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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/28/17 (Yes, It’s The CNN Sting Video)

1. What weight should we place on the latest James O’Keefe Project Veritas sting video? I detest O’Keefe, whose methods are unethical and whose bias is manifest. Nonetheless, what he catches he catches: like the Wikileaks leaks showing Donna Brazile cheating for Hillary, we can’t pretend that damning evidence doesn’t exist because it has been obtained and released unethically.

To track O’Keefe’s latest, I had to search through multiple websites that I don’t trust, like (yuck! pooie!) Breitbart, because the liberal-biased sources either aren’t covering the story or aren’t covering it thoroughly, because, I assume, “There but for the grace of God go we!”, and everything the stung CNN producer said might have been said by someone in their shops as well.

And, of course, since they are not happy about the #1 Get Trump plot by the Democrats and the news media flopping like a dying mackerel on the deck, they want to hide the story from the public as much as they can.

2. Here is the most publicized part of the surreptitiously shot video’s text, which occurs after CNN producer John Bonifield is asked about the Trump-Russia story and the investigation.

“Could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any giant proof. Then they say, well there’s still an investigation going on. And you’re like, yeah, I don’t know. If they were finding something we would know about it. The way these leaks happen, they would leak it. They’d leak. If it was something really good, it would leak…. The leaks keep leaking and there’s so many great leaks, and it’s amazing. I just refuse to believe that if they had something really good like that that wouldn’t leak because we’ve been getting all these other leaks. So, I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the president is probably right to say, like, look you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun. You have no real proof.”

If any of this surprises you, then you really have to get your ethics alarms checked and your IQ-lowering biases treated, because all this has been obvious except to logic and fairness-deprived members of “the resistance,” Hillary bitter-enders, and people who think CNN and MSNBC are trustworthy. Like most Project Veritas videos, this one only confirms what progressives have denied for political reasons, thus rendering themselves untrustworthy.

3. I was more interested in another quote caught on the video, one which was harder to find because most reporters and bloggers don’t think ethics is newsworthy. After describing a CNN meeting in which reporters were told by CNN brass to stop covering the climate accords with the directive, “Let’s get back to Russia!”, Bonifield says,
Continue reading

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The New York Times’ Lies About “Trump’s Lies”

In a grandstanding stunt that was even beneath the fallen role model of U.S. journalism, The New York Times printed what it claimed to be “the definitive list of Donald Trump’s lies” since his inauguration. To say the the list was itself full of lies, and that the over-all assertion that these were “Trump’s lies” was a misrepresentation, is not in any way to excuse the President’s lazy, careless, incompetent use of language, impulsive habits of communication, shockingly inept reasoning and  reckless tweeting. Almost all of the statements quoted by the Times contain misinformation, irresponsible opinions  or unwarranted conclusions, and it is dangerous and disruptive for any leader, indeed anyone, to express themselves this way. Nevertheless, the statements are not all lies. Most of them, in fact, are not lies.

Does it matter? It does. When the New York Times call a list “definitive,’ that list should at a minimum meet the definition of what the New York Times claims to be exposing. It does not. The definition of a lie is a “a deliberately false statement designed to deceive.”

If we assume that the New York Times knows what a lie is, and if the Times does not then it should have no credibility at all, since a journalist’s mission is to report the truth, then the list proves that the New York Times deliberately set out to deceive its readers.

At one point, the Times says,

“We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.”

This is a self-contradictory statement. If a falsehood isn’t deliberate, then it isn’t a lie.

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

I’m not going to go over the entire list here and distinguish between the lies and non-lies, though I have done the analysis. My template for an undisputed Presidential lie would be Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—he did, and he said this deliberately to deceive; and Barack Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” declaration that he made repeatedly to sell Obamacare to the American people in 2009. The “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job” is a fake statistic that both Clinton  and Obama (and Hillary and Bernie) used, but that would not qualify as a lie on my scale.  I think they believe it, or believe that it’s close enough to true that they aren’t lying when they refer to it. Many of the “lies” on the list fall into this gray area. Of course, the Times never set out to list all of Obama’s lies, or Clinton’s, because they never wanted to suggest either of them were untrustworthy, though a good argument could be made that Clinton was, and Obama regularly engaged in deceit and misrepresentation. To its credit, the Post’s Factchecker did create a list of outgoing President Obama’s “Top Ten Whoppers.”

Many statements that Obama made that were much like dozens of the items on the Trump list were never called “lies” in the mainstream media, as when he attacked the Supreme Court and the Citizens United ruling in a State of the Union address by saying that the decision “will open the floodgates for special interests”…“ including foreign corporations”…” to spend without limit in our elections.” (Justice Alito was seen mouthing “not true” and shaking his head.”)

Unfortunately for the Times, listing “Trump’s lies” chronologically exposed the dishonest and biased nature of the exercise from the start. The first three “lies” are not lies.: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/27/17 [Updated]

1. Since I don’t want to have too many posts at once showing how untrustworthy CNN has become, let’s put this one in the short form: on Sunday, CNN’s alleged show about journalism ethics, “Reliable Sources,” hosted by “watchdog” (stifling a guffaw here) Brian Stelter, conveniently skipped the single biggest broadcast journalism scandal in years.

Thomas Frank, a reporter for “CNN Investigates, announced that “the Senate Intelligence Committee  was investigating a Russian investment fund”, the Direct Investment Fund — “whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.” The CNN “exclusive ” was based on a single  unnamed source, and quickly attacked as fake news—which it appears to have been. CNN, of course, has pushed the Trump-Russia collusion hypothesis as if it were a missing Malaysian airplane. The network pulled the story, retracted it, and three reporters involved in the fiasco “resigned.”

If one were depending on Stelter to get a weekly briefing on how reliable and ethical news media sources were in the week past, one would have been thoroughly deceived. “Reliable Sources,” under the oversight of Stelter, itself isn’t reliable or ethical. It is a house mouthpiece, masquerading as an ethics show. This is res ipsa loquitur, an episode that speaks so loudly by itself that no further evidence is required. If the host of a broadcast ethics watchdog cannot and will not report on serious ethics breaches by his own employer, which is also one of the most visible and significant broadcast news outlets in the journalism, then the show isn’t really dedicated to journalism ethics. It is a biased tool of competition and propaganda, with conflicts of interest that it neither admits nor tries to avoid.

Stelter devoted most of his show to attacking President Trump for not according proper respect to the news media. The President has labelled CNN as “fake news.” This episode vividly demonstrated why.

2. Watching HLN’s Robin Meade this morning to avoid “Fox and Friends” (the CNN outgrowth also has thus far  neglected to mention the network’s fake news episode,) the Cheerful Earful began, “The minimum wage might actually hurt workers????” while making a shocked face that would be appropriate if she was saying that the moon was made of cheese. Thus do those constantly marinated in progressive/ Bernie-style fantasies set themselves up for amazement by the obvious.

Yes, Robin, it has been well-known for about a century that raising the minimum wages causes unemployment for workers whose negligible skills just are not worth the new mandated wage, eliminates whole job categories (summer jobs for teens being the most harmful to society), and puts many small businesses out of business. But never mind! “Living wage” sounds so kind and  good, and the rising minimum wage is always a tool to help unions  argue for increases in their much more than minimum wages, which is why the Democratic Party keeps promoting the lie that raising the minimum wage ever higher makes sense.

Robin was shocked at a new study of the results of Seattle’s huge minimum wage increase, enacted in the heat of mindless progressive faith. Conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city, the study indicates that far from benefiting low-wage employees, the costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one. This is the study found that  some employers have not been able to afford the mandated minimums, so they are cutting payrolls, delaying new hiring, reducing hours or firing workers. Gee, who could have predicted that?  The news media is reporting this as if it is a surprise. It’s not. I oversaw a study at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decades ago that indicted this would happen, because it has happened before. Frankly, it’s obvious; so obvious that I have long believed that Democratic Party advocates for the minimum wage are lying to their gullible supporters.  Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton made raising the minimum wage a rallying cry, which is one of many reasons why I found it impossible to trust Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

In the meantime, having seen the writing on the wall, restaurants are increasingly moving to replace waiters, waitresses, and cashiers with automated systems, because they are cheaper…thanks to the minimum wage. If humans were cheaper, humans would keep those jobs, and restaurants would be more pleasant, unless you prefer dealing with computers than human beings. I don’t.

Lies have consequences. Or as Robin would say, “Lies have consequences???” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/26/17

1. I am puzzled that no respected journalism source—assuming arguendo that there is one—hasn’t taken on the New York Times’ alleged list of President Trump’s “lies,” which was in my Sunday Times and released on-line earlier. I will do it today, but it shouldn’t fall to me, or other similarly obscure analysts. Why, for example, hasn’t the Washington Post taken this golden opportunity to prove how biased, dishonest and incompetent its rival is? Because, you see, the list is disgraceful, and smoking gun evidence of the Times’ abdication of its duty to its readers, except its own perceived duty to give them around the clock Trump-bashing.

The other thing I’m puzzled about is why I continue to subscribe to the New York Times.

2. One possible reason: The Sunday Times is now a weekly collage of the various derangements, false narratives and  obsessions of the Left, and worth reading just to witness how 1) bias makes you stupid and 2) how unmoored to reality one can be and still be judged worthy of op-ed space. Here, for example, is “Black Deaths, American Lies” (the print title), a screed by Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. (Disclosure: I was also a professor at American University. But I was an honest and apolitical one.)

The first line is, “Why are police officers rarely charged for taking black lives, and when they are, why do juries rarely convict?” This is deceit: an honest scholar wouldn’t have written it, and an ethical editor wouldn’t have allowed it to get into print. The sentence implies that officers are less rarely charged and convicted when they take white lives, and this is not true. In the print version, the article is headed by a touching photo of a street memorial to Mike Brown, whom we now know got himself shot. The Black Lives Matter narrative that Brown was murdered is still carried on by racist activists, ignorant members of the public, cynical politicians  and unethical figures like Kendi, who lend their authority to divisive falsehoods.  Kendi then focuses on the Philandro Castile shooting, as if its facts support his thesis. They don’t. First, the officer was charged, though he shouldn’t have been. Second, we have now seen the video, which clearly shows that after telling the officer that he had a gun, Castile reached into his pocket and began pulling out his wallet as the obviously panicked officer shouted at him not to pull out his gun. Just as the video proves that the officer was unfit to be a cop, it shows that he was in fear of his life and why. He could not be convicted of murder on that evidence. Never mind: The professor writes, Continue reading

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What Is The White House’s Obligation To Journalism And Journalists When They Are No Longer Behaving As Journalists Nor Abiding by Journalism Ethics?

I know: I’m full of questions lately, and short on answers. I certainly don’t have an answer to this one, and the urgency of finding an answer, and a solution to the underlying crisis, is critical.

Here was Camille Paglia last week describing the state of American journalism:

“It’s obscene. It’s outrageous, OK? It shows that the Democrats are nothing now but words and fantasy and hallucination and Hollywood. There’s no journalism left. What’s happened to The New York Times? What’s happened to the major networks? It’s an outrage. I’m a professor of media studies, in addition to a professor of humanities, OK? And I think it’s absolutely grotesque the way my party has destroyed journalism. Right now, it is going to take decades to recover from this atrocity that’s going on where the news media have turned themselves over to the most childish fraternity, kind of buffoonish behavior.”

(I would link to a non-right wing source, but for some reason the mainstream media didn’t feel Paglia’s assessment was worth reporting. I wonder why?)

Now here was Peggy Noonan, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

“Dislike of Mr. Trump within the mainstream media is unalterable,” she wrote. “It permeates every network, from intern to executive producer and CEO. Here is a theory on what they’re thinking: They’re thinking attempts at fairness and balance in this charged atmosphere get them nowhere. They’re attacked by both sides. And anyway they think Mr. Trump is insane. They live on ratings, which determine advertising rates. Hillary Clinton got 2.9 million more votes than Mr. Trump, so the anti-Trump audience is larger.

Hillary Clinton got 2.9 million more votes than Mr. Trump, so the anti-Trump audience is larger. Moreover, people who oppose Mr. Trump tend to be more affluent, more educated, more urban. They’re more liberal, of course, and they’re younger. They’re a desirable demographic. The pro-Trump audience is more rural, more working- and middle-class, older. A particularly heartless media professional might sum them up this way: “Their next big lifestyle choice will be death.”

So, if you are a person who programs or sets the tone of network fare and you want to take a side—you shouldn’t, but you want to!—you throw your lot with the anti-Trump demo, serving them the kind of journalistic approaches and showbiz attitudes they’re likely to enjoy.

Mr. Trump, you are certain, won’t last: He’ll bring himself down or be brought down. You want to be with the winning side. So play to those who hate him, exclude others, call it integrity and reap the profits.”

Both women are substantially right at worst, despite the furious head-shaking you get from journalists, who are either in denial or corrupt, and most progressives and Democrats, who have every reason to deny the phenomenon because 1) they are the beneficiaries of it and 2) they have been leached of all integrity by emotion, arrogance, and bias.

Currently the mainstream news media is having a collective conniption because the White House is increasingly limiting reporter access. The journalists regard this as an ominous effort to constrain the free press, which it would be, except that the “free press” is not conducting itself as honest and trustworthy journalists are obligated to do.

If a lawyer practices law in blatant violation of the ethics rules, he or she doesn’t get to practice law any more. If a doctor breaches the ethical tenets of the medical profession, he or she is barred from treating patients. Journalism styles itself as a profession, meaning that it exists for the public good. Its ethical principles demand fairness, competence, responsible reporting, independence and objectivity. For a long, long time, what we still call “journalism’ for lack of a better name has not met any of these ethical ideals with sufficient consistency, and since the 2016 election, it has openly, shamelessly allied itself with the partisan effort to undermine and destroy the legally elected Presidency of Donald Trump. To do this, the mainstream news media has jettisoned its ethical values, and its right to be trusted by the public. As polls show, the public doesn’t trust them. The public still gives them more trust, out of habit, that they deserve.

For example, here’s a news flash: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/22/17

1.  I’m trying to get this up while I prepare for a new legal ethics seminar, teaming once again with the brilliant D.C. actor Paul Morella who has toured the country in the Clarence Darrow one-man-show he and I collaborated on more than a decade ago, using Darrow’s career and courtroom oratory to analyze modern legal ethics.  Readers here have encountered a lot of those Darrow-related discussions already. For once, I’m grateful most lawyers don’t frequent this blog.

2. This now viral photo of the faces of CNN’s talking heads and analysts at the moment they realized that the Democrats had lost the Georgia Sixth District special House election that was hyped to be the beginning of a surge to the Left rejecting Donald Trump…

…and this one…

…are more than just gags. They are smoking gun evidence of the stunning lack of professionalism in journalism, and especially CNN. If there was any sensitivity or commitment to ethics on that set or in that production chain of command, every one of these arrogant hacks would have been told, “I want poker faces up there at all times. Objective and fair news reporting includes body language and facial expressions. Your attitudes warp your reporting. If anything about your demeanor betrays your personal preferences or political biases, you’re getting suspended. Got that? This isn’t a cheerleading squad.

3.  This warrants its own post, but today will be a squeeze, so I’ll focus on the astounding chutzpah of  that race’s loser here and now. Losing Georgia Six Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff was interviewed by NPR’s Rachel Martin, and this exchange resulted: Continue reading

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New York Times: ‘Now That The Supreme Court Has Ruled That Our Position Was Progressive Censorious Jack-Boot Political Correctness Enforcement, We Didn’t Mean It’

 

How can anyone take the New York Times seriously anymore as an objective source of commentary, reporting and analysis?

Here is a hilarious section from today’s editorial celebrating the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Matal v. Tam as a victory for free speech:

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the law violates a “bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” That’s the right call. The First Amendment bars the government from discriminating among speakers based on their viewpoints. In this case, the Trademark Office did that by blocking only registrations for trademarks it determined to have negative connotations. …The decision is likely to help the Washington Redskins, who lost their trademark protections in 2014 after years of complaints from Native American groups. At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive. Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.

Really? When did the Times reconsider that “underlying position”? It reconsidered it only when the Supreme Court made it crystal clear that the government’s attempt to bully the Redskins into changing their name was a neon-bright, obvious First Amendment breach that any non-partisanship-addled person of moderate intelligence should be able to discern, thus constituting an embarrassment for a renowned First Amendment-protected entity—the Times—that couldn’t discern it, or that didn’t have the integrity to oppose its ideological allies by stating the inconvenient truth.

The Times endorsed the underlying position that the government could dictate what was “acceptable” speech because Harry Reid’s Democrats and the Obama Administration were doing the dictating on behalf of a core Democratic Party constituency and the progressives that constitute the Times’s readership.

What a cynical, biased, dishonest, corrupt and untrustworthy news source the New York Times has become.

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