Tag Archives: New York Times

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/2018: Plan O, Bad Punditry, Racist Trash Talk, And Disrespecting a 101 Year Old Star

Good morning, World!

1 Golden Globes hangover I. Following up on a point made in yesterday’s Golden Globes post, presenter Natalie Portman’s much-praised but unfair innuendo that the directors nominated in the “best director” category were there because of gender bias rather than the quality of their work was an example of shooting the bystander rather than the villain. The fact that women don’t get the opportunities to direct major films that men do–as a result of many factors, none of which relate to the relative directing abilities of the two pools–is not the fault of the male directors who get the jobs, nor does the fact of discrimination make the films that women do get to direct inherently better and more award-worthy than they are.

That said, the bias against female directors is real, and dumb. Here is an excellent article about it.

2. A Nation of Silly People. I warned that electing Donald Trump as President would eventually turn us into a Nation of Assholes, and that has come to pass with unexpected rapidity. I did not see the development resulting in the US becoming a nation of silly people, though that process was well underway already. The rush to anoint Oprah Winfrey as the savior of the Republic based on a speech at an entertainment awards show, however, is new evidence of the damage done to the nation’s values by the Trump trauma. Oprah is a cult, pop culture figure; a democracy deteriorating into a society where celebrities and cult leaders become political leaders was one of the fears expressed by our Founders. For the Left to embrace Oprah is stunning hypocrisy, after more than a year of (correctly) accusing Republicans of nominating a Presidential candidate with none of the qualifications traditionally required to be taken seriously as a contender for the office. Many unhealthy trends of long standing pointed to this eventuality,it is true: celebrity obsession, poor civic education, ignorance of history, and new age gibberish, plus the stunning absence of legitimate leaders in both political parties. Having followed O for a long time, since her days in Baltimore as a rising lief-style reporter, I recognize a lot of warning signs regarding her ethical instincts, such as her addiction to talking about “personal truths,” which is just a sneaky way of endorsing “alternate facts,” her troubling anti-vaxx statements, her promotion of fake experts like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, her race-baiting, and more. There will be plenty of time to elaborate on these if and when her candidacy becomes more than a twinkle in E!’s eye. I doubt that we’ll get there, but as President Trump proved, you never know in the United States of America.

3. A “Nah, there’s no media bias against Trump” note: During the Golden Globes broadcast, NBC, that paragon of journalism integrity, tweeted this:

4. Fake news in irresponsible punditry.  I have been meaning to write about this op-ed by New York Times “contributing opinion writer” Kashana Cauley for more than a week now, and the task has seemed so odious that I have avoided it. It is as bad an op-ed as I have ever seen, full of false assertions, misrepresentations , rationalizations and racial hate. I wonder when the New York Times editors reached the point where they would regard such trash as fit to be published under its banner. Rather than dissect the ugly thing as I originally intended, I’ll let you do the work, with me just pointing out some, but far from all, of the features that make this such unethical op-ed page content. Continue reading

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The New York Times’ “Lessons From A Year Talking Race”: Not Fake News, Just Divisive And Misleading Propaganda

“Over the past year, we have hosted weekly live conversations about race and ethnicity on Facebook, tackling topics that ranged from black royalty to Latino baseball players to Asian-American slurs. RaceNYT, as we call the segment, is an extension of the crucial coverage on race — in America and beyond — that appears in The New York Times. We see it as a chance not only to explore important stories of race and what they mean to society, but also to give you, our readers and viewers, a chance to join the conversation.

These subjects are not always easy to talk about. Why, for instance, is affordable housing built mostly in poor, heavily minority areas? What are the terms about race that make us uncomfortable? And what do the United States and major institutions like universities owe the descendants of the enslaved people they profited from?

We explored these issues and more with a wide range of guests, including political strategists, filmmakers, academics and Times viewers. Here are five takeaways from the show…”

Thus spake the New York Times, online a couple of days ago, and in today’s print edition. What are stated as “takeaways” are, however, the product of confirmation bias, dubious assumptions, and efforts at political manipulation. For example…

Like racial minorities in the United States, Indigenous Australians are often relegated to the fringe of society, Craig Quartermaine, an Aboriginal television reporter and comedian, told us. “We’re window dressing,” he said.

Why this is unethical: Comparing the problems of Indigenous Australians to “racial minorities in the United States” is unsupportable. A comparison with indigenous North American populations would arguably be valid.

Madeline Vann reached out to us, wondering how she should handle the racially offensive remarks she was hearing in her community. She is a white freelance writer in Virginia.

Why this is unethical: Uh-uh. Ethics foul. You can’t tar a community like that without giving concrete examples. I live in Virginia: I almost never hear any “racially offensive remarks.” The New York Times core audience is the same group that believes it is “racially offensive” to object to NFL players using stadium time to issue half-baked protests they can’t articulate during the national anthem. The Times’ supposedly open inquiry on race begins with the assumption that the nation is racist. That’s called a bias. What kind of remarks are you talking about Madeline? How many, how often and from how many people?

“The first year of the Trump presidency has been marked by a vast racial chasm where perspectives often exist in different worlds.”

Why this is unethical: Wow, all that division in such a short time! This statement is deceitful. The reason there is a vast racial chasm is because the previous administration had eight years to put it there, and the because the news media fully committed to the project. The Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Trump Inauguration, because part of the campaign strategy against him was to declare he was a racist, and that anyone who voted for him was a racist. That was a strategy developed into an art form to protect Barack Obama from legitimate criticism, and keep his loyal African American base angry and afraid.

Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of a “white Hispanic” was politicized by Obama and the CDC to widen that “chasm,” and it occurred midway through the Obama years. In 2012, Joe Biden said that the Republicans wanted to put blacks “back in chains.” Black Lives Matter wasn’t a creature of the Trump administration. Black college students didn’t start demanding “safe spaces” without whites and special privileges after Trump’s election: they did it before. The historical airbrushing madness to use slavery to justify erasing any references to the confederacy was an Obama era phenomenon that has extended into Trump’s administration. The Oscars were bullied into making race a criteria for artistic honors during Obama’s administration.

The more I read that quote, the more misleading and intentionally dishonest it seems.

The Muslim-American activists Aber Kawas and Dalia Mogahed told us how they felt last month when the authorities quickly described an attack by a Muslim man in Manhattan as terrorism, while that term was never officially applied to a white man who fatally shot more than 50 people in Las Vegas weeks earlier.

“Pretty much we define terror attacks as something that’s done by a Muslim,” Ms. Kawas said. Continue reading

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I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)

Jerry Richardson (above), the 81-year-old original owner of the Carolina Panthers in the NFL,  has decided that rather than ride out the sexual harassment allegations  recently reported  by Sports Illustrated, the wisest (and most lucrative course) will be to sell the team after this season. His profit will be somewhere in the billions, not that he isn’t a billionaire already.

New York Times sportswriter Juliet Macur is grievously offended by this, writing,

“Here’s what would make more sense: For Richardson to announce that the proceeds of the sale — or even just a couple hundred million? — would be donated to the women he harassed…[Many men] have been chased from the top of their professions for disgusting behavior involving women they worked with. They are suddenly pariahs, their reputations destroyed. But they remain very rich men, and their families, for generations, will be able to live off the financial rewards they collected while perpetuating these offenses….Richardson, who made his fortune in the fast-food industry, might be the richest of all the men accused in the #MeToo movement so far. Perhaps it’s appropriate, in a legal sense, that he is able to sell his company and walk off the stage. But it doesn’t seem morally fair that he should benefit so richly from it.”

This is pure, unadulterated emotionalism and indignation unfiltered by thought or coherent societal values. If these are the kinds of ethical arguments—and it is an ethical argument–major information sources are going to publish as worthy of being injected into public discourse, we might as well tear up the laws, forswear ethical systems, embrace passion, anger, vengeance and the rest as our sole tools to govern human affairs, and resign ourselves to chaos. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month, And A Bonus Kaboom: The New York Times Editors

“But if your man is really innocent, what’s the worry?”

The New York Times in an editorial, “Fox News v. Robert Mueller”

Yes, the New York Times really printed that, under its banner.

Well,

KABOOM!

There goes my head.

As much as I have learned to distrust the objectivity and motives of the New York Times, I did not expect the traditionally liberal paper to make a sinister argument typically associated with totalitarian regimes. This is nothing but a  rephrasing of the traditional “nothing to hide” rationalization for obtrusive state surveillance, as well as illegal police searches and abusive prosecutorial methods.

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” is such a cliché of oppressive state action that it has its own Wikipedia entry. It is often attributed to Joseph Goebbels or “1984,” though there is no documentation for either. It was uttered by villain Pius Thicknesse in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”:

“As your new Minister for Magic, I promise to restore this temple of tolerance to its former glory. Therefore, beginning today, each employee will submit themselves… for evaluation. But know this: you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.”

In the film version of the novel, the actor (Guy Henry) playing Pius was cast to evoke Goebbels. (above).

Progressive writer Upton Sinclair used an inverted version in 1918 in “The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation” (1918):

“Not merely was my own mail opened, but the mail of all my relatives and friends—people residing in places as far apart as California and Florida. I recall the bland smile of a government official to whom I complained about this matter: ‘If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.'”

The statement adopted by the Times editors as well as the attitude behind constitute a rejection of democratic values and an endorsement of state sponsored fear and subjugation of individual rights. “It you are innocent, why worry?” literally stands for the proposition that one is guilty until proven innocent, which is an accurate description of the position of the Times, the mainstream media and “the resistance” regarding the baseless allegation of  “collusion” with Russia to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. In the context of the editorial, which dismisses legitimate questions about the objectivity and conflicts of interest among Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the argument is especially disingenuous. If one is innocent, one shouldn’t worry if a biased team of lawyers is trying to find a way to make you look guilty? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/11/2017: Boston, Racism, Morality And The Media’s Continuing Conspiracy

Good Morning!

1 That’s my town! Spotlight, the Boston Globe investigative team that was the focus of the Academy Award-winning film about its crucial role in exposing the  Catholic Church’s child-molestation scandal, has published the results of an investigation into racism in Boston. Nobody who lives in Boston or did for any length of time (like me) can find that the conclusion of the Spotlight team qualifies as news: Boston is an overwhelmingly white city—the whitest of all the major metropolitan areas—which may have softened its traditional hostility to African Americans, but that so far hasn’t changed the impression among its black residents that they are outsiders, and tolerated rather than welcome.

I love Boston, and would move back there in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean uprooting my life in unpleasant ways. The report, however, is depressing, for that ironic feature of the city was a blight on it when I lived there, and decades have failed to change it significantly.

2. Not “Morality Alarms”. Let me stick this in quickly.

A commenter on the most recent Comment of the Day on the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy sent in a defense of the baker’s conduct based on Scripture. I stated,

I dismiss this argument out of hand.

2000 year old biases are now called ignorance. They can be justified as of their time, but pretending nothing has changed since then is indefensible and willfully obtuse. The taboos against homosexuality were a matter of common sense when procreation was essential to a tribe’s survival. Before there was psychological research and knowledge of brain chemistry, ignorance about homosexuality was excusable, and even natural. 2000 years is a long time. There is no excuse for pretending that it isn’t, that human beings haven’t learned, that knowledge hasn’t expanded, and that ancient texts are not often dangerously and cruelly out of date.

In two follow-up comments I wrote, stitching them together,

That’s not reasoning or argument, and this blog is about ethics (what’s right?) not morality (what does God say is right?)…At some point discrimination and prejudice is still discrimination and prejudice. “The Bible says I should be prejudiced” is better, sort of, than “I just hate these people,” but it also is a cover.

Needless to say, an argument that relies entirely on the Bible is just an appeal to authority. That’s not a reasoned argument, but a declaration. Nor is it possible to argue with God, who works in mysterious ways, meaning that “but that makes no sense!” doesn’t work.

This isn’t a morality blog, and never has been. Simple as that. Continue reading

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Case Study: How The New York Times Gave Trump The Chance To Say “Fuck You” And Saved Rex Tillerson’s Job

“Once when I was reporting, Lyndon Johnson’s top guy gave me the word they were looking for a successor to J. Edgar Hoover. I wrote it and the day it appeared Johnson called a press conference and appointed Hoover head of the FBI for life… And when he was done, he turned to his top guy and the President said, “Call Ben Bradlee and tell him fuck you.” I took a lot of static for that–everyone said, “You did it, Bradlee, you screwed up–you stuck us with Hoover forever.” I screwed up but I wasn’t wrong.”

—-Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradley (Jason Robards, Jr.) in “All the President’s Men.”

Surely I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought about this anecdote (apparently true) from the film version of the Woodward and Bernstein book about the Post’s Watergate investigation. All yesterday, the news services were following the New York Times “scoop,” based on anonymous leaks out of the Trump Administration, claiming that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was about to be canned within days, with CIA head Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite, taking his place.

I know a little bit about leadership and the kind of people who get to the top of the heap, the Presidents of the United States. I also know how I would think if I disliked and distrusted a newspaper and someone betrayed me within my staff, resulting in a premature revelation of my plans. Unless I regarded a personnel matter as essential, I’d change course to discredit the leaker and make the newspaper look bad.

Sure enough, President Trump tweeted today,

The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!

Good for him. Continue reading

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This Explains A Lot, I Guess…

Here’s another planned post from those lost notes on a Sunday Times I just found from two weeks ago:

In  the New York Times Magazine,  the Times announced the results of an online poll of 2, 903 subscribers by its research-and-analytics  department. 72% Times loyalists would prefer to have done something horrible that only they knew about than to have everyone think they did a horrible thing that they really didn’t do.

Wait…what?

See, if you did a secret horrible thing, there really was someone hurt by your conduct. If people just think you did a horrible thing, you in fact hurt nobody, and did nothing wrong. This was a sneaky way of asking, “Are you a selfish and unethical human being, or not?”  Well, sneaky assuming that Times subscribers are incapable of thought, or that they let their 12-year-old kids answer Times research questions. About 3/4 answered, “Oh, I’m completely unethical!”

For the sake of clarity, let’s assume that both sides of the question involve the same horrible act, agreed? After all, if the real act is setting an orphanage on fire, and the wrongly believed act is farting loudly during a funeral service, or vice versa, the question is ridiculously easy.

So…72% of Times subscribers would rather have murdered a child than have everyone wrongly think they murdered a child? Molested a child? Broiled and eaten a child? Committed adultery? Spousal abuse? Spousal torture? Buried a spouse alive? Keeping a spouse locked in a dungeon? Locking a spouse in a dungeon with rabid wolverines?

What does this poll result tell the Times? What were they trying to learns? What does it tell us?

I guess it might explain the continued presence of the likes of Charles Blow, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman on the Times op-ed pages.

Or maybe their presence explains why Times subscribers reason as they do.

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