This Is CNN: If It Denigrates The President, It’s News

Back from a working trip to Erie County, PA., where the lawyers are sharp, attentive, and know their legal ethics, newly awake and feeling like a zucchini after the five and a half hour drive back home followed by an annoying Boston Red Sox loss to the Yankees, I made the mistake of looking in on Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota, as the review’d the morning news on CNN. Apparently the news included the latest segment from “The Simpsons,” showing Donald Trump talking like an idiot while lounging in bed as the trained dog that serves as his hair periodically found a more comfy position. Then an aide delivers to him a thick new bill from Congress lowering taxes for Republicans. “You have to read it immediately,” he is told. “Can’t Fox News read it and I’ll watch what they say?” the President asks. “No, sir, you really have to read it,” replies the aide, as a tear trickled out of the President’s eye, and the dog’s tail wiped it from his cheek. Then the scene flipped to the Supreme Court, as Ivanka took Justice Ginsberg’s seat, and an announcer explained that the new SCOTUS Justice’s fashion robe, with gavel earrings, can be purchased “for only 100 rubles.”  The displaced Ginsberg was shown attacking the Secret Service agent dragging her out of her chair,garotting him with her pearlsas she shouted, “I thought you said I’d be replaced by Garland!”

We returned to the CNN team, cackling uncontrollably, as Cuomo observed, “When you’ve lost Homer Simpson…!”

I should note that the material was genuinely hilarious, and terrific satire. (I haven’t watched “The Simpsons” regularly for a long time, mainly because 20 years of anything gets tiresome after a while; I felt the same way about George Carlin. Maybe it’s time to go back.) Dan Camtallanata needs to work on his Trump voice, though; it sounds like Mayor Quimby, who sounds like JFK.

However, no Simpson sequences similarly mocking President Obama of Hillary Clinton were ever deemed newsworthy by CNN (Really now; how is this news? Is it news that “The Simpsons” is funny? That it is making fun of politicians? Are Trump hair jokes news? Does CNN regularly feature highlights from sitcoms on other networks?)and properly so, since a 28-year-old animated comedy isn’t news. Think about it: CNN intentionally plugged the programming of a bitter rival broadcast company. Why would it do that? There’s only one reason: this allows the network and its employees to ridicule and undermine the President of the United States while pretending that they’re not. It is as obvious as it is juvenile, biased and unprofessional.

This is CNN.

The Ethical Problem With The Cinnebon Tweet

cinnebon-fisher

First I was going to post an essay about Cinnebon’s humorous tweet above under the title “How Humor Dies.” Our culture is in serious trouble if a clever, playful, obvious joke like this attracts so much criticism that it generates a retraction and an apology.Clearly, there are Political Correctness Furies on the Left and  Puritan Scolds on the Right lurking and  lying in wait to make any attempt at levity too much of a risk for all but the socially inept or defiantly rude to attempt. I confess, I laughed out loud when I saw Cinnebon’s gag. I thought the company deserved applause, not opprobrium.

Then I thought about it, and decided to make the episode an Ethics Alarms ethics quiz. Does the fact that Cinnebon can be accused of using Carrie Fisher’s tragic death as product promotion outweigh the cleverness of the tweet, or was the joke a natural one for the sticky bun-makers to make? Who better to remind us of all the jokes about Leia’s odd hairstyle when “Star Wars” debuted? Maybe this was one example where the “she would have approved” standard might be more than a rationalization. Is there any doubt that Carrie Fisher would have laughed at Cinnebon’s joke more heartily than anyone?

Fortunately, I thought some more.

I hadn’t realized until just a few minutes ago that the tweet was issued on the day Carrie Fisher died.  Ick, and also, yecchh, as well as “Ethics Foul!”

It doesn’t matter how clever, well-executed or funny it was. Krusty the Clown could have told Cinnebon what was wrong with the tweet in a trice, if they had the sense to ask, and Krusty wasn’t a cartoon character.

Too soon.

Ethics Dunce: RedState’s Moe Lane, Cheap Shot Artist

t

Bernie Sanders, or most likely someone on his staff since I doubt that the Bern is a micro-manager, made his campaign look foolish by sending Wikipedia a DMCA take-down notice demanding that Wikipedia remove  images of Sanders campaign logos on its Sanders page, on the dubious grounds that such use was a violation of copyright law. More embarrassing than the specious copyright complaint is the rather obvious fact that a campaign should want Wikipedia to publicize everything about it. The complaint, to be blunt, was dumb. (The take-down notice was retracted in short order.)

Moe Lane is a fairly nasty right wing blogger, and he gleefully reported Sanders’ Shame, which is certainly fair game for critics. He could not, however, resist this cheap shot headline:

Bernie Sanders yells at Wikipedia, cloud over… campaign logos?

If you don’t get the reference, it’s this: Continue reading

Child Care Ethics And Leashes For Toddlers: CNN and Its Viewers Flunk An Ethics Alarm Test

Kids on leashes

It is constantly amazing to me that journalists so seldom identify obvious and critical ethics issues in the topics and events they cover. The rest is mixed emotions: this absence of ethics awareness is a serious culture-wide problem; then again, were this not so, I’d probably be in a different, and less stimulating profession.

Today I sat down to lunch as CNN engaged in a breathless discussion of whether using leashes on toddlers and even older children was a good idea, as it is either a growing trend among parents, or CNN was having a slow news day. The phone lines were open, and many viewers weighed in, with the primary camps expressing the following positions:

1. “If it makes children safer, then there is no reason not to do it. Safety is everything. Kids have been killed running into the street.  A leash will prevent that.”

2. “This shows the decline of child-rearing skills in the United States. If you can’t control your kid better than this, you are the problem.”

If the question of whether it was fair, kind, respectful or right to treat  your child like a cocker spaniel occurred to anybody in this discussion (I know the CNN staff never considered it), I saw and heard no evidence of this. Yet that is the central question, and it is an interesting one to consider. The fact that matters of human dignity, responsibility, respect, fairness, autonomy, kindness, proportion and prudence need to be balanced to answer the question at hand never came into the discussion, and those debating the issue demonstrated neither awareness of the competing ethical values, nor the ability to know how to employ them. Continue reading

My Hypocrisy Detector Just Blew Up!

sarcasm

In a favorite episode of “The Simpsons,” the Springfield equivilent of Mensa is having a contentious debate. Prof. Frink, the local mad scientis, complains that the tone has set the readings of his newly-invented “sarcasm detector” dangerously high. “Comic Book Guy,” another brainy member of the club, snarks, “A sarcasm detector? That’s a real useful invention!” Whereupon the sarcasm detector blows up.

Well, my hypocrisy detector just blew up. The readings started going off the charts when I came across this item:

NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday night that excessive partisanship flowing through the nation’s political system is causing the U.S. to march “backwards instead of forward”…Clinton cited the need to “get back to evidence-based decision-making.”

Oh, you mean like telling America that the allegations that your husband had lied under oath about his sexual affairs in a sexual harassment lawsuit and was using the power of his office to obstruct justice and cover it up was the creation of “a vast right wing conspiracy,” Hillary?  When you knew that the allegations were true? That kind of “evidence-based decision-making”?

I swear, if this awful, dishonest, cynical and untrustworthy woman runs for President, everything here will be exploding—my sarcasm detector, lie detector, hypocrisy detector, head…you name it.

This was just a warm-up, though. Then I read a Washington Post puff piece on Anita Hill, who is peddling a new documentary that casts her as a hero, which is ridiculous on its face. Anita Hill is the walking, talking embodiment of feminist hypocrisy, especially when paired with Hillary’s target, Paula Jones. I remember back when I worked for a large trial attorney lobby and Monicagate was in full force. The female president of the association was going on about her support of Clinton and how this was all, well, Hillary provided the talking point, and I had the cheek to remind her that during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings she wore a button that said “I believe Anita Hill.”

Continue reading

The Fake Pilots Caper: No Excuse For Professional Cluelessness

Fake Names

I was unable to post on this story in a timely fashion, but better late than never.

Everyone was laughing at the punking of WKTU TV in the Bay area on July 6, when it reported fake names of the alleged pilots in the Asiana Airlines crash that killed  three and injured many more. It was funny, in the same way Bart Simpson’s multitude of fake names he uses to embarrass Mo at Mo’s tavern is funny. (“Amanda Huggenkiss? I’ll see if she’s here.”(shouting) “I need Amanda Hugginkiss! Can someone find me Amanda Huggnkiss?”) But Mo is an idiot who runs a cartoon bar, and not a professional journalist charged with informing the public. Continue reading

Is George Zimmerman Trying A Homer Simpson Strategy?

The accused, pre-donuts.

The accused, pre-donuts.

Based on his appearance at today’s preliminary hearings for his murder trial, George Zimmerman has packed on a few pounds since he was arrested and charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Might this be an intentional strategy dictated by his lawyer? If so, it would be reminiscent of the memorable episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer decided to give himself the benefit of the Americans With Disabilities Act by eating himself into muu-muus. But would it be ethical?

The theory, I presume, is that the less threatening and mobile Zimmerman looks, the more plausible it will seem to the jury that he was not the aggressor in his fatal tussle with Martin, who, we heard today, the defense will try to portray as a violence-prone thug. This kind of maneuver exploits a structural defect in the jury system, aggravated by the now ridiculously extended justice process. Jurors can only think of a defendant and sometimes a victim as they look in the courtroom, when it is what they were like when the alleged crime occurred that matters. Years ago in the District of Columbia, a wily attorney defending a child molester who swore that his 13-year old victim had credibly presented herself as 18 managed to delay the trial for three years. It was enough time for the victim to get morphed by puberty hard, and she appeared on the stand not as the thin, immature child she was when she was sexually assaulted, but as an obviously sexually-mature young woman speaking in a attractively husky voice, whom one courtroom reporter described as looking at least 25. Her attacker was acquitted. This is considered excellent lawyering. (The prosecutor, who allowed the girl to wear a tight, low-cut dress and full make-up, was, in contrast, an idiot.) Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Matt Groening

Duff-Beer

Cashing in, selling out, maximizing income, monetizing assets: the crash of 2008 only accelerated what was already becoming a coarsening cultural trend in America, the mania of never, never allowing any opportunity to make money go unexploited. Every creation or idea is copyrighted or trademarked; every open space is marked with a billboard; every person, place or thing imaginable is sponsored or branded, every citizen who does something admirable or remarkable will sell his or her life story or hire someone to write a book. The effect of this on the community, on life itself, is toxic.

When everything is a potential cash cow, then our choice is to milk it or wait for someone else to steal the milk. A Profit Above All mindset turns everyone into a potential competitor, which means that trust becomes impossible. There are only two antidotes for this trend, which I fear is irreversible. One is for there to be so much money to go around that nobody worries about it any more, which is to say that there is really only one antidote. That one is for our society to evolve and reinforce a hierarchy of values in which money, wealth, profit and material things are not seen as ends, but as means to ends, and not the only means to those ends, either. Wealth can lead to freedom, for example, but only if it is joined with proportion, moderation, responsibility, modesty, and restraint. Otherwise, wealth and the pursuit of it can restrict choices and liberty as effectively as chains.

This is why a rare case where someone eschews the opportunity to make a lot of money for no other reason than that he thinks to exploit the opportunity will make the world a worse place is a qualification for the Ethics Hero designation.  I hate the speech in “Traffic” given by Seth Abraham, the loathsome preppy coke-head played by Topher Grace, about how suburban drug users corrupt the inner city:

“Ok, right now, all over this great nation of ours, ‘hundred thousand white people from the suburbs are cruisin’ around downtown asking every black person they see ‘You got any drugs? You know where I can score some drugs?’ Think about the effect that has on the psyche of a black person, on their possibilities. I… God I guarantee you bring a hundred thousand black people into your neighborhood, into fuckin’ Indian Hills, and they’re asking every white person they see ‘You got any drugs? You know where I can score some drugs? within a day everyone would be selling. Your friends. Their kids. Here’s why: it’s an unbeatable market force man. It’s a three-hundred percent markup value. You can go out on the street and make five-hundred dollars in two hours, come back and do whatever you want to do with the rest of your day and, I’m sorry, you’re telling me that… you’re telling me that white people would still be going to law school?”__

I hate it for two reasons. First, it is more or less true, and second, it is only true because the vast majority of people have such a weak commitment to behaving ethically and not selling out, because our culture reinforces healthy ethical values less and less effectively. It shouldn’t be true, and in a rational society, it wouldn’t be true.

So I am giving Matt Groening the Ethics Hero for something that is relatively minor and trivial, because, I guess, it gives me hope. Continue reading

Jack’s Anti-Political Correctness, Political Bloodsport and Contrived Offense Crusade: Progress Report

As I noted earlier, I am in New Mexico talking to journalists here about the Pat Rogers affair. You can sample one of the fruits of my labors here, a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican. It’s pretty accurate, as press interviews go, though the last quote was botched. I didn’t say that I was a “Greek American conservative Democrat with an anti-war war hero father,” but that my diverse views were the product of “a Greek American conservative Democrat mother and  an anti-war war hero father.” [ UPDATE: This has been corrected.]

If you’ve missed the various posts on this issue, you can find them here, here and here.

One odd note: during my meeting with several reporters from the paper, one of them suggested that making a joke about Custer’s Last Stand was like making a joke about the Holocaust. I let it pass, but the comment seems bizarre to me. Custer, after all, got himself and his men killed, and it was his opposition that was the object of genocide, not the cavalry. Why would ridiculing Custer offend Native Americans?

Real Life Bullying That Matters: The Persecution of Pat Rogers

Pat Rogers: prey.

Make no mistake about it, the word for what happened to New Mexico attorney Pat Rogers is bullying. Politicians, pundits and the public like to pontificate against bullying when it involves children, and are even willing to compromise basic First Amendment rights, so outraged are they over abuses of power that victimize kids. When it comes to the bullying of adults, however—good adults, innocent adults, adults who have done nothing to justify vicious efforts to crush them out of pure animus and nothing more—these supposed champions of fairness are as likely as not to side with the bullies.

This sickening hypocrisy is on display now in the persecution of New Mexico lawyer Pat Rogers in the ethics train wreck I first described here.  Rogers, whose first offense appears to be that he is a Republican, bared his throat to his attackers by sending an obviously satirical e-mail on the occasion of Governor Susan Martinez, whom he supports, participating in a state Native-American tribal summit. His jocular e-mail went to members of her staff with whom he had worked and who know him, and read, “Quislings, French surrender monkeys. … The state is going to hell. Col. Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.” Continue reading