Rachel Maddow As the Symbol Of American Journalism’s Corruption

Over at the American Conservative, a veteran State Department employee and author Peter Van Buren makes his case that Rachel Maddow is the symbol of the catastrophic deterioration of America journalism over the past three years, as it openly joined the “resistance.” I disagree with his central thesis: nobody who works for MSNBC can symbolize journalism’s rot, since MSNBC has never been objective, competent, or trustworthy, not three years ago, not ever. I would choose the New York Times  for that honor.  Nevertheless, Van Buren’s description of what journalism has become in the rush to “Get Trump!” is well-argued, and should be persuasive to anyone not incapable of accepting the truth, that being  that honest, independent journalism has all but vanished, and the viability of our system of government is imperiled as a result.

Do our progressive friends and relatives deny this because they are corrupt, because the news media’s slant bolsters their desires so they accept it, because they are dim, or because, as Van Buren writes of Maddow, they are “people who refuse to accept facts and insist they alone understand a world you can’t even see. Delusion. Denial. Psychosis. Obsession. Paranoia”?

I’m not sure.  It has been obvious here that journalism now tries to manipulate our politics rather than report it since well before the 2016 campaign, and I’ve been listening to and reading denials all along.

Van Buren writes in part, Continue reading

Four Unethical Post-Mueller Report Op-Eds (Part II)

The previous post continues with the worst of the worst…

3.  Charles M. Blow (New York Times): It’s Bigger Than Mueller and Trump”

18 out of Charles M. Blow’s last 20 columns have been anti-Trump screeds, his ratio since the election is about the same. Not only is this res ipsa loquitur for Trump derangement, it’s also mind-numbingly repetitious. In addition to being consumed with hate and anger over the election of America’s President for nearly three years, Blow was an established  pernicious race-baiter before that, when he assigned that label to anyone who criticized Barack Obama, among others.

Why does a highly-respected newspaper feel that “race-baiting hateful hyper-partisan”—Blow hates Republicans, though not as much as he hates the President—is a niche that needs filling on the op-ed page is a mystery.

In his latest anti-Trump column, Blow, as usual, is absurd as well as misleading. He writes,

“The report did not, however, exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. I submit that we witnessed that Trump obstructed justice in open view, from the White House and on social media. And while Trump waged a two-year battle of slander and misinformation to defame the Mueller investigation, the majority of Democratic leadership did nothing to make the case that he had already reached the threshold of accountability, even without the report.”

I submit that Blow is a hack, writing to deceive the dim and the biased. Trump’s tweets constitute obstruction of justice? Good luck with that theory, Bozo: why don’t you ask a second year law student—or even George Conway— who would set you straight? And for any member of the news media to complain about slander when so many of his colleagues—and he himself—have routinely stated as fact that the President was a traitor and a criminal when no such facts existed…well, Blow has always excelled at gall.

This time, however, he found a way to combine his two passions in a single rant, while adding several “resistance” Big Lie talking points for good measure. Good job, Charles! Be proud, New York Times!

The best case against Donald Trump and the age of Trumpism has always been, and remains, the moral case. Criminality is only one facet of that, although it is the one that the courts and Congress can use to punish him….

As for the people, the voters, it is the moral abomination of having a racist, sexist, child-caging, family-separating, Muslim-hating transphobe as president that must remain front and center. That is the only way to move beyond Trump in 2020….

The very symbols of Trumpism — the MAGA hats, the wall, etc. — are more than merely physical objects. They have long since transcended their original meaning and purpose. They are now emblems. They are now the new iconography of white supremacy, white nationalist defiance and white cultural defense.

They are a form of white pride credentialing.

In much the same way that the Confederate flag became a white supremacist signaling device, wearing the MAGA hat and self-identifying as a “Trump supporter” now serves the same purpose. The symbols are tangentially connected to Trump, but they also transcend him. They are a way of cloaking racial hostility in the presentable form of politics….

In America, this recent rise of white nationalism follows a historical pattern: Whenever black people make progress, white people feel threatened and respond forcefully.

If you say so, Charles. Count the lies, Big and small, everybody, if you want an ethics tune-up That last bit is Blow’s default cover for Obama’s failure as a leader and a President: it isn’t Obama’s domestic and foreign policy ineptitude voters objected to, or his sanctimonious cons, it was the fact that he was black.

4. David Brooks (New York Times) We’ve All Just Made Fools of Ourselves — Again.”

Continue reading

Four Unethical Post-Mueller Report Op-Eds (Part I)

 

I guess the mainstream news media and its pundits aren’t going to take responsibility for the last three years of fake news and attempts to poison the nation against the President after all.  Are you shocked?

I. George Conway (Washington Post): “Trump is guilty — of being unfit for office”

George Conway is Kellyanne Conway’s husband. The Post just says he’s a lawyer in New York, which is another form of fake news: does every Trump-hating lawyer rate place on the op-ed page? Conway has been unethically and obnoxiously exploiting his wife’s prominence in the Trump administration to get undeserved attention for his own unremarkable “resistance” sentiments, and to embarrass her and her boss. Nice.

In most workplaces, a spouse who continually tried to undermine his or her spouse’s work would spark a simple demand from management: either get Lovey-Dovey to cut it out, or else. The fact that Conway femme can’t ask her husband to find a another hobby and be respected is interesting, but there is no reason the President should put up with it. I wouldn’t.

The Washington Post just proves once again its unethical complicity with the resistance by giving  the likes of Conway a forum to attack the President while adding nothing new or original to the debate whatsoever. As I repeatedly tell my hopeless Facebook friends when they post, as a non-rebuttal to any reasoned debunking of the latest impeachment hype, “He’s an X,Y, and Z and is unfit to be President,” the  public  found him fit to be President when they elected him. This is the central anti-American betrayal of the system and our institutions that Democrats , the news media and people like George have been flaunting since November 2016. He’s fit to be President because the electorate says so, and that’s the end of that discussion.

Constantly saying “He’s unfit to be President!” is now in the category of an ad hominem attack. It’s sour grapes and divisive without legitimate purpose; it’s an endless tantrum.  Barack Obama was as managerially and philosophically unqualified to be President on the last day of his tenure as the first, but the Post wasn’t publishing any “Obama’s not qualified to be President” op-eds after 2008 election, or before it, for that matter. (Only John McCain and Sarah Palin were unfit to be President). The people who wouldn’t let go of that conviction while refusing to shut up about it were the ridiculous birthers, a justly derided fringe sub-species. Those like Conway who won’t stop screaming about Trump’s well-established character traits now as if they are sudden revelations deserve similar treatment.

2. Michelle Goldberg (New York Times): No Criminal Collusion. Lots of Corruption.”

I don’t believe that agenda driven ideological propaganda should be accepted as respectable punditry, which is what op-eds ought to be. The idea, I should think, is to have a variety of people who have different views of complex issues make good faith efforts to explain why they have concluded what they have. Hard-left agitprop like what Goldberg routinely submits should be returned to sender by ethical editors with instructions to try them out on the narrow-minded readers of their usual platforms, like The Nation, The Guardian, and other leftist mouth pieces. This piece of hacker shows why that is the right course. Here is her main point, as various Trump-hating figures compete for new talking points to undermine him (In the essay, Goldberg says she “despises” the President. Of course she does—and that makes all of her arguments suspect.):

“The biggest thing this affair has uncovered is that throughout much of the presidential campaign, Trump was seeking to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The deal had the potential to make hundreds of millions of dollars for the Trump Organization, and Trump’s lawyer solicited the Russian government’s help to get it done. After the election, Trump lied about the deal to the American people. Vladimir Putin knew the truth, giving him leverage over Trump. Is that the only leverage he had?”

What a despicable smear. Trump was a business man, and there was and is nothing illegal about his organization pursuing business deals in Russia, nor was there anything untoward abut making hundreds of millions of dollars for Trump’s organization and its investors. Seeking assistance from the Russian government is SOP for such projects, and again, not illegal or inherently suspicious. Goldberg, we find out by following the links, has been claiming that the President was “lying to the American people” when he tweeted “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” Her assertion is the lie.  Trump is not his organization, the Trump Tower deal wasn’t to be with “Russia,” and Putin had no “leverage” at all, since what the business negotiations weren’t illegitimate in any way. “Is that the only leverage he had?” is classic conspiracy theory rhetoric, suspicion without substance.

[Part II, covering the unethical columns of Charles Blow and Davis Brooks, is on the way…]

“Russiagate” Collapse Ethics: Don’t Trust These People Again…Ever.

Debra Heine has compiled a useful list of the worst liars, hate-mongers, ethics corruptors,  and civic disrupters in he past three years of framing the President of the United States as a traitorous usurper who conspired with Russia to steal his high office. I was happy to find that I already distrusted all of those on the list that I had heard of, for this was hardly their only example of unethical instincts and corrupt behavior. Heine, a conservative blogger and pundit, used a rather high standard to make her list; I would have added several more. For example, ex- MSNBC star Keith Olberman, now again doing sports punditry on ESPN, has repeatedly tweeted such messages to the President as “Resign, you traitorous fuck!” and “Read up on the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado. You’ll be celebrating your next birthday there. Enjoy!” But maybe nobody pays any attention to Keith any more—I hope not—so Debra was wise leaving him off. I definitely miss seeing Richard Painter on the list. He was President Bush’s ethics counsel, and has abused that credential (unethically exploiting credentials to deceive is a theme) to make one  specious impeachment argument after another, from “emoluments” to obstruction of justice to collusion.

Here is her list, which I will periodically comment on, though she has added extesnive documentation on each. It  is important that there be consequences for what all of these public figures, journalists, politicians and others have done to the nation, its institutions and our culture by pushing the Big Lie that the President made a deal with Russia absent any evidence at all. As I see it now, most of these individuals are refusing to acknowledge what they did or make any effort to undo the damage they have done to all of us. Suggestions that they served Putin’s interests by promoting discord and distrust of our institutions more than anything the President has done are quite correct.

A related list, focused only on the news media’s “fake news” regarding the Russia investigation and other efforts to impugn the President, was released yesterday by rebel reporter Sheryl Attkisson. She also ended up with an incomplete list, but a full list of the news media’s deceptions, incompetent errors, false predictions and wildly biased analysis would require days to scroll through. You can read it here.

Now Heine’s list… Continue reading

Late Verdict On The Helsinki Press Conference Freak-Out: I’m Convinced. It’s Just More Unethical, Double-Standard, Anti-Trump, “Resistance” And News Media Coup-Fodder, Only Noisier And Dumber Than Usual

I don’t appeal to authority very often.

What I do occasionally do is look for someone with judgment, experience and honesty I trust whose assessment of a particular situation jibes with my ethical analysis at times when I have begun to judge my own sanity. When I started reading people writing, in horror-stricken tones,”Can you believe what Trump said at that joint press conference?,” which I initially missed because these events are always stagey, insincere, all-puffery affairs, I assumed that President Trump finally done something really over-the-top this time, like spitting at CNN reporter, or singing “The Volga Boatman” to irritate Putin. When I read what he in fact did say, and saw the videos, my brain literally couldn’t reconcile it with the hysterical claims that it was “treasonous,” or like “Pearl Harbor,” or “Kristallnacht” or warranted impeachment (Plan N). It didn’t compute, as the robot in “Lost in Space” used to say.

I know I don’t often seem like it, but I have my doubts sometimes. I write as if I am certain I am right, because that’s my style, but often within me there meet a combination of antithetical elements which are at eternal war with one another. Driven hither by objective influences — thither by subjective emotions — wafted one moment into blazing day, by mocking hope — plunged the next into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair, I am but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms. All right, that was from my favorite exchange in “H.M.S. Pinafore,” but I’m not completely facetious. When I read almost every one of hundreds of Facebook friends writing, to universal agreement from their echo ch..freinds, that an extemporaneous statement in a Finnish press conference proves that Putin “has something” on the President, I begin to think, since I don’t see it at all, that the problem must be me. I am so thoroughly sick and disgusted at the relentless unethical and unprecedented efforts to interfere with this President, and his efforts to do the job he was elected to do, by Democrats, progressives, “the resistance” NeverTrumpers and the news media, that maybe my indignation against their dangerous, democratic institution-eroding vengeance because this odd and offensive man shattered the dreams of the Obama Worshipers and the Clinton Conned, had finally metastasized into bias, and made me impervious to something that should have me, for once, agreeing with them. For bias makes us all stupid, you know.

That is why I was so relieved to read this, the transcript of the comments of NYU Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen, a contributing editor at “The Nation,” the most extreme leftist magazine of national prominence in the country. He is clearly NOT being driven by bias, but his analysis was exactly the same as mine:

“The reaction by most of the media, by the Democrats, by the anti-Trump people is like mob violence. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. This is the president of the United States, doing what every president… since FDR in 1943 with Stalin, meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And every president since Eisenhower, a Republican by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the two nuclear superpowers. Today, in my considered, scholarly, long-time judgment, relations between the U.S. and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever — let me repeat, ever — been, including the Cuban missile crisis. I want my president to do — I didn’t vote for this president– but I want my president to do what every other president has done. Sit with the head of the other nuclear superpower and walk back the conflicts that could lead to war, whether they be in Syria, Ukraine, in the Baltic nations, in these accusations of cyber attacks. Every president has been encouraged to do that an applauded by both parties. Not Trump. Look what they did to him today. They had a kangaroo court. They found him guilty. And then you had the former head of the U.S. CIA, who himself ought to be put under oath and asked about his role in inventing Russiagate, calling the President of the United States treasonous. What have we come to in this country? And what is going to happen in the future?”

Whew! What a relief: I thought I was going crazy. Like Cohen, except not close to matching his scholarly efforts, I know quite a bit about how past Presidents treated Russian leaders in their various summits, meetings and diplomatic encounters. Only Trump was expected to insult the Russian leader to his face. Only Trump was asked an outrageous question inviting him to insult a Russian leader to his face. (The reporter should have been ejected from the conference.) President Trump was not only criticized for behaving as every other President has and should have behaved, but was excoriated for doing so.

I wish, of course, that the President’s rhetorical skills were not so blunt and confounding, so he could defend his own conduct without resorting to “fake new!” retorts. I wish he had the nuance and sense to simply dodge such a disruptive and irresponsible question without walking into a true “when did you stop beating your wife” question that made him choose between undermining U.S. intelligence or undermining the whole reason he was at the summit in the first place. I wish that the President was not so much like Donald Trump, in other words, but unlike Anderson Cooper, George Will, Chuck Schumer, John McCain and my hysterical Facebook Friends, I regard constantly becoming more and more irrational over something that happened 19 months ago  to be civic incompetence. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Lee Smith, Making It All Clear

“Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump…In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, …no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin.”

Lee Smith in his essay, Who Believes in Russiagate?”

Later he adds,

“What unites [critics of Russiagate on the Left and the Right] obviously isn’t politics—rather, it’s the recognition that the Russiagate campaign represents an attack on American political and social institutions, an attack on our liberties, an attack on us. Russiagate is a conspiracy theory, weaponized by political operatives, much of the press, as well as high-level intelligence and law enforcement bureaucrats to legitimize an American election and protect their own interests, which coincide with those of the country’s larger professional and bureaucratic elite.”

You might wonder why I chose to highlight the first quote  rather than the second. The second tells me nothing I don’t know, or that readers of Ethics Alarms don’t know: I’ve made it a theme here since early in 2017. I learned something from the first quote, however. This is the phenomenon I have been experiencing on Facebook, where periodically pointing out unfair and intellectually dishonest attacks on President Trump and pointing out the news media’s horrific bias increasingly get me labelled as a Trump supporter, apologist or enabler. Meanwhile, I recently had a follow-up exchange  with NPR over my objections to Prof. Butler’s “Oh, come on!” outburst when I was correctly pointing out what was ethically dubious about late accusations of sexual harassment against political figures.  Oh, no, I was told. He wasn’t saying “Oh come on!” because I misrepresented sexual harassment law. He was saying that because he thought I was making excuses for Trump. Continue reading

The Mueller Indictments: Observations And A Spin Report

Late yesterday afternoon the Justice Department announced that it had indicted thirteen Russians and three Russian companies for participation in a scheme to interfere in the United States political system. From the Justice Department website:

“The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The full 37-page indictment is here, giving citizens a rare example to read everything reporters know and to thereby be able to gauge exactly how accurate and fair their reporting is, if the citizens are so inclined. SPOILER ALERT: The spin efforts thus far have been staggering.

The press release also tells us in part:

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. …Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project….To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

Also:

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

Thirteen paragraphs into the release is this statement: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Talk about burying the lede!

Observations: Continue reading