Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.


2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.



How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading

Atrocious People, Part III: The “Fuck Her Right in Her Pussy” Saga

He started it.

He started it.

How did I miss this offensive, disgusting story presaging the end of civilization? I mean, I’m rather glad I did, and am now sorry to have to confront ugly reality (Gee, thanks, Mediaite!) But it has been a phenomenon for nearly a year, and one reason it escaped my notice is the news media’s infantile and cowardly refusal to publish key information directly when they think it might offend someone, or sometimes when they fear Islamic maniacs might kill them for it.

Journalists do realize that their job is to inform, not talk in code, right? This story was commonly refereed to as FHRIHP. Catchy. Also completely useless, unless you already knew what the letters stood for.

But I digress.

Or perhaps I’m stalling.

About a year ago, some boor trying to create a meme and sell crude t-shirts created fake video featuring a crazy old guy in a hood grabbing a female TV reporter’s microphone in a live shoot and yelling, “Fuck her right in her pussy!” This “hilarious” prank went viral even after it was revealed as a hoax. But because there are a lot of males whose mental and emotional age is about 12 and whose manners would be inappropriate in a barn, the practice of bystanders “videobombing” live broadcasts by screaming “FHRIHP!” started becoming a professional hazard for on-the-scene reporters, causing re-takes, expense, and embarrassment. This has been going on all this time.

Let me pause to say that screaming “FHRIHP!” isn’t humor. It isn’t witty, it isn’t clever, it isn’t even original. It’s vulgar, gratuitous disrespect and misogyny. Waving at the camera and mouthing “Hi Mom!” is stupid; this isn’t even that. It’s anti-social behavior. It’s life pollution. It makes mooning out the windows of cars look sophisticated. It makes pooping out the windows of cars look sophisticated. Do I make myself clear? Continue reading