Saturday, July 24, 2010

Was it ethical for Tucker Carlson to publish the leaked Journolist info?

~1~ Was it ethical for Tucker Carlson to publish the leaked info?

The answer partially hinges on whether or not a wrong was being committed. Opinion journalists were conspiring to use their professional platforms to suppress embarrassing info about Obama, to coordinate dissemination of memes about Palin, and to discredit any newspersons who embarrassed Obama. It's clear to me that wrongs were being committed – not by the existence of Journolist itself, but rather by the immoral actions of professionals who were shirking their professional duties to truthfully opine on the most important news; who were suppressing true opinion in service of political agenda. The unethical behavior of these opinion journalists is a big story – a big scandal – which will only fully set in as the truth about the unethical behavior seeps more and more into the consciousness of American citizens. Therefore, Tucker Carlson acted ethically in reporting the story.

Tucker Carlson:
"I don't think you can be a journalist and carry water for a politician, and that's what they were doing: 'Here's the line on Palin.' . . . These are political hacks, and I think they should stop calling themselves journalists. It discredits the rest of us."

Howard Kurtz of WaPo:
"But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans -- including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist."
"But there is no escaping the fact that some of the list's liberal literati come off sounding like cagey political operatives."

~2~ Was it ethical to for an insider to leak Journolist info to Tucker Carlson?

Tougher call. The leaker broke his word, yet did so in service of shining light on significant unethical behavior. My principles are this: once significant unethical behavior occurred, then the leaker was released from his commitment to keep the information secret. Your principles may be different. I say it was ethical for the insider to leak the info to Tucker Carlson.

~3~ How does the Journolist leak compare to the Palin emails leak?

The comparison of Journolist to Palin emails in an interesting initial thought. Yet, once fleshed out, the comparison does not hold up well.
First, the guy who stole the Palin emails broke the law; the Journolist leaker broke no law.

Second: the Journolist leaker was highlighting unethical behavior; the Palin email leaker was just releasing everything in a cast-a-wide-net hope to embarrass the candidate.

Third, in releasing the Palin emails, you create a lot of collateral damage amongst innocent civilians whose personal medical information, personal thoughts, personal prayers, and personal email addresses were put into the public domain. Journolist was about professionals who ought have calculated the risk of being on the list. The Palin emailers were rank civilians, most of whom never dreamed Palin would be on a Presidential ticket and thence targeted by the son of a Dem state senator. Most or all of those civilians had to change their email address, some had to make apologies to their friends for things said in private emails.

~4~ Is the contentious issue about "kicking around ideas in a bull session"?

No. Such is uncontentious. The issues were laid out in ~1~.

~5~ Is it a downside that anything a person puts in writing or says on video can be held against them?

No. Exposing oneself as a fool is a feature, not a bug.

~6~ What of professionals who undertake bland careers so as to not say anything which can later be used against them in a potential nomination, et al?

This is interesting, and I've considered this before. We're in a moment in media and societal history in which political demagogues can get away with a lot of mischaracterization; can overly influence voters via overemphasizing what ought be considered minor historical transgressions on the part of individuals, if such were even transgressions at the time they were committed. No human is perfect. For various reasons, at this moment in media and societal history, demagogues are able to overly punish other human beings for being human, i.e. for being imperfect, as every single human is. This moment shall pass. Until it does: nominees are being unfairly punished, and that is a shame; our nation is suffering a rash of bland, uncreative, uncharismatic nominees, and that is a shame.

~7~ Does an overplayed "scoop" invalidate the true scandals which have otherwise been reported?

From Kathleen Parker comes the idea that an overplayed scoop (about a UCLA Law Prof wanting to jerk a broadcasting license from Fox News) invalidates the true scandals which are being reported beside the overplayed scoop. Kathleen is engaged in fallacious reasoning.

~8~ What is "verbal ju jitsu"?

An excuse one flings out as cover for having gotten the worst of a reasoned argument.

~9~ Kathleen Parker: "Are we better off never having the ability to speak offhandedly among friends, to say in private what we could never say in public, to think aloud and uncensored?"

No. We are not better off. Yet, this Journolist scandal is not about that. The scandal is about professional opinion-journalists being engaged in unprofessional, unethical, immoral behavior, as explicated in ~1~. There is a difference. When Kathleen Parker misidentifies the scandal as being about mere offhand, private conversation + idea bouncing, then she either intentionally or unintentionally misleads her readers.

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