Tag Archives: Politifact

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/23/17

1. When I am forced to be away from Ethics Alarms for a long time, as was the case yesterday, it often renews my musings about whether I respond too much to reader comments. Everyone generally does just fine when I’m silent, and sometimes I find that fascinating and unexpected new topics have not only sprung from whatever ethics fertilizer I left behind,  but have grown and flourished like bamboo.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that there have been a lot ( as in “too many”) of extended arguments between commenters that not only extend beyond reasonable limits, but also explode into personal attacks. I admit that Ethics Alarms is, for a moderated blog, unusually tolerant of this phenomenon. One reason for that is that sometimes such epic confrontations are both entertaining and enlightening, as when liberal commenter and Ethics Alarms immortal tgt and uber-conservative commenter Steven J. Pilling engaged in the Ethics Alarms equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates, only occasionally snapping and calling each other names.

However, while the occasional emotional outbursts are excusable, they should be rare. Reprimanding a commenter for  commenting style and habits is certainly fair, but doing it repeatedly is boring; and I want to remind everyone that while it is often frustrating, allowing someone to have the last word is not capitulation, especially when that last word is not particularly persuasive.

We also owe ourselves and everyone else self-awareness. When a commenter finds himself or herself repeatedly embroiled in long, heated exchanges, that commenter should consider the possibility that he or she is the problem.

The general principle is that we should strive to have all comments contain substance that advances the discussion. “You’re an asshole” is occasionally justified (when a comment has objectively revealed a commenter to be an asshole, and even then is not mandatory), but rarely.

2. When President Trump issued his trolling tweet about James Comey and the possibility that there were “tapes” of their conversations, I wrote that it was the President’s dumbest tweet to date. (I think he has made worse ones since, but at this point any tweet by the President is evidence of crippling stubbornness, impulsiveness and bad judgment). I did not think that what was obviously a bluff without substance would still be considered a headline-worthy issue many weeks later. Continue reading

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From The “Double Standard” Files: Obama’s Voter ID Lie

"What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!"

“What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!”

This will undoubtedly be called a partisan post, and when it is, I will be ticked off. It is not partisan to object to outright lies. It is partisan to ignore and accept lies according to who the liar is. This is the bind the news media has placed itself in, and a brilliant, throbbing example occurred during President Obama’s last press conference.

Discussing his concerns about state voter ID  laws, Obama said,

“We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote.  It traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery, and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. . . . we are the world’s oldest continuous democracy, and yet we systematically put up barriers and make it as hard as possible for our citizens to vote….This whole notion of election-voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news.”

Wait, by “this is fake news,” was the President really  announcing that what he just said was fiction? That would be very impressive, and a great new standard: imagine if the news media did that, and flagged their misleading stories!  But I’m pretty sure that he was trying to make us believe what isn’t true, and a falsehood that supports the phony narrative that efforts to ensure the integrity of elections are really racist plots. Explicates John Fund:

“All industrialized democracies — and most that are not — require voters to prove their identity before voting. Britain was a holdout, but last month it announced that persistent examples of voter fraud will require officials to see passports or other documentation from voters in areas prone to corruption…In 2012, I attended a conference in Washington, D.C., of election officials from more than 60 countries; they convened there to observe the U.S. presidential election. Most were astonished that so many U.S. states don’t require voter ID…. [O]ur neighbors require voter ID. Canada adopted voter-ID requirements in 2007 and saw them reaffirmed in 2010; they have worked smoothly since, with almost no complaints. Mexico’s “Credencial para Votar” has a hologram, a photo, and other information embedded in it, and it is impossible to effectively tamper with it. …Britain is painfully learning that it too must take steps to restore confidence in its elections. Sir Eric Pickles, a former Conservative cabinet minister, warned earlier this year, in a government-commissioned report titled “Securing the Ballot,” that voter fraud had been allowed to fester in Muslim communities because of “politically correct over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.” Sir Eric said that the authorities were in a “state of denial” and were “turning a blind eye” to fraud cases. Last month, Theresa May’s government responded to the problem. It announced that “endemic corruption” meant that voters in certain areas will now have to show photo identification. The government may even require people to prove their UK citizenship before granting them the right to vote.”

Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Michelle Obama; Runner-Up: Her Husband

michelle-and-oprah

“We feel the difference now. See, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary. It’s a necessary concept and Barack didn’t just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes. He and I and so many believe that — what else do you have if you don’t have hope,What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?”

First Lady Michelle Obama, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast last week.

I was going to ignore this unforgivable  statement, as there have been so many notable melt-downs from progressives and Democrats that if I commented on all of them it would be all freak-out, all the time on Ethics Alarms. However, the video really bothered me, and the timing of the remarks were so inappropriate—Let’s ask Syrians, who your husband decided to abandon in their desperation when he allowed his promise of a “red line” to  evaporate  as Assad turned his chemical weapons on them, how much hope they have, Mrs. Obama!—that I tried to think of any previous First Lady who so blatantly abused her role as a non-partisan symbol of stability and optimism for all Americans. There hasn’t been one. No First Lady, even the outspoken Barbara Bush or the activist Eleanor Roosevelt, has come close to declaring that hope was dead in America. It is especially irresponsible for a First Lady to talk like this as her husband leaves office. His predecessor was gracious, and the First Family owes its successor the same courtesy and respect. Continue reading

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Ethics Alarms Presents “Fake News” Friday! Episode I: Poynter’s Code of Principles

fake-news-sites

Poynter is a serious and justly respected  nonprofit school for journalism and journalism ethics organization. Naturally, it has been drawn into the “fake news” debate, which is unfortunate, since the issue itself has arisen not so much as part of a much-need effort to purge the new and old news media of biased and misleading news reporting, but as part of partisan attempt by the mainstream news media and others to find some explanation, any explanation, for Donald Trump’s election that doesn’t involve a genuine public rejection of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Poynter, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is scrupulously non-partisan, or perhaps hides its Democrat tilt better than the rest of its profession. Now it is being used by those who are not so trustworthy.

Poynter was in the news yesterday as a result of Facebook’s announcement that it will start “fact-checking, labeling, and burying fake news and hoaxes in its News Feed. Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform will collaborate with a small list of media organizations, including Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact to accomplish this, and noted that these are part of an international fact-checking network under the guidance of Poynter.

Here’s a fact to check: Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, the Associated Press, and PolitiFact are all partisan-biased operations to a greater or lesser extent. Facebook itself is a partisan biased organization. That Facebook would blandly cite three of these four to reassure anyone but the Democratic National Committee is proof positive that this is a cynical, untrustworthy exercise. Continue reading

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Filed under Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

More Fact-Check Ethics, And What It Tells Us About PolitiFact And How Fairly The News Media Will Treat Donald Trump

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stiff claim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stillclaim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh was intrigued when the infamously left-biased “non-partisan fact checking source” Politifact “fact-checked” Donald Trump’s recent assertion that “crime is rising.” The professor did his own fact-checking on the Tampa Bay Times’ verdict that…

“If you look at overall violent and property crimes — the only categories that would seem inclusive enough to qualify as “crime,” as Trump put it — he is flat wrong. In fact, crime rates have been falling almost without fail for roughly a quarter-century. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.”

Volokh’s conclusion? Trump’s statement can not be fairly called “Pants on Fire,” because in regard to violent crime, it’s true. Aggregate crime is not rising, but PolitFact’s statement—“If you look at overall violent and property crime”—is deceptive, and suggests that both violent crime and property crime are falling. (Uh-uh-uh! Bad Fact-Checker! Fact-Checker must not be misleading and deceptive!) Notes the professor: Continue reading

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For A Respected Newspaper And Its Journalists, Denial Is Unethical

..and so is deceiving readers by 'burying the lede'...

…and so is deceiving readers by ‘burying the lede’…

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

In a spectacular example of doing everything possible to hide bad news (in its view and those of most readers…and me too), the Washington Post this weekend made it difficult to learn the results of its own poll, which showed the horrible result–in the Post’s eyes—that Donald Trump now leads Hillary Clinton 46% to 44%…not a lot, but considering that the margin was 11% just a little while ago, big news. Apocalyptic news.

The Post headline? I have the print edition before me now: “Voters accentuate the negative in poll,” with the section of the story (by Dan Balz and Scott Clement) visible on the front page describing how more voters dislike Clinton and Trump that like them. How is that news? Didn’t everybody know that months ago? It also teases that the candidates are in a “virtual dead heat,” but it takes (Mediaite’s Joe Concha actually counted: Thanks, Joe!) five paragraphs and 219 words to timidly admit what the public has a right to know: Trump is now leading Hillary in the Post’s poll (with ABC).

This is more than burying the lede; this is denial, and competent, responsible, objective journalists cannot ethically engage in denial. Bad or good, the news belongs up-front and headlined, because most people don’t read entire articles. Why did the Post do this? It’s emotional and juvenile, and that’s all it is. This is anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias crippling news judgment and competent reporting. Balz and Clement can’t help themselves from spinning the poll story to make it sound like it’s really good news for Hillary, writing: Continue reading

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Being Fair To The News Media: Is There An Ethical Explanation For Why Hillary’s “Most Repugnant Lie” Has Been Ignored?

Clinton lie

An Ethics Alarms commenter alerted me  that Politifact is holding its annual “Lie of The Year” poll, and only one of the nominees is a Hillary quote, an inconsequential one at that (“The gun industry is the only business in America that is wholly protected from any kind of liability.”) Well, PolitFact is one of the most left-biased and untrustworthy of the generally left-biased and untrustworthy “Fact Check” columns, but even acknowledging that, how can it ignore what may be Clinton’s most blatant and significant lie? The answer to that may be that the rest of the media has decided to ignore it too.

Yes, it’s that Benghazi lie again. On the night of the attack, Secretary of State Clinton sent an email to her daughter stating that several American “officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.” The next morning, she sent message above to a top Egyptian diplomat. US officials ascertained “almost immediately,” according to the CIA director at the time, that the attack was not sparked by a YouTube video, but a planned terrorist attack.  At September 14, 2012  Andrews Air Force base ceremony, with the flag-draped coffins of the Benhgazi victims on display, Hillary Clinton told grieving family members that the online anti-Islam video was the cause, and that the video’s maker would be punished.  Four different relatives of three separate victims have publicly confirmed those conversations, including one who recorded what he heard at the meeting in handwritten notes. That was Tyrone Woods’ father, who has said, “I gave Hillary a hug and shook her hand. And she said ‘we are going to have the film maker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son.’” Sean Smith’s mother and uncle, and  Glen Doherty’s sister confirm similar statements made by Clinton to them.

Yet when Clinton was asked by George Stephanopoulos last Sunday if she told the family members that the film, not organized terrorists, was responsible for the attack, Hillary’s answer was “No.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you tell them it was about the film? And what’s your response?

CLINTON:No. You know, look I understand the continuing grief at the loss that parents experienced with the loss of these four brave Americans. And I did testify, as you know, for 11 hours. And I answered all of these questions. Now, I can’t — I can’t help it the people think there has to be something else there. I said very clearly there had been a terrorist group, uh, that had taken responsibility on Facebook, um, between the time that, uh, I – you know, when I talked to my daughter, that was the latest information; we were, uh, giving it credibility. And then we learned the next day it wasn’t true. In fact, they retracted it. This was a fast-moving series of events in the fog of war and I think most Americans understand that.

Even Clinton’s words at the September 14 ceremony for those Benghazi victims strongly support the victim’s family members’ version of what Clinton told them. She said, “We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

This is an important lie, far more important than, for example, Donald Trump’s nonsense about seeing “thousands upon thousands” of New Jersey Muslims celebrating on 9-11. Why has the news media shown a fraction of the interest in exposing it that it has in Trump?

Possible answers: Continue reading

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