RETRACTED! “The Guardian’s “Person Of The Year” Poll Disaster” [Updated]

Well, once again, I was lied to, fooled, and made an unwitting accomplice in a fake conservative news scam. Worse, I was led to the fake story by three sites I already have had bad experiences with, and thus should have been wary. ( Though memeorandum also pointed me to the story, and that is a reliably non-partisan aggregator.) As is usually the case in such situations, confirmation bias, mine, was at the heart of the mistake.  In the end, this is my responsibility, and thus my fault. I know better.

If I were Al Sharpton or Dan Rather, I might argue that what I wrote about the Guardian could have happened this way, so the article is accurate, though not true. I’m not, though. Here’s what really happened: the Guardian closed down not a poll on “The Person of the Year,” but reader nominations. It is true (maybe) that J.K. Rowling received the most nominations, but the nominations were closed because it was time to close them. She’s still on the slate of candidates.

I apologize to Ethics Alarms readers, commenters, the Guardian, J.K. Rowling, oh, everyone. And if I ever trust those sources again, hit me over the head with a brick when I’m not looking.

Thanks to Phlinn for catching this when I did not.

UPDATE: None of the sites that have run this botch have clarified or retracted it, except this one, as of 7:30 am the next day.

And there it is, right at the bottom in tiny print. The British paper “The Guardian” ran an online poll to determine readers’ 2021 “Person of the Year,” and then suddenly pulled the plug. Why would they do that?

They did it because J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” books, was winning the poll handily.  Rowling is currently a pariah with transgender activists for her quite reasonable assertions like insisting that human beings with penises cannot accurately be called “women” just because they want to be, and that the movement to recast what have been called women as “persons with uteruses” is ridiculous. She has refused to grovel an apology like most public figures threatened with “cancelling” because of views that differ from Leftist cant, and instead has doubled down repeatedly. Earlier this month she mocked Scotland’s law enforcement policy that allows accused rapists to self-identify as female, tweeting, “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.” Continue reading

A GOP Candidate Wins A House Seat In Montana Despite Attacking A Reporter The Night Before The Election. What’s Going On Here?

Yesterday, in an Ethics Alarms post pointing out that nobody should vote a person who physically attacks reporters, or indeed, who attacks anybody, into Congress, I wrote,

What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.

And idiots, of course.

Candidate/Thug Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, won the election nonetheless with over 50% of the votes. Rob Quist, the Democrat, received only 44%. Does this mean that over 50% of Montana voters are idiots? No, that wouldn’t be a fair conclusion. An estimated 60% of voters had turned in their ballots already, so the Gianforte voters in that batch weren’t necessarily idiots. (As I implied in the post yesterday, the advocates for voting before election day, thus allowing late-arriving information about the candidates—as in, “Hey! This guy is an unstable, volatile jerk with the judgment of a bar room goon!” to have minimal effect on  election results, have embraced an irresponsible, idiotic even, policy.)

Gianforte’s victory illuminate  other ethics issues, hwoever:

1. Addressing supporters in his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he body-slammed, the journalists who witnessed the attack, and Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”

Ugh, yecchh, gag, petui!

If that’s the Montana way, why did Gianforte sit back and allow his campaign to blame the episode on the reporter? Remember, the statement from Gianforte’s staff, which is to say Gianforte,  said that the reporter,

“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

That isn’t owning up. That’s covering up, spinning and lying. Does the new Congressman’s apology mean that he acknowledges that his campaign was lying? When will he own up to that?  An apology now is cheap, cynical and meaningless, for Gianforte won, and Montana is stuck with him for two years.

2. A Montana TV station refused to inform its viewers that Gianforte had assaulted and battered a reporter. NBC affiliate KECI, recently purchased by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, adamantly kept the report of the attack and the audio of the incident,  arguing that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.”  That “biased publication” was the Guardian, and the tweeter was Ben Jacobs, the victim. His account was confirmed by reporters from Fox News…you know, that liberal network that is always trying to make Republicans look bad. The anchor of the evening newscast, Laurel Staples, read a statement that said, in part, “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from an independent, reliable sources.”

 NBC News, including the Today show and affiliates across the country, played the audio of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, indicating that reports of the episode were reliable. Continue reading

Incompetent POTENTIAL Elected Official Of The Month: Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, or, Ethics Verdict: Anyone Who Votes For This Guy Today Is Irresponsible, And Probably An Idiot”

First a classroom fist fight between teachers, and now this.

Last night Republican Greg Gianforte, in a close and closely watched contest with Democrat Rob Quist to fill the open, and only, Montana Congressional seat in today’s special election, snapped and attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. You can read the account of a witness (from Fox News) here, and the recording above seems to confirm it. The aspiringg statesman was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Good.

Three newspapers, this one, this one and this one, immediately withdrew their previous endorsements of the Republican in the race.

Good.

Good.

Good.

This passage from The Missoulian’s editorial this morning is a succinct summary: Continue reading

Want A Perfect Example Of “Deceit”? Here You Go:

"Believe me, once you get the hang of deceit, you'll wonder how you ever got through a day without it!"

“Believe me, once you get the hang of deceit, you’ll wonder how you ever got through a day without it!”

A substantial number of people don’t understand what “deceit” is, or think that what constitutes deceit isn’t a lie. Deceit, which I used to joke was the official language of Washington, D.C. until it was changed officially to Blatant Mendacity, is when a statement is literally true, but stated in such a way or in a context intended to make the reader or listener believe something that is not true at all. The fact that the statement may have been factual in a pure sense does not diminish its unethical character as a lie. Its intent is to deceive. It is a lie, just a particularly insidious one, aimed at the trusting, unwary, undiscerning and gullible.

I am always looking for a good example of this peculiar form of deception, and they don’t come much better than this.

Drexel University professor Robert Brulle performed a study he eventually called “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,”  and it was subsequently published  in Climatic Change. Brulle identified 91 organizations that oppose anti-climate change policies, and added up the annual operating budgets of these groups, many of which are active in many issues and that devote a small percentage of their funding to climate change matters at all. He then characterized the resulting total of about $900 million per year from 2003 to 2010 as representing the resources dedicated to blocking the regulation of greenhouse gas production. Brulle’s  study also treats foundation grants to these organizations if every dollar given is earmarked for climate policy opposition. Taking the hand-off from the study’s framing, The Guardian headlined its findings, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.” Notice the “up to,” which would apply if every cent given to organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, The Reason Foundation, The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Hudson Institute and many others were only expended or intended to be spent on anti-climate change position papers and advocacy. This isn’t just a gross exaggeration: it’s a lie, intended to be misleading. Continue reading

Journalism Ethics: David Gregory’s Impudent Question

potandkettleHere’s a revolutionary suggestion: Maybe one should only be accorded the special rights of a journalist if one abides by principles of journalistic ethics.

Yesterday on his CBS Sunday Morning program “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory incited the ire of right, left and center by daring to ask Glenn Greenwald, the pugnacious left-leaning libertarian blogger and advocate who first published the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden, this question:

GREGORY: Final question for you…. To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

Greenwald’s answer, essentially, was “How dare you?”… Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The NSA Surveillance Revelations….

NSA

My current ethics observations on the unfolding NSA story:

  • I do not have enough facts to conclude that what NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did was truly heroic, but if one is going to be a whistleblower, Snowden did it the ethical way. Snowden decided not to hide his identity, and accepted responsibility for his actions. If his motives are as he has represented them-“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant,” he wrote in a note accompanying his first set of leaked documents—-then he acted courageously and selflessly. Whether or not he also acted responsibly depends on whether he correctly weighed the possible harm of his leak against its benefits. Since its benefits include exposing what may well be ruled to be an unconstitutional and overly broad violation of citizens’ rights, I’m not certain any harm would sufficiently outweigh them in ethical balancing.
  • If it is true, as he says, that Snowden himself had the power to examine private communications of citizens who were not suspected of any crime, then the representations of Sen. Feinstein, the President and others that the NSA program was reasonable and not an abuse of power is not only untrue, but a lie. Snowden is a high school dropout, a consultant, about whose judgment, reliability and trustworthiness the NSA knew next to nothing, and what they thought they knew was obviously wrong, since he betrayed the agency. If such massive power to invade private communications and thoughts is casually placed in the hands of such an individual by a security agency, what other faceless future power-abusers have been similarly armed? Continue reading

Ethics Fouls and Julian Assange’s Rape Case

Well, well, well, Mr Assange!

How does it feel to have your own embarrassing and confidential information leaked to the media and publicized to the world?

On the sound ethical principle that two wrongs doesn’t make a right, The Guardian acquiring and publishing the leaked police report relating to Assange’s rape charges in Sweden is no less unethical because Assange is a smug foe of confidentiality. Nevertheless, it is hard to recall an instance when seeing the tables turned on someone was so satisfying. Ethics foul: Whoever leaked the records, and The Guardian for printing them. But thanks anyway.

It is satisfying for reasons other than delicious irony. Continue reading

Is Immortality Unethical?

When a writer posits an intriguing theory and then fails to support it credibly, there are only a few alternate conclusions the reader can reach. One is that it is a viable theory, but the advocate didn’t have the skills to explain it. Another is that it is a mistaken theory, and the advocate is wrong. A third is that the failure of the writer to make a case for his theory shows how wrong it is.

A recent article in The Guardian is in the last category, I suspect. It is an argument so inadequate and dominated by flaccid rationalizations  that it nearly disproves the proposition it is supposedly defending. The thesis: “Immortality isn’t unethical.” Continue reading