Category Archives: Citizenship

Facebook’s Unconstitutional News Hoax Policy

I've got your backs, you contemptible jerks...

I’ve got your backs, you contemptible jerks…

Boy, there’s a lot of pro-censorship sentiment going around these days. I wonder why?

The latest comes from Facebook, which now is going to attempt to shield us from “hoaxes.” I don’t trust the government to decide what I should read and I don’t trust Facebook to do it either. Nobody should.

Back in the sixties, Economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote papers and books asserting that large corporations were becoming the new nations and states, and that it was their power, not elected governments, that would decide how we lived. Galbraith wasn’t the best professor I aver had (he was the tallest), and his assertions in this realm were certainly exaggerated, but a lot of what he foresaw has come to pass. It is true that the First Amendment prohibition against government censorship of expressive speech doesn’t apply to private entities, but it is also true that huge corporations like Facebook weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of the Founders when that core American value was articulated. Any corporate entity that has the power to decide what millions of Americans get to post on the web is ethically obligated to embrace the same balance of rights over expediency that the Constitution demands of the state, specifically free speech over expediency, period, exclamation point, no exceptions. Embodying Clarence Darrow’s statement that in order for us to have enough freedom, it is necessary to have too much, the Supreme Court has even pronounced outright lies to be protected speech.

For this reason, Facebook’s well-intentioned anti-hoax policies—boy, there’s also a lot of well-intentioned lousy policies going around these days, being applauded for their goals whether they work or not. I wonder why?—add one more offense to core American ideals.

You can read Facebook’s new policy here. The key section: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, The Internet

Cowards and Hypocrites

"All is forgiven"

“All is forgiven”

The New York Times and CNN, among others, are ducking their responsibility as news organizations to run the current cover of  “Charlie Hebdo.”  Why is it their responsibility? Because the response of the devastated satirical publication is news, and as the Times laughably says on its front page, that news is fit to print: the Times and CNN are describing the cover, but don’t have the guts or integrity to show it. The disingenuous rationale, in CNN’s terms, is that they are respecting “the sensibilities” of Muslim viewers.

In a word: CRAP. The vast majority of readers and viewers should be kept in the dark to avoid offending Muslim readers and viewers who can easily avert their tender eyeballs? When have CNN and the Times applied that standard regarding any other religious group, or any group at all? [UPDATE: Over at Popehat, Ken White extravagantly exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of  the Times’ rationalizations for not showing the cartoon with a series of well-formulated and pointed questions. This is admittedly more diagnostic than “CRAP,” but the message is the same.]

The translation of this craven self-censorship is “We are concerned about offending an anti-democratic and violent minority who are successfully using threats to constrain the free distribution of knowledge and information, because we are unworthy of the profession we presume to practice.”

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Unethical Web Site Of The Month: No Hate Speech Movement

hand over mouth

Right before the Paris terrorist attack on “Charlie Hebdo” I was going to post about No Hate Speech and decided, “Eh, this is too stupid.” Then, reflecting upon it in the light of the occurrences in subsequent days, I realized most of the many, primarily  young people, mostly well-meaning, sensitive, loving individuals who are represented on this almost unnavigable website—I hate that— would be making excuses for the Islamic terrorists who executed the French cartoonists, since by their definition, they engaged in “hate speech.”  ( “Of course terrorism is wrong, but...”)  They ended it too, didn’t they? At least they ended those particular speakers.

Free speech is being whittled away by the attempts to define free speech as excluding “hate.” Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts—you know, that cradle of freedom, democracy, protestm ringing words, and me—has  introduced legislation calling for the government to investigate “hate speech” on broadcast, cable, and Internet outlets. As Alan Derschowitz noted, the effort and the logic surrounding the bill endangers liberty:

“It is a worthy effort, but my prediction is that it either leads to the conclusion government cannot do it, or that they will do it and that will infringe on First Amendment rights. Governments are trying to also make changes to hate speech law and debating the issue in Canada, at the United Nations, and even right now in Israel. It is a worldwide trend, but it is a really dangerous trend.”

I guess because Derschowitz is an upstanding Democrat, he can’t bring himself to say that it is not a worthy effort. It is an irresponsible trend, with a campaign that depends on ignorance, historical amnesia, naivete and hypocrisy. I was trying to remember why I, last year, allowed a passionate and prolific commenter who was prone to rash and obscene language, often attacking other commenters. NOW I recall: This was the reason. The movement to censor “offensive” speech is a leap onto Markey’s slippery, censorious slope. Hate is a legitimate, if ugly sentiment, and it has its place. That place is in our heads, and sometimes, out of our mouths or pens. You don’t like it?  I’m listening. I lost a lot of readers who were offended by Scott’s remarks. Well, I decided that that the ethical thing was to let those who objected 1) learn not read his comments or 2) talk him out of it. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: Bitter, Spoilsport, Fuddy-Duddy Republicans and Conservatives

Nope, no Republicans there...

Nope, no Republicans here…

A grand welter of celebrities ranging from Pussy Riot and Paul Krugman to Willie Nelson and Big Bird joined comic Stephen Colbert in his farewell to Comedy Central, as he prepares to step into David Letterman’s shoes and hopes to do a Jimmy Fallon as Dave’s (overdue) replacement, rather than a Conan O’Brien. Obviously the producers and Colbert sought a ridiculously diverse group symbolizing U.S. culture and whimsy, and sent out invitations far and wide. Instead, the got an overwhelmingly liberal and progressive group that may make up half of MSNBC’s total viewership, a group that would almost all have been at home on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.

Don’t blame Colbert. It was clear that ideological animus with Colbert’s almost entirely anti-conservative schtick was no bar to the option of participation. Republicans and conservatives, however, almost unanimously decided to sulk, stay home, and boycott the party. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway

Target Michelle

The current People Magazine has a feature titled “The Obamas: How We Deal with Our Own Racist Experiences,” in which both Obama’s reflect on their personal experiences with a racist America. It begins like this…

“The protective bubble that comes with the presidency – the armored limo, the Secret Service detail, the White House – shields Barack and Michelle Obama from a lot of unpleasantness. But their encounters with racial prejudice aren’t as far in the past as one might expect. And they obviously still sting.”

Here is a relatively recent experience, the first one cited by Mrs. Obama in the article, that “stung”:

“I tell this story – I mean, even as the First Lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target [in 2012], not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the First Lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.” 

That’s right, Michelle feels—or says she feels—that this incident was proof of incipient racism, one of the “micro-aggressions” that white society inflicts on African Americans daily, sapping their self-esteem, confidence, and trust in society.

She’s right that it “happens in life” and isn’t new. In fact, it happened to me, in the local Target, coincidentally, just last month. A very short elderly Asian woman asked if I would take down a large container of laundry detergent from a high shelf. Obviously, she thought I worked at Target and was denigrating me, applying racial stereotypes to a large bald Greek-American man.

I can say with no hesitation whatsoever that what happened to Michelle at Target was not an incident of racial stereotyping. The photo above shows how Michelle was dressed on the fateful day, and anyone who would mistake her flowered blouse, Nike hat, shades and shopping cart as the uniform of a Target employee had recently escaped from a Home for the Bewildered. What wasn’t new about the encounter is that in a healthy, ethical community strangers should ask each other for kindly help and assistance, and normal, non-paranoid, non race-obsessed citizens—and especially their leaders, who are supposed to model responsible  behavior— ought not to be so warped by ideologically-dictated confirmation bias that their immediate reaction is, “Hmmmm…what did she mean by that?” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day on “Comment of the Day on ‘The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study'”

Robocop

Stephen Mark Pilling contributes the second consecutive Comment of the Day providing perspective on the issue of police militarization, in response to the first. Here is his Comment of the Day to the post (by dragin_dragon, which you should read first if you haven’t yet), Comment of the Day on “The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study”

When critics speak of the “militarization” of the police, not all are looking at it from the same viewpoint. Some are, of course, sociopathic or are conspiracy theorists. Some have swallowed the loudly flaunted concept that policemen are evil racists, corrupt ward healers in uniform or just about anything heinous, as they represent law as an absolute, not a relative.

There is a rational based distrust, however. Many of us grew up in a time where the police still walked a beat or patrolled his neighborhood in a squad car, armed with nothing more than a revolver. We’re also the product of an old tradition of law enforcement that stems from the British mold. Unlike the continental European system of paramilitary gendarmes, we adapted a system of localized lawmen, run by an elected county sheriff. The metropolitan police department is still a relatively new phenomenon, started in late 19th Century London.

To many citizens, police who are unaccountable to a directly elected chief and who sport automatic weapons strike a sour note. But recently, people have been seeing them acquiring armored vehicles, military assault training and a tendency to wearing black uniforms. They’ve also noted an increased likelihood of these tactics and weapons being utilized and the increased incidence of “no knock entries”. Likewise, citizens have been imaging police making arrogant idiots out of themselves and caused other cops to become ever more touchy about cell phones, whether they’re right or wrong.

These and other factors have been serving to create a gap between the citizens and the police. That’s never a good thing, of course, because that trust is vital in a free society. Citizen distrust only deepens when they perceive policemen in whom this sense of civil mastery is full blown. As a former military cop, as a private citizen and as a friend or relative of a lot of civilian cops, I’ve seen all this from different angles. I’ve also seen the divide deepen in recent days.

One small note. The funding of police units on all levels directly from federal sources coincides with the worry by many that state and local police units may be more or less within the pocket of federal departments. The actual militarization of once innocuous federal police units and the memory of Obama’s projected National Civilian Defense Force has resulted in fear that this is an intentional part of a program to create an instrument of oppression. For myself, I highly doubt that any street cops would lend themselves to some “martial law” based takeover of the homeland of America. What I’m not sure of, though, is how many in higher authority have not conceived of the notion and would execute it if they could.

Again; it’s vital that the bonds of trust be strengthened between the police departments and those law abiding citizens whom they “serve and protect”. They must never- ever- be heard to make disparaging remarks about “civilians”, as that only deepens the gulf. In the Army Military Police Corps, the official motto is “Of the troops and for the troops”. It’s a good motto. It should also carry over to every local police or sheriff’s department in America. “Of the citizens and for the citizens”. Policemen who embrace that attitude will seldom go wrong. Both they and the communities they serve will benefit.

Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Deval Patrick’s Indefensible, Terrifying Admission

Welcome to my nightmare...

Welcome to my nightmare…

It is 4:30 AM. I can’t sleep, and among the reasons are not, as you might think, the fact that my father died five years ago today and I miss him terribly, or that this is my birthday, and I am that much closer to my own death. No, the cause for my tossing in bed is that I read  Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s comments on “Meet the Press” about the Michael Brown shooting (yes, those eleven Ferguson posts still weren’t enough) just before retiring, and they have been giving me nightmares.

What Patrick’s remarks suggest to me  is that this incident is quite literally driving Democrats, civil rights activists and African-Americans crazy, causing them to lose their grip on basic principles of ethics and democracy. Here is what Patrick said, in part, in his interview with Chuck Todd, who, incompetently, did not ask properly probing questions in response (falling over in a dead faint would have also been appropriate):

“Look, without knowing all the facts, of course I wanted to see an indictment. And mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community. And because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed, young, black teenagers.”

I challenge any civil libertarian to defend this statement. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society