Selective Censorship, Manipulation, Spin And Omissions By The News Media And Social Media: You Know It Will Only Get Worse

1.  Twitter has expanded its “hate speech” prohibitions, and not, I assume, for the last time.

Twitter announced that it has expanded its “hate speech’ policies to include tweets that make “dehumanizing remarks,” defined as remarks that treat “others as less than human,” on the basis of age, disability, or disease. These additions further enlarge on the company’s polices made last July that said Twitter would remove tweets that dehumanize religious groups. Before that, in 2018 , Twitter issued a broad ban on “dehumanizing speech” to compliment its existing hate speech policies that cover protected classes like race and gender.

This is the nose of a very dangerous camel entering the metaphorical tent. As always, the problem with “hate speech” prohibitions is that the “hate” is always  matter of subjective judgment. Censorship of any kind constrains expression, and as we head into a political campaign,  Twitter’s creeping policing of words and metaphors is ominous. You cannot trust these people to be even-handed, to make close calls, or to avoid acting on bias.

2. The threat is made worse because social media platforms allow both parties to “work the umpire,” encouraging  them to demand that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook take down tweets and posts that one or the other doesn’t like. Continue reading

And Yet Another Evening Ethics Watch, 10/29/2019, Because Everything Has Been Upside Down At ProEthics Lately…

Good evening again.

We’ll have to stop meeting like this.

1. Can’t make up my mind if I want there to be disastrous botched ball/strike call in Game 6 of the World Series or not. It will take one of those—a bad call that turns the game and eventually the World Series around to get MLB off its metaphorical butt and force it to establish an electronic pitch-calling system. Of course, it is worth noting that one of the most devastating wrong umpire calls in history stole a World Series away from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, and it took another 30 years for baseball to adopt an instant replay system that would have reversed it.

Don Denkinger was the first base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City.  The St. Louis Cardinals led the home team Royals by 3 games to 2, and tooka 1–0 lead in the 8th inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Jorge Orta, the leadoff batter for the Royals, hit a slow roller to Cards first baseman Jack Clark. Clark tossed the ball to his pitcher, Todd Worrell, who was covered first base. Orta was out by half a step, but Denkinger called Orta safe, even though television replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. Orta eventually scored, allowing the Royals to go  on to win Game 6 by the score of 2–1.

Denkinger was the home plate umpire in the Series-deciding Game 7, apparently driving the angry Cardinals mad. Denkinger ultimately ejected both Herzog and pitcher Joaquín Andújar in the fifth inning, as the game deteriorated into Royals rout,  11–0 . Denkinger accepted that he had made a terrible call, but as was the ethics in baseball at the time, took the position that such mistakes were an unavoidable part of the game. In  aftermath of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger death threats, from Cardinals fans. Two St. Louis disc jockeys doxxed him, giving out the umpire’s telephone number and home address. He was a well-regarded umpire, who at 83 years of age will still sign photographs of “the Call” when asked.

I guess I don’t want to see another umpire suffer Denkinger’s  fate tonight. It is inevitable that there will be a bad call of a strike or ball that makes an umpire a lifelong pariah, unless baseball locks that barn door as soon as possible. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/19: It’s Fake News Day!

Welcome to the Ethics Alarms Dead Zone!

Increasingly, almost nobody comes here on Saturdays. For me, Saturday is when I have time to catch up on ethics issues, and that’s fun for me. Everybody else doesn’t find ethics fun? How strange…

1. Another day, another fake news story designed to thrill and energize the “resistance.” BuzzFeed published a “bombshell” about Michael Cohen, that impeccably reliable witness, telling investigators that President Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about his pre-election hotel plans—odd that, since there is nothing illegal about planning to build a hotel in Moscow. Without checking sources, without considering the media source’s record of those of the reporters (one of whom has a well-documented pattern of making stuff up), the mainstream media was off to the impeachment races, with CNN and MSNBC in particular talking about almost nothing else all day.  Then, as the day edged into evening, the Mueller investigation dropped its own bombshell, taking the remarkable step of declaring the BuzzFeed story a lot of hooey.  Some pundits on the Right who trust today’s incompetent news media as much as I do even suggested that BuzzFeed knew its claim was false all along, but were confident that nobody could prove it except the Mueller investigation itself, and of course it would never speak up. The same logic was behind Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes autobiography hoax (Irving assumed that the reclusive Hughes would never come forward to expose him—but he did.)

The Daily Caller quickly compiled a list of eleven previous botched news reports related to the “collusion” narrative, and it was not all of them by any means. I haven’t checked, but I am quite sure that there were not this many mainstream media headline-generating news stories that proved to be false in the past ten Presidencies combined. What will it take for the industry to declare its performance a crisis? What will it take for even the “resistance” to conclude that their pals the journalists are hacks? Blogger Ann Althouse is so disgusted that she has taken to drawing rat cartoons and diagramming the sentences in anti-Trump screeds. “How embarrassing for the Trump haters,” she writes. “I didn’t even write about the BuzzFeed story myself. I’m so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.”

Why isn’t everybody? It isn’t just bias that makes you stupid. Hate makes you stupid too. Worse than that, it makes you LOOK stupid.

Entertaining accounts of the BuzzFeed fiasco are here and here. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/26/2018: ‘Bombs,’ Bicycles And Bullying

Good morning!

I need Jimmy today. (Bing’s on this one too…)

1. They’re NOT “bombs.” I urge everyone to call their friends on this. Until it is established that in fact the “suspicious packages” (the FBI’s current description) or the “potentially destructive devices” can blow up and that they were intended to blow up, referring to them (as the New York Times has done) as “pipe bombs” and the mysterious asshole who sent them as “the bomber” is misleading and, in many cases, deliberately inflammatory. Cut it out. Nor are the mailed whatevertheyares “attacks.” Nobody has been “attacked” until the intent to harm them has been established, and it hasn’t been.

This is driving me crazy, in case you can’t tell.

The news media obviously wants these to be bombs, wants the sender to be a deranged Trump fan, hell, they’d love it if the sender was Trump himself. So they can’t help themselves, apparently, in jumping the gun and dishonestly reporting what is still very much in doubt. Personally, I would love to have it determined that the perp is a “resistance” member pulling a false flag operation, just to teach the news media a lesson, not that they are capable of learning it.

2. Trump’s Tweets. CNN and MSNBC are melting down with faux fury over this morning’s Trump Tweet, which said,

Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, “it’s just not Presidential!”

Notes: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2017: Roy Moore Lost. Good.

Good Morning, y’all.

1 Stating the obvious that a lot of people won’t have the integrity to admit is obvious. Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the special U.S. Senate election in super-conservative Alabama. This is solely because Moore, as Ethics Alarms discussed back in September, is such a horrible candidate that even Luther Strange, the corrupt Republican  he replaces (appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat) would be a better choice. But literally anyone would. Moore is among the few candidates on earth whom to block from a position of power I would vote for Hillary Clinton, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump. We have a game at our house called “What candidate would make you vote for Roy Moore?” So far, he has beaten the shambling zombie of Richard Speck.

And Roy Moore lost by a little more than one percentage point in Alabama.

The news media is already spinning this as significant. Yes, it is significant: it means that about half of Alabama voters (and two-thirds of the whites who voted) are not up to the intellectual challenges of democracy, and the other half are at least able to recognize the unacceptable dangers of putting a cretinous, racist, homophobic theocrat in high elective office. Whoop-de-doo. It is not a “rejection of Steve Bannon.” It is not a “rebuke for Donald Trump,”  either. CNN’s openly anti-Trump hack Jim Accosta on Twitter: “Source close to WH: “It’s devastating for the president… this is an earthquake… Virginia but on steroids… the president has egg on his face” because of Bannon.” Trump opposed Bannon, Coulter, Palin and the other hard right jerks by endorsing Strange. This loss is only “devastating” to Trump in the eyes of those who want everything to be devastating for Trump. Will journalists ever go back to realizing that quoting an anonymous source like that as news is completely unethical and undermines trust in reporters? I know Jim Accosta won’t. It’s also interesting how many news reports used that term “earthquake,” especially since it is usually reserved for shock election landslides and ideological upheaval. What a coincidence!

Where was I? Oh…right…

It does not mean that “Alabama has turned blue.” It means that there are some candidates so incompetent and untrustworthy, and who represent such an insult to voters, that they can’t win no matter who runs against them.

2. Polls? We don’t need no stinking polls! So both the poll that said Moore was way ahead and the one that said Jones was way ahead were wrong. The polls that said it would be close were right. Who needed a poll to tell them that? Fake research.

3. Why didn’t Trump didn’t collude with God to rig the election? Roy Moore refuses to concede, and says that “God is always in control.”

What an embarrassment to people of faith, Alabama, Republicans,  conservatives, judges and homo sapiens he is! Continue reading

The Resistance Thinks This Is Appropriate Political Humor. This Tells Us All We Need To Know About The Resistance [UPDATED]

After the shooting of  Rep. Giffords in Tucson, Democrats and the news media attempted to blame the tragedy on the “eliminationist rhetoric” used by Republicans, citing Sarah Palin’s use of cross-hairs on an electoral map to point to Democrats being targeted for defeat. At one point, CNN’s John King even chastised a guest for using the term ‘”in the crosshairs” in talking about the candidates. “We’re trying, we’re trying to get away from that language,” King solemnly inveighed.  “Andy is a good friend, he’s covered politics for a long time, but we’re trying to get away from that kind of language.”

Eighteen months later, the producers of “Game of Thrones” thought it was a hilarious inside joke to place a model of George W. Bush’s head  on a pike in one scene showing multiple severed heads.. Alluding to his beheading was wonderful, at least to Hollywood liberals. Putting Obama’s head on a pike would have been, of course, unthinkable, and proof of racism.

I wrote at the time,

“Criticism, satire and humor regarding any U.S. President, living or dead, is fair, ethical and within the realm of the freedom of expression that makes America great. Incivility, disrespect, denigration, hate and incitements to violence directed against any President, living or dead, is wrong. However any of these men performed in office, whether their policies were popular or not and whatever the consequences, good or bad, of their decisions were, every one of them was a patriot and a public servant who made significant sacrifices to attempt to meet the challenges of the most difficult job in the nation, and to do what he thought was in the best interests of the nation. Eight of the 44—that’s 18%—were shot at. Five of the 44—-11%—were shot, and four of them died.  The acceptance of the responsibility of the President is itself an act of courage. Evoking the intentional killing of a U.S. President in any context is irresponsible, and to mock a former and living President in the manner of barbarians and terrorists of other lands, to treat him as the terrorists treated Nick Berg, is as offensive an act of disrespect as I can imagine.”

Now Kathy Griffin, who hosts New Year’s Eve for CNN, has posed for the photograph above. I’m sure the “resistance”—you know, like Hillary—thinks it’s just hilarious, and that Griffin is getting high-fives from her pals at the network and Hollywood.

These are objectively hateful, ugly, irresponsible people, and their depravity becomes deeper and sicker almost daily. They really think behaving this way toward the nation’s elected leader will return them to power. In that belief, they are insulting all of us.

UPDATE: I almost forgot: this is the second controversy over beheaded Trump art. In half of one year in one term, Trump has been graphically murdered twice, while no other President since Lincoln had been beheaded in any high profile forum once.

Ethics Hero: CNN’s John King

Things are pretty bad in the profession of journalism when a reporter can be an Ethics Hero by simply staying objective and stating the obvious, but such is the wretched state of journalism ethics in 2017.

As mentioned in the earlier post, CNN immediately avoided journalism and defaulted to partisan Obama Administration defense mode when it was revealed that Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice “unmasked” Trump campaign personnel whose conversations were inadvertently picked up in security surveillance. Rather than examining the story, objectively, factually, CNN anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo declared the story, respectively, a Trump-manufactured  diversion and “fake news.” (The New York Times did its part by burying the Rice story on page A-11.)

CNN’s John King, however, bravely eschewed the company line, that line being “partisan spin.” Showing a video from last month, King began…

“This is Susan Rice a short time ago on the PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. When asked at first, her name was not involved at first in the conversation at this point. When asked at first the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes says there was unmasking done by Obama administration officials.”

Now he runs the tape…Woodruff’s question was, ” I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the president, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.”

SUSAN RICE: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today. I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring. But he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal lawful surveillance and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.

The clip ends.

KING: Uh, remember the beginning of that. “I know nothing about this.” This is the same Susan Rice moments ago on MSNBC.

He runs the second clip.

RICE: There occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided. Just U.S. person. And sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was.

The clip ends.

KING: Not to be a jerk here but will the real Susan Rice please stand up?

Added guest Yahoo! News chief Washington correspondent Olivier Knox:

KNOX: The second part of that on MSNBC there a perfectly logical explanation on how unmasking works but the problem is the previous comment in which she denies any knowledge of it so she can’t in the same breath…

KING: Welcome to the witness list.

KNOX: Yeah, I mean, come on!

Translation: If what Rice did was innocent and unremarkable, why did she initially deny she did it? Continue reading

“House of Cards” Ethics: Why Should We Believe TV Journalists and Pundits Have Any Integrity When They Don’t Value It Themselves?

Safer interviews "President Frank Underwood." Morley, Morely, Morely...

Safer interviews “President Frank Underwood.” Morley, Morely, Morely…

The third season of “House of Cards,” a Netflix series about the corruption in Washington, continues to corrupt real Washington journalists and talking heads. On the third season  episode I just watched, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” was drawn into this alternate universe (or Hell) and George, along with regular panel members Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd, rendered trenchant if predictable opinions about fictional President Frank Underwood with exactly as much passion and certitude as they do when they aren’t just playing themselves, but being professional analysts whose job it is to objectively enlighten the TV news audience. With that, they joined CNN’s John King ,Candy Crowley,and Carol Costello, Soledad O’Brien, now with Al Jazeera America, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Fox’ Sean Hannity, CBS’s Morley Safer of “60 Minutes,”  and Matt Bai as “House of Cards” journalist/actors. I’m sure I missed a few. The mystery is why none of these journalists (and whatever Sean Hannity and Brazile are) don’t hear ethics alarms ringing when invited to sully their already dubious credibility (they are in the news media, after all), by showing themselves reporting and commenting on fiction exactly the way they are seen reporting on reality. Brian Rooney, a media critic who writes “The Rooney Report,” states succinctly what’s the matter with this:

“The trouble with journalists appearing as themselves in entertainment is that the public already has difficulty discerning fact from fiction in the news. Reporters and news organizations survive on truth and trust. Readers and viewers need to believe what they are told so they can make informed decisions. When real reporters allow themselves to be part of fiction, the trust is shattered. They do it with a wink, like they are in on the joke, but it costs them their credibility.”

Well, it would cost them credibility, if they had any. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Update: Martin-Zimmerman Reflections

Is it only fair to show one version of the victim?

As the NAACP joined with Al Sharpton today to lead a protest of thousands in Sanford Florida, some notes on recent ethics carnage and confusion in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death:

  • Roslyn Brock, who chairs the national board of directors for the NAACP, perfectly illustrated  ignorance of the justice system and short-sightedness that has characterized this whole, sorry incident. “We come to make sense of this great tragedy and the entire world grieves with us,” she said . “When the Sanford police did not arrest George Zimmerman, they essentially placed the burden of proof on a dead young man who cannot speak for himself.” But of course, as every American should know, that is where the burden of proof lies. The alleged victim in a death is represented by the state, and it is the state that has the burden of proof of guilt as well as having the burden to justify an arrest. It is not Zimmerman’s responsibility to prove his innocence, though that is what the un-American process engineered by race-activists and the media has come to. Does the NAACP really want to take the position that there should be a presumption of guilt in criminal matters? Or just in circumstances where the victim is an African-American and the suspect is not?
  • While CNN has taken the lead in trying to present a balanced picture of the controversy, NBC, mostly through MSNBC, has thoroughly disgraced itself by essentially taking an advocacy position on Zimmerman’s guilt, even to the point of doctoring his 911 call to make it seem clear that this was a case of racial profiling. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good…He looks black.” is how Zimmerman’s 911 call was played on the  “Today Show” and relayed on MSNBC’s website. The actual conversation was this: Continue reading

Super Tuesday Confirmation Bias Lesson, Or Why We Can Never Trust Media Analysis

Checking the Republican primary results as Super Tuesday neared an end, I got an unexpected demonstration of confirmation bias in the news media, so vivid that it could be used in an educational video.

On CNN, John King, Gloria Borgia and the gang were analyzing the razor-close contest in Ohio, widely regarded as a must-win for Rick Santorum, just as Mitt Romney seemed to be pulling ahead for good. Welcome news for Romney? Not so fast!

Gloria Borger, whose contempt for all things Republican is always writ large on her face and unmistakably expressed by her tones of disdain (Does she even attempt to appear objective? It doesn’t seem so, as her demeanor when discussing GOP politics always suggests to me that she thinks she is covering some kind of demeaning novelty event, like a four-poster bed race or a dwarf-bowling, that the audience knows as well as she does is a colossal waste of time), vigorously took the floor and emphasized that Romney was winning in the very communities where Democrats were strongest, and losing to Santorum where Republicans usually did well. This, she said, eyes rolling (“I can’t believe I’m here talking about Republicans when I could be home watching a repeat of ‘Big Bang Theory!'”) showed that Romney would be in likely trouble if he were the nominee in November, since his strength would be wasted in Democratic strongholds and he wouldn’t be getting the support of the blue-collar types that a Republican presidential hopeful couldn’t win Ohio without. “To illustrate Gloria’s point,” King interjected, and then produced a computer graphic showing Romney’s fatally flawed vote patterns. Everyone nodded sagely. Mitt’s victory in Ohio showed that he was a loser.

Meanwhile, over at Fox, they were discussing the exact same phenomenon. Local politics maven Michael Barone weighed in, and said that this could bode well for Romney in November. John McCain, though losing Ohio in 2008, still “cleaned up” in the blue color districts, noted Barone, so even though Santorum was beating Romney there tonight, they could be still counted upon to go Mitt’s way in 2012 when Obama was the opposition. Meanwhile, the well-educated, wealthier areas that gave Barack Obama the critical swing state’s electoral votes that year have in the past swung Republican, and Mitt’s showing with that group tonight just might indicate that he could seriously cut into Obama’s strength, taking the state red. And Michale Barone knows his stuff, the Fox-ites gushed. Continue reading