Tag Archives: Steve Bannon

Presenting: The Reverse Hanlon’s Razor, “Nalnah’s Razor” [UPDATED]

Sometimes you have to presume malice.

In item #1 of the March 11 Warm-Up, I wrote about Steve Bannon’s intentionally-misread statement to French nationalists, saying in part,

 “…What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

My friend, frequent critic and former Ethics Alarms blogger of the year Windypundit responded,

“It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. An opinion that Bannon and his supporters and you are free to reject. But still an opinion.”

This gave me pause.

If it is an opinion, it is a really stupid opinion. If one wants to argue that immigration laws are xenophobic, racist or nativist, then fine: make the case. The case can’t be made, of course. Borderless nations are not nations. From the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the white European take-over of North America, to the cultural upheavals and violence facing Europe now, history’s lessons are not ambiguous. A nation that does not protect its sovereignty and manage its population and demographics is doomed. Not knowing this is ignorant. Not comprehending it is stupid. Publicly denying it for political gain is dishonest.

Hanlon’s Razor is typically quoted as, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Should the razor be applied to the Left’s increasingly shrill and repetitive catcalls that those wanting to enforce the laws against illegal immigration are doing so because they are xenophobic, racist, and nativist?

No, it shouldn’t, because those promoting the use of those terms are not stupid nor ignorant. They are cynical, and they are using the fallacy of the appeal to emotion while wielding the cognitive dissonance scale unethically. Set up the proponents of the rule of law as universal negatives like racists, xenophobes and nativists—bigots, in other words, and whatever they oppose rises on the scale, and whatever they embrace falls. The labeling, however, is false, and intentionally so. Immigration law, the rule of law, borders and sovereignty have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or nativism. They are all independent, well-established aspects of responsible governance. Absent more, accusing advocates of these basic tools of being motivated by bigotry is indefensible, and inexplicable absent stupidity, ignorance, or malice. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/11/2018: Baseball, Bannon, and Chaos

Good Morning!

1 Great. Now I have to defend Steve Bannon. What greeted me this morning, as I surfed the Sunday news shows, Diogenes-like, searching for an honest journalist, but the sight of Steve Bannon in France, addressing the far-right National Front party yesterday and saying, speaking of the party’s effort to stem unrestrained immigration, particularly from Muslim countries,  “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.” On every channel, this was interpreted as if Bannon was endorsing racism, xenophobia and nativism. Naturally this was then reflected on Trump as part of the “Trump is a racist” Big Lie that Democrats and the news media push virtually every day.

Bannon has certainly made testaments at other times that raise a rebuttable presumption that he is a racist, but this wasn’t one of them, and the fact that so many journalists would intentionally represent the statement to the public as if it was tells us either that they can’t be trusted to analyze news events, or that they can be trusted to spin them to advance an anti-Trump narrative even when it defies language and reality. From NBC in a typical fake history description: “Bannon’s appearance in France was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his closed-borders, anti-foreigner message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.”  Trump did not advocate “closed borders,” nor was his platform “anti-foriegner.” That was the dishonest characterization of “America should enforce its immigration laws” by Democrats and the allied news media.

The words Bannon referenced have been part of the ongoing efforts to silence and demonize legitimate positions that oppose progressive cant, such as condemning rather than welcoming illegal immigration. What  Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

The fact that many of those he was addressing may be racists, xenophobes and nativists doesn’t change the meaning of what Bannon said. The news media’s job is to report, not read minds.

I could imagine making the same kind of statement to a colleague who has been savaged as a racist on Facebook for opposing affirmative action, or attacked as a sexist for questioning #MeToo tactics, or called a “Trump apologist” (or a Bannon apologist) for demanding fair and honest treatment from the media for politicians regardless of who they are. “Be proud that they are stooping to name-calling. It means they can’t rebut you on the merits.”

Oh: Bannon also said, “History is on our side.” This really upset the “journalists,” because everyone knows that history is on their side. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

Good morning…

1 “And the survey says…! The results of the polls in yesterday’s 1/10 warm-up (so far) are..

  • Chris Christie is the leader in the “most hubris” poll, with 38.53% of the vote, but its pretty close. I’m pretty sure “All of them” would be leading if I had included it.

(I voted for Steve Bannon.)

  • 50% voted that journalist interviewers should be trained to recognize and flag invalid rationalizations.

A solid second was the choice, “They couldn’t do it objectively,” at 43%

  • By a 2-1 ratio over either of the other choices, over 50% believe that Plan E, the 25th Amendment removal plot, should be thoroughly discredited but the news media won’t let it go.

2. I also worry about Bobby DarinYesterday’s lament about declining cultural literacy and how movie artists that we should remember for our society’s enlightenment, perspective and inspiration are increasingly falling into a dark memory hole is relevant to a current development on Broadway: “The Bobby Darin Story” will kick off the new “Lyrics” season from January. 20 to 22, with rising star Jonathan Groff as Darin. Bobby Darin, one of my favorite performers and an unusually versatile and eclectic one, died before he was 40 and just barely hangs on in the culture now, thanks to his classic recording of “Mack the Knife.” (Also this month, the jukebox musical about Darin, “Dream Lover,” opened in Sydney.) Everything about Darin has been unlucky, his bad fortune culminating in the weird 2004 biopic that starred Kevin Spacey as Bobby. The movie was a bomb, and Spacey’s ugly fall guarantees that the film will be seen  by future generations about as often as Annette in”Muscle Beach Party.” As the Cary Grant post noted, sometimes all it takes is a vivid reference to rescue a lost life of note.

Darin’s own lost life is itself an ethics thought experiment. He knew at a young age that he was not going to live long, because he had an irreparably damaged heart. His response was to be furiously creative and to live life at a mad and reckless pace. The new show’s director says, “He lived a gritty, driven life. He hurt people along the way and people hurt him.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2018: All Poll Edition [Updated and Corrected]

Good Morning, everybody.

1 The ancient Greeks in my family were pleased. Yesterday could be used in public schools to teach the concept of hubris. I doubt that public schools teach concepts like hubris, unfortunately. (I doubt that most public school teachers could explain hubris.) For in a single day..

  • We saw Steve Bannon dismissed from his kingdom, right-wing propaganda organ Breitbart.
  • We learned that Joe Arpaaio, who is only not facing prison time because of a generous pardon frm President Trump, and who lost his latest election for sheriff, and who is 85-years-old, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.
  • NJ Governor Chris Christie gave his farewell address, celebrating himself. Earlier this week he said that he would be President today if not for Donald Trump.

2. “What’s done is done.” Yesterday, a Democratic mouthpiece who sounded like Kristin Chenoweth on speed (looked like her too) was confronted with videotapes of the last two Democratic Presidents swearing that they were committed to strengthening the borders and enforcing immigration laws. “We are a nation of immigrants,” intoned Bill Clinton. “We are also a nation of laws.”

“What’s done is done,” blathered ‘Kristin.’

This is the unethical rationalization known on the Ethics Alarms list as #51 . The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past”: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/2018: A Frivolous Lawsuit, An Unscripted Actress, A Lesson In Assuming, And Fake News

Good Morning!

1 On feminist integrity. The reader poll on the post about the interesting silence of US women’s rights organizations and their component feminists as their Iranian sisters protest oppression in Iran has already had more participation that the last four Ethics Alarms polls combined. Why is that? In more news related to that post, some determined spinners here claimed that the feminists have been burning up the blogs and websites with supportive essays and blog posts, so the radio silence is a myth. No, THAT was a myth: there is nothing on those sites, or if there is, it didn’t surface when I checked Ms., Jezebel, NOW and four prominent blogs. (Update: Reader Humble Talent has checked two more. Also nothing.)

Please don’t make up stuff or assume facts you haven’t checked when you don’t want to accept reality, friends. It’s not fair, and it’s not ethical debating practice. Because I trust and respect the commenter in question, I just assumed she was right, because I assumed she had checked. No, it appears she had assumed, and was not right.  And you know what Felix Unger proved happens when you assume..

2. This is why they give actors scripts. I enjoy actress Meryl Streep as an artist, but for me she is fast entering Alec Baldwin territory, a performer whose personal character deficits are becoming so overpowering that even her undeniable talent can’t make watching the performer on screen endurable. Streep is in a deep hole she keeps digging. Being a Harvey Weinstein acolyte and beneficiary for years (and a Roman Polanski apologist), she is denying culpability as an enabler of his serial sexual predation because, she says, she didn’t know. Almost nobody finds her denial credible. Yesterday the Times published a joint interview with Streep and her “The Post” co-star, Tom Hanks. Told by the interviewer that in light of the doubts about what she knew, the public wants to hear more from her, she responded,

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me. I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now.”

Streep locks up the 2018 Whataboutism of the Year title with that one, along with adding a ridiculous sentence into my personal collection of statements that deserve note because they had never been said before in the history of the English language. I started my collection decades ago at a family Thanksgiving dinner, when my sister said, “You know, the fish looks so good, I think I’ll wear my bra on my head.” And a collection was born.

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me” has an elegant simplicity about it. In addition to being a strange sentiment, Streep also misses the whole concept of an interview—surprising, since she has done so many of them. See, Meryl, these questions are about what the public wants to hear about, not what you want to hear about. Was that really unclear to you until now? This was not an open invitation to announce all the things you’d like to hear about that have absolutely nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein. This is “Look! Squirrel!” carried to a demented extreme. Streep revealed herself as seriously Trump Deranged, as she thinks that the way out of every personal crisis is to declare, “But what about TRUMP????”

Looks like I won’t be watching “The River Wild” again. Pity. (I won’t watch “The Dear Hunter” again either, but then you never could have made me watch that thing a second time, not under torture or extortion.)

3. Now THIS is a frivolous law suit.  From CNN:
Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Steve Bannon-President Trump Blow-Up

Excerpts from his new book revealed that journalist Michael Wolff extracted some highly inflammatory quotes from ex-White House aide Steve Bannon, who criticized his former boss, members of his family, and White House colleagues. In an unusually well-written, if unrestrained, response, the President used a rhetorical blowtorch on his former ally, writing,

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

Observations:

  • Once again, we have the unforgivable spectacle of a once highly placed member of an administration team betraying trust to vent, to get publicity, to settle scores, or to cash in. It’s not whistle-blowing, and its not in the public interest. It hurts the current President and future Presidents, by making a breach of loyalty and confidentiality that was once unimaginable routine. David Stockman, Reagan’s bitter budget director, started this trend with a tell-all book after his star fell to earth, and now every Presidential appointee is a potential Judas. If any of these creeps were ethical, professionals or patriots, they would wait until the administration they had worked for were out of power and in the rear-view mirror, and ideally, way, way in the rear view mirror, like a decade or more. Better yet, they would take the secrets they were entrusted with to the grave.

But what’s the fun in that? More to the point, where’s the money in it? Ten years from now, Steve Bannon will be the answer to a trivia question. Continue reading

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The Lesson Of Berkeley’s “Free Speech Week” Fiasco: Jerks Make Terrible Champions And Martyrs

Conservative agitator/ campus troll Milo Yiannopoulos’s Free Speech Week in Berkeley, California was advertised as a major event, bringing some of the most Left-reviled  conservative speakers and rabble-rousers together for four straight days of speeches and events on a campus that has repeatedly disgraced itself by being hostile to speech its primarily progressive denizens consider “hate speech.”

The University of California was taking elaborate measures to avoid the violence that protesters there and at other campuses have brought to appearances by many of the featured speakers. It was rumored that as much as $600,000 would be spent on security. The prospect of the rhetoric of such professional provocateurs as Yiannopoulosas, Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, to name the best known, echoing around the school where it was least welcome promised an instant cultural touch-point, like a right-wing Woodstock, while challenging leftists and ideological censors to reveal their ugly, totalitarian sides.

But by the end of the week, many were predicting that the event was a mirage. Speakers whose names had been promoted on preliminary schedules either pulled out, denied they had been contacted  or said they were never planning to go. The campus publication sponsoring Yiannopoulos’s circus, The Berkeley Patriot, never reserved indoor school venues. Yiannopoulos kept up the pretense, announcing on Instagram a planned march through campus tomorrow in protest of Berkeley’s hostility to free speech. “It’s time to reclaim free speech at UC Berkeley and send shockwaves through the American education system to every other college under liberal tyranny,” Yiannopoulos wrote.

Today, the day before the “Week” was to begin, UC Berkeley announced  that ‘Free Speech Week’ was officially cancelled, saying,

“Representatives of the Berkeley Patriot student organization have informed UC Berkeley’s administration that all of the events scheduled for the coming week have been canceled. It is extremely unfortunate that this announcement was made at the last minute, even as the university was in the process of spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life in order to provide the needed security for these events.”

Now there is mass confusion, with strong indications that the event was a sham from the start. Lucian Wintrich, one of the planned speakers, e-mailed Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof this morning,  to say that the event had been a set-up from the start. “It was known that they didn’t intend to actually go through with it last week, and completely decided on Wednesday,” Wintrich wrote.

“Wait, whoah, hold on a second,” replied Mogulof. “What, exactly, are you saying? What were you told by MILO Inc? Was it a set-up from the get-go?”

 

Wintrich replied, “Yes.”

An account of the chaos and miscommunications surrounding the event published by The Atlantic yesterday certainly made this development seem probable. Milo, as late as this afternoon, insisted that the intention was always to hold a real week of speeches. He has as much credibility as someone who makes his living creating controversies and infuriating his ideological foes deserves to have: none.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

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