Visual Bias Ethics

Let’s see: Hack, hack, probably a hack, and hack.

One aspect of broadcast journalism ethics that the Old Guard—Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Huntley, Thomas and the rest— observed and respected was a neutral demeanor. They knew (and today’s hacks know as well, but with different results), that tone of delivery, body language and facial expressions can convey a journalist’s personal views and biases as clearly as a direct statement. Their practice, therefore, was to maintain a poker face and a matter-of-fact delivery. When Walter Cronkite brushed away a tear while announcing JFK’s death in 1963, it was considered newsworthy because Walter did not bring his own feelings into the news. The consensus was that hee could be forgiven this one time.

If that professional practice is taught in journalism classes any more, it is ignored. Now broadcast journalists and reporters deliberately use every tool at their disposal to signal to viewers what they think, and thus what the viewers should think as well. The election of Donald Trump represented a full-on, industry wide rejection of objectivity by the broadcast media, as many reporters allowed themselves to appear in mourning, or close to tears.  Unlike the assassination of JFK, however, this  was not an excusable exception, or, as we have learned, an exception at all.

Look at the faces of last night’s CNN panel reporting on what had been built up as a bellweather election in North Carolina that, should a Democrat have won, would be string sign that President Trump and Republicans were in trouble nationwide. Is there any doubt who they were rooting for?

This is not only unethical journalism, it’s incompetent journalism.

But that’s the way it is.

Comment Of The Day: Poll-Fest: Is This Ethnic Humor Offensive?

First, the poll results!

 

Now here is Charles Green’s Comment of the Day on the post, Poll-Fest: Is This Ethnic Humor Offensive?

They’re all pretty funny to me. However, this is making me think.

The term “offensive” is more meaningfully understood as being about the offendee, not about the offending material.

There are some things that are so universally experienced as offensive, across most cultures and most history, that we can easily lapse into using “offensive” as an adjective to describe the subject matter.

But that’s a mistake. Continue reading

Yet Another Comment Of The Day On “Comment of the Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17’”

Steve-O-in NJ continues the very topical discussion of hate and partyism in our society. This story from yesterday is on point: increasingly Americans regard those supporting different parties as unfit for friendship, marriage, and other forms of association. I have been writing about this trend for almost two decades; it has accelerated greatly due to social media, the increasing bias and incompetence of the news media, divisive political leaders and bad luck. Democracy cannot thrive or even survive in an atmosphere of such distrust. This should be obvious, and as I have observed elsewhere on Ethics Alarms, those who are feeding the hate and distrust appear to bee doing so deliberately for some imagined political gain. This is madness.

More stories surface every day showing members of the political class embracing the madness. Like this one, about a Democratic strategist who has started promoting the hastags #HuntRepublicans and #HuntRepublicanCongressmen. on Twitter. “We are in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people,” wrote James Devine on Twitter. “Why is it a shock when things turn violent? #HuntRepublicanCongressmen.” A Democrat who has has run for office, consulted for numerous New Jersey candidates, and worked for New Jersey lawmakers, Devine said in an interview, “If you want to invite a class war, then you have to expect people to fight back at some point.”

Wait….Bernie Sanders is a Republican? All those people cluttering up Wall Street vilifying the “1%” were conservatives? Republican Congressmen called citizens who wouldn’t fall into line “deplorables’? 

This is the latest rationalization I have been seeing on Facebook: Donald Trump has made Democrats act like spoiled street gang members. How? Why, by having the audacity and bad manners to win the election, of course. Here was Peggy Noonan correctly diagnosing the phenomenon:

Here I want to note the words spoken by Kathy Griffin, the holder of the severed head. In a tearful news conference she said of the president, “He broke me.” She was roundly mocked for this. Oh, the big bad president’s supporters were mean to you after you held up his bloody effigy. But she was exactly right. He did break her. He robbed her of her sense of restraint and limits, of her judgment. He broke her, but not in the way she thinks, and he is breaking more than her.

We have been seeing a generation of media figures cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump. He really is powerful.

They’re losing their heads. Now would be a good time to regain them.

They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier. They are showing the young what otherwise estimable adults do under pressure, which is lose their equilibrium, their knowledge of themselves as public figures, as therefore examples—tone setters. They’re paid a lot of money and have famous faces and get the best seat, and the big thing they’re supposed to do in return is not be a slob. Not make it worse.

By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this. They stood up to the man, they spoke truth to power. But what courage, really, does that take? Their audiences love it. Their base loves it, their demo loves it, their bosses love it. Their numbers go up. They get a better contract. This isn’t brave.

Today, on Facebook, my wife intervened in a liberal echo chamber exchange among women saying they were going to boycott a local department store because it sold Ivanka Trump’s merchandise.  She pointed out that this was unfair and made now sense, and kept batting away various rationalizations offered by the women, who were lawyers. Finally one wrote, “Ok, I admit it. I just hate Donald Trump.” That was the best and only argument she had.

This is both admitting bigotry and being so comfortable with it that you accept it.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”

Some of Ethics Alarms’ most adept and provocative commenters have not authored official Comments of the Day. This is mostly due to the randomness of the selection process, as well as the fact that masters of the long-form have an inherent advantage over those who are more succinct.

I failed to get the Best of Ethics 2016 posted this year, but one of its items is always Commenter of the Year. That honor was going to go to Chris, who not only has been one of the most prolific commenters here since he first dropped by, but also one of the most resilient, forming the bedrock foundation of the Ethics Alarms liberal contingent, which still needs some recruits to balance the teams. Chris’s recognition in the Comment of the Day category does not accurately reflect his value here.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Morning Ethics Round-Up: 6/14/17, taking off from one of my numbered observations therein. I’ll be back briefly at the end.

Jack: “2. It is astounding to me that so many Democrats deny that there is a liberal (progressive, really) climate of hate.”

This is because when most liberals use the term “hate,” we are referring to prejudice, bigotry, and other forms of unjustified hatred. The term has become closely associated with people who favor oppression: “Hate groups.” “Hate crimes.” “Hate speech.”

But of course, when we liberals hate someone, it’s because they deserve it.

I am going to be completely honest: I hate the current president. I think he’s a terrible person. I think he is doing damage to our country. And, of course, I think he is hateful of others for illegitimate reasons: xenophobia, misogyny, religious hatred…these are all forms of hatred that we universally condemn. But how to go about fighting this type of hatred without succumbing to hatred ourselves?

Hatred is a natural human emotion. We all hate someone. Your Christian grandmother who says “I love all sinners” probably hates one of the other Christian grandmothers at church who says the exact same thing, because that other woman is a judgmental gossip. Hating someone isn’t unethical…but how we process that hatred can be. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

trump-tweet-dinner

President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Humorist Dave Barry

dave-barry-2016

Humorist Dave Barry managed to find sufficient humor in 2016 to write his annual satirical year-end review and not fail to reach the high standards he has set for himself in this endeavor for about four decades. That would be justification enough for making the 69-year-old writer 2017’s first ethics hero, but there is more.

Most striking, perhaps, is that the column is both funny and fair. Unlike virtual all topical satire today, it does not take sides, nor show partisan bias. Some of this may be related to the fact that Barry is a self-proclaimed libertarian (perhaps explaining why his long piece did not exploit the humor potential in the campaign of the ridiculous Gary Johnson, or even more, surprising, the fat naked guy running around the podium at the Libertarian convention), but most of it springs from his possession of basic integrity as well as an impressive absence of bias. This distinguishes Dave Barry from such alleged comics and satirists as Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Amy Shumer, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Seth Myers, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Trevor Noah, and the Saturday Night Live writers, all of whose point of view can be fairly summarized as the belief that if a Democrat, progressive or President Obama has ever done anything foolish or ridiculous, there’s probably a good reason for it.

This remarkable trait, now almost extinct but once known as “an open mind,” allows Barry to write such passages as..

And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left. And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …

… drum roll …

… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!

Yes. After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository…

and Continue reading

Social Media Ethics Conundrum: What Is The Fair, Objective, Rational Response To This?

double-standard

A libertarian website, curious as to how objectively Twitter enforces its standards, registered a complaint about the tweet on the left, and receiving the circled response, sent the tweet on the right, with Twitter responding to a complaint by banning the account.

How should fair, ethical people respond to this?

I do not see the website’s investigation, or this post, for that matter, as partisan or ideologically slanted in any way. A major social media platform used by government agencies, the President Elect, journalists, pundits, and news organizations as well as celebrities, scholars and average members of the public, has a duty commensurate with its power and influence. It can be politically biased and manipulative of public opinion, it can tilt its content to reflect particular interests, policies, cultural attitudes and agendas, but it is unethical for it to do so, particularly when it claims it does not do so.

This is smoking gun proof that Twitter is biased, censoring what it doesn’t like from people and groups it doesn’t like while allowing identical tweets from people and groups it feels an alliance to. It is a double standard. Now what?

Should fair, ethical people continue to use an organization that abuses its influence and trust like that? I use twitter, though only to send out links to Ethics Alarms posts. Am I ethically obligated to stop doing that? Should a non-left biased counterpart to Twitter take away half its business? Well, as we have learned from Fox News vs. the left-leaning mainstream media, competing media entities with off-setting biases still won’t supply what is needed, which is fair, trustworthy and reliable reporting. Continue reading