Friday, November 5, 2010

Personal Ethics and Political Correctness

No, I won't sign the petition to bring back Keith Olbermann, but yes, I wrote NPR to tell them their firing of Juan Williams was wrong wrong wrong. Since both of these actions served the interests of the right, this must mean I'm becoming a shill for Fox News, right? Well.....

Let's first admit that journalistic objectivity is a sad and tired joke, particularly in the days of Rupert Murdoch and corporate-executive contributions to campaigns and lobbyists. That said, journalists usually make explicit contractual or implied contextual deals with their employers over how they try to practice objectivity. In the case of Juan Williams, he follows many op-ed/analysts in giving gut-level opinions on a variety of subjects. His comments on Muslims clearly were not prejudiced, but a frank discussion of irrational fears. If his real crime was appearing on Fox, NPR should have told him they were unhappy about that, and let him make up his mind as to which came first. If they were unhappy only about the comments, they should have given him a dressing-down and kept him on NPR.

Olbermann's "suspension" by MSNBC is unusual, in that many conservatives are coming to his defense, according to Huffington Post, and yes, an indefinite suspension for four-figure campaign contributions seems like overkill when his bosses make far bigger contributions. But as an explicit political commentator, Olbermann should realize his role as a lightning rod and "avoid even the appearance of impropriety." I'd agree with HuffPost that MSNBC probably wants to pretty itself up and look neocon with with new Republican victories, but I think the actions against Keith were more justified than NPR's against Juan.

Still, that does not excuse personal lapses in behavior along the lines of traditional journalistic ethics. If Olbermann wanted to make those contributions, he should have announced them in advance in one of those "full disclosure" statements. Failing to do that made him the dummy, more so than MSNBC. And what I find aggravating is the number of liberals/progressives who think that the political correctness of the issue is more important than the ethics of the individual. All's fair depending on whose message is being promoted and whose ox is being gored.

No, no, and no. I told one friend that among people of principle, if you are dealing with someone of your political and cultural background, your family or clan, or gender, race, or sexual orientation, you should hold that person to higher standards than you hold your political enemies. If a peace group does a secret deal with the Pentagon, people of the left or peace community should publicize that fact sooner and more vociferously than Fox News does. It's called self-policing and being ethically consistent. It is not practiced very often these days. And if you don't get where I'm coming from, I simply feel sorry for you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Helps to be Smart and Elitist

I'll continue to update the post below this one with poems from a decline, so keep watch - in the meantime, I had to post a small and smug update that Colorado retained a solid blue wave in a massive sea of red, electing a Democrat for governor, sending Mike Bennet (pictured right) back to Washington in a very tight senatorial race, electing several more Dems to the House, and defeating a raft of very idiotic initiatives, usually by margins exceeding a 65 percent "no" vote. This isn't because of some magical mountain difference that places Colorado in the California winky category, though all those new marijuana dispensaries in the state clearly help. No, it's because Coloradans are smarter, prettier, more physically fit, etc. than the rest of the nation. Stand up and take a freakin' bow, Colorado!

Obama has been running away from the "elitist" label in a nation where the uneducated bumpkins are in charge of the train, but I'll go ahead and grab the moniker, and not because I'm a snob. Since I was about 8 years old or so, I've thought my mental capacities were around average, but I was utterly appalled at how uninterested most human beings seemed to be at learning more about the world around them, bettering their mental, physical, and spiritual lives, trying to be aware of as many aspects of the world as possible. In fact, with the rise of Quaaludes in the mid-70s, the strategy seemed to be to turn off as many synapses as possible, and this general trend has survived through decades of increasing mind-numbing on all fronts. Hence, I'm a reverse-elitist by default - I ain't so much to look at, it's just that everyone else is trying so hard to be a know-nothing. And that's what sets Colorado apart this year.

However, one should not conclude too much about the Tea Party or dummies in general - David Weigel did a great column on this in Slate. Dummies will come in all shapes, sizes, and parties, and the Tea Party will merely form the most myth-loving front.

And I pointed out to folks in a Facebook post, we must be careful not to exhaust ourselves on the support of candidates, as the elections are largely celebrity talent shows, brimming with hatred (thanks largely to the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling). Yes, it is worthwhile to vote within certain parameters, but representative democracy is largely a farce, since both Republicans and Democrats are equally plugged in to the power elite, and all elections are run on the basis of money (corporate money, by and large). So remember to spend the bulk of your time working on community issues of environment, economics, war and peace, while treating elections as the dog and pony shows that signify nothing. And remember it's all right to call yourself "elitist" when you live on a planet of morons.