Topic: Professions & Institutions

Professor Lipstadt's Ethics
(12/27/2005)

Long ago, the Scoreboard retracted an "Ethics Dunce" it had impetuously awarded to C-Span for canceling an interview segment with Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt when she refused to participate unless CNN agreed not to use footage of Holocaust denier David Irving on the same program. The Scoreboard was ultimately persuaded that C-Span's determination to show its viewers the admittedly despicable views that Lipstadt was fighting against constituted responsible journalism, and that the cable network was not, as Lipstadt had argued in the news media, attempting to "balance truth with lies."

Lipstadt had trumpeted the Scoreboard's "Ethics Dunce" award on her blog (www. lipstadt.blogspot.com) as part of her aggressive PR campaign against C-Span. In fact, she is still trumpeting it, because that blog entry remains even though the Scoreboard admitted its error, apologized to C-Span, and published a retraction. No update, however, was posted on Professor Lipstadt's website, and thus her readers of have not been informed of our change of position. She knows about it, it is fair to conclude, because when the Scoreboard retracted its criticism of C-Span it received several nasty e-mails from Lipstadt's colleagues on the Emory College faculty.

Obviously, this is unethical conduct. Lipstadt's blog inaccurately and willfully represents the Scoreboard as supporting her position, when it has long been on record as disagreeing with her. If anything, recent events have only bolstered the Scoreboard's certainty that its ultimate opinion was the correct one. For example, few televised segments on the "intelligent design" versus evolution controversy fail to include interviews with "intelligent design" advocates who maintain that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, as a literal reading of the Bible indicates. The position of these latter day creationists is no more or less in defiance of established fact than that of Holocaust deniers like Irving, yet nobody would argue that it is inappropriate for a TV network to show viewers exactly what "science deniers" look and sound like.

Lipstadt, in fact, is something of a denier herself. People like Irving and the anti-Darwin zealots simply ignore events, facts and arguments that challenge their views of the world. Ignoring the Ethics Scoreboard's retraction of its support for her is trivial by comparison, but it is still wrong.

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