Ethics Observations On The Jussie Smollett Hoax

Lookin’ mighty smug there, Jussie…

Or, “How’s that ‘believe all victims’ stuff working for you’?”

Last night, the ugly truth of what many had suspected was confirmed. One of the few benefits of CNN assiduously burying stories that reflect poorly on the Left, “the resistance,” progressives and their allies is that when it does report such a story, you can probably believe it…unlike, say, its speculation about the Mueller investigation. Here is the substance of the CNN report:

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollet paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month. The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago….Smollett identifies as gay and since 2015 has played the gay character of Jamal on the Fox TV drama “Empire.”…According to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the actor told detectives he was attacked by two men near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel in Chicago. Police were told the two men yelled “‘Empire’ faggot” and “‘Empire’ nigger'” while striking him.

…One of the men has appeared on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. A police source also told CNN on Friday night that the men had a previous affiliation with Smollett, but did not provide additional details.

Following the alleged attack, Smollett’s colleagues and fans rallied around him, expressing shock and sadness. “We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows that we are united on a united front,” Lee Daniels, the creator of “Empire,” said in a video posted to his Instagram page on January 29. “And no racist fuck can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I’m with you.” Smollett gave his first detailed account of what he says was a hate crime against him, and the aftermath, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Thursday. During the interview he expressed frustration at not being believed.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” Smollett said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”

Got that last part? That’s the coded and not so subtle “this is all because Donald Trump is a racist and bigot” message, making it a catalyst for the Big Lie.

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2019: A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Spectacular! [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

The first appearance of Donald, Debbie and Gene in the New Year!

1. “A Nation of Assholes” update: Conservatives being ugly. The comments and even the posts around the conservative blogosphere regarding Ruth Bader Ginsberg are repulsive, and  reveal a deep mean streak, a lack of compassion and basic respect. Ginsberg, it was announced yesterday, will miss oral arguments–that means she won’t be able to vote on the cases she doesn’t hear—for the first time in her long career. It also may well mean that she isn’t long for this world, or the Court. The gleeful tone of the jokes, sarcasm and mockery being aimed her way by those salivating at the prospect that she will soon be replaced by a right-leaning justice is palpable. (Yes, some of the mean jokes are funny. The blog referring to her illness as a “belated Christmas present” isn’t.)

2. A classic bad argument for illegal immigration in response to an emotional one against it. The advocate? Geraldo Rivera. On a Hannity segment with conservative Dan Bongino [Correction notice: I mistakenly identified Bongino as African American in the original post. He is apparently Italian-American.]  Rivera tried to defend illegal immigration while condemning the use of individual episodes of violent crimes by illegals to justify stronger border enforcement. As Bongino and Hannity shouted around and over him, Rivera objected to Hannity’s featuring the grieving parents of 22-year-old Pierce Kennedy Corcoran who was killed in a head-on car crash with illegal immigrant Franco Cambrany Francisco-Eduardo. Francisco-Eduardo was charged with criminally negligent homicide and driving without a license or insurance,  was turned over to ICE. (Good!). Hannity lit the fuse when he began his panel by saying,

“Their son is dead. Or the people that also aid and abet these people with their sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, criminal aliens in our custody that are not handed over to ICE. You always say it’s about both parties, it’s not,” Hannity stated. “It’s about one party now that refuses to protect the American people…”

Said Geraldo at his most Geraldo-ish: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (2)

rape-on-campus

 

I still can’t sleep.

This is the second Comment of the Day on this October 18 post, a surprise one for Pennagain, since I didn’t even flag it at the time. Again, I’m sorry. I don’t know what was up in October; it also ended with the worst traffic here of any week for more than two years. Obviously, it was a protest over my dilatory posting of the fine work by my commenters.

This one is a triple COTD, made up of three by Penn, who properly raised the specter of Samantha Erdly in the context of hoax research. Erdley is the Rolling Stone journalist who inflicted the “Jackie” tale of an imaginary gang rape at the University of Virginia, an earlier assault of truth and due process by the “believe all women” crowd. (Ethics Alarms covered the episode in a series of posts.). I just re-read Pennagain’s comments, made in a discussion with Alizia Tyler, who earns an assist. Excellent observations, and a valuable assist in making sure this journalistic outrage is never slipped down the memory hole, as so many would love it to be.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

As far as hoax articles appearing in either reputable journals or popular publications (rarely the same thing), if I weren’t an atheist, I would damn them all to hell. What I have in mind as an example that should need no further elucidation here is the piece knowingly published by Rolling Stone that included the false rape stories and statistics responsible for poisoning much of a culture, not to mention its politics….

“In November 2016, a federal court jury found Samantha Erdely was liable for defamation with actual malice” and that “Erdely and Rolling Stone failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice”

Her background reveals a start in college, when her colleague Stephen Glass ‘threw a righteous fit’ after she and a another student “concocted a funny and obviously made-up travel story” for the school magazine.” [Glass, you may not know, later became nationally notorious for inventing false stories published as factual journalism in the highly respected The New Republic, seriously harming its reputation.] Erdely was obviously already toxic before she left school. If you’re curious, her Wikipedia bio contains descriptions of six other major rape stories she invented out of whole cloth and used to smear real people and institutions, articles that in at least two cases went up for major journalism awards. As a self-appointed expert in rape and bullying, her work went into GQ, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Health, Philadelphia, among other lesser magazines. She was believed. The more she got away with, the greater the lies she invented … until, after twenty wonderful years of conning millions of people, she got over-confident and lazy, and plagiarized a previous article of her own. Until someone finally noticed that the Rolling Stone piece bore too many similarities to another one to be coincidental.

For twenty years, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Seattle to Florida, she built a reputation for being the go-to journalist on the subject of rape. No one doubted her. Witnesses later spoke out using her writing as statistical evidence — women (and so many men who had been falsely accused) and feminists in particular — had absorbed every precious word – even against the evidence of their own knowledge and experience in the times and places Erdely was writing about.

A month ago, September 21, 2018, Rolling Stone was also found “liable for defamation.” It was noted in the case against Erdely that the magazine hadn’t been doing too well before they glommed onto that gem of Samantha, aka “Jackie,” the fictional rapee.

Last week’s headline: WaPo Reporter Is Tired of Being Reminded He Fell for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Hate Hoax So Badly He Called for Burning Down UVA Frat Houses

I now amend my description of the poisonous piece: It is a “hate hoax.”

No, Alizia, poisons do not, in general, lead to death. They lead to minor discomfort in some, and major permanent damage in others; some knock you on your ass right away, and some creep insidiously into your brain over months or years. The public remembers things they read and hear. They (I won’t say “we” because I became skeptical reader at the age of 12 after a defamatory article was published in a local newspaper concerning a friend of my family concerning something that happened while I was present and knew to be a lie. I had been visiting one of their children, a classmate, at the time the incident took place, or rather, didn’t take place. My testimony was taken down, along with his, not discounted, but the editor of the paper would not print a retraction because, he said, “we don’t want to confuse our readers; they expect the truth, and that is what we give them.” Our parents wanted that in writing; naturally, he refused.

I am convinced that what is presented in a plausible manner from an authoritative source (which could be the 10 o’clock news or a magazine with a reputation for having its journalistic thumb on the pulse of young America) is frequently taken in without the auditor, viewer or reader later recalling the source. If they didn’t question it in the first place, they not only don’t question it later, but, when challenged, they will deny or dismiss any correction out of sheer embarrassment, egotism, mental laziness or, in the case under discussion, because they want to believe it.

As has been pointed out in Ethics Alarms before, the left, on the whole, has taken the anomalous position of being at once both victim and dictator. Thus, the concept of a Rape Culture is heaven for them: they are, collectively, the injured parties … and the ones who injure, including any who are capable of doing injury, are now at their mercy — via 30-year-old wisps of memory, anonymous join-the-conga-line #MeToo-ers, a casual touch on the shoulder, or a dirty-dirty word in their ears. They feed on lies more than on facts – the truths are painful, but the lies are more … emotional, memorable, dramatic, arousing . . . . They need to feed the addiction even when they know it is poison…

The fact in this matter is that Erdely, falsely or idiotically or crazily or not, believed she was doing something fine and high-minded “for women,” and to alert a deaf public (and via that route influence authorities) that there was “a rape problem” that needed to be addressed. In her mind, the ruining of a single man (or a whole college fraternity) was insignificant in terms of getting her message “out there.”

In other words, her cover (if you will) was in presenting these gross exaggerations as hoaxes. I may have taken you in the wrong direction by quoting the court decisions concerning malicious intent. The articles undoubtedly did “malicious” damage. So where am I? What Erdely believed (and apparently still does) has been shown to be shared by much of the public touched by it — including a proportion of men who don’t understand they are simply seeing themselves as heroic exceptions, or else thinking they are disguising themselves to live in the midst of an Amazonian tribe that wants to cut their balls off (that was an irrelevant side-bar, sorry, I do that a lot, letting off steam). Here’s what happens when someone with a cause and a vague concept of how bad the situation is gets hold of what she thinks are solid statistics, intended as a righteous hoax: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/12/06/msnbc_panelist_we_live_in_a_culture_that_hates_women.html

I rest my case.

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (1)

It’s 2:04 am…3:04, really but Daylight Savings Time has fallen…and I can’t sleep. I decided that it must be a guilty conscience for falling so far behind in posting Comments of the Day, so here is one of the more recent ones, Ryan Harkins on the question of whether deliberately fooling academic journals to show how vulnerable they are to  bogus research is ethically defensible. Another COTD will be along on the same post, but this one is by Ryan, on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

Other professionals read the articles, and surveys of results are typical to show that there is a body of evidence supporting a particular conclusion. If a bunch of bunk is being passed off as good science, that feeds into further papers and can eventually influence public policy. This is especially true in softer sciences, where results are much murkier than than in the hard sciences, but even the hard sciences suffer from the problem.

The question is, how do you show that there is a problem in the peer review process, and that articles are being discarded because they don’t toe a party line, and articles are being accepted not on their merits but because they do toe the party line? You can’t write a good paper and show bias by having it rejected, because the rejection is supposed to be proof that the paper is bad. But you can deliberately write a bad paper, and if it is accepted, you can call foul because you can show you deliberately put together a bunch of garbage.

Is this ethical? I think it would certainly be ethical if the system were intentionally built so that some people were tasked with creating bogus papers to keep peer-reviewers on their toes. It is sort of like secret shoppers in the service industry. But we don’t currently have this built into the system. Is playing vigilante in this effort unethical, then? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?

A scholarly journal called “Sex Roles” published what t thought were the results of  a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters. A journal of feminist geography, whatever that is, featured research om “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland, Oregon. Another paper was deemed worthy of publication in a journal of feminist social work:  titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” it merged current feminist cant into passages lifted from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Last week, the three authors of these and many other hoax papers  revealed in an article for the online journal Areo explaining that their fakery was part of a project to expose the lack of integrity in academia. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields,” they wrote. James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian  (above) said that they wrote 20 fake scholarly papers and had several accepted and published in journals. The embarrassed publications rushed to retract the fake scholarship…

…while many scholars praised the hoaxers. for casting a harsh and revealing light on the “peer-reviewed research” scam.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day:

Was the hoax project ethical?

Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: The Student Loan Report

Drew Cloud is known as a journalist who specializes in student-loan debt issues.  He has been quoted extensively  in  The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, as well as by blogs and websites that cover student debt developments.  Cloud founded The Student Loan Report, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans, “after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place.”

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that there is no such person, and that the website was stealth marketing tool by a loan financing company, LendEDU.

“After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

Two questions:

>Why would anyone trust a finance company that thinks this kind of dishonesty is acceptable conduct?

>And what does this tell us about the diligence, professionalism and trustworthiness of journalists, who would present as an expert an imaginary person who shills for a loan firm?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

___________________________

Graphic: My informator

Morning Ethics Warm-Up,3/8/18: “What Can I Cover Before I’m Late For My Seminar In Atlanta?” Edition

Good morning, from another ProEthics road trip!

1 A life in a lie, or delusion? Today’s obituaries mark a rare variety of hoax that I had somehow missed: Alan Gershwin died, after a virtual lifetime of claiming that he was the illegitimate son of the famous composer, who never made it to  his 39th birthday. Read the Times story: it’s amazing. Alan essentially lived on that claim after he was discharged from service after WWII, based primarily on an uncanny resemblance to George. Was he a con man? If he believed his tale, he was not lying, just deluded. Gershwin recalls the more famous story of the American woman who said she was the Princess Anastasia.

2. Stormy weather…The most important lesson of the ongoing tabloid story involving the porn satr who is now suing President Trump is not the obvious ones. The major take-away is that this is what happens when an unholy alliance between the news media, political opponents and the Presidents themselves strip away the traditional and vital shield of public appreciation of the honor and respect the office of the Presidency has had in the past, since George Washington. Does anyone honestly believe that other Presidents did not have shady people in their personal lives who could have come forward with claims and tales embarrassing to them? Why didn’t they play the game the Stormy Daniels is engaged in? Again, the answer was simple cognitive dissonance scale reality. Traditionally the President has been so high on the scale that any gratuitous, publicity seeking attacker would fear the fury of public opinion, and correctly so. The idea of someone as low on the scale as aa porn star facing off against the President would have been unthinkable, and the news media would have left it to the National Enquirer to emblazon on its front page along with “Boy trapped in refrigerator eats foot!” Continue reading