Tag Archives: pundits

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.

Figures.

2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.

Hell.

Seriously.

How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, Workplace

Anti-Trump Brain Virus Case Study: The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin

Not all of the unrestrained anti-Trump zealots are progressives and Democrats. There are a lot of conservatives who detest him sufficiently to surrender their integrity, fairness and common sense as well. The Federalist’s Sean Davis has chronicled a revealing example: Washington Post pundit Jennifer Rubin.

Blogger Rubin is one of the rare in-House Post conservatives. Her 2016 columns regarding Trump were only slightly less vehement than mine, and once he was elected, she threw restraint to the wind. Before that, however, Rubin was one of the few reliably critical voices regarding President Obama and his feckless and bumbling Presidency.

One of the more frequent targets of her acid pen was the Paris climate deal. In a column mocking Obama’s “phony accomplishments,” Rubin wrote  that a Supreme Court decision on environmental regulations proved “how ephemeral Obama’s Paris climate change deal is.” Before that, Rubin  suggested  the accord was a cynical and transparent effort to take attention away Obama’s failure to deal effectively with radical Islamist terrorism, writing, “The president has no answer, so he goes to Paris to talk about climate change.”  Then she cited  the climate change pact as evidence that Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry lived in a “fantasy world” where “a piece of paper”was a signature accomplishment “even if it achieves nothing.” Rubin accused them of selling the progressive base a “bill of goods” on the Paris deal, while Rubin called it “footprints in the sand.” Still later, Rubin cited approvingly Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe , the most infamous climate change skeptic in the the U.S. Senate, when he said that the Paris climate change deal was “devoid of substance.”

But Rubin really detests President Trump. For a man she hates to embrace her opinion is so unbearable that her only way out is to reverse the opinion. Before Trump announced that he was quitting the 2015 deal but had hinted that he would, Rubin transformed into a Paris accord booster, and declared that such a move would be a disaster. She wrote:

No, Trump’s pullout from the international accord would be a political act — one that signals solidarity with his climate-change denial, right-wing base that revels in scientific illiteracy. Being a climate-change denier — which entails dogmatic opposition to the Paris agreement — is a dog whistle to the far right, a snub to “elites,” who in this case include academics, government and private scientists, technology chief executives and others whose livelihood depends on accurate data. (Between “2013 and 2014, only 4 of 69,406 authors of peer-reviewed articles on global warming, 0.0058% or 1 in 17,352, rejected AGW [anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming]. Thus, the consensus on AGW among publishing scientists is above 99.99%, verging on unanimity.”)

This would also be an international dog whistle, reflective of Trump’s rejection of the Atlantic Alliance and the bonds of cooperation that tie Western democracies together. R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is quoted as saying, “From a foreign policy perspective, it’s a colossal mistake — an abdication of American leadership. The success of our foreign policy — in trade, military, any other kind of negotiation — depends on our credibility. I can’t think of anything more destructive to our credibility than this.”

How could President Obama be so wrong to sign what Rubin termed a phony pact, yet President Trump such a villain and a fool to repudiate it?

Simple: if Donald Trump does it or says it, it’s horrible by definition, and previous conclusions and analysis is inoperable.

Writes Davis,

What changed that could possibly explain Rubin’s complete reversal on the necessity of a deal she once said was “ephemeral,” “phony,” “fantasy,” and “devoid of substance?” Nothing. It’s the same deal today as it was when it was agreed to in 2015. The only difference between then and now is that Trump eventually endorsed Rubin’s take in its entirety. And because Rubin now calibrates her political compass to the opposite of whatever Trump is doing, she feels compelled to vociferously support a vapid agreement she at one time opposed on the merits.

Bias makes you stupid. It also makes pundits untrustworthy, and it’s stunning that neither Rubin nor her editors noticed her sudden reversal sufficiently to recognize that some explanation was mandatory. Maybe they think “Trump” is explanation enough.

They probably do.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

The Washington Post Drops Its Resident Op-Ed Socialist. Good.

Workers Unite

The Washington Post has jettisoned Harold Meyerson, who has been the leftest of the leftists on the Washington Post op-ed pages for about 13 years…not surprising, as he also serves as editor at large for The American Prospect. Mayerson, according to his last column, was told that he was a goner because he was losing readers and because his columns were repetitious, which they certainly were. How many times, after all, can one read “Workers Unite!”?  From Occupy Wall Street to BlackLivesMatter, there was no revolt of the oppressed and downtrodden that Meyerson didn’t support, nor any standard issue socialist/progressive position that he did not wholeheartedly embrace.

The Post has other kneejerk leftists among their pundits, a disproportionate number in fact (this was also part of the Post’s motivation to let Meyerson go), but I found Meyerson more infuriating than the others because he seemed so much more intelligent than his positions and statements would suggest. He was the epitome of an opinion journalist whose opinions seemed to be calibrated to achieve a grander agenda, rather than honest expressions of truth or even what he really believed. He is a columnist in the Saul Alinsky tradition of liberalism, willing to bend truth for the greater good, to win converts for the Great Worker Rebellion, or whatever it would be.

No newspaper should employ a journalist who is willing to deceive its readers, even on the pretense of saving the world.

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Ghost Of Ethics Dunce Past: “Hardball” Guest Kevin James

Chamberlain

[CORRECTION: Boy do I feel stupid. For some reason Slate ran a story about this ridiculous exchange on Hardball, and it confused me into thinking it was current, and related to the Iran deal. My mistake; thanks to Rick Jones for flagging it. Other than the time frame, everything I wrote about James (and Matthews, and MSNBC) stands, and James’ pundit malpractice deserves as much exposure as possible. I’ve made a few edits to eliminate the confusion, which was all mine. I must say, however, I question the need for dredging up past idiots on political talk shows when there is such an abundance of current ones]

I didn’t know who Kevin James was—all I could find were references to the comedian who starred in “King of Queens.”  Apparently this James is a former L.A. mayoral candidate, a lawyer, and radio talk show host. Because MSNBC likes playing the game of finding the most ridiculous, inarticulate, wild-eyed, nut-ball conservative it can to represent any position the network’s ideological clones oppose, Chris Matthews used this guy in 2008 to explain whyt Republicans  thought Obama was “an appeaser” like Neville Chamberlain.  James’ position was that Obama was following in the infamous footsteps of  Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler in Munich while trumpeting “Peace in our time.”

Incredibly, James had no idea what Chamberlain did, and maybe even who he was. Matthews humiliated him by exposing his guest’s jaw-dropping ignorance as James shouted, protested and broadcast to all that he was the epitome of a badly educated, unprepared ideologue, out of his depth, his league, and his mind: How could any sane individual go on TV to compare Obama to Neville Chamberlain without doing the minimal research necessary to justify the comparison?

This is incompetent and irresponsible punditry, advocacy malpractice, and rank stupidity. Of course, it is also unethical for Matthews and MSNBC to allow anyone so abysmally unqualified to be a guest, but fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Still, the majority of the blame has to fall on James.

This fool was a federal prosecutor?

I bet the other Kevin James would have done better.

But he might not have been funnier.

Watch, and wince:

____________________

Spark and Pointer: Slate

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Christiane Amanpour

amanpour

“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”

——Christiane Amanpour in 1996, responding to critics who called her reporting on the Bosnian War biased.

Now THIS is an unethical quote, in contrast to the earlier one from Christiane, which I posted yesterday as an “Ethics Quote of the Week.”

I’m posting this one 20 years after it was uttered because…

1. It explains the previous quote from yesterday.

2. It tells us everything we need to know about Christiane, which is to say, she cannot be trusted as a reporter.

3. For some reason I was unaware of it.

4. It appears to have become the motto of all reporters.

5. It is unethical to the core, and

6. A lot of people, including most journalists, don’t know why. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Professions

The Bill Maher Ethical Conundrum

Wits

“One of these things is not like the other…”

 

The Bill Maher Ethics Conundrum is not what you probably think it is.

Maher, the alleged comic and anti-conservative scold who hosts an HBO program, was chosen by a student committee to be the  commencement speaker for the University of California-Berkeley’s December graduation. This was a lazy, embarrassingly juvenile and politically-loaded selection, but Maher had also just recently used his show to join fellow atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris in a condemnation of Islam, calling it  “the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Later on Maher nodded approvingly  as Harris also called Islam”the mother lode of bad ideas.”

This caused Muslim students at Berkeley to prove Maher correct about their religion’s entrenched intolerance of opposition, and they have been joined by other political correctness censors in the student body—there are a lot of them—to demand that the university rescind Maher’s invitation because of his “hate speech.”A  Change.org petition—-now THAT site is the real mother lode of bad ideas—now urges students to boycott the decision and asks the campus to stop him from speaking. It has gathered more than 1,400 signatures. The committee that chose Maher, naturally, backed down, but the University, so far at least, is sticking to its decision to invite him.

Yes, yes, universities ought to be marketplaces of ideas where all views are welcome, and yes, it is hypocritical and offends the traditions of liberal education to stop Maher from stating his views on Islam, or re-telling “The Aristocrats,” or making a fool of himself, or whatever he’s going to do because some students or all students disagree with him, just as it was for Rutgers students to force Condolezza Rice into withdrawing after she was invited to speak at Rutgers. The dilemma illustrated by this flap is a classic ethics problem, which I will henceforth call the Bill Maher Conundrum, which has been long debated and never decisively settled:

Is the ethical nature of an act defined by its intent, or by an objective assessment of the act alone without reference to motive? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Blogger Ann Althouse

“(The link goes to The New York Times, not to some Obama-bashing site.)”

—Law professor/bloggress Ann Althouse, sending readers to an article about the Obama administration has apparently squandered 11 billion dollars on a mismanaged, ill-conceived, never realistic effort to launch high speed rail in the U.S.

Now you guys, we can only trust on POSITIVE Obama stories....

Now you guys, we can only trust on POSITIVE Obama stories….

Quite apart from the story itself, which reveals just another example of the stunning ineptitude and waste in this most incompetent of all possible presidencies, Althouse’s statement raises several important ethical issues. Admittedly, there are websites that literally won’t publish anything positive about Barack Obama’s efforts, but to be fair, any media outlet that is objective and doing its job will become, by necessity, an “Obama-bashing site,” because the President’s record, results, conduct and leadership skills have been routinely dreadful. The fact that most sites that qualify for that description are already biased against progressives and Democrats shows how hopelessly polarized, and lacking in journalistic integrity the mainstream media is. Continue reading

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