The New Yorker cartoon above, by the magazine’s iconic cartoonist George Booth, first ran in 1975. I remember finding it strange then. I just ran across it again, and it seems ripe for an Ethics Alarms poll.
The anti-police propaganda spreading the lie that most police are racist and brutal and therefore a greater threat to society than a benefit has become like the nine-headed Hydra of Greek mythology: nearly impossible to kill. Prime among the villains in this development are the news media, which has enthusiastically spread misinformation while refusing to do its job of clarifying facts rather than distorting them, and researchers and academics, who have become so cowed by the abusive hyper-ideological environment in which they work that they won’t even stand behind their own studies. As discussed here, after a peer-reviewed study showing that the race of the officer or the civilian could not predict fatal police shootings was used by defenders of police and critics of Black Lives Matte, the researchers were pressured into retracting their paper because it was being, they said, misused.
I know I’m sounding uncharacteristically frustrated this weekend, but I really don’t know how society fights deliberate disinformation in support of a destructive narrative when both the journalism sector and the academic establishment are in on the fix.
Here is a representative example from The New Yorker. The current edition includes a 5,000 word essay by Jill Lepore, who should be trustworthy: she is a professor of American history at Harvard as well as frequent writer at The New Yorker and for other presumably legitimate publications. Her topic is the history of policing in the United States, linking the early role of police in suppressing slave rebellions to police killings of blacks today. At one point she writes,
One study suggests that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards, about as many people as the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles.
Wait…what? Continue reading
“The society I seek is the society given lip service to by one and all. Governed by the Boy Scout oath, the West Point oath and the Golden Rule, it is populated by warmhearted TV Waltons, and protected from harm by honest Starskys and Hutches.”
—- Dana Fradon, the prolific New Yorker cartoonist who died last week at 97, in “Insincerely Yours” (1978), a collection of his cartoons.
Me too, Mr. Fradon.
1. What did you expect? Following close on the heels of Scott Pruitt’s firing from the EPA as a result of blatant ethics violations, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that he would sell all of his stock holdings to “maintain the public trust” after the Office of Government and Ethics pointed out that his financial transactions could get him into legal trouble.
“I have made inadvertent errors in completing the divestitures required by my ethics agreement,” Ross said in a statement. “To maintain the public trust, I have directed that all of my equity holdings be sold and the proceeds placed in U.S. Treasury securities.”
To maintain that public trust. Right.
The culture of CEOs and business executives is so alien to ethics that this kind of thing was assured as soon as Donald Trump was elected President. I wouldn’t say the business culture is necessarily more unethical than the political culture, it is juts unethical different ways. However, President Trump brought this brand of malfunctioning ethics alarms with him, and we shouldn’t expect it to abate until he leaves the White House.
Then we will get back to the good old-fashioned political versions of unethical conduct we’re become numb to. Ah, those were the days!
2. A question of degree. Professor Brian McNaughton, a former professor at Colorado State University, is facing a felony charge for fabricating an outside job offer to get a higher salary. This meets the technical definition of fraud. Apparently he presented the school with fabricated offer letter from the University of Minnesota. McNaughton resigned his position and apologized, and returned the fruits of the ill-gotten raise, about $4,000 per year over four years.
He also says that he was urged to use the tactic by other faculty members, who said it was a standard ploy. When does the “I have other job offers” gambit cross the ethics line into fraud? Clearly when you use a forged letter, but short of that, it’s just lying—unethical, but not criminal.
Writes one idealistic commentator:
…if an employee is performing a job and is good at it, that person should be compensated for it accordingly and in line with individuals within the same organization at an equivalent level professionally (ideally pay should be bench-marked against similar-sized institutions in states or parts of the country with comparable income ranges). Does a job offer and the suggestion that the employee is desirable to another organization change how well that person is performing? Promotions and rewards should be directly related to performance and an individual’s contribution to the organization and to science.
Well, yes, but competition and reality interferes with this nice, fair but overly simplistic and impractical theory. In fields where employees are not fungible, basic economic theory comes into play: you can’t deny the influence supply and demand. The fact that there is competition for an individual’s services does increase that individual’s value. Just saying “it shouldn’t be that way” doesn’t change reality. That’s what makes McNaughton’s lie fraudulent: he’s misrepresenting his value, and using false means to do it.
3. Would you fire Dan Coats for this?
Naturally the anti-Trump mob loved it, and that was the director of national intelligence’s intent: he was playing to the mob and virtue signaling to the detriment of his boss. Either than, or he’s thoroughly unprofessional and can’t be trusted to be on TV. Washington Post reporter Dan Baltz is either foolish, naive or dishonest when he writes: Continue reading
1. Now THIS is an unethical troop leader!
Law enforcement authorities in Kentucky are are currently looking Leah Ann Vick, 26, a Girl Scout troop leader who appears to be on the lam after picking up a large order of yummy Girl Scout cookies for her Wilderness Road chapter as well as, it is believed, orders belonging to other troops in Pikesville, Kentucky.
Vick was supposed to pay for the cookies once they had been sold—their value is $15,000— but she never returned, nor did she drop off her troop’s cookies with her scouts. She has disappeared, apparently taking the cookies with her. She has been indicted by a Pike County grand jury on a charge of “felony theft by unlawful taking.” Vick faces up to ten years in prison if convicted
This will not end well. I fear that she will finally be caught, weighing 300 pounds with incipient diabetes, wedged in a revolving door as she desperately stuffs the last Thin Mints into her mouth….
2. The Insufferable Arrogance of “The Resistance”
The New York Times gleefully described a satirical one-night-only “documentary drama” assembled from edited transcripts of the Senate confirmation hearings for members of President Trump’s cabinet. Titled “All the President’s Men?,” produced by the Public Theater and London’s National Theater, it featured such actors as the politically objective Alec Baldwin as Rex Tillerson and Academy Award Winner Ellen Burstyn as that heroic figure, Elizabeth Warren. This event was, of course, progressive Trump-hater masturbation, and the Times reports that the “liberal audience laughed and groaned and occasionally whooped…then rose for a standing ovation.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, the fact that David Remnick, editor in chief of The New Yorker, was one of the performers tells us all we need to know about that alleged journalistic enterprise’s ability to be fair and objective about the President, as well as how blatantly journalists now proclaim their anti-Trump bias as virtue-signalling.
The Times also observed this:
“It’s unlikely that the real Mr. Tillerson paused for a laugh after championing his honesty by saying, “You are aware of my longstanding involvement with the Boy Scouts of America.”
This is signature significance, showing us the utter loathsomeness of Mr. Baldwin and also the audience this production pandered to. Tillerson deserves nothing but praise for his work with the Boy Scouts of America. Continue reading
Glenn Logan undertook the herculean task of reading and critiquing one of the New Yorker’s endless partisan essays, this one by Ryan Lizza, who has foun himself in the Ethics Alarms bomb-sights before. It’s a masterful job by Glenn, and nicely dissects a persistent and contrived Democratic excuse for Hillary Clinton blowing the election, thus triggering one of the most amazing instances of self impeachment—by her party and supporters–in world political history.
Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”:
I read the article, which confirmed my suspicions of almost everything coming from The New Yorker and similar left-leaning news sources — that they accept the idea, as yet still both unproven and highly suspicious, that the Russians were working to get Trump elected.
This is exactly where bias always leads; once you have evidence of a conclusion you want to reach, you stop looking for other possible explanations.
There is no real information in this article worth knowing. It tells us Democratic senators are all wound up about possible Russian interference in the election, but we knew that. It mentions every Democrat’s favorite Republican — John McCain — and tries very hard to lead us to believe that all the Democrats’ worst fears about Russia and Trump are not just true, but being hidden, apparently by both the Obama and Trump administration, although for different reasons.
In other words, this article is a conspiracy theory. It offers nothing new, no penetrating analysis or new revelations. It describes, in very long and unnecessarily complex style meant to appeal to “intellectuals,” Putin and Russia as using a hacking strategy as a prong in geopolitical disinformation campaigns, and using Obama’s own feckless foreign policy to annex Crimea and generate a plebiscite so fast that American leadership’s heads were still spinning in the opposite direction.
But this is exactly what I would be doing in Russia’s place if I were a despot like Putin. They are opponents, and are trying to weaken our country just as we tried for years under Reagan to weaken them. If you want to shape the world, and Putin clearly does, you use information to shape perception so that when you do use force, it won’t be universally condemned. Continue reading
Ann Althouse responded sharplyto Ryan Lizza’s hit piece on Donald Trump at the New Yorker, which included the statement, “The Emoluments Clause has never been tested in the courts, but most scholars seem to agree that if Trump doesn’t take the prophylactic approach to his conflicts there is only one other anti-corruption clause in the Constitution available as a remedy: impeachment.”
This is the level of analysis we get at The New Yorker now? It’s on-its-face ludicrous to suggest that “most scholars” could possibly have an opinion on such a specific issue. Who are the “scholars” in Ryan Lizza’s world? They don’t sound like scholars to me. It sounds political, not scholarly.
And I do note Lizza’s use of the weasel word “seem.” Even so, the front-page teaser is so dispiritingly political. I would like to read some serious analysis of this subject, and I am a New Yorker subscriber.
Why are these articles presented in a form that is so off-putting to anyone who’s not tripping on Trump hate?
Well, we know the answer to that one. They are in such a form because the news media is speaking to a progressive Democratic audience—you know, like the reporters and pundits—that wants to believe that Trump’s Presidency is illicit, and this audience is the target of the Democrat/progressive effort to undermine his Presidency from the start. The journalists are hoping to influence the non-committed, the middle of the road, the inattentive but gullible center that can be recruited, the media believes, to its cause. That’s why. Continue reading
When we last looked in on writer Jonah Lehrer last summer, he had detonated his career and credibility with a series of incidents of serious professional misconduct that led to his ignominious firing from The New Yorker, where he once was regarded as a rising star. First he was caught plagiarizing himself, recycling a previously published work as an original essay for the magazine. That led to an investigation showing that this was not the first time he had taken such an unethical short-cut. Finally, it was discovered that he had fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his best-selling book about, ironically enough, creativity. When confronted about this, Lehrer lied. Soon he was out of a job and condemned to the limbo reserved for writers who deceive their readers: Jason Blair, Stephen Glass, James Frey, Janet Cooke, and others. It is not a pleasant or profitable place to be.
Lehrer was recently invited to speak to a gathering at the Knight Foundation, and chose the forum to deliver an apology for his conduct. It would be difficult, I think, to deliver a better one. On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the most ethical apology, at the top of the scale, is this one:
1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.
That is exactly what Lehrer delivered to the Knight Foundation, and through his blog, the rest of us. He said…
“..I am the author of a book on creativity that contained several fabricated Bob Dylan quotes. I committed plagiarism on my blog, taking, without credit or citation, an entire paragraph from the blog of Christian Jarrett. I also plagiarized from myself. I lied to a journalist named Michael Moynihan to cover up the Dylan fabrications.
“My mistakes have caused deep pain to those I care about. I am constantly remembering all those people I’ve hurt and let down – friends, family, colleagues. My wife, my parents, my editors. I think about all the readers I’ve disappointed, people who paid good money for my book and now don’t want it on their shelves.I have broken their trust. For that, I am profoundly sorry. It is my hope that, someday, my transgressions might be forgiven.
“I could stop here. But I am convinced that unless I talk openly about what I’ve learned so far – unless I hold myself accountable in public – then the lessons will not last. I will lose the only consolation of my failure, which is the promise that I will not fail like this again. That I might, one day, find a way to fail better.
“The lessons have arrived in phases. The first phase involved a literal reconstruction of my mistakes. I wanted to have an accounting, in my head, of how I fabricated those Dylan quotes. I wanted to understand the mechanics of every lapse, to relive all those errors that led to my disgrace. I wanted to understand so that I could explain it to people, so that I could explain it in a talk like this. So that I could say that I found the broken part and that part has a name. My arrogance. My desire for attention. My willingness to take shortcuts, provided I don’t think anyone else will notice. My carelessness, matched with an ability to excuse my carelessness away. My tendency to believe my own excuses.
“But then, once I came up with this list of flaws, and once I began to understand how these flaws led to each of my mistakes, I realized that all of my explanations changed nothing. They cannot undo what I’ve done, not even a little. A confession is not a solution. It does not restore trust. Not the trust of others and not the trust of myself. What’s more, I came to see that my explanations were distracting me from the more important reality I need to deal with.
“Because my flaws – these flaws that led to my failure – they are a basic part of me. They are as fundamental to my self as those other parts I’m not ashamed of. This is the phase that comes next, the phase I’m in now. It is the slow realization that all the apologies and regrets are just the beginning. That my harshest words will not fix me, that I cannot quickly become the person I need to be. It is finally understanding how hard it is to change.
“Character, Joan Didion wrote, is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life. For too long, I did not accept responsibility. And by not accepting responsibility – by pretending that all of my errors were accidents, that my carelessness was not a choice – I kept myself from getting better. I postponed the reckoning that was needed.
“There is no secret to good decision-making. There is only the obvious truth: We either confront our mistakes and gain a little wisdom, or we don’t and remain a fool.”
At the New Yorker, star writer Jonah Lehrer has resigned after it was shown that he fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan for his well-reviewed book “Imagine: How Creativity Works.”
This was the final shoe dropping that began with one untied shoelace, the discovery in June that Lehrer had plagiarized from himself, lifting a section of a piece published earlier in one publication to include in a piece written for The New Yorker. This is a minor ethical incursion—-Lehrer had represented the second essay as original, so using prior published material was dishonest even if he was the author—but it launched his employers on a mission of scrutiny, investigating to see if the one transgression was part of a trend.
When it comes to professional ethics, you see, it often is. The principle of signature significance holds that in some pursuits just one episode can be enough to make certain conclusions. A writer of true integrity never borrows from his own published work without flagging the fact. Doing so even once indicates shaky integrity, and a willingness to cut corners. It may well indicate a proclivity to cheat in more egregious ways. Continue reading