to WikiLeaks documents. … It goes to the heart of the collusion question. … One of the big questions is: Did [Trump Jr.] call the FBI?”

How could that happen? How could MSNBC purport to confirm a false story from CNN? Shortly after, CBS News also purported to have “confirmed” the same false story: that Trump Jr. received advanced access to the WikiLeaks documents. It’s one thing for a news outlet to make a mistake in reporting by, for instance, misreporting the date of an email and thus getting the story completely wrong. But how is it possible that multiple other outlets could “confirm” the same false report?

It’s possible because news outlets have completely distorted the term “confirmation” beyond all recognition. Indeed, they now use it to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means, thereby draping themselves in journalistic glory they have not earned and, worse, deceiving the public into believing that an unproven assertion has, in fact, been proven. With this disinformation method, they are doing the exact opposite of what journalism, at its core, is supposed to do: separate fact from speculation.

The effectiveness of this technique depends on confirmation bias. A late, periodically lamented left-biased commentator here insisted that he knew Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election because that’s the kind of person he is. This, of course, is bigotry as well as confirmation bias, but that kind of thought process is driving the willingness of so many to accept an inherently unreliable story. Continue reading

On The Recent Steele Dossier Revelations: An Open Letter To An Un-Named Former Ethics Alarms Commenter, Written In Disappointment And Disgust

Dear You Know Who You Are,

As you remember, well over a year ago you staged a grandstanding, insulting exit from participation on this blog, declaring that I had “drunk the Kool-Aid.”  Your false claim was provoked because I had successfully navigated through  lies, calculated disinformation and lawbreaking—engineered by those within and without the U.S. government—to conclude that a coordinated effort had been and was underway to overthrow the elected President of the United States. At this point, the fact that your accusation was based on your own blindness and bias is not subject to rational denial or debate.

I knew that at the time, of course. I also felt, and feel, that for you to behave that way, in public, here, was a personal as well as a professional betrayal. We had, I thought, a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. We had exchanged details about the high and low points of our lives face to face.  We are in the same field and profession. I trusted you.

I have provided you some slack in my ultimate judgment on your character because I know that, as we say here often, bias makes us stupid, even the best of us. I have seen this particular bias make many people, even some smarter than you, as difficult as it may be for you to conceive of that, both stupid and  destructive, apparently without a glimmer of self-realization. I recognize that it the phenomenon is, at this point, indistinguishable from an illness, one triggered by emotion and group-think. Thus I am, up to a point, sympathetic, just as I am regarding so many of my Facebook friends who figuratively make asses of themselves every single day  because they are addicted to “likes” and peer approval. Some of them are even lawyers, but you know…lawyers. That is a professional group, along with historians, politicians, historians, scholars, psychiatrist, educators and, of course, journalists, that has broken its duty of trust with the public as it joined a dangerous and unconscionable effort to break our democracy. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 12/15/2019: Bad Film Criticism, Bad Journalism, Bad Honors…And Some Really Stupid Stuff Too

The late, great, Jerry Vale..

(Also known as “the mob’s favorite tenor”…)

1. And speaking of Martin Scorcese movies, since Jerry Vale is alluded to in several of them…”The Irishman” has been viewed on Netflix by many of my showbiz friends, and most, while complaining about the film’s length, have declared the performances “brilliant.” This reaction, is, I think, bias at work, the so-called “halo effect.” It’s the same phenomenon I witnessed in the D.C. theater community, where certain actors, directors and big theater companies were routinely called “brilliant” in their efforts, when in truth, the exact same product presented by artists with lesser reputations would be shrugged off or ignored.

The three veteran stars of “The Irishman” are being praised by critics across the board, but in truth, with the exception of Al Pacino, they seem weary and channeling earlier, better performances. This is especially true of Joe Pesci, who shows none of the energy we associate with his best performances, and the script requires him to run the gamut of emotions, as the old joke goes, from A to C. He’s as old as Joe Biden, and looks and acts every inch of it, though his character is supposed to be younger. Scorcese has used tech wizardry to give De Niro a younger face when necessary, but it still sits on top of his  80-year-old body. and there is nothing in De Niro’s act that we haven’t seen over and over again (though not so much lately, as Bob has been collecting checks for bad movies in which he appeared to be “phoning it in”).

Pacino, as Jimmy Hoffa, is lots of fun as usual, but he doesn’t appear to be trying to be convincing as the mysteriously disappeared labor boss, who was 62 with he vanished. Pacino is 79. How could anyone call Pacino “brilliant” as Hoffa? Jack Nicholson was far more convincing in the film “Hoffa,” and Pacino isn’t significantly different than he was playing a Hollywood agent in “Once Upon A Time In America.”

It must be nice to reach that stage as an actor when you get paid big checks just to show up, like Marlon Brando in “Superman.” Especially if everyone is going to say you were brilliant.

2.  And now for something completely stupid. This is remarkable in the dual category of incompetence in one’s chosen pursuit (theft) and unforgivable ignorance regarding social media.  Arlando Henderson, 29, who worked for a bank  in Charlotte, North Carolina, stole money from his employer’s vault at least 18 times, for a grand total of $88,000.  He was apprehended and arrested after posting about his robbery hobby on Facebook, including posts showing his new Mercedes-Benz, and this one…

You know, if someone is this stupid, ethics alarms hardly matter…

3. Surely we are missing some crucial information here...The New York Giants, in the midst of a horrible season, fired veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins last week. Why? He was engaged in an argument with a fan on social media who objected to Jenkins posting  his personal stats after a game that his team lost, and wrote,

“I only can do my job.. retard. Continue reading

Chris Wallace Is Sincere And Deluded, But To Be Fair, It’s Understandable.

“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” Fox anchor Chis Wallace told the audience at an event honoring the First Amendment. “The president’s attacks have done some damage..A Freedom Forum Institute poll this year found 29 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes ‘too far.’ And 77 percent say ‘fake news’ is a serious threat to our democracy,” Wallace continued.

“Ours is a great profession — maybe the best way to make a living anyone ever came up with. Think of it. We are paid to tell the truth—to cut through all the spin—all the distractions — and tell the American people what is really going on.”

Chris Wallace is a smart guy; I knew him a little when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in the same residential House in college. He’s also a journalist with integrity, the antithesis of stereotypes and smears that are routinely used to delegitimize Fox News reporting, often the only broadcast news source to counter the Left’s propaganda.  It would be weird if Wallace didn’t believe the myth about journalism, given his pedigree (icon Mike Wallace was Chris’s father) and the fact that he was immersed in his father’s world virtually from birth.

So I sympathize, but what an obviously ridiculous statement to make in public, literally from beginning to end! This might be the best example of how “Bias makes you stupid” of all time; I can’t think of a better one. Imagine: Wallace asserts one false position after another, then says “We are paid to tell the truth.” He would be lying, except I’m sure he believes it all. Chris, I’m sure, does try to tell the truth. He is apparently incapable of telling the truth about his friends and colleagues, because he is incapable of seeing it.

Let’s see:

We all have a right to do many terrible, unfair, wrongful and harmful things. People have a right to have children they can’t take care of, for example. They have a right to be unfaithful to their spouses, to misrepresent their affections to partners who think they are loved. Parents have a right to warp the values and education of their children. People have a right to accept jobs that they are unqualified to do well; they have a right not to retire long after they know they have become incompetent. We have a right to be biased, to be prejudiced, and to hate irrationally. We have a right to vote, even if we vote ignorantly and without meeting our duty to be informed citizens. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Yes, she had a right to kill them, for they were her property. A billionaire could buy a great work of art and destroy it on a whim, too. Gratuitous, wanton or cruel destruction of property that others derive joy or practical use from, however, is still unethical.

Yes, we often have a right to do something wrong. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them.

Wallace is really and truly saying that criticizing how a right is exercised poses a threat to the existence of that right. This is now a reflex defense by journalists, which is itself, ironically, a tactic designed to suppress speech. They want to criticize those they oppose, but criticizing the manner in which they frequently do it—incompetently, recklessly, dishonesty and with bias—is deemed an attack on their right to do it. Chris Wallace is smart enough to understand the distinction, or was, before his bias softened his brain. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/19: Fighting Fake Hate Crimes, Mueller Report Spin, Journalism Incompetence, And Being Mean To Beto

Good morning!

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media ignorance and stupidity…

Mecca!

These are the people we trust to keep us informed about the world, and explain what we don’t have the time to study.  Great. [Pointer: Instapundit]

2.  Please circulate to your tantrum-throwing Impeach Trump friends...Yet another sharp column by Glenn Greenwald cutting through the fog and wind, and explaining that, as he puts it, “Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.”

Unlike the New York Times, which intentionally cherry-picked quotes from the Mueller Report to give solace to its Trump-Deranged readers, Greenwald reproduced the substantive conclusions that put the nails into the collusion fantasy. Like…

  • “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation”
  • “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Greenwald concludes,

In sum, Democrats and their supporters had the exact prosecutor they all agreed was the embodiment of competence and integrity in Robert Mueller. He assembled a team of prosecutors and investigators that countless media accounts heralded as the most aggressive and adept in the nation. They had subpoena power, the vast surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government at their disposal, a demonstrated willingness to imprison anyone who lied to them, and unlimited time and resources to dig up everything they could.

The result of all of that was that not a single American – whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise – was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Americans were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government. None of the key White House aides at the center of the controversy who testified for hours and hours – including Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner – were charged with any crimes of any kind, not even perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to Congress.

These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned U.S. discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the U.S. Government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.

Precisely. Continue reading

More Ethics Observations On The Post-Mueller Report Response

1.The video montage above is the “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias” smoking gun for all time.

2. If the Democratic Party had competent and ethical leadership, this is what those leaders would do right now. They would thank Robert Mueller for doing a thorough, professional and objective  job under difficult circumstances. They would say that that American needed to be assured that there were no illegal and wrongful efforts by the President, his campaign and his party to conspire with a foreign power to undermine a fair election. They would say that they look forward, now that the cloud hanging over the White House has been removed, and President Trump’s assertion that there was no wrongdoing has been confirmed, to working with President Trump in the spirit of cooperation and mutual concern for the national interests, without rancor or recriminations, and hope that he will do the same.

They would also, not publicly, instruct elected officials from their party to accept the conclusions of the report, to be gracious rather than bitter, to end what will now appear to be vindictive investigations, and to get on with the job of governing.  This is a grand opportunity for them to regain the respect of the non-hate polluted public, and to behave like adults, patriots and statesmen for the first time since November, 2016.

If they don’t do this, and it is already obvious that they won’t, it will demonstrate that the party is cowering in fear of its most radical and irrational base, that it is following rather than leading, that it has neither integrity, honesty, decency, or the sense God gave a marmoset. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Glenn Greenwald

“The Mueller investigation is complete and this is a simple fact that will never go away: not one single American was charged, indicted or convicted for conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election – not even a low-level volunteer. The number is zero.Compare what cable hosts (let’s leave them unnamed) & Democratic operatives spent two years claiming this would lead to – the imprisonment of Don, Jr., Jared, even Trump on conspiracy-with-Russia charges – to what it actually produced. A huge media reckoning is owed. Don’t even try to pretend the point of the Mueller investigation from the start wasn’t to obtain prosecutions of Americans guilty of conspiring with Russia to influence the outcome of the election or that Putin controlled Trump through blackmail. Nobody will believe your denials”

Muckraking journalist Glenn Greenwald, in a series of tweets reacting to the end of the Mueller investigation and the announcement that there would be no further indictments.

Greenwald is hardly a Trump supporter and his reporting has a strong progressive tilt. He does strive to be a truth-teller however, and adjust for his biases, and unlike all the obnoxious gloating I’m seeing on the conservative media, his analysis should be respected.  That there were no indictable crimes related to “Russian collusion” should not have been a surprise except to the Hillary bitter-enders and Trump-deranged who were certain that the President had to have won the Presidency illicitly,  because…because….well, just because. Of course, it was just moral luck that an investigation like Mueller’s didn’t find more, because that kind of investigation would be likely to uncover bad deeds in the campaigns of any Presidential candidate. Continue reading

‘Twas Two Nights Before Christmas Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/18: Ho-Ho-Hypocrisy

Merry Christmas!

1. Yes, Merry Christmas, dammit. Those responsible for that moment of doubt and ethical uncertainty every time I encountered a stranger on my just completed Ethics Rock Extreme road trip to New Brunswick, New Jersey deserve to be entombed alive in peppermint and plum pudding.  The greeting simply says, “I wish you to be joyful and happy in a season where people are a little less selfish and a little more ethical: I’m not trying to indoctrinate you into Christianity!” Much of this completely unnecessary addition to holiday stress is due to to jerks—yes, I think the word is fair—like Julia Ioffe, the author of  “Please don’t wish me ‘Merry Christmas’/It’s impolite and alienating to assume I follow your religion.”

I thought Charles Dickens slam-dunked that nonsense definitively in “A Christmas Carol,” followed by almost all the Christmas movies that make the same obvious point except to deliberate holiday wet-blankets like Ioffe. No, jerk, the greeting is an expression of cultural unity among human beings, and the celebration of values that need have not be restricted to religious Christmas holiday because this is also a secular tradition as well. As soon as I get this post up, I’m going to re-post the Ethics Alarms Christmas commentary.

Somebody send it to Julia.

2. 2018 Hypocrisy Award, locked up! It doesn’t matter if you are happy or disappointed to see President Trump pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan; you should still be able to marvel at the blatant, shameless, pandering, hateful and, really, laughable—if the cultural fad of denigrating the President of the United States regardless of what he does wasn’t so destructive and wrong— hypocrisy by news media Trump-haters, among others. Glenn Greenwald, who sees the world from a leftward perspective but maintains his integrity, called out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who could be the symbol of the whole nauseating. He tweeted,

The most bizarre aspect of Rachel Maddow’s deep anger over troop withdrawal from Syria is that she wrote an entire book in 2012 denouncing illegal US Endless War without congressional approval – exactly what Syria is. I interviewed her about it here: Funny: citing that interview I did of Maddow’s book on the evils of Endless War without Congressional approval reminded me that she asked me to blurb that book, which I did. Here’s what I said – so ironic in light of her anger over Syria troop withdrawal

This upset Glenn’s loyal progressive followers, one of whom sent this fascinating retort:

“The most bizarre aspect of Glenn Greenwald’s inexplicable credibility is his ability to appear as first an advocate and then an opponent of almost everyone and everything. Can’t choose one perspective.”

See? To people like this—the commenter’s handle is IstandwithMaxine, which pretty much explains everything—is that they have been brainwashed to believe that is is bizarre unless adopts a single  view—theirs. of course, otherwise you are evil–and never alters it or admits that it may need re-thinking when that view leads to dead ends, disasters and pitfalls, no matter what new information arises. Someone like Greenwald, who tries to apply the same standards of analysis and ethical judgment to all regardless of whether it advances an ideology, is just untrustworthy, a traitor.

This cartoon has been circulating online. It is 100% fair and accurate regarding Trump’s critics self-indicting reaction: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

I’m not exactly a fan of lawyer/muckraker/journalist Glenn Greenwald, but I’m getting there. Greenwald certainly has an ideological agenda, and it informs both his choice of topics and the slant of his reporting. However, in an age where the mainstream journalism establishment has made the tragic decision to be largely  a propaganda organization for its one favored political party, and has willfully misinformed the American public in pursuit of that party’s interests, primarily power, Greenwald stands out for his non-partisan approach, his consistent standards, his integrity, and most of all of late, his refusal to participate in counter-factual condemnations of President Trump for conduct that the news media has either shrugged away or tolerated in the past from other Presidents.

Greewald’s latest broadside against the hypocrisy comes in gloriously unrestrained The Intercept piece about the attacks on President Trump for his attitude toward the , Trump’s Amoral Saudi Statement Is a Pure Expression of Decades-Old “U.S. Values” and Foreign Policy Orthodoxies.

The title is true beyond question; I pointed out the same fact here, writing in part regarding the Khashoggi murder and the New York Times editorial calling the Trump administration’s policy response “a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire”:

The question of how far the U.S. should go in pursuing its own interests while excusing unethical or immoral acts by foreign governments is an enduring one the stretches at least back to the United States alliance with Stalin in World War II. Outside of the fact that [ the Khashoggi murder] involves a journalist, however, the Trump “guide,” even stated in deliberately pejorative terms, seems to me to vary not one bit from the standards used by previous administrations, including the Obama Administration. China…Cuba…Iran…and yes, the Saudis, who have overseen state-sanctioned brutality and human rights outrages affecting whole classes of people, not just one journalist, for a long as anyone can remember.

Trump’s “new blueprint,” it seems to me, varies from the old blueprint not one bit. Whether the old blue-print is necessary or defensive is another issue.

Well, that was comparatively nothin’ from me as an ethics rebuke, a pea-shooter compared to Greenwald’s  tour-de force. His conclusion is uncompromising and irrefutable: Continue reading

The News Media-“Resistance” Alliance On Ugly Display In The “Spygate” Spin

The revelation that there was a mole, Stefan Halper, planted in his campaign by the FBI, prompted President Donald Trump to demand an investigation into whether the FBI or Justice Department infiltrated his campaign for political purposes.  The “resistance” and the mainstream news media have been in panic mode ever since, and have been actively bad at it. Heaven forbid that journalists could admit that when they mocked the President for suggesting that his campaign was surveilled, they were wrong and he was right.

Scott Adams neatly exposed the hypocrisy and dishonesty, tweeting,

“Four things to understand about SPYGATE: 1) There was no spy in the Trump campaign. 2) The spying that did NOT happen was totally justified. 3) It would be bad for national security to identify the spy who doesn’t exist. 4) His name is Stefan.”

Ann Althouse deserves applause for her analysis as well:

James Clapper was on “The View” yesterday and it went like this:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”

BEHAR: “Well, why doesn’t [Trump] like that? He should be happy.”

CLAPPER: “He should be.”

Well, Trump seems happy that the word “spying” slipped out of Clapper as he was talking about what the FBI was doing. Clapper obviously knew he slipped, since he immediately tried to (subtly) erase it.

Trump displayed his happiness by tweeting: “‘Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign’ No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!” And, talking to reporters: “I mean if you look at Clapper … he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. I hope it’s not true, but it looks like it is.”

Then Ann dissected CNN toady Chris Cillizza’s embarrassing attempt to cover for Trump foe Clapper—which, you know, is not the job of a real journalist, only that of a biased hack: Continue reading