Tag Archives: John Avlon

The Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Project: Seeking Ethics Distinctions Among Web Hoaxes, False Narratives,”Fake News” And Negligent, Incompetent or Biased Reporting (PART I: The New York Times School Voucher Headline)

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

Yesterday’s New York Times included a story headlined  Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It, and it stated,

The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration. […] You might think that most economists agree with this overall approach, because economists generally like free markets. For example, over 90 percent of the members of the University of Chicago’s panel of leading economists thought that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft made consumers better off by providing competition for the highly regulated taxi industry.But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice.

While economists are trained about the value of free markets, they are also trained to spot when markets can’t work alone and government intervention is required.

That summation, however, was misleading to the point of falsehood. As the Scott Alexander points out at his blog Slate Star Codex,  the source for the story indicated something quite different—materially different:

economists_views

Got that? Scott Alexander writes:

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, language, U.S. Society

The Daily Beast’s Nico Himes Tricks Gay Olympian Athletes Into Revealing Themselves And Their Sexual Orientation To Him…And His Editor Sees Nothing Wrong With That [UPDATED]

_Sex-in-VillageThis is another one of those stories that makes me wonder it it’s time to switch fields. My current one feels especially futile this week.

The sleazy feature story from the Daily Beast’s Nico Hines was about how Olympic athletes were hooking up for hot, sweaty, muscle sex in Rio. Hines writes…

“Perhaps the question most people have is: How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join the bacchanalia?”

That’s right: that’s what most people think about when they watch the Olympics. Good lord. The creep continues:

After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is “yes.”Armed with a range of dating and hookup apps—Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d, and Tinder—your distinctly non-Olympian correspondent had scored three dates in the first hour. Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.

There is one teeny ethics problem. Well, several. The obvious one is that he wasn’t looking for real dates, just trying to see if he could attract some. That’s deception. It is an obvious Golden Rule breach, as well as misconduct in any other ethical system. It is like advertising a job opening to write a story about how many desperate unemployed people apply for job openings. How dead do your ethics alarms have to be not to instantly understand this? Well, as dead as Nico’s and the Daily Beast’s, I suppose.

Here’s the smoking gun quote:

For the record, I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t—unless you count being on Grindr in the first place—since I’m straight, with a wife and child. I used my own picture (just of my face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.

Isn’t that great? Nico didn’t lie, except to suggest that he was looking for sex when he wasn’t, or pretend to be someone he wasn’t, other than pretending to be gay by the very fact of posting on Grindr, a gay social media site that exists so gay men can find other gay men seeking hook-ups.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Romance and Relationships, Social Media, U.S. Society

Bad News For Hillary: Someone At CNN Told Carol Costello To Stop Helping Her, And Clinton’s Talking Points Are Wearing Thin…OK, THINNER

This was fascinating. I was trying to decide whether to post today about the latest spin tactics by Hillary’s minions and her dwindling but still formidable media allies  in light of Clinton’s awkward press conference where she insisted that she didn’t do anything “wrong” regarding the mishandled State e-mails. Earlier in the day the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, a usually decent journalist whom it is sad to see succumbing to the  Clinton Corruption Virus (you would think there would be a vaccine by now!), had used this same talking point—and it is a campaign talking point. In a column that could be used in a public service announcement, Cillizza seriously wondered why Hillary was in trouble. Gee, he mused, maybe Hillary just isn’t very good at campaigning! What else could possibly explain why she isn’t cruising to the nomination?

In other words, the fact that she has lied constantly, used her foundation to profit from influence-seeking foreign powers, was a flop as a Secretary of State, put U.S. security at risk and destroyed potential evidence so she could avoid getting caught in her complex political/financial machinations—Allegedly! Allegedly!—wouldn’t matter at all to Democrats, voters or Chris if she was just better at fooling the public. Darn!

“This is Chris, and this is the tragedy of Clinton Corruption Syndrome. Won’t you help?”

Then he wrote, “The appearance here — even if Clinton did nothing wrong (and there is no proof she did at this point) — is terrible.”

What? WHAT? Of course she did things that were wrong. Isn’t lying like crazy wrong, Chris? Isn’t paying people to throw the media off the track and confuse the public using deceit and misrepresentations wrong, Chris?  Isn’t the tactic of smearing the messengers wrong, and sending out statements like the infamous “nonsense” letter wrong? Is intentionally breaking your own Department’s policies wrong? Is sending and receiving sensitive information in a manner that makes it vulnerable to hacking by foriegn governments wrong, Chris? Do you even know what wrong means any more, Chris?

That’s when it hit me, and that’s why I decided I had to post, again, on the Hillary Clinton E-mail Ethics Train Wreck, which is really just part of the The Hillary Clinton Presidential Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck. The Clinton campaign’s current strategy is now to make the public understand right and wrong the way the Clintons do. If it isn’t illegal, it isn’t wrong. (This is on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization list, incidentally: #4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.” Marion Berry went to jail.)

Talk about waving a red flag in front of an ethicist! Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

Finally There’s Name For The Conduct I’ve Been Calling Unethical For Years…Now Let’s Agree To Stop It

eclipse

That name is “partyism.”

From Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein:

“…party prejudice in the U.S. has jumped, infecting not only politics but also decisions about dating, marriage and hiring. By some measures, “partyism” now exceeds racial prejudice — which helps explain the intensity of some midterm election campaigns. In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent. Republicans have been found to like Democrats less than they like people on welfare or gays and lesbians. Democrats dislike Republicans more than they dislike big business.”

Based on what I’ve seen, the fact that Republicans/conservatives  are nearly twice as likely to be “partyists”  as their hated enemies to the left on the political spectrum doesn’t surprise me. Most of the manifestations of the bigotry I’ve seen out in the open and written about here—restaurants that give discounts to praying customers and bars that claim that they will only serve “red voters”—have come from that sector, but 33 percent isn’t anything for liberals to be proud of, either. Over all, the trend is horrible for the country. As I wrote regarding “Mary’s,” the restaurant that favored its religious customers…

“I detest this kind of thing, and so should you, because it is ethically indefensible and un-American to the core….splitting the world into them and us, good guys and bad guys, the virtuous and the reviled. All of “Mary’s” customers are human beings, and that is the only thing that should matter in the United States of America.”

I confess that since I have been observing this phenomenon, I am preconditioned to think the Stanford research that purported to measure it as has validity. Most social science research, especially involving politics, is so skewed by researcher bias and agendas that it is inherently dubious, and perhaps this example is too: I wouldn’t rely on the percentages. Also 1960 would have to be the absolute low water mark in U.S. political passions, after the remarkably non-partisan, unifying two terms of Dwight Eisenhower while the public felt united against a common enemy in the Cold War. I’m guessing the numbers in, say, 1860 would show a sharper divide.

I do think that the intensity of emotion, rising to bigotry, distrust and hate, in the nation’s political polarization is growing, is very alarming, and dangerous to our health and future. I’d like to know more about where it resides. Is the bulk of the bigotry coming from the low-information voter, who uncritically absorbs every campaign smear, bumper sticker insult and Facebook meme as fact—you know, morons? Or are the individuals who would rather die than see their daughters marry men who oppose the family’s favorite party the narrow-minded political junkies who watch only Fox News and listen to Rush, or who cheer Al, Chris, Rachel and the 24-7 conservative-bashers on MSNBC? I’d like to know.

Naturally theories will abound regarding the reasons for this new bigotry. In a general sense, it is pure cognitive dissonance, and can be explained by people today caring more about politics and ideology than they have for quite a while. People care about something when they sense that it matters to their lives, health and welfare, as well as those around them: if political views were regarded as no more important than what baseball team one rooted for, there is no way substantive bigotry would attach to them. With foreign threats looming, the economy weak, nobody certain of the right policies in so many crucial areas and the pettiness, corruption and ineptitude of parties in and out of power, trust has plummeted. When we can’t trust those whom we have given the job of looking out for our welfare, we become worried and scared, as well we should. Then it makes sense to care more about politics. If we care more, and feel strongly about what should be done either out of a lack of sophistication and gullibility (the morons) or from unbalanced self-education (the zealots), then those who proclaim opposing views seem more obnoxious and more threatening, prompting active discrimination. The Stanford study found that “discrimination against the out-group is based more on out-group animus than in-group favoritism.” That figures. But for a nation, it is suicidal.

This nation of ideals gleaned from a diverse population must value trust and belief in what all citizens share more than it embraces passion and anger over what we disagree over. If we cherish the basic principles of democracy, then we must accept, encourage and respect dissent, frank speech, the shocking opinion and the minority view.  We must always keep our minds open to new ideas, different solutions to old problems, and the possibility that we, or the public officials, scholars and pundits we favor, may be wrong on any one topic or issue. If we can’t do that, we doom ourselves and our culture to self-righteousness, doctrine, cant  and rigidity, which block out enlightenment like an eclipse blocks sunlight. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

More Civility Confusion: Jon Huntsman’s Announcement

 

"Oh, NO...not THAT!"

To listen to the contempt and outrage expressed by conservative critics of Jon Huntsman’s official presidential campaign kick-off yesterday, one might have thought that he had pledged to conduct his quest for the presidency in Arabic. No, what infuriated Rich and Sean and Mark and the rightward bloggers who adore them is that he pledged…to be civil. Huntsman said:

“Now let me say something about civility. For the sake of the younger generation, it concerns me that civility, humanity and respect are sometimes lost in our interactions as Americans. Our political debates today are corrosive and not reflective of the belief that Abe Lincoln espoused back in his day, that we are a great country because we are a good country. You know what I mean when I say that. We will conduct this campaign on the high road. I don’t think you need to run down someone’s reputation in order to run for the Office of President. Of course we’ll have our disagreements. That’s what campaigns are all about. But I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who’s the better American.”

The horror… Continue reading

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The Bi-Partisan and Unethical Niggerizing of Political Discourse

Marl Levin, virtuoso niggerizer

The ethics problem with the use of “nigger,” or “bitch,” or “fag,” or any of the other culturally disapproved denigrating labels for human beings belonging to particular groups, is not that they are insulting—adults should be able to  handle mere insults—but that they unfairly diminish the status of individuals, their character, opinions and deeds before they have had the opportunity to be judged on their merits. It isn’t the words, but the effect, in essence sticking a foot out to trip a runner at the beginning of the race—and the race may be a job, an election, a debate, an argument, or policy deliberations.

The No-Labels movement focuses on characterizations and civility, but these are far too vague as concepts to enforce culturally, and subject to easy manipulation for political ends. John Avlon, a leader of No-Labels, still calls politicians he disagrees with “wingnuts.” Why? Because, well, they are wingnuts! Just ask John. Niggerizing, however, goes well beyond labels, and fair people should reject it from either side of the political spectrum. It is a bully tactic, and it is a dishonest debating technique, completely delegitimizing an adversary before addressing his arguments, or giving them an objective hearing. Continue reading

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Ugly Consequentialism: The Daily Beast Backs Perez Hilton

I am developing a real dislike for the Daily Beast. Tina Brown’s slick news aggregating website has gone out of its way to slander innocent dog breeds, features self-promoting hypocrites like John Avlon, and generally displays the ethical instincts of Piers Morgan, which is to say, none. Today it gave us an update on Serene Branson, who was mocked by blogger Perez Hilton and others for having an obvious, and frightening, on-air neurological event that caused her to be unable to speak coherently. Entitled “Line-Flubbing Grammys Reporter Fine”—trivializing as “line-flubbing” what was clearly nothing of the sort; people don’t get checked out by physicians for flubbing lines—the Daily Beast’s commentary noted that paramedic could find nothing wrong, so “Laugh away.”

This is the ugly face of consequentialism, judging the ethical nature of conduct based on what happens afterwards. Perez Hilton’s cruel amusement at a reporter finding that she cannot form intelligible speech is now retroactively fine and dandy, because Branson hasn’t—so far—keeled over or gone blind. So laugh, jerks, laugh…until she does keel over, tomorrow, or next week, or next month, in which case the ridicule becomes unacceptible to The Daily Beast.

Another human being who is panic-stricken as her body turns on her is not funny, and it is a sign of callousness and a deficit of compassion to laugh at the sight of it, whether or not the apparent catastrophe turns out to be minor after all. But the Daily Beast is proving that it is a playpen, occupied by reporters, columnists and editors with the ethical sophistication of gradeschoolers.

______________

UPDATE 2/15/11 (From AOL News):

“Despite Branson’s insistence that she’s fine, doctors who have examined the now heavily circulated footage of the incident continue to express concerns.

“This is what we call a class neurological event,” Dr. Keith Black, director of the Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”

According to Black, Branson’s episode was likely the result of a transient ischemic attack, essentially a “blockage in blood flow going to the brain,” or a “mini-seizure located in the language area.”

The New York Post also spoke to doctors who viewed the tape, and they said that Branson’s garbled speech could have resulted from “aphasia, which affects the ability to articulate, and that it could have been brought on by a mini-stroke, a tumor or a circulatory issue.”

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