“Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Update

1. The New York Times’s habitually partisan Maggie Haberman tweeted : “Republican voter registration in NH is down roughly 20k voters from 2016 to now. It’s a reminder that Trump’s increased GOP popularity is in part because in some places, the GOP registration rolls have shrunk.” This is a false narrative, and proven so several times.

Verdict: Fake News

2. MSNBC’s Katy Tur, who has many embarrassing moments, argued that the Trump economy was not working for the American  who spends up to 360 months paying off a car loan. “When I ask people if they’re voting for Donald Trump, I hear about their 401(k)s a lot,” she said during a live broadcast from New Hampshire, “but there are those out there who don’t have a 401(k), and there are those out there who this economy is not really working for them….They might have a job, but it’s not a job that pays their bills. They can get a car, but it’s a loan that will take 30 years.”

She’s just making stuff up. Who agrees to 30-year car loans? Is Tur getting homes mixed up with cars? Why is someone who doesn’t know the difference between a house and a car interpreting the news?

Verdict: Fake News, stupid host.
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/2018: A Frivolous Lawsuit, An Unscripted Actress, A Lesson In Assuming, And Fake News

Good Morning!

1 On feminist integrity. The reader poll on the post about the interesting silence of US women’s rights organizations and their component feminists as their Iranian sisters protest oppression in Iran has already had more participation that the last four Ethics Alarms polls combined. Why is that? In more news related to that post, some determined spinners here claimed that the feminists have been burning up the blogs and websites with supportive essays and blog posts, so the radio silence is a myth. No, THAT was a myth: there is nothing on those sites, or if there is, it didn’t surface when I checked Ms., Jezebel, NOW and four prominent blogs. (Update: Reader Humble Talent has checked two more. Also nothing.)

Please don’t make up stuff or assume facts you haven’t checked when you don’t want to accept reality, friends. It’s not fair, and it’s not ethical debating practice. Because I trust and respect the commenter in question, I just assumed she was right, because I assumed she had checked. No, it appears she had assumed, and was not right.  And you know what Felix Unger proved happens when you assume..

2. This is why they give actors scripts. I enjoy actress Meryl Streep as an artist, but for me she is fast entering Alec Baldwin territory, a performer whose personal character deficits are becoming so overpowering that even her undeniable talent can’t make watching the performer on screen endurable. Streep is in a deep hole she keeps digging. Being a Harvey Weinstein acolyte and beneficiary for years (and a Roman Polanski apologist), she is denying culpability as an enabler of his serial sexual predation because, she says, she didn’t know. Almost nobody finds her denial credible. Yesterday the Times published a joint interview with Streep and her “The Post” co-star, Tom Hanks. Told by the interviewer that in light of the doubts about what she knew, the public wants to hear more from her, she responded,

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me. I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now.”

Streep locks up the 2018 Whataboutism of the Year title with that one, along with adding a ridiculous sentence into my personal collection of statements that deserve note because they had never been said before in the history of the English language. I started my collection decades ago at a family Thanksgiving dinner, when my sister said, “You know, the fish looks so good, I think I’ll wear my bra on my head.” And a collection was born.

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me” has an elegant simplicity about it. In addition to being a strange sentiment, Streep also misses the whole concept of an interview—surprising, since she has done so many of them. See, Meryl, these questions are about what the public wants to hear about, not what you want to hear about. Was that really unclear to you until now? This was not an open invitation to announce all the things you’d like to hear about that have absolutely nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein. This is “Look! Squirrel!” carried to a demented extreme. Streep revealed herself as seriously Trump Deranged, as she thinks that the way out of every personal crisis is to declare, “But what about TRUMP????”

Looks like I won’t be watching “The River Wild” again. Pity. (I won’t watch “The Dear Hunter” again either, but then you never could have made me watch that thing a second time, not under torture or extortion.)

3. Now THIS is a frivolous law suit.  From CNN:
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/17: A Creep Places A Bounty On Hillary’s Hair, And More….

GOOOD Morning.

1 My weekly assessment of anti-Trump mania based on the New York Times Sunday Review shows mostly petulant complaining. The front page is Trump-less, as is the second. After that respite,this issue is notable for some of the best illustrations yet of a journalistic phenomenon unique to Trump coverage, the “this is so horrible and sinister because it’s taking place under President Trump, even though it is neither unique nor noteworthy, being a condition that has existed for decades or even centuries.” Frank Bruni, for example, gets an entire page to tell us that White House aides who leave the Trump White House cash in, what Bruni calls “the ethos of enrichment.” You will be surprised, or maybe not, to learn that the essay about this new and venal trend under Trump never once mentions the name “Clinton,” the family that made cashing in on White house residency a family business, or do you have another theory why Chelsea Clinton is rich? You see, if Trump/Republicans/Conservatives do it, it’s disgusting because it’s Trump/Republicans/Conservatives doing it. What “it” happens to be doesn’t seem to matter much.

Then there is a “I can’t believe how stupid Trump supporters are” essay by NBC’s Katy Tur that contains this tell: “On election day they trusted his judgment more that they trusted any of us.” Wait: who’s the “us” that is being set up as opposition to a Presidential candidate, Katy? Journalists aren’t supposed to be telling citizens who to vote for, who is trustworthy or who will be a worthy leader. That statement is why so many voters don’t trust you, and also why they shouldn’t.

My favorite, though, a true classic in spin and how to present an issue in distorted terms to mislead the public, is a sob piece by a Yale grad student—yes, if you can write a sufficiently biased and critical essay about the plague that is the Trump administration, you don’t have to be a journalist. Your political biases are enough. In this case, the author is an illegal immigrant, as is every member of her family, so the Times believes that she is the perfect objective commentator on Trump policies regarding illegal immigration. Her theme: “Spreading fear is part of the administration’s plan.”

That plan is called law enforcement and deterrence. The government making life uncomfortable for law-breakers and ensuring that the guilty never feel comfy enough to think, “Well, the heat is off! They’ll never catch me now!” has been an uncontroversial and effective means of ensuring a safe and fair society for centuries. It was the Obama administration that endorsed the novel, bizarre and corrosive policy of telling illegal immigrants, “No problem: just make sure you don’t rape, kill or rob anyone, and you’re golden. Welcome!”

It is the indignation that comes through these essays that is so infuriating. How dare the government demand accountability for our law-breaking! tells us that her family has lived here illegally for 30 years.

If a newspaper is going to publish flagrantly manipulative junk like this, it would be responsible journalism to include a rebuttal along side it. Opinions are one thing; intentional distortions of the principles of civilization come unacceptably close to disinformation. Continue reading

A Presidential “Othering” Ethics Puzzle: What IS This Statement? Misleading? Ignorant? Biased?

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In a column today, Washington Post political columnist Chris Cillizza writes,

“The simple fact is that Trump has never had real friends in the sense you or I think of the term. The relationship world of Trump has long been split into two groups: (1) his family and (2) people who work for him. And people who work for you are rarely your actual friends.”

This was written in the context of an article titled “The very peculiar isolation of Donald Trump.”

What’s going on here? It is definitely one more “othering” exercise from the news media, part of a concerted effort to avoid “normalizing” this President so that tactics previously regarded as unthinkable, undemocratic and unAmerican will be accepted by the public when they are used against him. The message is that this President is strange, weird. He’s not like us. He’s a monster. Today, for example,  MSNBC’s Katy Tur insinuated that the President might be planning to start murdering journalists, asking a guest.

“As we know, there’s, since 2000, been a couple dozen suspicious deaths of journalists in Russia who came out against the government there.Donald Trump has made no secret about going after journalists and his distaste for any news that doesn’t agree with him here. Do you find that this is a dangerous path he is heading down?”

I was struck by Cillizza’s column  because the topic is one of several upon which I wrote my honors thesis in American government. (If you are in Cambridge, Mass., you can find a copy in Widener Library.)  Cillizza’s statement made me realize, for the first time, really: Ah! There’s at least one aspect of his personality that is typical of American Presidents!” I studied exactly that aspect of Presidential biographies to test my thesis that the U.S. Presidency attracted a specific character type, and the type was not “normal” by the public standards. Continue reading