On Trump, Otto Warmbier, Knowledge, Responsibility, And Making The Public Dumber

And now, a brief note on ethics, leadership, and English comprehension….

President Trump did not say or imply that Kim Jong Un wasn’t responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. Of course he’s responsible, just as President Trump is responsible for anything his government does. Ken Lay claimed that he didn’t know that his company was one big scam, and anything is possible, I guess. But as CEO, he was unquestionably responsible.

President Trump is getting clobbered on all sides for saying, regarding the late American student who was put in a coma by harsh treatment by North Korea, during Kim’s regime “He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?”

I have been remiss of late posting Comments of the Day, and will be trying to catch up. Today produced one to get me going again: Isaac’s continuation of the theme of the post, the way the media reveals its bias and incompetence to anyone who reads a journalist’s analysis of a topic on which the reader has independent expertise.

In the thread on the same post, I learned something: that there was a name for the facially absurd phenomenon that the same people who recognize how thoroughly the news media botches topics that the readers understand well will still assume that the news articles, features and analysis on topics they don’t know well are accurate. Reader Alex posted this quote from a hero of mine, the late, great, Michael Crichton, MD, novelist, science writer, screenwriter, contrarian:

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

Here is Isaac’s Comment of the Day on the post, Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Yup.

I thumbed through an issue of Newsweek years ago, when the cover was for an article called “Our Mutual Joy” and the premise was that the Bible was in favor of gay marriage.

Regardless of what you think about it, that premise ain’t true. The article, by Newsweek’s official religion editor, Lisa Miller, was just pages of total bunk, including this statement: “nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women.” Continue reading

Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Answer: Know a lot about something.

This is about baseball, and is a little technical, so I’ll try to be brief for you (unfortunate) non baseball fans.

Manny Machado is a 26 year old super-star baseball player who just signed the biggest free agent contract in MLB history, a guaranteed 300 million dollar deal for ten years with the San Diego Padres. Baseball writers have been trying to get free agents huge contracts this whole off-season rather than just reporting on the negotiations and signings. Why? Because sports journalists are overwhelmingly pro-labor, pro-union, and anti-ownership, aka. business, capitalism, billionaires. (The players are just millionaires, so they’re cool.) The writers and sports pundits have been working overtime to get public opinion on the side of the players, even though the huge salaries make being a fan more expensive, especially for families.

After Machado signed, the pundits on the MLB cable channel put up a graphic justifying the contract by showing that Machado had a comparable WAR—that’s statistically-calculated wins his teams got (theoretically!)  by having Machado playing rather than some borderline, mediocre shlub—to all-time greats like Willie Mays by the same age. The chart was a lie, but you had to know something about baseball history and how they calculate a player’s WAR to realize it. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month, Also Stupid: CNN Host Don Lemon

“In the court of public opinion, Jussie has lost. He’s lost the fight in the court of public opinion, and that’s where his battle is. Legally … if it’s jail time, if he has to do probation, if he has to pay whatever, but in the court of public opinion…It matters. And he lost that because of how—and not his fault—but maybe people were, I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives, who knows? But it was handled poorly.”

—CNN host  and Jussie Smollett pal Don Lemon, blathering incomprehensibly and incompetently on his CNN show yesterday about the actor’s hate crime hoax being exposed.

Several commenters referenced Lemon’s nonsense in the comments to this morning’s Smollett-heavy post, but I was inclined to let them pass, having decided long ago, especially after his juvenile moderation of the gun control “debate” involving the Parkland kids, that Lemon is such a poor journalist and such an emotion-soaked, biased analyst that he’s not worth my time to criticize. But like Lewis Black’s story about the stray overheard comment ( “And if it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college“) that keeps churning in your head until it acts like an aneurism and kills you, Lemon’s idiocy kept churning and churning in my brain. How does this amateurish fool have a job on the air? Is it because he’s gay, black and cute? Surely that isn’t enough to justify CNN regularly giving such a dummy a national platform. Heck, Jussie Smullett is gay, black and cute. I can’t believe he’d make less sense than Lemon. It’s hard to believe anyone could. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up: On Bans, Taboos, And Dreams

 

Good afternoon!

1. Answer: I’m thinking about it. A kind commenter asks when I am going to put up a full post about Facebook’s censorship of Ethics Alarms, which had harmed the blog’s traffic and, what is worse, made it increasingly difficult to carry the message of ethics over bias and rationalizations to the greater public.  One reason I haven’t made a bigger deal about this is that I am still unsure what’s going on, and why. Another is that this  all came down on me at the same time as this lingering cold/flu thing  that has required more rest and sapped more energy than is convenient, and in the grand triage of life, fighting with Facebook has had to yield to other priorities. I’m considering putting up a supplemental site to share Ethics Alarms essays. I’m thinking about launching an Ethics Alarms Facebook site. As I have said before, suggestions are welcome.

2.Happy Birthday, Tom! This is Thomas Edison’s (1847-1931) birthday, and celebrating it in the wake of the deranged “Green New Deal’s” plan to take us back to the Stone Age while financing the needs of those “unwilling” to work would be prudent. Edison personified the kind of creativity, industry, and risk-taking that America’s core values are designed to foster. He derided the label of scientist, insisting that he was “only” an inventor, meaning that his mission was to develop commercially viable advances in technology that made human lives better, richer, and more productive. Do they teach kids about inventors any more? My father made sure that I watched both “Edison the Man,” Hollywood’s biopic starring Spencer Tracy, and “Young Tom Edison,” starring Mickey Rooney, before I was twelve. I found the films inspirational then, and I find them inspirational now.

3. Another canary dies in the mine. Columbia University, long ago one of the cauldrons of student protest and defiant expression, followed the rest of academia by taking another alarming step toward constraining non-conforming student speech. It has substantially defunded the student band for defying the administration’s ban on “Orgo Night,”a Sixties tradition in which the students disrupted the sanctity of the library to lampoon the school’s oppressively serious culture. By itself, this is trivial. As part of a trend in American colleges, it is not. Many feel, I would say with justification, that the sudden squashing of the band’s irreverence  was sparked because it was “a liability in an age of heightened political sensibilities.” In other words, thoughts and ideas that the Left can’t control threaten the cause of enforced consensus. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2019: Icky, Creepy, And Wrong

Good Afternoon!

Working today to train a Clarence Darrow understudy for my Darrow legal ethics seminars that my original Clarence, the estimable Paul Morella, can’t fit into his schedule. I’ll be doing one such seminar in New Jersey this month. You can never have enough Clarence Darrows!

1. On the matter of corporations caving to social media mobs..here’s something completely stupid. Earlier this winter, Delta Air Lines distributed cocktail napkins with message, “Be a little old school,” in small print on the napkin, advertising Diet Coke. “Write down your number & give it to your plane crush. You never know …” There was a space on the napkin where a passenger could write down his or her name and another space for their number. The larger print said, “because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey,” again, “… you never know.”

The harmless stunt was condemned by some flyers on social media as “creepy,” and that was enough to spark a dual company grovel.  “We rotate Coke products regularly as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one. We are sorry for that and began removing the napkins from our aircraft in January,” Delta told USA Today in a statement. Coca-Cola added: “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended. We worked with our partners at Delta to begin removing the napkins last month and are replacing them with other designs.”

I think it’s creepy that I often find myself sitting next to someone on a plane who is so close I can count his or her moles, and that neither of us will say a word to each other  for hours. I can’t fault Delta and Coke for trying to break the ice and encourage a more social atmosphere on planes, especially since the air travel experience has become increasingly grim and uncomfortable. I know more than one couple who owe their long marriage to a number scrawled on an airplane napkin. (Full disclosure: I once wrote a message to an attractive young  flight attendant who was especially effervescent. She smiled, and I never heard a word from her.)

All attempts at human contact with strangers aren’t harassment.

2. Ew. Did the National Enquirer try to blackmail Jeff Bezos? It sure sounds like it. Bezos says that the tabloid threatened to publish “dick pics” from his social media output if he didn’t get his paper, the Washington Post, to back off from its accusation that the Enquirer’s coverage of the nasty Bezos divorce was based on political animus rather than good ol’ old-fashioned tabloid sleeziness. You can read the Bezos blog post here.

The theory seems to be that the Enquirer is doing the bidding of President Trump, Saudi Arabia, or someone or something equally nefarious. And yes, the head of the Enquirer’s publishing outfit really is named “Pecker,” and it has nothing to do with the Bezos junk shot. Bezos is apparently releasing the Weiner-like photos someone hacked from his account to foil the extortion attempt. Let’s see: a) Nothing could lower my opinion of the National Enquirer. b) Ethics Alarms subscribes to the Naked VIP Principle, which is that if you are a public figure and send pictures of Mr. Wiggly to ANYONE over the internet, you deserve no sympathy for anything unpleasant that happens to you as a result.

I don’t care if “everybody does it’ (and if everybody really is taking crotch selfies and mailing them to friends and strangers, I don’t belong on this planet any more), if you do this, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.

3. This is useful for things like the Green New Deal. From the National Review, Williamson’s First Law. “Everything is simple if you don’t know a fucking thing about it.”

Perfect.

4.Now THIS is rejecting the presumption of innocence. Again: the position here is that Justin Fiarfax cannot do his job while under suspicion of serial rape allegations from named accusers willing to testify under oath, and should voluntarily step down. Duke, however, is asking him to leave a board using the false principle of guilty until proven innocent and “believe all accusers” standards.

“I am writing to let you know that Justin Fairfax will be asked to step down from the Sanford School Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the serious and deeply distressing allegations that have been made against him,” Dean Judith Kelley wrote in an email  to Sanford staff and students. “Sexual assault is abhorrent and unfortunately can occur right around us. I urge everyone to take survivors of sexual assault seriously, and to help build an environment that is safe and supportive for everyone,” she added.

Wrong. His presence does not make anyone “unsafe” because an unproven accusation has been made. Nor is it not taking sexual assault seriously to refuse to use a mere accusation to strip an accused man of his positions and honors. The board membership is mostly honorific. Duke is taking sides where it should be neutral. Continue reading

Typo Ethics: I Feel A Little Better Now

The above headline appeared in Jamestown, New York Post-Journal over a feature on actress Julia Roberts.

This sets new lows in press incompetence. How many people had to see this botch before it went out to the world? In the case of my stupid typos, at least I have the solace of knowing it’s only me, and that I have other pressing responsibilities other than publishing a blog.

It’s something, anyway.

___________

Pointer: Instapundit.