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Brent Bozell
L. Brent Bozell
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Are There No Media Ethics On Hackers?


The widespread reporting on hacked emails from Sony Pictures — spurred by the upcoming release of an allegedly funny movie about assassinating North Korean despot Kim Jong Un — might encourage some gloating from people who would like to bring Hollywood down a peg. But hold the schadenfreude. The media's ethics — or seeming lack of ethics — are troubling.

Take CNN "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter in an interview with the program "Access Hollywood." His ethical position? Anything goes, as long as the journalists aren't the hackers.

"It would be wrong and it would be illegal for the journalists to do the hacking and find these stolen documents," Stelter declared. "But once they're out in the public domain, they are, I'm sorry to say, fair game. They are sort of a free-for-all. That doesn't make it right necessarily, but it makes it inevitable."

Sorry? Don't kid yourself. He's thrilled.

Max Read, editor-in-chief of the bottom-dwelling website Gawker, is even less conflicted. "The idea that a journalist should refrain from publishing them because it might 'validate the hackers' actions/aims' is genuinely incomprehensible."

In other words, journalists have every right to exploit whatever the hackers steal. So much for all those lectures about compassion or ethics. Ends justify means. Juicy "scoops" trump any question about how the information was obtained.

When hackers for an evil entity procure private information through illegal means, isn't there a reason for the media to restrain itself?

Conservatives might enjoy powerful Hollywood liberals like Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin hypocritically trading racially insensitive jokes in their emails about the black movies they're guessing President Obama likes. Gossips might like silly gossip about Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio.

But is any of it accurate, or even any of our business? Everyone writes things in his private correspondence that could be painted as insensitive or mean-spirited.

There is no exception. Who would like to see his private thoughts broadcast to the world because of a hacker violating their privacy? Film journalist Mark Harris prodded "everyone who's gloating over stolen emails" that "you must all feel very, very secure about your own correspondence."

Isn't there personal information that shouldn't be shared, not just Social Security numbers or financial information, but private chats that no matter how salacious are just that — private?

The North Koreans have demonstrated they — and God knows who else — can target anyone at any time. What role should the media plan in refusing to enable this assault on civilized society?

Liberal producer Aaron Sorkin insisted that Hollywood documents shouldn't be revealed since there is no national interest in them, unlike the "Pentagon Papers." I suspect the Oliver Stones and Michael Moores would agree. But would Sorkin and Stone and Moore agree that an oil or coal company or a tobacco or gun manufacturer should be given equal protection?

It is time for the media to consider a standard similar to the way TV networks treated streakers in the 1970s. They made a decision not to display the offenders, and the offense faded away. Wouldn't it be more ethical for the media to refrain from publishing any information gained by illegal means?

Besides, if the media tout freedom of expression, the Sony hacks were a boomerang. As Slate editor Jacob Weisberg pointed out, "Journalists resisting what they see as an attempt at censorship by Sony are cooperating in a larger act of censorship, directed at Sony." That North Korea comedy might have been another raunchy romp, but America doesn't look strong when foreign tyrants kill American movies. And our national media don't distinguish themselves by enabling the viciousness of our enemies.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... Is this what freedom of the press is to you? Is it a free ticket to abuse some one and call them a liar? I don't know the first thing about Brian Stelter. He says he is sorry to say, and you say he is thrilled. Have you ever met the man? Do you know him to be a pathological liar? You are talking about an emotion, and it is safe to say most men keep their emotions hidden; sometimes even from themselves. I don't think I have ever heard a man use that word: Thrilled, in any other sense but sarcastically. And yet; your conclusion is that he is thrilled when he says he is sorry? It seems to me that your first task is to prove what he says is incorrect in regard to his emotions, and only then prove or try to prove that your counter proposition is true. So; where is your evidence? Are you an opinion machine, or a mind reader?

If you make a career of telling lies against people, what makes you think a punch in the nose is not in your future? Do you count on the peace and laws of society to such an extent that you will abuse a stranger in the calculation that he can do no more than take it? If this is press liberty that liberty should end.

Your false feeling for our rights is equal to your false feeling for your fellow citizens. If I cannot take you at your word, and you cannot take me at my word, then civility, and society are in fact, dead. The attack on people's character is only a prelude to the attack upon their bodies. Look at the Nazis if you have a mirror, and see how they first abused the Jews, and then murdered them. Try to remember that one of those hanged a a criminal was Alfred Rosenburg, a journalist. Do not expect to abuse your privilege to taste the truth and speak it with every sour lie necessary to curdle that milk. You are no mind reader. You play to an audience that thinks they can plumb the depths of the liberal mind when they cannot ken their own garbage cans.

Let me tell you how it is: These businesses and corporations are all working under the protection of this people, and this people has not one reason to defend businesses and corporation which are acting against the interests of the people. We have so often seen where corporations have denied the right of the people to know the truth that we have become used to it, but the future is ours only so long as the truth is ours. Press freedom has not resulted in greater knowledge of the truth. As with yourself, there are more with press freedom trying to bury the truth, and make impossible the finding of truth than there are people willing and able to find it again. Press privilege must end.

Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:02 AM
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