Ethics Observations On A Case Study In Combining Bad Journalism With Bad Science

Yes, it’s the New York Times again. I use that paper for the majority of the Ethics Alarm unethical journalism posts for a few reasons. One is that the paper comes to my door every day, so I read a lot of articles that I might miss on the web.  Another is that the Times is the most successful and influential newspaper in the country,  and its work is more closely followed and more criticized than any other paper, and most news sources generally. The Times also advertises itself as the nation’s “paper of record,” placing itself on a pedestal with standards of integrity and reliability that it is obligated to meet….and does not. Finally, the paper is unacceptably biased in its political coverage and editorial product.

Today’s “Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread”  is far from then times at its worst. It is, however, unacceptable and unethical. I’m not even in disagreement with the piece’s main thesis, which is that the regions that have not imposed shelter at home restrictions on the public are at more risk of exploding Wuhan virus cases. That makes sense; that’s even obvious. However, the Times’s main tool in making a case was the map below, which it explained this way:

“Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home.”

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I’ve Looked And I’ve Tried And I Believe In Civility, But The Only Fair Descriptive Word For These People Is “Asshole”

That graph above dominates the New York Times front page this morning, but not in a normal way. The graph is at the bottom of the page and covers its entire width. The long bar representing current unemployment page runs up the entire right margin; it’s a full 18 inches. This wasn’t necessary to convey the information. It was necessary to alarm readers as much as possible. The Times publisher and editors are assholes.

I have been criticized for using that vulgar word here. I think the first time I used it, ironically enough, was to describe Donald Trump when he first said he was running for President in 2012. I used the word to describe the Christian minister who announced that he was going to burn the Koran at a time when Muslim crazies were murdering Christians in retribution for every perceived insult to their religion. I don’t use the word lightly. I use it when more socially acceptable descriptors like “jerk” are obviously inadequate.

An asshole is a person who willfully and often gleefully defies positive social norms for personal gain or just because he or she can, indulging the basest human motivations and non-ethical considerations to the detriment of society. Jerks can reform; usually assholes cannot. When someone acts like an asshole but is not one, often the simple device of  calling them what they are acting like will shock them back into more responsible behavior. This is why the word must remain among our ethics enforcement tools, like a gun, usually holstered, but still available when needed.

It is needed a lot right now.

As I keep reminding readers, in 2015 I wrote a post declaring that if Donald Trump were elected President, he would turn America into a nation of assholes. I was right about that, but completely mistaken about the process. I thought that Trump’s reflexive lack of ethics and civility would poison the young, who typically adopt the values and manners of prominent role models in the culture, and historically no individual exercises more powerful influence over our culture than the President. However, what we have witnessed over the past three years is an epidemic of asshole conduct by those who oppose President Trump, who actually despise him. I didn’t see that coming. The Wuhan virus emergency has especially brought their assholism (“assholery?” “assholicity?” ) into focus.

Ann Althouse said it nicely (without using the word) reacting to Joe Biden’s current strategy of tossing off incoherent insults and second-guessing regarding the President’s handling of the epidemic. She wrote in part… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/25/2020: Lies, Liars, Fake Headlines And False Narratives.

Good morning!

What’s it like outside?

1. The Sisyphus Report. Ethics Alarms is currently at its all time high water mark for followers, a number it has reached three times previously, only to fall back, sometime precipitously.

When you are trapped in your home, you tend to obsess about such things.

2. You know why, but still…the mainstream media isn’t fact-checking or pointing out the blatant, insulting lie from Nancy Pelosi yesterday regarding the House Democrats’ alternative “stimulus” bill that “Everything we’re suggesting just relates to COVID-19. It’s not changing policy except as it applies here.” That bill included [Pointer: The Blaze]:

  • A bailout for the U.S. Postal Service
  • Student loan debt forgiveness
  • Required same-day voter registration
  • Airline emissions standards regulations
  • Study on climate change migration
  • Collective bargaining provisions
  • Increased federal minimum wage for companies that accept government loans
  • Publication of race and pay statistics for corporate boards

I’m not even mentioning things like the millions designated for the Kennedy Center, because that was technically related to addressing harm caused by the pandemic.

As I and many others noted, the Democrats’ grandstanding effort to stuff the rescue bill with progressive agenda items related to climate change, the Green New Deal and other social justice wish list items was political posturing for the base, which was forgivable as long as they didn’t try to hold the nation hostage, which they didn’t, at least for very long. But Pelosi’s denial that her party did what it did in plain sight (for anyone who bothered to read the bill about it) is the stuff of Jumbos, and the news media was obligated to let the public know.

They haven’t, and presumably won’t. Instead, journalists will continue to factcheck and scream about every lazy, non-substantive misstatement of facts by the President, and back the Democratic cant that President Trump always lies.

A party whose leadership issues pure disinformation like Pelosi’s should be estopped from using the “Trump lies”refrain.  Continue reading

Well What Do You Know! The New York Times Decided To Play It Straight This Time And Passed An Integrity Test….Well, For A While, Anyway. [UPDATED]

Maybe they decided they had arrived at a moment when unified resolve was essential and the national interest was at stake, and the paper had no choice but to stop spinning for the Democrats.

Tonight’s just breaking story is headlined, Coronavirus Live Updates: As State Pleas Mount, Trump Outlines Some Federal Action; Senate Democrats Block Stimulus Package.

It says in part,

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, paralyzing the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package they said failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.

The party-line vote was a stunning setback after three days of fast-paced negotiations between senators and administration officials to reach a bipartisan compromise on legislation that is expected to be the largest economic stimulus package in American history — now expected to cost $1.8 trillion or more. In a 47-to-47 vote, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the measure, even as talks continued between behind the scenes between Democrats and the White House to salvage a compromise.

The failure to move forward shook financial markets and threatened an ambitious timeline set by the Trump administration and leading Republicans to move the rescue package through the Senate on Monday and enact it within days.

In voting to block action, Democrats risked a political backlash if they are seen as obstructing progress on a measure that is widely regarded as crucial to aid desperate Americans and prop up a flagging economy.

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Once Again, “The Good Illegal Immigrant.” Once Again, I Am Not Sympathetic

Nor should I be.

Nor should you.

Once again, the New York Times has published another of its entries into what I call “The Good Illegal Immigrant” files. The “good illegal immigrant” is a contradiction in terms, as much as “the good embezzler” or “the good bigamist.” This ongoing propaganda by the Times as the journalistic vanguard of the open borders mission of the American Left is in its fourth year. These features are stuffed with emotionally manipulative tales and quotes about the travails of residents of the United States who broke the law by coming here, and who continue to stay here, reaping the benefits that are supposed to be reserved to citizens while being nauseatingly self-righteous about it. The Times surpasses itself this time, with “Telling the Truth Wasn’t An Option” by Julissa Arce, illegally in this country from the age of eleven, whose dilemma was finally resolved when she married an American citizen.

It’s convenient that the title itself embodies a rationalization, indeed a couple whoppers from the Ethics Alarms list: #25, The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!” and #31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.” Telling the truth is always an option if one has the courage and integrity to be accountable. The headline applies to anyone who is engaged in an ongoing crime, or guilty of a past one, except that in this case, the individual feels uniquely entitled to not only avoid the just consequences of  her own actions, but to seek sympathy for her discomfort in doing so. Continue reading

The 1619 Project And Ethics Villains Nicole Hannah-Jones And The New York Times

This disturbing story is signature significance.

The New York Times Magazine published its 1619 Project, named for the date of the first arrival of Africans on American soil, in August or 2019 with great fanfare and self congratulation. It purported to be a traditional wisdom-shaking view of America’s founding, placing slavery at the center of American political, social, and economic institutions, not a revolutionary desire by a remarkable group of visionaries to establish a culture rooted in human liberty, Time reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones  championed and conceived the  project, and authored the introduction to the epic, writing in part, “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”

Hannah-Jones was candid about her objectives. “When my editor asks me, like, what’s your ultimate goal for the project, my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.” She was, she said, thrilled that  people told her that they feel “they are understanding the architecture of their country in a way that they had not.”

From the beginning, the Times publication was clearly an ideological enterprise, and squarely within the paper’s partisan mission. Because that mission is shared by most of the most influential media sources, including NPR, it was almost universally praised. That endorsement was not restricted to journalism, however.

For decades, colleges and universities, bolstered by popular culture and propaganda from the mainstream media, have immersed rising generations in the narrative  that America  is an oppressive,  white supremacist culture in need of fundamental reform. The 1619 Project offered an accompanying school lesson plan for junior high and high-schoolers, and since its publication, teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (of course) taught parts of its curriculum. Just last month the  Buffalo Public Schools announced their district will “infuse 1619 Project resources into the mainstream English and Social Studies . . . at grades 7-12.” Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Chicago Public Schools have followed.

The deconstruction of American pride and its origins as a nation founded on values rather than nationalistic and economic objectives is an essential predicate for so many of the Left’s plans for the country. Is this assessment unfair (by Arthur Milihk)? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/30/2020: The Almost All Bolton Edition

No, that’s not my Christmas tree, that’s John Bolton.

 Reluctantly Taking Down The Christmas Tree Day has finally arrived.

I’m sad. This was one of the Marshall’s loveliest trees ever; a neighbor said just yesterday that seeing it through our big living room window cheered her up every day. I always dread this, and not just because of the inevitable prickle wounds: the world seems a darker and more pessimistic place without a bit of Christmas in evidence. However, there’s no avoiding the chore: this tree is so dry I am taking down ornaments by snapping off the ends of branches by my fingers.

1. On Bolton. I suppose this qualifies as a sub ethics train wreck to the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck, which is itself a sub ethics train wreck to the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck…

  • Former Trump National security advisor John Bolton, a hawkish loose cannon who gets along with no one, was another example of a doomed appointment by the “We’ll appoint the best people” President. A  falling out and  acrimonious dismissal were so predictable, just as with Moochie, Bannon, Omarosa and other dubious personalities.

And, of course, the President is a dubious personality himself.

What a great witness!

  • Bolton, like Omarosa, wasted no time cashing in on his truncated White House experience, and wrote a book for Simon & Shuster scheduled to be released in March of 2020. This conduct alone is signature significance for an untrustworthy snake. Once, now long ago, no respectable member of a Cabinet or high official in an administration would write a tell-all book revealing incidents and words  learned in trust and confidence while that administration was still trying to govern, and many would refuse to reveal such information ever.

Though Bolton’s venal disloyalty has entered “Everybody does it” territory, it is still wrong, still unethical, and still the mark of a Judas. Continue reading