Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/8/17

[I have been pondering doing this for some time now. Literally every day there are issues and stories that arise that are either too minor for a full post, or crowded out by other issues. Often I never get to them. Also my various issue scouts (especially Fred) have been burying me with excellent candidates for discussion and analysis, and I never get to most of them, frustrating all of us. So I am going to see if I can begin every day with a set of short notes about these topics, reserving the right to expand some of them into full posts later.]

1. Stacy Lockett, a teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High, has been fired after she gave out facetious awards to students such as “Most likely to become a terrorist” and “Most likely to blend in with white people.” Good, I think. These are too sensitive issues to expect middle-schoolers to laugh at, and the ‘awards”  show terrible judgment. Still, I am thinking back to comments made in class by some of my favorite 7th and 8th grade teachers, some targeting me. I thought they were funny, and the teachers knew I would think so. All of them would have been fired today, according to the Lockett Standard (Pointer from Fred)

2. By not disciplining Reza Aslan, the host of its “Believer” program who called President Trump a “piece of shit,” “an embarrassment to humankind” and a “man-baby” CNN has made it clear that it has abandoned any vestiges of professionalism or regard for journalism ethics. Well, perhaps “even more clear” is more accurate. CNN allowed Carol Costello to gleefully mock Bristol Palin for getting emotional over being battered; it has allowed Don Lemon to get smashed on the air two New Year’s Eves in a row, and shrugged off Anderson Cooper speculating about the President taking “a dump on his desk,” to give just three examples. Its excuse for Aslan was especially weird, claiming in a statement that he was a host but not an employee. Aslan apologized, but it was a dishonest apology, claiming that the tweets were impulsive and “not like me,” but in another tweet on May 9, he wrote,

“Oh the joy when this lying conniving scumbag narcissistic sociopath piece of shit fake president finally gets what’s coming to him.”

It’s sad to see what CNN has become since Trump’s election. I am embarrassed for the network. but more than that, I am in sorrow for the public. It is not being served by this kind of amateurish, biased and unprofessional journalism.

3. I finally decided that this law suit was too stupid to write about: a ridiculous woman named Holly O’Reilly has found some lawyers—not just any lawyers, either, but the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—-willing to file a lawsuit claiming that President Trump cannot block her on his Twitter account because doing so is a First Amendment violation of her rights of free speech. The institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not have a right to exclude his critics from engaging with his posts. Does anyone think this is anything but nonsense? Anyone but the New York Times, that is, which wrote, ” The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy,” and the Washington Post, which published the woman’s silly  op-ed .

When did “novel” come to mean “absurd”? The President blocking a Twitter user on the social media platform isn’t “government action” any more than not taking her phone calls or not reading her letters. She can still say anything she wants on Twitter. Next she’ll sue because she isn’t allowed to ask question at White House press briefings. Columbia University should be embarrassed, but when the anti-Trump  hate virus melts your brain, embarrassment is often the first casualty. Continue reading

Lauren Green vs Reza Aslan Aftermath: Attack Of The Spinners

spinningThe interview Lauren Green of Fox news inflicted on her guest, Reza Aslan, was bad journalism, bad television, and just plain wrong–unfair, unreasonable, and biased. In a sane U.S., nobody would defend such a dull-edged hatchet job, which appeared to be crafted, by Green or her Dark Lords at Fox, to make the network’s conservative Christian viewers happy by accusing a scholar of religious bias for simply challenging the historical accuracy of the New Testament. But this is an insane, crazily partisan U.S., where every perceived defeat in the culture wars is cause for garment rending, so such niceties as being honest when one of your allies misbehaves is considered tantamount to surrender.

Thus along comes conservative religious scholar Matthew J. Franck, who on his blog First Thoughts hands the Christian Soldiers of the Right just the ammunition they need to rehabilitate Green. (Note: Green revealed herself as a shameless hack, and doesn’t deserve to be rehabilitated.) Naturally, the strategy is to discredit Aslan, and this he tries to do with gusto in not one, but two blog posts. His accusation: Aslan misrepresented his scholarly credentials, when he was trying repeatedly to challenge Green’s idiotic contention that a Muslim isn’t qualified to write about Jesus. This means, concludes Franck, that Aslan can’t be trusted, so Green was right all along. His book should be ignored.

Ironically enough, this calls to mind another one of Bickmore’s Laws (His First Law of Being Biased was featured in the original post about Green’s interview) , Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Biased:

Nitpicking others’ arguments is not the same thing as “critical thinking.”  That involves nitpicking your own arguments.

This applies nicely to Franck’s attack on Aslan.

Aslan said, off the cuff and while being badgered by Green, Continue reading

Lauren Green, Fox News, and Bickmore’s First Law Of Being Biased

Watch this, if you dare.

I have been using the phrase “Bias makes you stupid” for many years, but only recently learned that a Utah climate-change scientist has claimed the observation as his own. In fact, Barry Bickmore has a lot of useful, perceptive observations among “Bickmore’s Laws” ( Example: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions ), though they all were apparently devised to help him debunk the arguments of climates change skeptics. Most of them have general applicability. and that includes his version of what I once called “Marshall’s First Law”: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased: Bias makes you human.  Unchecked bias makes you stupid.

Which brings us to Lauren Green, and Fox News.

I have no idea whether Ms. Green is really stupid or not. I do know she is a former beauty queen, and that Fox (other networks too, but Fox is blatant about it) clearly values pulchritude over journalistic acumen and skill when making their on-air talent decisions not involving Y chromosomes. This itself is stupid, unprofessional, sexist, insulting to women, unfair to better journalists with smaller bra cups and courser features, and I must admit, when it leads to an epic live embarrassment such as Green’s, I take some satisfaction that Roger Ailes is getting exactly what he deserves for such a cynical, reckless, ratings ploy.

If Lauren Green is not stupid, then her frantic efforts to play to the core Fox audience’s presumed bias in favor of Christianity of the literal variety and related bias against non-Christians, especially Muslims, sure caused her brain to take a holiday. Or, perhaps, her own unchecked Christian biases—she is Fox’s “religion correspondent” these days—triggered a classic display of Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased. In either case, I think her credibility is permanently shot, even at Fox. She might want to consider a different line of work. Continue reading