R.S. McCain Versus The Code Of Journalistic Ethics

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Robert Stacy McCain alleges that Brett Kimberlin has alleged McCain is not a journalist:

Oh, Robert, you silly meta-propagandist! You stand accused of being an unethical journalist, not an un-journalist. But please do go on at length sir, we are amused by your protestations:

No one disputes that McCain spent many years in the Washington Times newsroom, from which he reported on the annual conference of the white supremacist organization VDARE without acknowledging its anti-Semitic and racist mission. But what kind of journalism did he do there?

Once identified as a member of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, McCain’s reporting while at the Times was always controversial. As editor of the “Culture Briefs” section of the paper, McCain used excerpts from racist publications including American Renaissance magazine and the anti-immigrant hate site VDARE.com. In fact, McCain may be the only mainstream newspaper reporter to have covered four American Renaissance conferences. Twice, he offered no description at all of the group he was covering, which is devoted to race science. Once, he said it was “critical of liberal positions on race and immigration.” Only in 2004 did he note that some viewed it as racist.

Breaching journalist ethics by reporting on causes he was personally involved in, McCain regularly quoted neo-Confederate activists favorably in his stories. In 2005, stories freelanced by McCain to the website of the conservative newspaper Human Events were scrubbed after that publication’s editor, Thomas Winter, was given information by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report about McCain’s racism.

Even if they argue otherwise, ethical journalists acknowledge for readers that the controversial meetings they cover are in fact seen as controversial. They acknowledge and avoid conflicts of interest wherever possible. Nor is this some uniquely liberal position. The Society of Professional Journalists is not a political organization, and it has a Code of Ethics. Does McCain live up to their standards? We say no, and the difference shows in the very first bullet points:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

McCain has deliberately distorted the facts about Brett Kimberlin (“convicted domestic terrorist!”) and repeatedly posted false and inflammatory information (“pedophile!”). So far as we know, he has never once contacted Mr. Kimberlin for any kind of comment, but McCain and friends have pursued dozens of peace orders and criminal charges against Bill Schmalfeldt for having the audacity to meet that ethical requirement when he wrote about them. Their excuse? “He’s not a real journalist!” Yet if we were holding a journalistic ethics competition, Bill would already be ahead on points. So let us continue looking at that Code of Ethics:

— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

Another strike against McCain! Not only has he repeatedly used photographs of Schmalfeldt’s post-surgical scars to denounce him as a monster, he has deliberately oversimplified the issue with dismissive, hate-filled screeds. But let us continue looking at that Code of Ethics:

— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.

Uh-oh, things are not looking good for McCain, are they? He has spent so many years consistently stereotyping everyone and defending his stereotypes that he has practically become a stereotype himself: the chain-smoking, drunken hack who constantly trashes women, minorities, and the disabled.

— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

The entirety of McCain’s blogging about Brett Kimberlin is negative advocacy. Kimberlin is simply “evil,” and there are no nuances involved. McCain has misrepresented numerous facts about him and offered only his extreme-angle view of the story. By trying to do the most possible damage to the objects of his wrath, McCain defies the SPJ’s call to “minimize harm:”

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
— Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
— Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

We have never seen “compassion” from McCain. We have never witnessed him write in good taste and have always seen him pander to lurid, prurient interests. We have never seen him be judicious, though we have seen him act as judge, jury, and executioner in his blog court. While charging Kimberlin with child molestation, for example, McCain has outed his alleged victim dozens of times, but has never once attempted to contact her for comment. And all of this has happened because McCain works for Ali Akbar, who has used the Kimberlin narrative for a great deal of fundraising.

 —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

Where is the accountability?

— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

Robert Stacy McCain never acknowledges errors or mistakes. For example, in May of 2012 he claimed to have left his home in Maryland for fear of Brett Kimberlin. But this week, Kimberlin’s process server found him at the same address where he lived last May. Rather than acknowledge his fraud to the readers who gave him money under this false pretense, McCain has started asking them to cover his inevitable losses:

Today, I’m planning a road trip from the Undisclosed Location to a Mysterious Destination for Journalistic Purposes I Can’t Reveal. Loyal readers have been supporting the Shoe Leather Fund generously for years, and your contributions have been profoundly appreciated, even if I haven’t found time to thank each of you directly. I always figure that you’re paying me to keep blogging, and time spent writing “thank you” e-mails is time not spent providing the work you’re paying me to do. Nevertheless, please do not doubt my gratitude, nor the gratitude of my family, for every $5, $10, $20 contribution.

Let’s do the math: If 500 readers gave $20 each, that’s $10,000. And if that happened twice a week, every week for the next year, by September 2014, that would be One Meel-lion Dollars — with $40,000 left over for coffee, cigarettes, cheap motels and road food.

Robert Stacy McCain is surely a journalist, but not an ethical one.

About Author

Army veteran. Rabbit caretaker. Metalhead. Student of right wing culture wars since 1987. Andrew Breitbart's lunatic cultists annoyed me, so I blogged here as Xenophon for over a year before unmasking myself to become Editor. Follow me on Twitter or at my personal website.

  • http://laststoplounge.com Bill Schmalfeldt

    I’ve interviewed Dick Cheney, Lynn Cheney, Barbara Bush, George H. W. Bush, Michael Steele when he was Lt. Gov. of Md., Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. McKulsky, Sen. Cardin. I’d go on, but you get the idea. Smoked pot with Johnny Paycheck once after interviewing him.

    Can I haz cheezburger now? Journalist cheezburger?

    • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/xenophon-anabasis.asp Xenophon

      Dear me, Bill, I think you have a runaway victory.

  • RogerS

    Well, I think Kimberlin has it correct in his suit, saying that Mr. McCain is not a “legitimate journalist.” Legitimate means that the journalist follows legitimate rules of ethics established by legitimate governing bodies. As you have made abundantly clear, Mr. McCain refuses to follow these legitimate rules of ethics. Instead, he engages in what is obviously malpractice journalism, just as a lawyer who violates the rules of ethics on a wholesale level engages in malpractice lawyering.

    I would go even further, and say that Mr. McCain could never be hired by a legitimate media or news company because of his serial violations of the rules of ethics. I believe that he knows this and that is why be engages is his smear blogging tied to tip jar donations.

    Mr. McCain is a blogger, a smear blogger, but he is not a journalist as that term is used in the profession. As an attorney, I have no doubt that a federal judge will agree with Kimberlin’s portrayal of Mr. McCain.

  • Mark

    RSM = POS

    Rattling his tip jar doesn’t make him a successful journalist (or even technically a working journalist), it makes him a fucking hobo. “Help me feed my family. Hit the freakin’ tip jar because no one in their right mind would give me a fucking paycheck. Got any booze?”

  • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/xenophon-anabasis.asp Xenophon

    “Malpractice journalism” is a very good phrase for it. I suppose a shorter version of all this would be that McCain definitely keeps a journal, but the ink is all smeared and the paper has fecal matter on it.

  • @OccupyRebellion

    Anyone notice how pimp and pornographer Lee Stranahan hasn’t posted a single picture while on his trip to the Middle East? He claims he’s now in Beirut. Well where are the pictures? He posts pictures of his food but he won’t post a single picture while in the Middle East? Not even a picture on the plane or at the airport. Didn’t he post pictures on a bus months ago when he traveled somewhere? And wasn’t there questions as to whether or not he was actually in Steubenville on his second trip when he stalked a raped 15-year-old trying to discredit her after she was gang raped?

    Now you don’t expect me to believe anything Lee Stranahan says or writes. Pictures, or didn’t happen. Someone get someone to drive by his house to see if he’s there!!!

  • @OccupyRebellion

    Remember when these people thought I was their biggest problem? LOL But this tweet about Hoge made me OMFG LOL at them for already turning on their own.

    https://twitter.com/BreitbartUnmask/status/381100541087981570

    @TeamSchmalfeldt @x3n0ph0n Yes he complained that no one could control Walker and in his words Walker was a sociopath and he wanted out.

  • James

    You post: “We have never witnessed him write in good taste and have always seen him pander to lurid, prurient interests”, and then you post a photoshopped picture of your subject naked. Now that is chutzpah.

    • http://laststoplounge.com Bill Schmalfeldt

      Prove it’s photoshopped. Maybe Akbar took it.

  • http://laststoplounge.com Bill Schmalfeldt

    I got rehired at the Examiner last night, and anyone reading McCain’s stream on Twitter or mine knows it is driving him even CRAZIER!

  • @OccupyRebellion

    Glad to hear that Bill!

    Soooo as soon as I pointed out last night Stranahan hadn’t posted any pictures while in the Middle East, he starts posting pictures. But once again, why should I believe him? He could be in Mexico on vacation with the money he scammed for all I know.