The Ethical Take: “Attack on Our Country” Edition

What’s going on? I’m gone for only three weeks and… alright, let’s get into it.

Mr. Zuckerberg Goes to Washington –

And it doesn’t exactly go well for the great Stone Face.

After the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal – in which Cambridge created a personality application, posted it on Facebook, then scooped up and used the personal data of approximately 87 million Facebook users to influence the 2016 presidential election – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been apologizing for missing all the signs until it was too late.

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg told Senators. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here. … It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

That’s good, Mark!

Regarding Cambridge Analytica:

“When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica,” Zuckerberg said, “that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

That’s bad, Mark! Why would you take the word… alright, moving on.

Regarding Russian interference:

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016,” Zuckerberg said.

“We have kicked off an investigation … I imagine we’ll find some things. … There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems and other systems as well. … This is an ongoing arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict.”

On regulations for sites that collect and store user data:

“I think the real question,” Zuckerberg said, “as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.”

Absent from Zuckerberg’s testimony, however, were details of what will be done in the future to protect user’s personal data.

Memo to Users: Don’t wait for the Facebook fix. Take direct control of your personal information by carefully limiting what social media sites you use and what personal information you put out there.

The Ethical Take: whether young, old, smart or genius, the more successful you become, the greater the risk for hubris. Zuckerberg could use a Humility App.

“An Attack on Our Country”? –

Last Monday (Apr. 9), the F.B.I. raided Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s business office and NY apartment seizing business records, files and e-mails related to Cohen’s personal payment of $130,000 to porn star “Stormy Daniels.”

While I have zero interest in who Trump has “slept” with past or present, the larger issue is whether Cohen directly violated campaign laws by paying Daniels for her silence days before the 2016 election. Of course, the elephant in the room is how much did Trump know about this. His response tells a lot.

“…it’s a disgrace, it’s frankly a real disgrace,” Trump said. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it — I heard it like you did — I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.”

Unfair? No.

Writing in Politico.com, ethicists Norm Eisen, Noah Bookbinder and Connor Shaw point out, “If the FBI seized evidence showing that Trump directed Cohen’s payment to Daniels, Trump may also have committed a felony violation of campaign finance law. If Cohen and Trump worked together to come up with the scheme, they might also both be guilty of conspiring to commit a campaign finance violation. And if Trump (notwithstanding his recent denial) actually knew that he was the beneficiary of the nondisclosure agreement, he might be guilty of a separate offense—failing to report that asset on his personal financial disclosure form.”

However, for the rough and tumble Cohen – Trump’s self-described “fixer,” a man with his own hubris issues – it looks like he’s changed his tone. Asked in a phone interview, if he was worried, Cohen said, “I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No.”

If Cohen is found guilty for his part in the Daniels’ scheme in addition to other actions, he is potentially facing decades in prison.

The E.T.: No, Mr. Trump, this is not “an attack on our country.” This is what the rule of law looks like in our country, and no one is above it. This is not the alleged “Deep State,” Mr. President. This is deep doo-doo.

The Real Attack on Our Country –

Fox News Prime Time is completely off the rails. The evidence begins with former military advisor and commentator Ralph Peters’ memo, first reported by BuzzFeed:

“Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer,” Peters wrote to his Fox colleagues. “That oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox is assaulting our constitutional order and rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

“When prime-time hosts,” Peters continues, “who have never served our country in any capacity — dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller — all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of ‘deep-state’ machinations — I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

What Peters is talking about is the total devolution of Fox prime time as a legitimate news source.

Last week, Sean Hannity, as reported by The Washington Post, “described as ‘obvious Deep State crime families trying to take down the president,’ consisting of the Clinton ‘family,’ the Comey ‘family’ and the Mueller ‘family.’

“Hannity,” The Post continues, “said he was inspired by Comey, who… compared Trump to a ‘mob boss.’ ”

This is the same Sean Hannity who, months ago, touted that, while Fox told him to avoid any further mention of the death of democratic staffer Seth Rich, the host announced on his radio program that he would continue, on his own, to investigate the death of Rich. To date, Hannity has produced zero evidence that Seth Rich died by any means other than a botched robbery.

In talking about the Russian connection to the 2016 election, former Fox contributor Peters, a former Russia analyst for the U.S., sums it up best in his memo:

“Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the ‘nothing-burger’ has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true – that’s how the Russians do things. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.”

The E.T.: According to PunditFact, 60 percent of Fox statements are False, Mostly False or Pants-on-Fire. Once we dismiss facts in favor of political tribalism; once we abandon belief in basic democratic institutions and processes, “…we are,” to quote Arizona Sen. John McCain, “doing Putin’s job for him.”

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1 comment… add one

  • Gary Lange April 16, 2018, 12:51 pm

    Welcome back Jim–we need you to clearly look at the actual words used in these instances. Sad but true… “Despite increasingly pathetic denials” by so many makes us cringe–that’s why we need “It’s Ethics Stupid!”

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