From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck: The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”

Checking what I had written previously about the despicable race-baiting journalist Jemele Hill (who has authored a piece for the Atlantic advocating a return to segregation in college), I re-read the post I had written two years ago as Hill when paving her road out of ESPN. As is often the case, I had completely forgotten what I wrote, and getting re-acquainted with it, I not only approved of the analysis but saw its application as relevant to other situations we have seen since and will continue to see.

Let me add that the fact that angry, divisive, unethical journalists like Hill have a place in legitimate (or what once were legitimate) news and commentary outlets is proof of ethics rot in the industry. She is no better nor different from ugly hacks like Alex Jones on the right, yet maintains visibility and a platform for her cultural poison for three reasons: she is a progressive, she is black, and she is female. None of these are valid reasons to inflict her personal vendettas and hateful rhetoric on America. Jones has been largely banned from social media, but Hill’s bile still flows undammed.

The post also is depressing proof of how relentless and irrational “the resistance” has been The line in the two-year-old essay—“Too many of Hill’s likely peer groups and those around her have, since last November 8, engaged in nearly continuous disrespect of the President’s person, his office, and the process that elected him. This continues to be divisive, destructive, and dangerous for the nation. It is wrong.”—has a familiar ring, for I have written almost the same sentence too many tomes to count since. I will probably write it again next week.

Here, lightly edited, is the September 14, 2017 post titled, Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck:The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”:

The recent still-rolling ethics train wreck launched by ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill is a perfect example of how such cultural fiascos occur.

Stage I:  The Instigator

Hill, a young African American woman, went on a Twitter rant against President Trump  this week.

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

Factors, Stage I

A. An ethics alarms doesn’t  ring.

Why in the world would Hill think that the face of a national broadcast network could publicly call the President of the United States a white supremacist without causing a problem for her employer? The key ethics values being breached  are trust and responsibility. She has a responsibility to ESPN, which should be able to trust her not to harm it or upset viewers.

B. An instigator has an inflated view of his or her own importance, indispensability, wisdom, expertise or authority.

We are living in an age where narcissism is epidemic, but even so, a sports anchor has to be able to comprehend that once he or she is outside the realm of sports, her opinion on the President or anyone else cannot possibly have a positive effect on public discourse unless it is carefully thought out, crafted,, and expressed.

The key ethics values being breached are competence and  humility.

C. Social media. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Afternoon Warm-Up, 8/6/18: Relatively Trivial Edition

1.  Facebook Conduct I Could Do Without Dept. A friend who happens also to be on Facebook just posted his opinion about a matter and added, “If you don’t agree,  don’t respond, just unfriend me.” I’m tempted to unfriend him for that. What a cowardly, lazy, arrogant stunt.

2. He’s also dead wrong in his opinion, which has to do with this “good illegal immigrant” news item. My friend thinks that the wife of a Marine should get a pass  despite being in violation of immigration laws because her husband served his country. I don’t disagree with the principle he’s espousing, but it’s not the law. If there should be law that gives some kind of leniency to the spouses of military personnel, then draft it, debate it, and pass it. The Marine fought for a nation of laws, not a nation where law enforcement makes up the laws as it goes along. This was the Obama approach: we just won’t enforce the laws against this particular group of law-breaker that we like.

3. How dumb can “cultural appropriation” complaints get? This dumb:

In women’s mag “Marie Claire,” Krystyna Chávez argues that deciding to pluck your eyebrows so that they are very thin is “cultural appropriation.” writing that she was was horrified when she saw a photo of Rihanna with her new, skinny eyebrows. Chávez writes in a piece titled “I’m Latina, and I Find Rihanna’s Skinny Brows Problematic.”  Unfortunately, as Katherine Timpf points out, a Louisiana State University student named Lynn Bunch wrote an op-ed last year declaring that  thick eyebrows that cultural appropriation:

“Current American eyebrow culture also shows a prime example of the cultural appropriation in the country. The trend right now is thick brows, and although a lot of ethnic women have always had bushy, harder-to-maintain eyebrows, it has only become trendy now that white women have started to do it.”

Boy, the outbreak of such serious statements of idiotic opinions makes me feel unsafe…because I’m afraid that I am surrounded by lunatics, in a culture that is encouraging warped values and reasoning to such an extent that for a disturbing number of Americans, no idea sets off the Stupid Alarms.

I may have to start a sister blog…

4. And you thought Trump Derangement Syndrome was silly.New York-based UMA Health, an online mental health marketplace, is providing free, confidential therapy sessions to Mets fans who are in emotional turmoil as a result of the team’s disappointing season, which cratered  is last week’s 25-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, the worst loss in Mets history—yes, even worse than any of the embarrassing drubbing the team received in its first, horrible season in 1962, when “the Amazin’ Mets” lost a record 120 games.

UMA says its tongue in cheek promotion is meant to bring attention to the important role of therapy, and to eliminate the stigma of going to a therapist.

That’s odd: I think the promotion does the opposite, suggesting that therapy is self-indulgent, useless, useless bunk, which it too often is. I have an amusing  personal story that explains my bias here, which I will leave for another time. If something is important your profession is to enlighten the world about its benefits, however, is it competent to promote it like this? Continue reading

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Tweet: Is This The Most Perfect Example Of Ethics Estoppel Ever?

To recap from past posts and comment threads. ethics estoppel attaches when a public figure makes an ethics-related assertion or levels criticism of conduct that he or she is uniquely unable to make without inducing near fatal laughter in all who read or hear it, since the position is so obviously and audaciously at odds with the individual’s own past behavior or statements. The current statements may be wise, true or have validity, but their speakers’ past so undermines their credibility on the topic under discussion that they actually weaken the otherwise legitimate position by the identity of its advocate. Thus such advocates should shut up.

It is not the same as hypocrisy. An individual can change his or her beliefs: a former drug user is not being hypocritical when he says one should not use drugs. Even a current drug user may not be hypocritical to make the same statement. However sincere they may be, however, those who were prominent violators of the principles they are currently espousing are terrible advocates.

The late Senator Ted Kennedy apparently understood ethics estoppel long before Ethics Alarms defined it. As a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Anita Hill ambushed Clarence Thomas, Kennedy was unusually silent, especially for a Senator who had been the designated attack dog against other Republican Supreme Court nominees, notably Robert Bork. However, the idea of Ted “Chappaquiddick” Kennedy—or any Kennedy, really—criticizing someone else for alleged sexual misconduct was too ridiculous. Ted knew he was ethically estopped from weighing in.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders got in a twitter war with Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Cal)—the reason is irrelevant—and Sanders tweeted in part,

“You should spend less time tweeting, more time doing your job.”

Well. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/2017: Posts Collide! Journalists Self-Destruct! Women Undermine Themselves! And A Poll…

Good morning!

1  Bingo!  Amy Alkon, aka the Advice Goddess, has been staking out lonely territory as a feminist who feels the #MeToo mob and its attendant hysteria is setting the cause of women back, not advancing it. Here most recent post begins by mocking an LA Times hysteric who wrote that

“What happens when society ignores sexual assault? You get Lesotho, where girls aren’t even safe at the grocery store…”

Akon responded in part…

This sort of ridiculous hysteria — that our country is anything like a place where 19% of teenaged girls are forced to marry — makes things here cumulatively worse, not better.This is the safest, most modern, most individual rights-driven country in the world.

If you are in a profession where there’s a great deal of money and power, there are likely to be sociopaths of various stripes who will prey on you — whether you’re a man or a woman. No, sexual assault should not be ignored, but we also don’t help ourselves by turning an invitation out for a drink by a co-worker into some sort of victimization.

If it isn’t your boss trying to manipulate you into the sack when you want no such thing; if there’s no quid pro quo; if requests for a date stop when you ask for them to stop (or maybe after the second time), do you really need to identify as a victim?…

People have conflicting goals and desires. Any two people. Heterosexual men negotiate these with each other. They’re very comfortable with it — as am I, no matter what sex or sexuality you are or have. If one person isn’t holding the other down or saying “fuck me, or you lose your job…” …If there’s merely a need for a mild rebuff (like, “Sorry, I don’t date co-workers), well, this seems to me like a normal part of adult life.

I predict two things from the current hysteria (where, say, a stolen kiss from a drunken co-worker is equated with Harvey Weinsteining and may even be seen as a firing offense):

1. Employers will think twice about hiring women, especially when they have the option of hiring a commensurately qualified male.

2. Men will start seeing escort workers in larger numbers than ever, and it will become more acceptable than it’s ever been to pay for sex.

2. Who will save journalism, and when will it admit is needs saving? Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel‏ mocked the President for declaring his Florida rally “packed to the rafters” last week. Wiegel’s tweet included a picture of a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center.This was, it turned out, a mistake, but also a mistake brought about by confirmation bias, sloppiness, and hostility to the President. Once again, the news media handed the President the ammunition to discredit it, as it deserves to be discredited.Trump tweeted after the rally...

“@DaveWeigel WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in…Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!”

Weigel apologized, tweeting,

“Sure thing: I apologize…Was confused by the image of you walking in the bottom right corner…It was a bad tweet on my personal account, not a story for Washington Post. I deleted it after like 20 minutes. Very fair to call me out.”

Weigel is a well-known Washington Post reporter, and the fact that he botched this in his own name rather than the Post’s doesn’t diminish its harm to the credibility of the already reeling news media one whit. The apology was nice, but it was also unavoidable. While Trump certainly has primed journalist skepticism with his adversarial relationship to reality, reporters are supposed to be professionals, and leaping to conclusions without confirmation or sufficient evidence isn’t professional, or worthy of public trust. Fact: Weigel would not have done this to Barack Obama.

Weigel’s gaffe was minor compared to CNN’s fiasco the day before, or the Brian Ross episode at ABC, but it deserves to be considered as part of the same pathology. Wrote Glenn Reynold on his blog today,

In attempting to “denormalize” Trump, they’ve denormalized themselves. If they simply reported fairly and accurately, without their screamingly obvious bias, they’d be able to do him much more damage. But they can’t help themselves.

Bingo. They can’t help themselves, and the ethics alarms when bias looms just don’t sound. Today the New York Times has a front page story, complete with a creepy photo of the President, featuring a long, insulting quote from Nancy Pelosi about how “unprepared” Trump was for the job. Oddly, nobody thought, “Wait, did we publish anything like this about the most unqualified President elected up to that  point? You know, the last one?”
Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Stop Making Me Defend Sarah Huckabee Sanders!” Files: “The Advocate” Lies About The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if activists had integrity? Unfortunately, most of them don’t, and I only say “most” because I haven’t checked all of them. Virtually all that I have checked spin, distort facts, and lie outright, because the ends justify the means to them, and they, of course, are Right. It’s the Saint’s Excuse. Lies that advance the cause are benign.

The latest disgraceful example of wilful deception in support of a passionately felt cause came from the LGBT publication “The Advocate,” as well as many Democratic and progressive news sources. They all chose to deliberately misrepresent what the President’s spokesperson said about his position was on The Great Cake Controversy…all the better to rev up hate and fear among their readers. You see a typical example in the label to the video above. “Sarah Sanders: Trump OK with businesses hanging anti-gay signs.” She did not say that. The video proves she did not say that. She was asked if the President agreed with the Solicitor General in his oral argument before the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case when he said that it would be lawful and possible for a baker to hang a sign saying, “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings.” She said yes. Of course yes. The government’s case is that a baker should not be forced to “participate/endorse” a ceremony that his religion declares morally wrong, and thus is not discriminating by refusing to make cakes for same sex weddings, as long as the baker does not generally discriminate in providing service on the basis of sexual orientation. If the Court agrees, then a baker such as the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop can legally follow the dictates of his faith and not make same- sex wedding cakes, and if he isn’t selling them, he not only could but should inform potential same-sex couples of that fact.

This is not, by any fair assessment, an “antigay sign.” It makes no antigay assertions at all. The statement is false. Unequivocally, intentionally false. Continue reading

The Great Pie Controversy, or “Why Reporter April Ryan Isn’t Invited To The White House Christmas Party And Rightfully So”

Did you miss The Great Pie Controversy? Then sit down, children, and hear the tale…

It all began when White House spokesperson Sarah Hucklebee Sanders posted a photo on Thanksgiving showing a pecan pie she baked for Thanksgiving. Above  is the  2:40 p.m. tweet.  The next day, American Urban Radio Networks Washington bureau chief April Ryan tweeted her doubts that the pie was real, implying that Sanders was a liar.  She needed to “show it to us on a table,” Ryan demanded, and had to see “folks eating it and a pic of you cooking it.”

Now, let us pause and ponder what would make someone react like that to a simple declaration that someone had baked a pie for Thanksgiving.  Why would anyone set out to embarrass and impugn an individual’s honesty over something so innocuous, based on no evidence or good reason at all? This isn’t journalism. It ‘s just meanness, motivated by sheer bias and hate. Conduct like that is so contrary to the Golden Rule that it constitutes tarnish.

And, of course, Ryan’s demands were also stupid and unreasonable. How would Sanders, where she so inclined, produce photos of guests eating a pie after it had been eaten?

Never mind. This example of disgusting and gratuitous reporter enmity was quickly picked up by the anti-Trump journalism establishment as an actual news story. Continue reading

Contrarian Ethics And Ann Althouse

Ann Althouse, the now retired law professor and increasingly active bloggress, is a habitual contrarian. That’s why she is such an interesting and politically unpredictable commentator, and why, though generally left of center by instinct, she so often ends up on the opposite side from the news media. Being a contrarian can be a useful tactic for ethicists too: it provides a bias filter. Since lawyers like Ann are trained to be able to argue both sides of any argument with equal fervor and persuasiveness, picking a position you disagree with and arguing for it anyway is a wonderful way to change your own mind, or to find lines of reasoning that might never have appeared otherwise.

It can be a trap, too, especially in the blogging biz. Having an opinion that isn’t already everywhere on the web makes a blog interesting, attracts comments, and leads to increased traffic and links. Especially in areas where one doesn’t have strong opinions, the tendency to disagree with the obvious or popular opinion becomes its own bias, and undermines trust and integrity. I have my own contrarian streak (I inherited it from my father), and I have to watch it carefully. It is not ethical (it’s unkind) to say or write things primarily because you mostly want to make people’s heads explode. I’ve done it a few times on Ethics Alarms.

This is where I have seen Althouse trending, and here is a recent example. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/2017: Goodbye Baseball, Hello Incompetence, And Isn’t It Nice Of Twitter Look Out For Us?

Good Morning, Everybody!

(Goodbye, baseball…)

1 The 2017 World Series ended last night, with the Houston Astros winning a hard-fought and exciting seven game battle over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Otto Von Bismarck famously observed that providence seemed to be looking out for the welfare of drunkards, fools, and the United States of America, and Major League Baseball should be added to Otto’s list. With the NFL simultaneously alienating civilized fans who don’t like seeing their heroes crippled for their entertainment, and more bloodthirsty fans who don’t want their entertainment polluted by half-baked political protests, baseball, whose ancient status as “The National Pastime” had been mocked as wishful thinking, entered the Fall at its best, and showed TV audiences a wild, passionate game featuring diverse and likeable players who seemed genuinely proud and privileged to be Americans.

Now comes the long, bleak winter…

2. From one of my smart, informed, anti-Trump obsessed progressive Facebook friends:

“So… we can talk about visa regulations right after an immigrant kills people, but we can’t talk about rational restrictions on guns when someone uses a gun to kill people?”

Rushing to take political advantage of a tragedy, as President Trump did by immediately using the terrorist attack in New York to push for his immigration reforms is, indeed, exactly as reprehensible whether it is done by Democrats or Republicans. A tactic sure looks uglier when it’s done to oppose your interests than when its done to advance them, isn’t it? (By the way, my friend, restrictions on immigration are not prohibited by the Constitution; “rational restrictions on guns,” aka “incremental elimination of the Second Amendment,” because it is now clear that this is the goal, is.)

3. A few hours after Trump’s Cabinet meeting, CNN’s Jim Acosta  asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock?”

“That’s not what he said,” Sanders replied. “He said that process has people calling us a joke and a laughingstock.”

In fact, the President had indeed said at the meeting, “We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now — because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock.”

Observations: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN Reporter April Ryan

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

CNN’s April Ryan, yelling to White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders as today’s press briefing ended. She really did.

President Andrew Jack…no, that’s wrong. It’s President …Johnson, right? Lyndon Johnson? No, no..Barry Lyndon? No…Barry Goldwater? Barry Bonds? U.S. Bonds? U.S. Grant? Boy, history is hard

I assume that this was intended as a rhetorical rebuttal to the position of President Trump and those non-totalitarian-minded citizens—I hope not just conservatives and Republicans— who regard toppling statues and memorials of important figures in America’s past as a form of Orwellian thought control and manipulation of the historical record. Maybe she attends Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t journalism, fair, or professional. Since Ryan knew the only answer that could or would be given, if Sander had been foolish enough to dignify the insult with a reply, it was really just partisan harassment and race-baiting, the equivalent of  a reporter shouting out at a Johnson era press conference, “How many did LBJ kill today?,” calling out after a Bush briefing, “Hey, any signs of those weapons of mass destruction?,” or calling out after an Obama White House briefing, “Does the President still promise that if we like our health plan, we can keep it?”

A news organization that doesn’t immediately discipline a reporter behaves like this at a White House press briefing—and Ryan should have been suspended, removed from the White House beat, or exiled to cute kitten stories on Headline News—it is announcing one of the following:

a) This new organization will  no longer apply minimal standards of respect, fairness and professionalism to coverage of this President.

b) This network no longer has any standards.

c) This network will allow gross demonstrations of bias and partisan animus by its reporters.

Under these conditions, the White House has no obligation to permit such an organization to attend press briefings, any more than it has an obligation to permit anti-Trump demonstrators to attend, or to tolerate reporters chanting slogans and carrying placards. And it should not. If CNN won’t uphold minimal standards of professional journalism, then the White House must. CNN should be told that until it receives a public apology for Ryan’s outburst, she is replaced by a trustworthy reporter, and the network pledges that it will not permit such conduct by its employees to occur again, CNN will no longer be invited to briefings. Its place will then be taken by Ethics Alarms, or Weekly Reader, or any entity with a concept of journalism ethics superior to CNN’s.

Meanwhile, while we are on the topic of professionalism, I have this to report: Continue reading

Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck:The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator

The recent still-rolling ethics train wreck launched by ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill is a perfect example of how such cultural fiascos occur.

Hill, a young African American woman, went on a Twitter rant against President Trump  this week.

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted Monday night. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

Factors, Stage I:  The Instigator

A. An ethics alarms doesn’t  ring.

Why in the world would Hill think that the face of a national broadcast network could publicly call the President of the United States a white supremacist without causing a problem for her employer? The key ethics values being breached  are trust and responsibility. She has a responsibility to ESPN, which should be able to trust her not to harm it or upset viewers.

B. An instigator has an inflated view of his or her own importance, indispensability, wisdom, expertise or authority.

We are living in an age where narcissism is epidemic, but even so, a sports anchor has to be able to comprehend that once he or she is outside the realm of sports, her opinion on the President or anyone else cannot possibly have a positive effect on public discourse unless it is carefully crafted, thought out, and expressed.

The key ethics values being breached are competence and  humility.

C. Social media.

Any public figure, including TV personalities, should not use social media until they recognize that a flamboyant post is the equivalent of a press release. Attacking the President, especially in personal terms, is stupid, even when the attack itself isn’t as stupid as Hill’s. (Uh,  Jemele ?  President Obama would never have gotten to within a baseball throw (remember, we saw him throw a baseball) of the White House, or even the nomination, if he were not black. Before him, no candidate, successful or not, for President would have been elected if wasn’t white, or male for that matter. Or Jewish. The accusation if Trump were  “not white, he never would have been elected” is really, really stupid.

The key ethics value being breached is competence.

D. Corrupting cultural influences.

Too many of Hill’s likely peer groups and those around her have, since last November 8, engaged in nearly continuous disrespect of the President’s person, his office, and the process that elected him. This continues to be divisive, destructive, and dangerous for the nation. It is wrong. The culture is giving her terrible role models, like Maxine Waters, celebrities on Hollywood award shows, and Stephen Colbert, who, for example, thought that it was a appropriate and hilarious to repeatedly give the “Heil!” salute on his show as an insult to the President. CBS (unethically) lets him get away with this kind of thing, because it embraces the Star Syndrome, or the King’s Pass, rather than ethical principles.

The key ethics value being breached is citizenship.  Hill has been misled into thinking that amplified hateful conduct and rhetoric toward a President is appropriate conduct for any U.S. citizen. it isn’t. It is even more inappropriate for prominent Americans in the media.

Stage Two: Failed Containment

ESPN’s response was this: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”

This made the problem worse. Why? Because ESPN had, more than once, suspended or fired prominent personnel for far less “inappropriate” public comments than what Hill said. Thus it appeared to shrug off a personal attack on the President, including accusations of racism.

Factors, Stage Two

A. Inept Ethics Chess

How could ESPN, already under fire for politicizing its sports reporting (and losing viewers as a result) not realize that an ethics train wreck was starting to roll, and that it could either stop it, or accelerate it? Hill had made sure that no matter what it did, it would be attacked, but no valid attacks would land if it said, “As we have in the past when on-air personnel have made inflammatory statements about public figures and issues unrelated to sports, ESPN has suspended Jamele Hill for her comments about President Trump.”

The key ethics values being breached are  competence and fairness.

B. Bias makes you stupid.

ESPN and its parent company Disney is largely run and populated by Democrats, progressives and liberals who detest President Trump, and thus have their values paralyzed by bias in everything related to him. Echo chamber or no, they should recognize this by now, and adjust accordingly. Everyone has to recognize the biases that lead to bad decision-making. In addition, one is in immediate peril of unethical conduct when one refused to respect the choices and views of fellow citizens, especially when you purport to provide services and products to all

The key ethics values being breached are trust, competence and fairness.

C. Unethical messaging

As a business, employer and a prominent presence in the culture, ESPN has an obligation to send clear, positive, responsible messages to its employees, audience and the public at large. Ugh. Here are some of the messages a reasonable person could derive from the networks bland reaction to Hill’s rant:

If you are female and black, you can pretty much get away with saying controversial stuff that a white man can’t. (See: Curt Schilling)

ESPN thinks the President and half the population and probably more than half its audience is racist, but would prefer employees not broadcast that fact, because it is inappropriate.

ESPN hires self-righteous political grandstanders rather than competent sports commentators.

ESPN has double standards.

ESPN has no standards.

ESPN is run by a confederacy of gerbils.

Here is the message that ESPN, if it were responsible, trustworthy, fair and competent while respecting its viewers, should have sent with whatever action it chose to take regarding Hill: Continue reading