The Washington Post’s Ethical Unethical Accurate Stupid Tone-Deaf And Dangerous Headline

Go ahead, keep deriding "the people." Can't do any harm...

Go ahead, keep deriding “the people.” Can’t do any harm…

The big problem with the “elites” that conservatives and Trumpeteers keep demonizing is that they insist on acting and talking as if they are exactly as insolated and contemptuous of “the masses” as they are accused of being. Witness this headline on the Washington Post website, on the Wonkblog column:

Headline Post1

Talk about walking into a haymaker! This headline went viral on the conservative media and social media, with such comments as, “Know your place, peasants!” and  “Stand aside and pay attention to your betters!” As with many such incidents, the headline signals that some ethics alarms aren’t functioning in high places. How could this headline make it to the web without anyone seeing it and thinking, “Whoa! Hold it! That sure sounds like (another) call to authoritarian government, and this is the major paper in the Capital of what is supposed to be the cradle of liberty! We can print that, and if we think it, we have to be a lot more clear about what “some things” are.” What does it tell us that nobody had that thought at the Washington Post?

This is the realm of headlines, which, like internet memes and bumper stickers and Twitter posts, are not safe for expressing complex ideas, and should not be used by competent journalists to do so. Ultimately, in a representative democracy, the people do decide such things indirectly, by electing their representatives and punishing them with their votes if they don’t make decisions the public finds competent and beneficial. The Post web headline asserts an ugly and arrogant dichotomy between “the people” and what, their rulers? The intelligentsia? The aristocracy? The 1%? Journalists? Since trust in our institutions are at a dangerous low point, this is a mind-blowingly stupid thing to print, and plays directly into the hands of the anti-establishment hucksters like Trump and Bernie. Continue reading

The Syrian Refugee Controversy: For The US Government, An Easy Ethics Call

Syrian refugees

That does not mean that it is an easy call for Barack Obama, whose perception of his duties and the stakeholders in his decisions is often confused.

The Question: Is it competent and responsible (ergo ethical) for the  the U.S. accept 10,000 Syrian refugees (or 65,000, as Hillary Clinton advocates) in the U.S., knowing that it is statistically certain that some of them will carry the threat of Islamic terrorism with them?

The Answer: No. Of course not. How can a rational person advocate such a foolish policy?

The answers to the last question are fascinating to speculate upon, and range from 1) “A rational person won’t,” to 2) “Willful blindness to reality” to 3) “Because of a profound misunderstanding of  the ethical priorities of government and leadership” to 4) “That’s a rational policy if the policy maker-wants  terror attacks.”

The proper analogy is admitting a refugee population with members suffering from a highly-communicable, infectious, incurable and fatal disease. No responsible government would risk bringing a plague into its population without being able to make certain—certain—that none of the refugees carried it. Thus there would be a quarantine period imposed on the refugees showing no symptoms, and those infected would not be allowed to enter the U.S. population at all. This is the same situation, except that the infectious, fatal, incurable contagion is radical Islam.

Dishonest and manipulative politicians like Hillary Clinton tacitly acknowledge the plague model when they say that refugees must be admitted to the U.S. but only after they are “thoroughly vetted.” They cannot be thoroughly vetted, however. Records from Syria are neither reliable nor available. Thus what such politicians are really saying is either “I don’t support taking Syrian refugees, but want you to think I do” or “I’m hopeless detached from reality.” The first is Hillary; the second is Barack Obama, who said yesterday,

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

We can’t do both. It can’t be done. His first sentence is pure demagoguery, and demonstrates, yet again, how shockingly ignorant the President is regarding the duties of his office. His essential duties are  to do what is in the best interests of the United States, its citizens, and its mission of promoting human rights in the world. When those objectives are in conflict, the President must put the welfare and security, long term and short term, of the citizens who elected him and the nation he leads above all else.

Why can’t Obama see that? I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to understand the man.

Objectively, the question of the Syrian refugees is an ethics conflict, when warring  ethical principles and systems contradictory results.On the side of accepting the refugees and the undeniable risks they carry, we have altruism, The Golden Rule, fairness, kindness, decency, tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and caring.

On the side of rejecting them, there is utilitarianism, responsibility, loyalty, process, competence, trustworthiness,  prudence, and due diligence.

For a leader, the choice is obvious, because for a leader, it can’t be a question answered objectively. The President of the United States is not permitted the luxury of altruism, or objectivity. He holds an office of trust, and is trusted to place  citizens above others. This decision involves more than values. It is a matter of leadership and government ethics.  However much Obama or anyone else believes that assisting the Syrian refugees, of any number, is objectively the “right thing to do,” the United States Government cannot regard it that way. It is bound by its own duties, standards and priorities to be partisan: this country comes first. The Syrian refugees present a real and existential peril that cannot be avoided, except by keeping them out.

Easy ethics call.

At least it should be.

Other points:

1. Nonetheless, it is Obama’s call. The 28 state governors who have announced that they will “not permit” Syrian refugees in their states are either ignorantly or for effect asserting a power they do not have. States cannot reject immigrants and refugees duly and lawfully admitted into the country by the Federal government. (According to the Obama Justice Department, they can’t reject illegal immigrants negligently admitted into the country by the Federal government’s incompetence and corruption, either.) These announcements of defiance are a bluff, but have undeniable political power. Continue reading