Unethical Tweet Of The Week: Matt Zoller Seitz, With An Assist From Ann Althouse, Sliming Principled Whistleblowers

Stoller tweet

Let me preface this commentary with some disjointed points:

  • When tweets are involved, I should probably call this category “Unethical Tweet Of The Hour.” Minute, even.
  • Matt Zoller Seitz is a hard-left critic and screenwriter who sometimes opines for the proudly Left-Lunatic “Daily Kos.”
  • Ann Althouse’s reaction to this—she gets the EA Pointer for finding the tweet—puts me in mind of Captain Von Trapp’s rebuke to his friend, the venal and principle-free theatrical producer Max, in “The Sound of Music” film when Max tries to rationalize the Anschluss by noting that it was “peaceful”: “You know, Max. . . . . .sometimes I don’t believe I know you.”
  • She also professed ignorance at the tweet’s reference to “the Bruenigs.” See the note immediately above: it took me ten seconds to check the reference, longer than it must have taken Ann to write that she didn’t understand it. Matt Bruenig is a Socialist pundit, and Elizabeth Bruenig is a former columnist at the Washington Post of similar ideological sympathies, now with the New York Times. The Bruenigs have a podcast called “The Bruenigs.”
  • The “tweets” Althouse refers to relates to a re-tweeter of the Seitz tweet who added this shot from a film I couldn’t identify:

Preppy assholes

Sietz is scummily implying that criticizing the now obvious turn by the American Left to totalitarian-style speech suppression and the mainstream news media’s complicity in the process is the equivalent of Fifties-style, white prep school  conservatism mocked in films like “Auntie Mame,” Animal House,” and “Trading Places.” In fact, Greenwald, Sullivan, Yglesias and, though unsmeared here, Matt Taibbi are all left-leaning journalists or pundits of long standing who have had the integrity to break with their biased and unethical employers to blow necessary whistles on their former colleagues, as mainstream journalism has abandoned any pretense of doing its job while following its own ethics rules.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Matt Taibbi, “Rolling Stone” Columnist

“I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals – people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney’s War on Terror apparatus – into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one’s accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism.”

—Progressive “Rolling Stone” columnist Matt Taibbi, in “Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties: The Blue Party’s Trump-era Embrace of Authoritarianism Isn’t Just Wrong, it’s a Fatal Political Mistake”

I’m not highlighting Taibbi’s excellent essay as an appeal to authority, not at all. I’ve written about the situation he’s bemoaning for more than three years, and I’ve made my case. (Check the “Totalitarianism” tag—Taibbi should be using that term rather than “authoritarianism.”)  I don’t need Matt Taibbi to prove my analysis correct. I’m calling attention to his essay because it’s a relief: so many people have told me that I am a Fox News, Trumper zombie for pointing out what should be screamingly apparent. For years I have been reading fevered warnings that the President was a dangerous authoritarian endangering democracy, when it seemed apparent that the party those critics supported were presenting the real threat by undermining our institutions and ignoring both the Constitution and the law.  I was beginning to doubt my sanity, just like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight.” Only a handful of analysts with courage and integrity—Professors Turley, Dershowitz, Jacobson and Althouse; journalist Glenn Greenwald, a few liberal pundits like Taibbi and Andrew Sullivan (sometimes) kept me from self-commitment.

More from Taibbi, on Michael Flynn:

Warrantless surveillance, multiple illegal leaks of classified information, a false statements charge constructed on the razor’s edge of Miranda, and the use of never-produced, secret counterintelligence evidence in a domestic criminal proceeding – this is the “rule of law” we’re being asked to cheer.

Russiagate cases were often two-level offenses: factually bogus or exaggerated, but also indicative of authoritarian practices. Democrats and Democrat-friendly pundits in the last four years have been consistently unable to register objections on either front.

Flynn’s case fit the pattern. We were told his plea was just the “tip of the iceberg” that would “take the trail of Russian collusion” to the “center of the plot,” i.e. Trump. It turned out he had no deeper story to tell. In fact, none of the people prosecutors tossed in jail to get at the Russian “plot” – some little more than bystanders – had anything to share.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias. Continue reading

Chris Wallace Is Sincere And Deluded, But To Be Fair, It’s Understandable.

“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” Fox anchor Chis Wallace told the audience at an event honoring the First Amendment. “The president’s attacks have done some damage..A Freedom Forum Institute poll this year found 29 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes ‘too far.’ And 77 percent say ‘fake news’ is a serious threat to our democracy,” Wallace continued.

“Ours is a great profession — maybe the best way to make a living anyone ever came up with. Think of it. We are paid to tell the truth—to cut through all the spin—all the distractions — and tell the American people what is really going on.”

Chris Wallace is a smart guy; I knew him a little when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in the same residential House in college. He’s also a journalist with integrity, the antithesis of stereotypes and smears that are routinely used to delegitimize Fox News reporting, often the only broadcast news source to counter the Left’s propaganda.  It would be weird if Wallace didn’t believe the myth about journalism, given his pedigree (icon Mike Wallace was Chris’s father) and the fact that he was immersed in his father’s world virtually from birth.

So I sympathize, but what an obviously ridiculous statement to make in public, literally from beginning to end! This might be the best example of how “Bias makes you stupid” of all time; I can’t think of a better one. Imagine: Wallace asserts one false position after another, then says “We are paid to tell the truth.” He would be lying, except I’m sure he believes it all. Chris, I’m sure, does try to tell the truth. He is apparently incapable of telling the truth about his friends and colleagues, because he is incapable of seeing it.

Let’s see:

We all have a right to do many terrible, unfair, wrongful and harmful things. People have a right to have children they can’t take care of, for example. They have a right to be unfaithful to their spouses, to misrepresent their affections to partners who think they are loved. Parents have a right to warp the values and education of their children. People have a right to accept jobs that they are unqualified to do well; they have a right not to retire long after they know they have become incompetent. We have a right to be biased, to be prejudiced, and to hate irrationally. We have a right to vote, even if we vote ignorantly and without meeting our duty to be informed citizens. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Yes, she had a right to kill them, for they were her property. A billionaire could buy a great work of art and destroy it on a whim, too. Gratuitous, wanton or cruel destruction of property that others derive joy or practical use from, however, is still unethical.

Yes, we often have a right to do something wrong. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them.

Wallace is really and truly saying that criticizing how a right is exercised poses a threat to the existence of that right. This is now a reflex defense by journalists, which is itself, ironically, a tactic designed to suppress speech. They want to criticize those they oppose, but criticizing the manner in which they frequently do it—incompetently, recklessly, dishonesty and with bias—is deemed an attack on their right to do it. Chris Wallace is smart enough to understand the distinction, or was, before his bias softened his brain. Continue reading

Ethics Villains Of The Impeachment Coup, Part II

Is it really a coup attempt? Ethics Alarms has been calling the assault on the Trump Presiency that for quite a while. The reflex reaction I get from the Facebook Borg and others  is to deflect the accusation by sneering about “Fox News talking points.” I don’t use talking points. I almost never watch Fox News. A lot of intelligent, knowledgeable people know a coup when they see one; it isn’t hard. I suspect many of the Trump-Hate Brigade that ridicule that diagnosis know it’s a coup too. And they want one.

That means that they have abandoned the idea of American democracy. They may be the most important villains of the attempted impeachment coup.

With a recent essay, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi identified himself as one of the very few progressives with the integrity to call out his side of the ideological spectrum for what it is doing to the nation. He wrote in part:

I’ve lived through a few coups. They’re insane, random, and terrifying, like watching sports, except your political future depends on the score. The kickoff begins when a key official decides to buck the executive. From that moment, government becomes a high-speed head-counting exercise. Who’s got the power plant, the airport, the police in the capital? How many department chiefs are answering their phones? Who’s writing tonight’s newscast?

…We have long been spared this madness in America. Our head-counting ceremony was Election Day. We did it once every four years.

That’s all over, in the Trump era.

On Thursday, news broke that two businessmen said to have “peddled supposedly explosive information about corruption involving Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden” were arrested at Dulles airport on “campaign finance violations.” The two figures are alleged to be bagmen bearing “dirt” on Democrats, solicited by Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman will be asked to give depositions to impeachment investigators. They’re reportedly going to refuse. Their lawyer John Dowd also says they will “refuse to appear before House Committees investigating President Donald Trump.” Fruman and Parnas meanwhile claim they had real derogatory information about Biden and other politicians, but “the U.S. government had shown little interest in receiving it through official channels.”

For Americans not familiar with the language of the Third World, that’s two contrasting denials of political legitimacy.

The men who are the proxies for Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in this story are asserting that “official channels” have been corrupted. The forces backing impeachment, meanwhile, are telling us those same defendants are obstructing a lawful impeachment inquiry.

This latest incident, set against the impeachment mania and the reportedly “expanding” Russiagate investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham, accelerates our timeline to chaos. We are speeding toward a situation when someone in one of these camps refuses to obey a major decree, arrest order, or court decision, at which point Americans will get to experience the joys of their political futures being decided by phone calls to generals and police chiefs.

…My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump. Many Americans don’t see this because they’re not used to waking up in a country where you’re not sure who the president will be by nightfall. They don’t understand that this predicament is worse than having .a bad president.  

“The people pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump.” Continue reading