Ethics Observations On The Columbia Journalism Review’s Report On Rolling Stone’s False UVA Gang Rape Story

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

So I guess democracy is in big trouble then..

The Columbia School of Journalism was tasked with delivering the final verdict on the already thoroughly discredited Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus,” which first ran Nov. 19, 2014. The report, which was published yesterday, could not be more critical or devastating to the publication’s reputation and credibility. The one positive conclusion about Rolling Stone that the report documents is that the magazine cooperated fully with the investigation. In light of everything else Rolling Stone has done in this indefinably awful instance of atrocious and unethical journalism, that compliment is like praising a serial killer for leading police to the bodies of his victims.

The news media this morning is full of punditry on the CSJ report, none of it kind to Rolling Stone, so I will confine any new commentary here to the following 10 observations Ethics Alarms has already discussed the matter and related ethics issues extensively.

1. Upon receipt of the CSJ report, Rolling Stone finally took down and retracted the story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. The story has been on the magazine’s website since mid November, and it has been universally identified as unreliable, misleading and false before the month was over. Why was the piece still up almost five months later? What the reporting of the Washington Post and others demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt was that the story was based on unsubstantiated allegations and terrible reporting practices sparked by the reporter’s ideological agenda and her own biases. Once a news article is found to be so sub-standard that it should never have been published, that means it need to be un-published,  and does not belong on a news source website, unless it is under a banner stating: “Retracted and Discredited.”

2. While the Columbia report added some new details and had the name of a university on it, its findings added little to what had already been reported elsewhere. The CSJ’s proper role was to examine the lack of professional and ethical journalism policies and procedures that led to this fiasco, and to make recommendations to prevent similar abuses of the First Amendment from occurring. The fact that the article itself was indefensible did not need confirmation.

To me, it looks like Rolling Stone used the investigation to stall, delaying accountability as long as possible. Continue reading

Harry Reid Hatred And The Tit-For-Tat Addiction

mob enforcer

Once again, the ethically disabled in conservative punditry are forcing me to come to the defense of one of the most loathsome politicians extant. Senator Harry Reid’s announcement that he is leaving the Senate after his current term expires in 2016 has inspired a spate of baseless speculation that the serious facial injuries he sustained on New Years Day were not the result of an exercise equipment mishap, and may have been the souvenirs or a beating by Vegas mob goons to teach “Dirty Harry” to deliver the goods when the Godfather ask a favor.

As Basil Fawlty would say, “Oh, thank you! Thank you so VERY MUCH!” I love wasting a good hour of sock drawer organization explaining why its wrong to mistreat the likes of Harry Reid. Continue reading

Signature Significance Verdict: Lena Dunham Is An Awful Human Being

 UPDATED!

Yechh.

Yechh.

If her boasting about abusing her little sister in her memoir wasn’t enough, Lena Dunham’s revealed conduct regarding “Barry” in the same tome rings the signature significance bell. No human being with a sufficient amount of decency would do something like this, even once.

In case you have not followed the latest ethics scandal involving the over-praised creator and star of HBO’s “Girls,” what occurred is this:

In one chapter of Dunham’s memoir “Not That Kind of Girl,” the feminist actress describes as factual an episode of sexual assault or rape that she says she experienced while an undergraduate at Oberlin. Her assailant was a well-known campus “Republican,” she says, a conservative whom she refers to as Barry—without the conventional quotes that would indicate a pseudonym.

There was, as it happens,  a real Oberlin college graduate from the same period named Barry, then well-known as a conservative, which then as now, is a species about as common at Oberlin as velociraptors. Besides his name and campus reputation, Barry fit some of the other details given by Dunham, such as wearing cowboy boots and sporting a flamboyant mustache. Now the 28-year-old man (the same age as Dunham)  is being tarred as a rapist, and has been forced to take down his social media accounts. He has hired a lawyer named Aaron Minc, with the help of donations from GoFundMe to help pay his legal fees, and has promised that any money he receives from the suit exceeding legal fees will go to charities assisting survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Dunham has not had the courage or decency to say anything, to or about Barry. But yesterday Random House did, in an extraordinary statement and admission: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Girls” Creator/Actress Lena Dunham

Dunham

Lena Dunham, creator and star of the inexplicably critically acclaimed HBO series “Girls,” has written a memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl.” Here are ten inquiries regarding its most controversial passages, like the one above,  and the reaction to them:

1. What does one say about a Hollywood figure who puts a passage like this in her memoirs, writing about her relationship with her sister, who was six years younger…

“As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”

2. Or this…

“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.”

3. Or, most famously, this...

“Do we all have uteruses?” I asked my mother when I was seven.

“Yes,” she told me. “We’re born with them, and with all our eggs, but they start out very small. And they aren’t ready to make babies until we’re older.” I look at my sister, now a slim, tough one-year-old, and at her tiny belly. I imagined her eggs inside her, like the sack of spider eggs in Charlotte’s Web, and her uterus, the size of a thimble.

“Does her vagina look like mine?”

“I guess so,” my mother said. “Just smaller.”

One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.

My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”

My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.

?

I say that that the Hollywood darling apparently used her little sister as a sex toy for at least a decade, was never stopped or admonished for doing so by remarkably negligent parents, and has grown to adulthood without recognizing that there is anything wrong with her conduct.

The first passage not only treads on the borders of incest, but also leaves the uncomfortable question of what else she did to her sister that emulated a sexual predator. The second is profoundly creepy, and the third describes what, if true, is abuse of an infant in terms designed to sound erotic. As blogger Ann Althouse points out, does anyone believe that an infant would stuff pebbles in herself “as a prank,”or that a compos mentis parent wouldn’t immediately assume that the older girl had done it to the younger girl? At best, Dunham is lying, and doesn’r realize that her lie puts her and her family in a terrible light.

4. What can we conclude about the character of a celebrity who proposes such conduct as harmless fun, apparently unaware that it violates standards of fairness, respect and caring, to be emulated and embraced by her readers and anyone whom they have influence over, including their own children, as a legitimate cultural norm? I conclude that her values are seriously and perhaps clinically warped. and that the more critics point this out, the safer everyone is, present and future. Lena Dunham is an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wrecks Collide, As The Redskins And Trayvon Martin’s Mother Board The Ferguson Express

trains_collision

I just can’t find a photograph of three trains running into each other–in the world of rail transport, that’s impossible.* With Ethics Train Wrecks, however, anything is possible, especially stupid, dishonest, and irresponsible things.

  • The Washington Redskins, one would think, have enough problems guiding their own Ethics Train Wreck, with the team’s owner, who would have been wise, prudent  and responsible to quietly get rid of an archaic name and logo before it became the focus of extreme political correctness bullying, having to battle government censors and opponents of free speech as well as censorious journalists and cynical Native American race-hucksters. But no! Some members of the team apparently feel that if one Ethics Train Wreck is fun, two is twice as nice. Thus it came to pass that during Monday night’s pregame introductions for the televised exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns, several Redskins players ran onto the field with their hands raised as a gesture of support for the slain Ferguson teen, Michael Brown. Brown, writes Yahoo’s Jay Busbee, “was killed by police even after witnesses said he raised his arms and told police he was unarmed. As a result, arms raised in surrender have become a symbol of solidarity and protest in connection with the Ferguson story.” [ Side Note: This is incompetent and biased reporting. Some witnesses say that; others dispute it. No account has been certified as true. Busbee suggests otherwise, and he also can’t write worth a damn: How could Brown have been killed by police after witnesses reported how he was killed?]  The idea originated with Washington safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and several players followed their lead.

Wrong, wrong, wrong: Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal”

Tugowar

In May, Ethics Alarms opined on the reported story of a student who set out to embarrass his principal by “web-shaming” her regarding an assumed  DUI arrest that was in fact an arrest for something less serious, and her subsequent reaction, which I regarded as excessive based on the published accounts. The principal, Jamille Brown, then endeared herself to this blog by taking the time to post her own account of what occurred, and also by showing grace and good humor in the process. Now she has given us a more thorough account of the incident from her perspective, in the form of a letter she has sent to the TV station that reported the story initially, WSBTV

In response to it, our own Grand Inquisitor, tgt, has carefully critiqued her account, making some perceptive points. Together the two posts exemplify the collaborative nature of our ethical explorations here, and I am grateful for them.

Here are the Comments of the Day, by Jamille Brown and tgt, on the post “Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal”.

First, Ms. Brown: Continue reading

Is George Zimmerman Trying A Homer Simpson Strategy?

The accused, pre-donuts.

The accused, pre-donuts.

Based on his appearance at today’s preliminary hearings for his murder trial, George Zimmerman has packed on a few pounds since he was arrested and charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Might this be an intentional strategy dictated by his lawyer? If so, it would be reminiscent of the memorable episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer decided to give himself the benefit of the Americans With Disabilities Act by eating himself into muu-muus. But would it be ethical?

The theory, I presume, is that the less threatening and mobile Zimmerman looks, the more plausible it will seem to the jury that he was not the aggressor in his fatal tussle with Martin, who, we heard today, the defense will try to portray as a violence-prone thug. This kind of maneuver exploits a structural defect in the jury system, aggravated by the now ridiculously extended justice process. Jurors can only think of a defendant and sometimes a victim as they look in the courtroom, when it is what they were like when the alleged crime occurred that matters. Years ago in the District of Columbia, a wily attorney defending a child molester who swore that his 13-year old victim had credibly presented herself as 18 managed to delay the trial for three years. It was enough time for the victim to get morphed by puberty hard, and she appeared on the stand not as the thin, immature child she was when she was sexually assaulted, but as an obviously sexually-mature young woman speaking in a attractively husky voice, whom one courtroom reporter described as looking at least 25. Her attacker was acquitted. This is considered excellent lawyering. (The prosecutor, who allowed the girl to wear a tight, low-cut dress and full make-up, was, in contrast, an idiot.) Continue reading

Clash of the Ethics Dunces: The Web-shaming Student and the Angry Principal

This doesn't make either of you look very good, guys....

This doesn’t make either of you look very good, guys….

Back when hitch-hiking was in vogue and both hitch-hikers and drivers were being warned about the various horror stories that the transportation transaction had led to through the years, I used to wonder if a murderous hitch-hiker ever got into the car of a homicidal driver, and what ensued. This tale from Riverdale High School (yes, the same school Archie and Veronica go to, apparently), in Georgia is a little like that, though no slaughters were attempted. An ethically inert school principal grossly abused her power in response to a gratuitously cruel student. I suspect this happens rather more often than my hitch-hiking hypothetical.

Student Keandre Varner, on a lark, decided to check and see if a mug shot existed for his high school principal, Jamille Miller Brown.  Sure enough, he found one, so he thought the fair, kind and responsible thing to do was 1) post it on Instagram, and 2) suggest that the mugshot arose from a DUI arrest. Continue reading

A Directory of Answers For the “Instalanche” on “Funny! But Wrong: The “Harry Reid Is A Pederast” Rumor”

Ethics Alarms just isn’t constructed for large waves of angry commenters, as are occasionally generated when I touch on some interest group third rail. I try to respond to as many coherent comments as possible, but when too many of them arrive on the same topic, my “civilized colloquy on ethics” model breaks down, and I find myself spending too much time writing dangerously hasty responses to trolls, fanatics, web terrorists and others who have as much interest in ethics as I have in stamp collecting. I also have to individually green light every new commenter, and this alone takes up time that could be better spent researching and writing new posts.

Legendary conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds generously linked to my recent post on the “Harry Reid is a pederast” campaign online, and that’s generally a good thing, one that most bloggers would give their right arm for,since his blog Instapundit is one of the most popular (and professional) on the web. This, in turn, triggered the so-called “Instalanche” at Ethics Alarms, which has resulted in this blog getting the equivalent of two weeks of typical traffic in 24 hours. Sadly, the vast majority of the comments following the Instalanche are examples of the kind of thinking this blog was established to combat, and as a whole, the group is a graphic example of why political discourse, and indeed the political system itself is so toxic and dysfunctional. This is no knock on Prof. Reynolds, whose blog I read most days, and who is almost always rational and fair. It is a knock on the majority of his readers (not all) who chose to leave comments here.

The comments were, in addition to being non-ethical in nature, brain-meltingly repetitious in their fallacies and themes. It’s bad enough having more comments than I can keep up with; having to read nearly identical sentiments over and over again is more than I can stand. And since it is clear that most of the commenters aren’t  bothering to read the thread, never mind the links in the posts they are railing about or the rest of the blog, this is not going to cease anytime soon. Yes, I know that most of this breed of commenter doesn’t want a response, because their comments are seldom thought through or carefully crafted, and they are shocked to have their sloppy reasoning called so. (Then they accuse me of ad hominem attacks.) Too bad. This isn’t a bulletin board or a graffiti wall.

So I’m no longer going to answer individually the vast majority of the comments on the post in question, “Funny! But Wrong: The “Harry Reid Is A Pederast” Rumor,” just as most of you will not have the time, stomach or stamina to wade through all the comments to it. What I offer for the convenience of everyone concerned, but mostly me, is this, a directory of the most common comments from the current Instalanche, and my answers to them. I will direct all future commenters on the original post here, and the odds are that they will find their reply waiting for them. Continue reading

Funny! But Wrong: The “Harry Reid Is A Pederast” Rumor

Not fair. But deserved.

Various conservative-minded blogs, including some of the most eminent and well-respected, have flooded the internet with “Harry Reid is a pederast ( or pedophile)” rumors, innuendos and suggestions, like this one, from Red State:

“Harry Reid is a pedophile”

“I got that from a reliable source who made me promise not to reveal his name.  But he knows.  Honest. Now I’m sure some would expect me to back up this claim with some of those “fact” thingys or maybe a link or two.  Well, given that I’ve promise anonymity for my source, not happening.  Just Google “Harry Reid pedophile” there are 1.79 million hits. I’ve known this for some time but I was reluctant to go public with the information because I always back up my writing with facts and links.  Since I’m sworn to secrecy this time I was uncomfortable putting this story out until some seminal events occurred this week, and I figured “what’s good for the goose…” Continue reading