The Massie-Kerry Exchange: Sadly, Everybody’s Stupid

First I encountered several conservative media references to an exchange between former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate John Kerry and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.  This occurred at at a House committee hearing Tuesday on “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security.” The sense of the references was typified by this headline in Townhall: “Watch Incoherent John Kerry Get Destroyed Over His Bogus Climate Change Claims.”

Then, almost immediately later, I found Rolling  Stones account of the same exchange. It’s click-bait headline: “Is This the Dumbest Moment in Congressional History?”

Talk about Roshomon! How could both of these accounts possibly be accurate? Was Kerry reduced to a babbling fool by the Republican Comgressman’s deft cross examination, or did Massie embarrass himself? The truth was that everyone involved on all sides of this mini-foofaraw was, and is, stupid in one way or another, including the biased bloggers and pundits who saw what wasn’t there.

For Kerry to represent himself as any kind of expert on climate change is so silly even Democrats shouldn’t fallfor it. Yet here is Rolling Stone, saying outright, “Kerry is an expert on climate change who helped broker the Paris climate accord.” Kerry, like Al Gore and so many others whose belief in climate change doomsday predictions is based on politics rather than their comprehension or even review of the science, is just mouthing what he has been briefed to say. He has no background in science, no demonstrated aptitude for it, and has a well-established record of saying really dumb things about subjects he should be able to understand. The Paris accord was a diplomatic agreement, not a scientific one, and, of course, was symbolic and meaningless.  Kerry is an expert on symbolic and meaningless.

Massie is an MIT grad and trained as an engineer, so one could fairly expect that he is a little more legitimately conversant in climate science than Kerry, though he hardly proved it this day. He did prove that he’s no lawyer. Setting out to discredit Kerry’s climate change expert status should have been easy: just show a typical climate change model chart, like this one, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (2)

rape-on-campus

 

I still can’t sleep.

This is the second Comment of the Day on this October 18 post, a surprise one for Pennagain, since I didn’t even flag it at the time. Again, I’m sorry. I don’t know what was up in October; it also ended with the worst traffic here of any week for more than two years. Obviously, it was a protest over my dilatory posting of the fine work by my commenters.

This one is a triple COTD, made up of three by Penn, who properly raised the specter of Samantha Erdly in the context of hoax research. Erdley is the Rolling Stone journalist who inflicted the “Jackie” tale of an imaginary gang rape at the University of Virginia, an earlier assault of truth and due process by the “believe all women” crowd. (Ethics Alarms covered the episode in a series of posts.). I just re-read Pennagain’s comments, made in a discussion with Alizia Tyler, who earns an assist. Excellent observations, and a valuable assist in making sure this journalistic outrage is never slipped down the memory hole, as so many would love it to be.

Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

As far as hoax articles appearing in either reputable journals or popular publications (rarely the same thing), if I weren’t an atheist, I would damn them all to hell. What I have in mind as an example that should need no further elucidation here is the piece knowingly published by Rolling Stone that included the false rape stories and statistics responsible for poisoning much of a culture, not to mention its politics….

“In November 2016, a federal court jury found Samantha Erdely was liable for defamation with actual malice” and that “Erdely and Rolling Stone failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice”

Her background reveals a start in college, when her colleague Stephen Glass ‘threw a righteous fit’ after she and a another student “concocted a funny and obviously made-up travel story” for the school magazine.” [Glass, you may not know, later became nationally notorious for inventing false stories published as factual journalism in the highly respected The New Republic, seriously harming its reputation.] Erdely was obviously already toxic before she left school. If you’re curious, her Wikipedia bio contains descriptions of six other major rape stories she invented out of whole cloth and used to smear real people and institutions, articles that in at least two cases went up for major journalism awards. As a self-appointed expert in rape and bullying, her work went into GQ, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Health, Philadelphia, among other lesser magazines. She was believed. The more she got away with, the greater the lies she invented … until, after twenty wonderful years of conning millions of people, she got over-confident and lazy, and plagiarized a previous article of her own. Until someone finally noticed that the Rolling Stone piece bore too many similarities to another one to be coincidental.

For twenty years, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Seattle to Florida, she built a reputation for being the go-to journalist on the subject of rape. No one doubted her. Witnesses later spoke out using her writing as statistical evidence — women (and so many men who had been falsely accused) and feminists in particular — had absorbed every precious word – even against the evidence of their own knowledge and experience in the times and places Erdely was writing about.

A month ago, September 21, 2018, Rolling Stone was also found “liable for defamation.” It was noted in the case against Erdely that the magazine hadn’t been doing too well before they glommed onto that gem of Samantha, aka “Jackie,” the fictional rapee.

Last week’s headline: WaPo Reporter Is Tired of Being Reminded He Fell for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Hate Hoax So Badly He Called for Burning Down UVA Frat Houses

I now amend my description of the poisonous piece: It is a “hate hoax.”

No, Alizia, poisons do not, in general, lead to death. They lead to minor discomfort in some, and major permanent damage in others; some knock you on your ass right away, and some creep insidiously into your brain over months or years. The public remembers things they read and hear. They (I won’t say “we” because I became skeptical reader at the age of 12 after a defamatory article was published in a local newspaper concerning a friend of my family concerning something that happened while I was present and knew to be a lie. I had been visiting one of their children, a classmate, at the time the incident took place, or rather, didn’t take place. My testimony was taken down, along with his, not discounted, but the editor of the paper would not print a retraction because, he said, “we don’t want to confuse our readers; they expect the truth, and that is what we give them.” Our parents wanted that in writing; naturally, he refused.

I am convinced that what is presented in a plausible manner from an authoritative source (which could be the 10 o’clock news or a magazine with a reputation for having its journalistic thumb on the pulse of young America) is frequently taken in without the auditor, viewer or reader later recalling the source. If they didn’t question it in the first place, they not only don’t question it later, but, when challenged, they will deny or dismiss any correction out of sheer embarrassment, egotism, mental laziness or, in the case under discussion, because they want to believe it.

As has been pointed out in Ethics Alarms before, the left, on the whole, has taken the anomalous position of being at once both victim and dictator. Thus, the concept of a Rape Culture is heaven for them: they are, collectively, the injured parties … and the ones who injure, including any who are capable of doing injury, are now at their mercy — via 30-year-old wisps of memory, anonymous join-the-conga-line #MeToo-ers, a casual touch on the shoulder, or a dirty-dirty word in their ears. They feed on lies more than on facts – the truths are painful, but the lies are more … emotional, memorable, dramatic, arousing . . . . They need to feed the addiction even when they know it is poison…

The fact in this matter is that Erdely, falsely or idiotically or crazily or not, believed she was doing something fine and high-minded “for women,” and to alert a deaf public (and via that route influence authorities) that there was “a rape problem” that needed to be addressed. In her mind, the ruining of a single man (or a whole college fraternity) was insignificant in terms of getting her message “out there.”

In other words, her cover (if you will) was in presenting these gross exaggerations as hoaxes. I may have taken you in the wrong direction by quoting the court decisions concerning malicious intent. The articles undoubtedly did “malicious” damage. So where am I? What Erdely believed (and apparently still does) has been shown to be shared by much of the public touched by it — including a proportion of men who don’t understand they are simply seeing themselves as heroic exceptions, or else thinking they are disguising themselves to live in the midst of an Amazonian tribe that wants to cut their balls off (that was an irrelevant side-bar, sorry, I do that a lot, letting off steam). Here’s what happens when someone with a cause and a vague concept of how bad the situation is gets hold of what she thinks are solid statistics, intended as a righteous hoax: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/12/06/msnbc_panelist_we_live_in_a_culture_that_hates_women.html

I rest my case.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/18: Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!!!

Good MORNING, everyone!!!

(And good morning, little Louie..)

1. The state of American journalism, CNN’s Headline News quadrant: A recent poll claims that 50% of Republicans regard the news media as “enemies of the people.” Just because it is actively manipulating the news to try to topple the President of the United States? How unreasonable! No, I am beginning to believe that the 21st Century U.S. news media is really the Enemy of the Cerebral Cortex. On HLN this morning, James Comey’s disastrous interview on Fox News yesterday (among about 400 other stories of more relevance to Americans) was deemed newsworthy, but not one but two royal family stories were: the wedding dress for the American woman whose name I can’t remember who is going to marry the British prince who doesn’t matter on a date I don’t give a damn about, and, again, what the new royal great-grandchild’s name will be. The breathless reporting on these two world-altering events took over 10 out of the 40 minutes the network devotes to news rather than pharmaceutical commercials, a full 25%.

But that’s not all. HLN newsbabe Robin Meade emulated “Best in Show’s” Fred Willard’s cruelly hilarious send-up of Joe Garagiola’s embarrassingly lunk-headed turns as a “color man” at the Westminster Dog Show by asking the dumbest question, I think, I have ever heard on the air. If you haven’t seen “Best in Show” a) What’s the matter with you? and b) here are typical questions asked by Willard during the fictional dog show’s broadcast as “Buck Laughlin,” an ex-pro athlete, to his British dog expert  (“Trevor Beckwith”) co-host and others:

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

“Doctor, question that’s always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia – a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.”

“Now that looks like a fast dog. Is that faster than a greyhound? If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them…”

Robin, however, against all odds, topped Buck, asking the British reporter, after learning that the new total would be named, “Louis,”

“Now in American, when we hear that name we immediately think, “Louie Louie, oh no, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.” Is that the way it is in England too? “

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Rolling Stone” Founder/Owner Jann Wenner

rape-on-campus

 

I’ve been awarding Ethics Dunces for more than a decade now, and I’m beginning to find the title too generic. For example, Jann Wenner, in this instance, is a particularly repugnant Ethics Dunce. In short, the title’s too good for him.

Wenner’s iconic baby, Sixties relic Rolling Stone magazine, is a defendant in a  $7.5 million lawsuit brought by Nicole Eramo, a former Associate Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, who claims that the 2014 Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” depicted her as a villain in the shocking story, which was ultimately shown to be about a gang rape that never happened. (Ethics Alarms covered this episode extensively, an ethics train wreck, here.) Testifying in video excerpts from his deposition, Wenner said his magazine was wrong to retract the  article, despite the fact that it was based on false allegations. In his videotaped testimony Wenner claimed that much of the material in the article was accurate

How Dan Rather of him! In a classic example of agenda-driven reporting, Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely accepted the tale of a never-identified student called  “Jackie” who claimed to have been brutally raped at a party that never happened, at a misidentified fraternity, primarily by one student who was falsely accused. Because of the article, the  fraternity system at the University was temporarily shut down and permanently subjected to more stringent regulations. The male student body was tarred as teeming with sexual predators. The entire thesis of the article was based on the fabricated rape account. There is no ethical justification to continue to present such an article after its diseased heart must be removed. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wonkette Writer Rebecca Schoenkopf

juanita

I can absolutely see Bill Clinton doing this (then, not now) and not even thinking of it as rape, but thinking of it as dominant, alpha sex. I can see a LOT of men doing that during that time period, before we started telling them in the ’80s, “hey, that is rape, do not do that.” I can see YOUR NICE GRANDPA doing that, back then…I think good men can rape, and be sorry, and not do it again. This is very bad feminism…To sum up, I think Bill Clinton could very well have raped Juanita Broaddrick; that it doesn’t make him an evil man, or irredeemable (I’m Catholic; we’re all forgiven, if we’re sorry, and Broaddrick says Bill Clinton personally called her up to apologize). It doesn’t even necessarily make him a bad feminist — you know, later, once he stops doing that.

  Rebecca Schoenkopf, writing in the progressive blog Wonkette, talking about Juanita Brodderick’s rape accusation against Bill Clinton

Broaddrick’s claims are back in the news, now that it was noticed that the Hillary Clinton website quietly pulled its statement about the victims of sexual assault having “the right to be believed,” Clinton’s jaw-dropping assertion—given her despicable role in silencing and discrediting Bill’s various victims—that Ethics Alarms discussed when it was first made.

I awoke to multiple rightish blogs, and Ann Althouse, who is dead center, going bonkers over this piece, and rightly so. My initial query is, why only right wing and moderate blogs? Is the left this corrupted by Bill and Hillary? (Okay, that’s rhetorical: the answer is “Damn right they are.”) When did it become progressive to argue that “good men can rape”?

I thought that was a misogynist pig position scrawled on the walls of a troglodyte’s cave.

Good men do NOT rape. Ever. Rape—do I really need to say this?—is signature significance. It was in the 80s, it was in the 60s, it has always been. If you rape (and if you defend rape), you’re not good, you’re not ethical, and you’re not trustworthy. And–do I really have to say THIS?–you’re not just a bad feminist, you’re a phony feminist. (By the by way, you gotcha-masters out there: I am not saying that there is anything wrong with a lawyer defending an accused rapist, like Hillary Clinton did. That is not defending rape itself.)

So why aren’t the indignant, politically correct, feminist, war-on-women-deriding left-leaning web sites, commentators and bloggers collectively retching at the Wonkette post? Explain that to me, someone. Explain why it isn’t evidence that integrity hasn’t died in their skulls, and is stinking up their ethics like a dead rat under the floor-boards. Continue reading

“Jackie” Scores A Jumbo!

That's not really "Jackie" with Jimmy and Jumbo---it's Doris Day, who turned 92 this week. Happy Birthday, Doris!

That’s not really “Jackie” with Jimmy and Jumbo—it’s Doris Day, who turned 92 this week. Happy Birthday, Doris!

You remember “Jackie,” surely, who was featured often in Ethics Alarms posts last year. She is the inexplicably still un-named lying fake rape victim who exploited the sloppy journalism and miserable ethics of man-hating Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdley, to create a sensational account of a fraternity gang rape on the University of Virginia campus…that never happened. The resulting article led the UVA president to shut down fraternities, set anti-male feminist pundits and activists into a frenzy of nation-wide victim-mongering, brought down the fires of Hell on the brow of UVA associate dean of students Nicole Eramo, who “Jackie” fingered as an unfeeling villain, and seriously— and, one hopes, permanently— wounded the credibility of Rolling Stone, which ultimately had to retract the whole thing.

No,  the gang rape never happened. About that, there is no longer any doubt. No evidence of an assault was ever uncovered, besides “Jackie’s” lies. None of her “facts” could be confirmed, except by the progressive biases—mostly political, as the Obama Administration has been working overtime to represent campus romance as the equivalent of the Rape of the Sabine Women—that allowed the story to progress to publication in the first place.

Now Nicole Eramo is suing Rolling Stone for defamation, alleging that Erdley’s article vilified and harmed her recklessly. Naturally, her lawyers want to depose “Jackie,” since it was “Jackie’s” fiction, never verified by Rolling Stone, that created the false story.

Jackie’s lawyers, however, strongly argued on her behalf that she should not have to testify, since the experience would cause her serious psychological trauma by forcing her to relive the sexual assault—that never happened. She will be “re-victimized,” her lawyers say–remember, this is Jackie’s position; her poor lawyers are the ones she pays to present it without laughing. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce (From The Shark-Jumping Files): The National Organization For Women

Fomzi, Homer, The National Organization for Women...

Fomzi, Homer, The National Organization for Women…

It would be good for the nation and national discourse on gender-related matters if there existed a national organization, operated with integrity, intelligence and dignity, that addressed legitimate issues of women’s rights with the zeal of an advocate as well as professionalism and common sense. There was a time, so long ago now that I can’t even recall exactly when it was, that the National Organization for Women appeared capable of evolving into just such an organization. As this incident shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that chance has passed. NOW has descended into permanent knee-jerk hackery, the realm where its neighbors are such predictable and rightly-maligned one-note fanatics as PETA, the NRA, NARAL, and Media Matters. What a shame. What a lost opportunity to do good.

When the Worst of Ethics 2015 is finally published here (It’s coming! I swear!), the “Rolling Stone” fiasco featuring the fantasy rape accusation of “Jackie” against a University of Virginia fraternity will take one of the “honors,” and maybe more. From that collision of campus sexual assault hysteria and incompetent journalism came real harm, and several of the victims are suing the publication for defamation. One such victim is a University of Virginia associate dean named Nicole Eramo, who is alleging in her lawsuit that the magazine falsely portrayed her as negligently unconcerned with allegations of sexual assault on campus and as the now totally discredited fraternity gang rape tale’s villain.

Counsel for Eramo has asked that a court require “Jackie” to turn over any communications ,related to the alleged assault, between Jackie and  the magazine, friends, family and a campus support organization. Now NOW has presumed to interfere, and is trying to derail the lawsuit. In an open letter published this week, NOW president Terry O’Neill called on UVA president Teresa Sullivan to get Eramo to drop the suit. (She cannot force her to do that, however, and it would be unethical for Sullivan to try.) Continue reading

Well, So Much For Brian Banks’ Vote, The “To Kill A Mockingbird” Admirers Vote, The Bill Cosby Fan Vote, The UVA Fraternity Vote, The Bill Clinton Sup…Uh, I Don’t Think Hillary Thought This Through…

In the bright side, I think Hillary has Wanetta Gibson's vote locked up!

In the bright side, I think Hillary has Wanetta Gibson’s vote locked up!

You see, even if Hillary Clinton was honest, which she isn’t, and trustworthy, which she definitely isn’t, or had a record of a accomplishment, which she doesn’t, there would still be this habit she has of making jaw-droppingly stupid, pandering and unethical statements.  There was when she suggested that Donald Trump was  responsible for the Charleston Church massacre.  There was her statement that we shouldn’t “let” people hold minority viewpoints that the majority finds upsetting. This, however, is special.

In today’s “Women for Hillary” event, bolstered by an audience that somehow believes the myth that she is a feminist,she actually said (and later tweeted)

“To every survivor of sexual assault…You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We’re with you.”

There is no right to be believed, although this is an oft repeated “right” pushed by anti-male, crypto-Victorians who are dedicated to making the act of consensual sex so risky for men that Caitlyn Jenner may be the gender’s most viable future. It is also the underlying position behind the un-American recommendation by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis that a 20% chance that an accusation of sexual assault  should be sufficient to kick a male student out of college. Law enforcement treating dubious rape accusations as if there is a “right to be believed” resulted in lynchings in the past and successful, life-wrecking scams by the likes of Wanetta Gibson in the present. It allowed the despicable and probably batty Emma Sulkowicz, a.k.a. “Mattress Girl,” to harass her supposed attacker on the Columbia campus even after her story had been thoroughly discredited. The sexist principle relieving women of having to provide more than an accusation alone allowed the false Rolling Stone “Jackie” story of a fraternity gang rape to slander every fraternity on the University of Virginia campus, which were punished by the school’s “right to be believed”-addled president.

Yes, women who claim to be victims of sexual assault deserve to be heard, and they deserve to have their accusation treated like every other accusation, while those they accuse are provided with the presumption of innocence, due process and a fair hearing as well. A right to be believed. however? That’s sexist, reckless, and wrong.

But Hillary doesn’t really believe this stuff. I assume she barely thinks about it. These are just “things you say to get to be President” to her.

Still, you would think Hillary would be a bit more careful; after all, her husband was accused of sexual assault or worse by Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broderick and Paula Jones. Why didn’t they have a right to be believed?

__________________

Pointer and Spark: Mediaite

 

Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout

It is times like this when I wonder if my theory that ethics evolves toward wisdom may be excessively optimistic.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University officials went bananas when a fraternity engaged in randy verbal hijinks of questionable taste at its off-campus home across the street from the institution. ( “Hijinks of questionable taste” is synonymous with “acted like a fraternity.”) Some frat boys hung painted bedsheets as banners to welcome incoming freshmen co-eds, thusly:

Fraternity

Well, THE HORROR!

ODU’s leadership responded to the tomfoolery by issuing the following statement:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not [be] tolerated. The moment University staff became aware of these banners, they worked to have them removed. At ODU, we foster a community of respect and dignity, and these messages sickened us. They are not representative of our 3,000 faculty and staff, 25,000 students, and 130,000 alumni.

Ours is a community that works actively to promote bystander intervention and takes a stand denouncing violence against women. The ‘It’s on Us’ video is just one example of ODU students’ leadership on this topic. In addition, the University ensures all students receive education on the prevention of sexual harassment and relationship violence.”

Old Dominion’s Student Government Association also issued their own verbal condemnation of the incident. They filmed a video directly addressing the banners and stated: Continue reading

Amazing! The Columbia School Of Journalism Just Boarded “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck

train-wreck

An Ethics Alarms ethics train wreck occurs when a notable unethical act or event becomes a long-running ethics disaster that exposes not merely the ethics deficits of the original participants, but others who become involved later, including, among others, public officials, commentators, experts and pundits.

This might be the first time I have ever seen the organization specifically brought in to perform a forensic ethics analysis of what caused the wreck end up with its own ethics sullied. Incredibly, however, that is what has happened to the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism, which just delivered the definitive verdict on Rolling Stone’s abysmal journalism concerning a false accusation of a fraternity gang rape by a University of Virginia fraternity.

The Columbia Journalism School held a press conference today to discuss the details and implications of its findings regarding Rolling Stone’s (tardily) retracted article, “A Rape on Campus.”  Columbia Journalism Dean Steve Coll emphasize that the fiasco  was “the collective fault of the reporter, the editor, the editor’s supervisor, and the fact-checking department.”

“We don’t believe that ‘Jackie’ was to blame,” Columbia academic affairs dean Sheila Coronel added.

Wait: how can she possibly make such a manifestly dishonest statement like this? The woman who made the false allegations that resulted in the story isn’t to blame for the story? She was the one who claimed to be gang raped at a party that never happened, at a fraternity that didn’t have a party, by frat brothers who didn’t exist, using quotes that were never said. “Jackie” is not only to blame, she is the single person most responsible for the story, its botching by Rolling Stone, and the harm it did to the fraternity she accused and the University of Virginia. “Jackie” started this Ethics Train Wreck rolling: note that I named it, months ago, “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck, because while Rolling Stone’s incompetent and biased reporter and editors played insane engineer, throttling down and blindly driving the engine to disaster, it was “Jackie” who owned the train and shoveled the coal.  And she’s not to blame? Continue reading