July 20, 2010

"The fifth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa."

Wrote Saul Alinsky in "Rules for Radicals." I went searching for that rule when I read the way Kevin Drum and Mark Schmitt pushed back against Spencer Ackerman. But Alinsky was at least contemplating the role of ethics as he subordinated means to ends:
Reviewing and selecting available means is done on a straight utilitarian basis — will it work? Moral questions may enter when one chooses among equally effective alternate means. But if one lacks the luxury of a choice and is possessed of only one means, then the ethical question will never arise; automatically the lone means becomes endowed with moral spirit.
(Page 32.)

We don't have the full text of what Drum and Schmitt wrote. But in The Daily Caller quotes, they only ask what will work best. They don't even throw in as a makeweight argument that it would be more ethical to refrain from calling their opponents racists.

***

Another distinction is that Alinsky was talking about rules for political activists, not journalists. Even as means are subordinated to ends, journalism is subordinated to political activism.

21 comments:

Henry said...

I think that first comment exemplifies Alinsky's ends and means argument. Who has simpler ends and fewer means than a porn spammer?

SMGalbraith said...

... they only ask what will work best. They don't even throw in as a makeweight argument that it would be more ethical to refrain from calling their opponents racists.

Yes, that jumped out at me too. It wasn't whether it was ethical or moral or fair to call Rove or Barnes racist. It wasn't, Drum says, going to be effective.

I've always found Drum to be someone trying to be fair, not willing to embrace the politics above everything - liberals = good, conservatives = evil - approach. Perhaps he didn't want to use the ethics argument because it wouldn't work against the thuggery of Ackerman.

Nasty group of people in these e-mails. If you didn't know they were journalists you'd think they were party apparatchiks.

The Drill SGT said...

Another distinction is that Alinsky was talking about rules for political activists, not journalists.

You repeat yourself

Journolist journalists are progressive (e.g. Democrat political activists

Randy said...

Nasty group of people in these e-mails. If you didn't know they were journalists you'd think they were party apparatchiks.

There's no reason to believe that the two are mutually exclusive, is there?

Hoosier Daddy said...

They don't even throw in as a makeweight argument that it would be more ethical to refrain from calling their opponents racists.

Not necessary if you already accept it as a truism that conservatives are racists. Hence the accusations against the Tea Party.

edutcher said...

The newsies are the conduit for the implementation of Uncle Saul's rules.

Remember what Mike Wallace said at a journalism conference when somebody thought an American journalist might have an obligation to warn American troops if he saw the VC (with whom he was embedded) setting up an ambush?

Again, this has been going on a long time.

Henry said...

They don't even throw in as a makeweight argument that it would be more ethical to refrain from calling their opponents racists.

I suspect the more decent fellows feared being called naive. In such a childish performance of invective and bluster, the shallow show off as the grown-ups hold their tongues.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Doug Wright said...

Intentionally or not, Althouse has clearly identified my concern about that class of rats we call journalists: "Even as means are subordinated to ends, journalism is subordinated to political activism."

The "Journolist" Files show how ingrained the need to rule is within the bloodstream of those rats. Reporters have always seemed, IMHO, to be self-serving. Even Cousin Ben wrote phony baloney letters to the editor to help drum up paper sales.

However, the current batch of scum have allowed that tingle to infect their ethics. They are now shills for Socialist politicians.

So, will blogs carry
"Crankshaft," "Mutts," or "Sherman's Lagoon" cartoons or will those worthys vanish too.

Cheers!

shoutingthomas said...

You know, one of the positive outcomes of the Obama Administration is this:

With a black man as president, the shilling for racial preferences and racial witch hunts stands exposed.

It might be a good thing to suffer through two terms of Obama, just to rid ourselves of the constant race baiting and race hustling.

shoutingthomas said...

You know, one of the positive outcomes of the Obama Administration is this:

With a black man as president, the shilling for racial preferences and racial witch hunts stands exposed.

It might be a good thing to suffer through two terms of Obama, just to rid ourselves of the constant race baiting and race hustling.

traditionalguy said...

Ethics are an attempt to objectify good and bad conduct rules without going back to strict Law derived from the base law called THE Ten Commandments that were given to men through Moses. Once upon a time we called this an appeal to the conscience of a king or a king's judge to apply Equity jurisdiction which aimed at fairness in the law's result.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

There is one additional possibility -- they may actually believe most conservatives are racists.

I know that before the left wing lost me, I thought most right-wingers were bigots.

[I can't tell you how freeing that was, once I figured out that half the electorate didn't want to string me up!]

Michael said...

The most magnificent thing about this episode is that it demonstrates how dangerous it is in the cell. You can't be sure that there isn't a plant, an outsider. And now what? Now you have to close the circle a little tighter, use fewer emails, adopt code words. Occasionally you have to tell one person something that no one else is told and if that something crops up in public you have your snitch. How fun this game is becoming, how like those brave people who exercised their rights out of the sight of the FBI and those other suits back in the day.

holdfast said...

They don't even throw in as a makeweight argument that it would be more ethical to refrain from calling their opponents racists."

Why would they? They were among friends, and have been operating this way for so long, it is all that they know. At least we now have official confirmation that "racist" really just means "you're winning the argument and I have to shut you up by any means possible".

Bob_R said...

edutcher-

Seems to me that these joker agree with you. You imply that it is immoral to be a neutral observer embedded with the enemy. They consider red America/ the Republican party the enemy and feel morally obligated to pretend to be journalists while acting as spies or enemy agents.

Methadras said...

Alinksi threw around the idea of ethics, but he certainly never understood nor followed any kind of ethos. He was a subversive 5th columnist that entrenched his ideas on the foundation of sand and fog that is leftardism and we are dealing with the consequences of those ideas and the people who follow them.

Paddy O said...

You know, right about now would be a good time for ol' Sir Archy to fill us in on journalism in his era as compared with our own.

It has been a while since we heard from the Althousian ghost.

virgil xenophon said...

educher@9:37

Glad to see someone remembers that broadcast. And of course we all remember who the supposedly "neutral" interlocutor of that symposium was, don't we?

bagoh20 said...

There is at least internal consistency. The only ethic is winning.

If you can't find actual evil in the world to fight, simply make it up. You can kill two birds with one stone by assigning it to your competitors, even if they would never do the same to you unwarranted.

sean said...

I don't read most blogs by journalists, but Drum used to be an exception, because I took him for independent thinker, though his politics are to the left of mine. But no more. I will never read his blog again.

I wonder what other blogs purport to be independent voices, but are actually engaged in co-ordinated action to advance a political agenda. Megan McArdle is really the only other blog I read written by a journalist. I wonder if she was on Journo-list and/or co-ordinates her writing with her political comrades.

Alex said...

Look we've had Commie traitors in the media since Walter Duranty in the 1930s. This is nothing new.