List Ethics Case Study: “The 25 Greatest Actors Of The 21st Century (So Far)”

Lists are fun (that’s why “The Book of Lists” was a runaway best seller); they also drive me crazy. Unless the lists are based on incontrovertible statistics and identifiable features (American League batting champions since 1900; states that begin with the letter “N”) they are essentially a stranger’s arbitrary opinions misrepresenting themselves as facts. I’ve posted about this a couple of times, first in 2011. That one concluded (in part), “I know these lists are all intended in good fun. When one is dealing with history, however, fun doesn’t excuse advancing misinformation at the cost of enlightenment.”

The list in question today involves subjective aesthetic judgments, not history, but it still has ethical problems. It was compiled by the New Your Times film critics—you know: experts!”—and purports to show us the “25 greatest actors of the 21st Century (so far).” That’s a lie. I guarantee that the authors themselves do not believe these are the 25 greatest actors by any standards.

Let’s look at the list:

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Failed Late Thursday Ethics Review, 11/19/2020 Turned Early Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/2020: Let’s Play “Stupid or Not Stupid”!

Unrelated to any kind of stupid: Yesterday was the anniversary of the demise of my old friend, Glenn White, in 2013. I never got to attend a funeral or service for Glenn; his family didn’t see fit to let me know he had died, despite our association of thirty years. This is what I always will remember about Glenn: He knew what it meant to be a friend. We knew each other through theater, though he was a Fairfax City, Virginia politician. Glenn used to say, “If you need me, Jack, you just have to ask. I’ll be there.” And he always was. When he was in his late 70s, I needed someone to play an old man in one of my theater company’s shows. Glenn used to call himself The American Century Theater’s resident geezer, but he had moved to the Virginia countryside, and it was more than a three hour commute, round trip, to rehearsals and performances. My plight was barely out of my mouth when he said, “Sure, you can count on me.”

How many people do you get to meet in your life who are like that?

1. I really hate this...I spent precious time, as I was trying to get a post in before the clock struck 12 last night, writing about this story, published yesterday and passed along credulously by a U.S.news aggregator, only to find that the events described happened in 2019. I have encountered this before: some website is light on material, so it uses an old story for click-bait without stating the time frame until the very end.

2. Today’s inexcusable, biased, partisan and unethical headline from the New York Times front page: “Trump Targeting Michigan In Ploy To Subvert Election.” Clearly, the Times isn’t even trying any more. The use of “ploy” and “subvert” is not only editorializing, it’s irresponsible editorializing. There were certainly a lot of strange things going on in the Michigan voting and vote-counting;the state should be targeted. (There are strange things going on in Michigan generally.) If the Michigan vote was corrupted, discovering how and how much doesn’t “subvert” anything. If it turns out that Michigan actually was won by Trump—admittedly a remote possibility—then that discovery prevents the election from being subverted.

The Times’ job is to explain what the Trump campaign’s challenges to the election are in factual terms, not to speculate on diabolical motives, to trigger violence and subvert democracy.

3. What does this display remind you of?

Belgian phallus

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A False Narrative Exposed, Part 2: The Times’ Editors Beclown Themselves

Clowns

[This is Part 2 of the Ethics Alarms essay that begins here.]

The first section of “A False Narrative Exposed” concluded,

The extent of the Democrats’ false smearing of Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the blatant fearmongering regarding the consequences of her confirmation are put in sharp perspective when one goes back and re-reads the New York Times editorial of the week before headlines, “The Republican Party’s Supreme Court.”  Indeed, the Times editorial shows us much more: the utter dishonesty of the mainstream media and its willingness to mislead rather than inform the public; it’s deliberate employment of false history to advance its partisan ends, and perhaps  most damming of all, the weak powers of reasoning and analysis the alleges cream of the journalistic crop applies to its craft. Then there are the repeated reminders that the Times is so deeply in bed with the Democrats that it can count its moles.

Let’s look at that editorial…

“What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.”

Right—those phony polls meant to suppress the GOP vote showing that the Democrats were going to increase their dominance of the House and win control of the Senate. The scandalously misleading and mistaken polls were also part of the novel Democratic argument, endorsed by the Times, that the Senate should reject a legal and historically routine SCOTUS nomination because of clearly biased polls…a corrupting phenomenon the Founders never heard of.

“As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.”

The only valid question for the Senate to consider was whether Barrett was qualified. Even the deeply progressive-biased American Bar Association  agreed that she was. I don’t know what the Times is trying to say: the Federalist Society wouldn’t have approved of an unqualified justice. “Anointed’ is just cheap Times rhetoric meaning “conservatives tended to agree with her jurisprudence,” just as progressives approved of the late Justice Ginsberg. Both had to excel during tough questioning in their confirmation hearings. Neither was “anointed.” The editorial board is pandering to its readership’s hysterical biases against conservatives….

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2020: The “I’m Sorry I Ignored Veteran’s Day But I Was Distracted By The Enemies Of The People” Edition

The reason for the choice of song will reveal itself at the end of the post…

1. No 2020 Election Train Wreck update this morning, because there are only a few items to report. One stinker from yesterday: the New York Times had an across-the-front page, “This is important!” headline that read, “ELECTION OFFICIALS NATIONWIDE FIND NO FRAUD.”

How did the Times’ ethics fall so far, so fast? That headline is pure propaganda, deceitful on its face. Do the editors think even the most partisan of their readers are that gullible?

2. Then there’s the Washington Post. I almost hate to post this after trying to talk commenter of the day Steve Witherspoon off the ledge in the previous Ethics Alarms entry. USPS whistleblower Richard Hopkins has demanded Tuesday that the false Washington Post story claiming he ‘recanted’ his sword statement regarding directions he was given by his Erie, PA postmaster to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day. He did not recant. In a video, the veteran says,

“My name is Richard Hopkins, I’m a postal employee who came out and whistleblew on the Erie, Pennsylvania postal service, postal office. I am right at this very moment looking at an article written by the Washington Post—it says that I fabricated the allegations of ballot tampering. I’m here to say that I did not recant my statements, that didn’t happen, that is not what happened. You will find out tomorrow, and I would like that the Washington Post recant their wonderful little article that they decided to throw out there, out at random.”

He has been placed on non-pay status by the Erie Post Office, which seems like a violation of whistle-blower laws to me, but I haven’t checked. GoFundMe, based on the Post story, erased the effort to provide him and his family financial support while he is being punished by the USPS.

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Halloween Ethics Shocks, 10/31/2020: Boo!

1. There is absolutely no good reason to kill Halloween this year because of the Wuhan virus, but that appears to be what the fear-mongered flock is going to do. Children as well should know by now, are at about as much risk from this virus as any other, everyone is wearing masks anyway, and how hard is it to find ways to drop candy in bags?

Mark this down as one more little joy young lives are losing out on due to a) adult hysteria and b) partisan scaremanship. We never get many Trick-or-Treaters anyway, but I hereby announce that any costumed kids that drop by 2707 Westminster Place in Alexandria, Virginia will receive extra-generous treats for their spirit of adventure.

2. Not that they haven’t been trying to scare kids out of the tradition long before thisHere, for example, is an article that gratuitously warns us that “marijuana edibles” can look a lot like candy, so parents should be extra vigilant—never mind that pot treats are about ten times more expensive than candy, and the likelihood of any stoners slipping those into the TOT bags instead of peanut butter cups are about the same as the odd of my voting for Joe Biden next week. Poisoned Halloween candy is a hoary urban legend: there are no recorded cases of its, except the monstrous father who poisoned his own son’s Halloween haul to collect on an insurance policy. (That doesn’t count.)

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Time Op-Ed Writer Bret Stephens

shhhh

“It’s a compromise that is fatal to liberalism. It reintroduces a concept of blasphemy into the liberal social order. It gives the prospectively insulted a de facto veto over what other people might say. It accustoms the public to an ever-narrower range of permissible speech and acceptable thought. And… it slowly but surely turns writers, editors and publishers into cowards.”

Bret Stephens, intermittently conservative New York Times columnist, in an op-ed condemning the acceptance of censorship and self-censorship as norms by the modern Left.

Stephens is certainly on a roll lately. His previous column (effectively and accurately) condemning the pet Times race propaganda “1619 Project” for what it is (that is to say, cultural and historical toxic waste) was not his last, as many predicted, and apparently emboldened by his survival, Stephens is determined to “let it all hang out,” as they used to say in the Sixties. Once again, he is attacking his own paper, which has doubled-down in its determination to publish only the news it feels safe to let its readers know about.

It is telling that Stephens’ column was published in tandem this week with another attempt by the Times to hide the utter corruption of the Biden family from the public, at least until the election is over. Above the Stephens piece—also telling—is the poisonous Michelle Goldberg’s screed suggesting that the discovery of Hunter Biden’s incriminating (to both him and his father) laptop is more GOP “collusion.” The Times’ truly despicable headline: “Is the Trump Campaign Colluding With Russia Again?” Note “Again”: the Mueller investigation found no evidence of “collusion” by any American citizen, much less the Trump campaign (to be fair, it didn’t investigate the Clinton campaign’s Russian dealings), and yet the Times allows that lie to lead its Editorial page. Polls show (I know, I know: polls) that over 70% of Democrats still think the President won the election by colluding with Russia, and mainstream media descriptions like this is a main reason. And it’s intentional.

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Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 10/20/2020: Being Kind To Jeffrey And Other Matters

happy wake-up

1. Time to leave Jeffrey Toobin alone in his misery. I assume this will be an awful day in an awful week for poor Jeff Toobin, now that the full story of his Zoom debacle is out and being commented upon in the social media.  I would like to make an appeal for the mirth and ridicule to be cut short and minimized. It isn’t a case of “he’s suffered enough.” It’s a case of “he’s going to suffer as much as its possible for a human being to suffer without being convicted of a crime and thrown in jail even if nobody says another thing about him in public.” This hasn’t happened before to a public figure: the closest was Anthony Weiner’s sexting women, and as humiliating as that was, it doesn’t come close to what Toobin’s Zoom botch has done to the legal analyst’s career, reputation and dignity.

I hope his family is standing by him; I hope he has a group of loyal and compassionate friends who will care for him now; I hope the popular culture shows that it is capable of compassion, though my optimism on the latter point is far from high. I fear for his life. I was trying to imagine something as emotionally devastating as Toobin’s level of personal and professional humiliation, and my mind kept flipping to the end of  the ugly thriller “Seven,” when police detective Brad Pitt murders serial killer Kevin Spacey after having a package delivered to him containing Pitt’s young wife’s severed head. Pitt’s character, who is presumably on his way to a long stay in a padded room, is actually better off than Toobin: at least he is completely blameless.

It’s not a good analogy, but it’s all I can think of.

Ethics Alarms will not be mentioning the Toobin-Zoom affair again. But before we never speak of this again, let me mention that in Ann Althouse’s blog post on the topic yesterday she wrote (in addition to “This may be the stupidest thing I have seen in 17 years of blogging”), “Who believes he thought he was off camera? Even if he thought he had “muted the Zoom video,” how could he not make absolutely sure before bringing his penis out…?”

I don’t know what goes through Ann’s mind sometimes. Did she think Toobin would deliberately torpedo his life? Of course he thought he was off camera!

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Wednesday Ethics Wind-Down / Thursday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14-15/2020: The Unmasking Of News Media And Social Media Bias Continues…[UPDATED!]

phantom-of-the-opera

1. Notes from The Great Stupid. Here is a passage from a New York Times book review of “The Tragedy of Heterosexuality”:

In examining the pressure to partner with the opposite gender we find the extortions of capitalism, the misogyny of violence against women, the racist and xenophobic erasure of nonwhite families, and the homophobic hatreds that pervade so much of everyday life.”

Well, that and the biological imperative to continue the species. This brilliance is the work of Haley Mlotek,  a senior editor for SSENSE. Imagine: this is the quality of thought among our intellectual class.

No wonder the political class is so idiotic.

2. So this is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is it? Nikole  Hannah-Jones, faced with a careful and accurate fisking of her fraudulent “1619 project” by Times columnist Bret Stephens (covered by Ethics Alarms here) did not try to rebut him, or make a civil, reasoned argument. She did what her entire generation of prominent African Americans have been conditioned to do, because it works so well. She accused Stephens and the Times of racism, with a dash of sexism for flavor. Hannah-Jones tweeted,

“In 1894, the NYT called Ida B. Wells a ‘slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress’ for daring to tell the truth about lynching. 100 years later she earned the Pulitzer Prize. These efforts to discredit my work simply put me in a long tradition of [black women] who failed to know their places.”

(It is satisfying to watch the Washington Post pounce on the Times over this fiasco. The rivalry between the papers is one of the few factors that ever pushed one of them into practicing actual journalism these days.)

As for Nikole Hannah-Jones, she is a child. Her tantrum was irresponsible and an embarrassment to the Times, and she should, by rights, be fired. She won’t be, because of black privilege, now enhanced in the wake of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. The embarrassment for the Times, however, will linger. This woman was given leave by the paper to create and promote a false historical narrative that was not designed to enlighten but to further a political agenda. In truth, the Times deserves the embarrassment even more than Hannah-Jones deserves to be fired.

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Ethics Hero: New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Bret Stephens

1619

Bret Stephens has been criticized on this site for regularly failing his alleged assignment of bringing a principled conservative voice to the New York Times op-ed pages, and seeming to yield to the strongly biased culture of the uenthical paper that employs him.

In his most recent column, however Stephens courageously and unblinkingly calls out the New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project” for what it is—dishonest, misleading, falsified—oh, let’s not mince words— crap. [Ethics Alarms discussed the “1619 Project” and its unethical creator, Times reporter and race activist Nikole Hannah-Jones, here] Josh Blackmon, for example, writing at Reason, thinks that the columnist metaphorically biting the hand that feeds him will mark the beginning of the end of Stephens at the Times. After all, a Times editor recently resigned after the paper’s Jacobins called for his head for daring to allow a Republican Senator to voice an opinion that went against the Times’ view of the world. Stephens has gone far, far beyond that.

He knows it, too. At the end of his dissection of the bad history and unethical journalism that disgracefully won the Times a Pulitzer Prize, the columnist writes,

For obvious reasons, I’ve thought long and hard about the ethics of writing this essay. On the one hand, outside of exceptional circumstances, it’s bad practice to openly criticize the work of one’s colleagues. We bat for the same team and owe one another collegial respect.On the other, the 1619 Project has become, partly by its design and partly because of avoidable mistakes, a focal point of the kind of intense national debate that columnists are supposed to cover, and that is being widely written about outside The Times.

To avoid writing about it on account of the first scruple is to be derelict in our responsibility toward the second.All the more so as journalists, in the United States and abroad, come under relentless political assault from critics who accuse us of being fake, biased, partisan and an arm of the radical left. Many of these attacks are baseless. Some of them are not. Through its overreach, the 1619 Project has given critics of The Times a gift.

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Afternoon Ethics Jaunt, 10/5/2020: Our Unethical Journalists

Strolling

1. Multiple head explosion alert from the “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias” files. In the New York Times book Review section. Times business editor David Enrich reviews a book about Fox News by CNN’s fake news ethics watchdog Brian Stelter. The headline for the review is “Fox in the White House.” One would think a reputable book review editor would assign the reviewing of a book by CNN’s main shameless propagandist to a journalist who was at veery least sort of neutral, but no. Enrich is the author of “Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction, “ and apparently incapable of exploiting  the hilarity when a biased and partisan hack like Stelter writes that “Fox News has become little more than a propaganda organ.” That is exaggerated but close enough for journalism horse shoes. However the man who constantly and shamelessly covers for CNN’s pro-Democratic and  anti-Trump propaganda is ethically estopped from making such  criticism, and Enrich disqualifies himself as an objective and honest reviewer when he writes, after noting that CNN is hardly objective, by writing,

“To be clear, there is no equivalence between the occasionally inaccurate and misleading “liberal media,” which generally owns up to its mistakes, and the highly productive factory of falsehoods at Fox.’

Generally owns up to its mistakes? GENERALLY OWNS UP TO ITS MISTAKES!!!!! Enrich’s own paper is one of the primary offenders. Is the key word here mistakes? Maybe that’s the trick: the biased, partisan, untrustworthy news media Enrich is a part of doesn’t own up, because its distortion of the news, like Stelter’s, isn’t a mistake.

OK, I’m going to start the timer…NOW. It’s 2: 17 PM. How long before I find an item debunking Enrich’s characterization? I think I’ll try Professor Turley’s blog: he’s almost as disgusted with the news media as I am. Annnd, TIME! I found one. It’s 2:21 pm….

“The New York Times on Thursday published an opinion column by Regina Ip, the Hong Kong official widely denounced as “Beijing’s enforcer.” Ip declared “Hong Kong is part of China” and dismissed the protesters fighting for freedom in their city.  I have no objection to the publishing of the column. Ip is a major figure in Hong Kong and, despite her support for authoritarian rule and crushing dissent, there is a value to having such views as part of the public debate. Rather, my concern is that the New York Times was denounced by many of us for its  cringing apology after publishing a column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R, Ark.). and promising not to publish future such columns. So it will not publish a column from a Republican senator on protests in the United States but it will publish columns from one of the Chinese leaders crushing protests for freedom in Hong Kong.’

Of course, the apology for publishing an opinion that was not welcomed by the Left wasn’t a mistake. It was a reaffirmation of the Times’ deliberate bias.

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