Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/30/2017: Bad Tweets, Bad Rep., Bad Rap, Bad NBC…

Bad night, but…

Good Morning!

1 Straight to the top of the charts…When we put together the definitive list of President Trump’s Top Ten (Top 100? Top 1000?) stupid, undignified and self-wounding tweets, yesterday’s sequence of unsubstantiated videos–from a radical right wing British group— of alleged violence by Muslims has to be on the list. I could counter that the eruption of indignation by the vast majority of people who can comprehend what’s wrong with this is a bit annoying from the progressive side—the official Obama Administration position that Islam is a lovely religion of rainbows and unicorns and that Muhammad doesn’t instruct his followers from the grave that infidels are scum and deserve to die is far more dangerous than Trump’s hate-tweets—but that would obscure the key point. Trump’s retweeting is ugly, unnecessary, undignified, looks bigoted, and plays into the hands of the worst of his enemies, who express themselves like this.

Now we have to listen to that dishonest and contrived 25th Amendment garbage again, which never quite stopped anyway. Once again, the President has blown more wind into the sails of anti-democratic hypocrites like Ezra Klein, who argues for a Constitution and Separation of Powers-wrecking version of impeachment to get rid of Trump. No, Trump hasn’t gone crazy: he’s exactly the man we elected, and exactly as able to do his job as he ever was. Tweeting irresponsibly is not a high crime and misdemeanor. Being Donald Trump is not a high crime and misdemeanor.

But the President is playing with fire by encouraging the large political movement that would criminalize not agreeing with their world view. That’s as indefensible as it is idiotic.

2. This much is clear. It is now clear that NBC only fired Matt Lauer because an explosive Variety exposé was on the way, and it was a close call at that. It is pretty clear that the mystery of why NBC rejected journalist Ronan Farrow’s investigative reporting on Harvey Weinstein has been solved: NBC had its own lurking sexual misconduct cover-up to worry about. It is, or should be clear from Variety’s reporting that the astounding brazenness of Lauer’s conduct had to be common knowledge among Lauer’s colleagues and NBC executives, and that they unethically applied The King’s Pass, deliberately allowing Lauer to abuse and terrorize female employees, some of whom played along to get along. TMZ uncovered an old interview in which Katie Couric happily revealed that one consequence of working with Matt was that she got her butt pinched a lot. Nobody paid attention, in part because our pathetic news media buried it. Continue reading

Signature Significance: Katie Couric “Regrets” The Deceptive Editing Of Her Anti-Gun Documentary, But Isn’t Going To Fix It.

I'd think she'd want to have that fixed...

I’d think she’d want to have that fixed…

Today Katie Couric made all of her defenders look just as bad as I said they were.

“I can understand the objection of people who did have an issue about it,” Couric said at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in New York this morning, when asked to address the intentionally deceptive editing in “Under the Gun,‘ the anti-gun documentary she produced. “Having said that, I think we have to focus on the big issue of gun violence. It was my hope that, when I approached this topic, that this would be a conversation starter.”

She then said that the documentary will not be re-edited to fix the lie it contains.

This is signature significance: all by itself, it proves beyond a shadow if a doubt that Katie Couric is a dishonest journalist. No more evidence is needed, for an honest journalist would never make this choice. Not once, not ever.

“The objection of people who did have an issue about it” clearly states that Couric herself had no “issue with it,” meaning that, as I wrote, she only regrets the controversy, not the lie. Continue reading

UPDATE: Even More Reasons To Distrust Katie Couric, Which Means More Reasons To Distrust The Journalists Who Want To Excuse Her

film editing

The Washington Post criticized Katie Couric’s role in approving the deceptive “Under the Gun” documentary edit but also noted that it is “one instance of bad judgment in a long career.” This was an instance of the “Just One Mistake” rationalization…

20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy

Related to #16 but still distinct is the excuse that a particular unethical act should be ignored, forgiven or excused as an aberration because “it was just one mistake.” This argument intentionally glosses over the fact that one mistake can be so blatantly unethical and harmful that an ethical person literally never does such a thing, and thus the “one mistake” is a reliable indicator that the actor does not deserve to be trusted. Abuse of power is in this category. Defenders of the unethical also often use this excuse dishonestly and deceptively to designate as one mistake an ongoing episode of continuous unethical conduct. For example, Bill Clinton didn’t make “one mistake” regarding Monica Lewinsky, but hundreds of them, involving lies, deceits, cover-ups and betrayals.

The versatile excuse was applied by one member of the liberal-biased school of journalism to another, and says more about the Post writer ( Callum Borchers) than it does about Couric. He was actually right on the money when he wrote, only to say later it was “unfair,” this:

Couric thinks the media needs to be tougher on Trump. The reality is the current level of toughness hasn’t dented his campaign. What’s the next level of toughness? One could conclude, based on the misleading edit in Couric’s gun documentary, that it involves distorting interviews to produce manufactured flubs, in hopes that one of them will accomplish what no organic mistake has done so far.

Why yes, one could not only conclude that, but witness it in the media’s successful efforts to turn a dumb Trump quote about a judge’s reasons to be biased against him in a law suit into an imaginary smoking gun that proves he’s a racist. Journalists have been eager to allow the public to forget about Couric’s endorsement of misleading and dishonest editing techniques in the service of the anti-gun rights agenda, because her methods are their methods. The woman should be fired. Journalists must be regarded like accountants and auditors: one they have shown that they will lie, even once, they are worthless. Is that a fair standard? I believe it is. Why then are journalists eager to have Couric held to a lower standard? Easy: they don’t want to be held to the appropriate ethics standard either.

The apologists for Couric have been especially revealing; once again, any journalist who defends Couric can be safely placed along with her in the UNTRUSTWORTHY File. Here’s Mediaite’s Rachel Stockman embarrassing and indicting herself, for example, saying that people are being mean to Katie for impugning her integrity… Continue reading

Update: “A Message From Katie Couric”… A Really Damning One

But she's so cute! How can someone so cute be such a lying, untrustworthy weasel?

But she’s so cute! How can someone so cute be such a lying, untrustworthy weasel?

Katie Couric’s approval of intentionally deceptive editing in the anti-gun documentary “Under the Gun” (which Ethics Alarms discussed here) was and should be regarded as a definitive nail in her metaphorical coffin as a serious and trustworthy journalist. The revelation that she facilitated an unequivocal lie in the documentary, and her failure to acknowledge its unethical nature once it was exposed (instead, Couric endorsed the documentary-maker’s evasive non apology and said she was “very proud of the film” ), has no remedy other than to ignore Katie Couric forevermore. She’s a liberal agenda-driven hack who is not above distorting the truth to bolster policies she likes, in this case, banning guns. After this fiasco,there is no question about it.

CNN’s wishy-washy media ethics commentator Brian Stelter noted in a recent post about the incident that “an assortment of media critics and conservative writers” thought the documentary-maker’s fake apology that Couric rubber-stamped “was not sufficient.” Huh! Excuse me for being impertinent, but why is the practice of alleged journalists with national reputations using lies as a tool of advocacy a partisan issue?

Why are only “conservative writers” bothered when a documentary produced by Katie Couric intentionally uses a deceptive edit to make a group of gun owners look like fools who can’t come up with a response to a basic question about background checks? Why don’t liberal, moderate and honest writers protest as well? Are intentionally dishonest techniques all right with the latter group, as long as they have the purpose of destroying public support for the Bill of Rights?

The flagrant shredding of both documentary ethics and journalism ethics by long-time media darling Couric (who has always been as biased as a journalist can get) received some grudging attention from the non-conservative media, but nothing like the wave of indignation that would have followed a similar breach that made gun opponents look foolish in a documentary by, say, Britt Hume. Compare the treatment of Couric’s deception to the way the mainstream media attacked and discredited the hidden videos of Planned Parenthood ghouls talking about aborting fetuses like it had all the significance of clipping toenails.

Couric signaled, clearly and obviously, that she felt the uenthical edit was just fine, thank-you, when she allowed days to pass without any comment other than that she was “very proud of the film.”  That’s how she feels, folks. There’s no ambiguity or confusion. If she was sorry, or realized she screwed up, or didn’t believe that the scourge of gun violence didn’t have to be stopped “by any means necessary,” including deception, she would have issued a genuine mea culpa immediately. She didn’t.

This is called doing a “Dan Rather.”

Then Katie decided that it wasn’t working. Many of the same “conservative writers” who wouldn’t let NBC shrug off the fact that Brian Williams was a compulsive liar were writing that Couric’s career was toast, so she apparently huddled with her PR crisis gurus and released this on Monday, titled “A Message From Katie Couric”. Here’s the whole, wretched thing: Continue reading

Katie Couric And The Anti-Gun Documentary: Not Just Vanishing Journalism Ethics, But Vanishing Consensus That Journalism Has Any Obligation To Be Ethical

Just in time for the Presidential campaign, old friend Katie Couric has been kind enough to remind us just how little we can trust journalists, how arrogant they are regarding their unethical methods, and how the profession that is supposed to protect democracy is now a threat to it.

Having failed in her effort to be a network news anchor and a talk-show host, the former “Today Show” star  is now biding her time at Yahoo News waiting for a comeback opportunity. She served as executive producer and narrator of “Under the Gun,” an anti-gun documentary written, produced, and directed by anti-gun activist Stephanie Soechtig. In one powerful scene (above) , Couric is seen asking members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, gun rights supporters all, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” The pro-gun members of the group with the motto “Defending Your Right to Defend Yourself”can’t answer the question! The documentary shows blank stares and a damning, awkward, 9 second period of total silence.

Fortunately, one of the gun owners in the sequence, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave, recorded the actual event before it was edited to make gun owners look like mutes. There was no pause. The members offered several answers. They were omitted from the documentary, with a pause inserted instead to bolster an anti-gun agenda.

Couric was aware of the deceptive editing, apparently questioned it, but allowed it to remain in the documentary. This is signature significance: no ethical journalist—if there even is such a thing any more—does this, ever, even once. While various media reporters on the left have expressed their disapproval, they have also muted their criticism to try to minimize the damage to their own profession. Here is NPR’s David Folkenflik, for example:

This manipulation — and that’s what it was — would not pass muster at NPR under its principles for fairness in handling interviews. It should be noted that documentaries operate with a different ethos than straight news. “Under the Gun” has a take, strongly suggesting there is a quiet consensus in favor of background checks among gun owners, aside from gun rights advocacy groups. This is not deception on a grand scale, but this handling of the interviews with the Virginia gun owners group is clearly unfair and unwarranted. People deserve to recognize themselves in how they appear in interviews.

Spin. It’s not “manipulation.” Its lying. It is presenting false information, not “manipulated” information. The film affirmatively represented that the response to a question was dumbfounded silence. That is as much a lie as recording fake answers like “Duh, well dang me, I never thought of that! I guess them background checks ain’t such a bad idea after all!” and dubbing them in. Lying isn’t just “unfair;” lying is dishonest and sinister. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Whining”

(Pssst! John! JOHN! You're not running! )

(Pssst! John! JOHN! You’re not running! )

The resilient and provocative Charles Green offers a challenge to the underlying point in “Whining,” the recent post about efforts by some (but not all) members of the news media to pooh-pooh Republican objections to what they (and I ) regarded as outrageous disrespect and bias displayed by the CNBC panel in the recent Republican debate.

I have a five word rebuttal and bit more afterwards, but for now, here is Charlie’s Comment of the Day on the Ethics Alarms Post, “Whining.” Continue reading

One More Reason To Defund NPR, or “Boy, Did I Ever Go Into The Wrong Profession!”

The primary reason to end funding for NPR and PBS is that the government shouldn’t be funding competitors of private broadcasting organizations.

The second reason is that anything public broadcasting does that is sufficiently popular and valuable  (“Sesame Street,” “The Prairie Home Companion,” “Car Talk,’ et al.) will be picked up by commercial stations, and those programs that are not should not be underwritten by taxpayer dollars.

The third: NPR’s audience is narrow and affluent, and doesn’t require a public subsidy, particularly when cutting down the budget deficit is a national priority.

Finally, NPR can’t be trusted with public funds. It claims to be objective, but isn’t; it is mismanaged, and isn’t appropriately frugal with taxpayer funds.

This comes under the final category. The salaries of the top NPR talent do not reflect restraint in expending precious resources.  Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Rush Limbaugh and the Spinners

No, Rush Limbaugh and the Spinners isn’t a new singing group. It is a chorus, however, of graceless, cynical or malicious commentators who are determined to re-cast the President’s well-chosen, non-partisan and healing words in Tucson into something they can use as ammunition in exactly the kind of destructive wars of rhetoric that Obama properly condemned. Continue reading

Ethics Final For Barack Obama

Is President Obama the fair, ethical, unifying, anti-partisan president of all the people that he promised to be in 2008, or is he a Machiavellian, undercover Chicago pol, willing and ready to use divisiveness and deceit to enhance his power, silence critics and advance his agenda? During the past two years, there has been ample evidence supporting both descriptions, but his address in Arizona Wednesday could settle the issue. If the President emulates his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, using the massacre in Arizona as a political wedge the way Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing—if he adopts the philosophy of former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel that one should never waste a crisis—then we will know the dispiriting truth about Barack Obama. Continue reading