Category Archives: The Internet

An Amazing Case Study On How Bias Makes Us Stupid

when-facepalmnot-enoughBias makes you stupid. It interferes with our objective judgment, makes us unreasonable and unfair, leads to poor decisions and the loss of the respect of others. Seldom will one see a more striking example than the current post on The Daily Kos, the unhinged far left website, by earnest, progressive, biased and struck-stupid commentator Mark E. Anderson.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a potential Republican presidential contender who is hated by progressives with an unseemly passion for his successful vanquishing of public employee unions in a traditionally liberal state. He never graduated from college: he left the University of Marquette in his senior year to take advantage of a business opportunity, and never looked back. Good for him.

In a recent interview, addressing his lack of bachelors degree, Walker said,

“I’ve got a master’s degree in taking on the big government special interests, and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to.”

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, The Internet

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

Ethics Alarms Mail Call: Mt. Holyoke Ditches “The Vagina Monologues” As “Non-Inclusive,” and the Misuse of Kindness

VaginaI’m an ethicist who often writes on college controversies, and I make no secret about my double life in professional theater, so it figures that my inbox would include more than one query about Mt. Holyoke College’s decision to end its annual student performance of Eve Enlser’s “The Vagina Monologues” on the grounds that it is now admitting women without vaginas—I know, it’s confusing–who would feel excluded from what was supposed to be an inclusive experience and statement for the all-women’s school.

From Campus Reform:

The annual production of the play is part of a country-wide tradition to perform Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness about gender-based violence and usually coincides with the V-Day campaign. The proceeds are donated to sexual assault prevention organizations or women’s rights organizations. This year, however, Mount Holyoke’s Project Theatre Board is defying tradition by permanently retiring the play. In a school-wide email from the Theatre Board, a representative from the group, Erin Murphy, explained the problems with the play and the reasoning behind its discontinuation.

“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman…Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive,” the email, obtained by Campus Reform, said.

Replacing the play will be Mount Holyoke’s own version that will be trans-inclusive and fix the “problems” supposedly perpetuated by Ensler. Murphy also claims that there are problems with race, class, and “other identities” within the play. The new production, comprised of students’ monologues, will be performed in a fashion reminiscent of the feminist classic. The program will be performed alongside the College’s Peer Health Educators, an on-campus student-led group that provides education and workshops for students, including a workshop on how to use sex toys properly.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Literature, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Whose Ethics Alarms Are Ringing Over “Truthy”?

Colbert

Sad but true; the NSF spent a million dollars of a project named after a Stephen Colbert gag. But that’s not the worst part…

It certainly seems that most of the ringing over Truthy, the disturbing University of Indiana internet speech monitoring project funded by the National Science Foundation, is occurring in the brains of conservatives. Does that mean that one is a biased right-winger to think that the government has no business deciding what is “misuse” or “abuse” of social media—social media meaning “the communication of opinions, statements and ideas over the web”?

I don’t think so. I think it means that a troubling number of progressives, including a large constituency in the Obama administration, are convinced that the only way for their ideology to prevail is to marginalize opinions they don’t like as “hate speech,” restrict the First Amendment by demonizing opponents, and engaging in de facto censorship though harassment. Being opposed to that doesn’t make anyone right wing. It means that they reject the unethical theory that the ends justify the means, which at this point in our history seems to be flourishing primarily on the Left.

Did you miss the news about Truthy when it first provoked a flurry of news reports last fall, almost exclusively from conservative media? That’s because the mainstream media—surprise!—saw nothing at all alarming or even newsworthy about a government-funded project to “study how memes spread on social media,” to identify what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online,  to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” —in other words—mine—-to track down opinions and assertions on the internet that argue against Obama administration policies, progressive movements and the agendas of liberal-biased researchers.

When the conservative news service Washington Free Beacon blew the whistle on this under the radar and misbegotten project—a project that could only scratch the surface of being ethical if it was absolutely non-partisan and neutral in all respects, which in 21st century U.S. academia is impossible—the reaction at the University tells us everything we need to know. Continue reading

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet, Unethical Websites

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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Vote For The Curmies: The Worst In Unethical Education, 2014

Rick Jones2

Every year, blogger Rick Jones (above) announces his “Curmies” (he is the Curmudeon, after all) nominations for “the person or persons who most embarrass the profession of educator.”

I encourage Ethics Alarms readers to vote over at Rick’s blog. Here are his worthy nominees, with Rick’s commentary:

1. James Miller, President B. Kaye Miller, and their co-conspirators at Bergen Community College, who suspended and demanded a psychiatric evaluation of art professor Francis Schmidt for tweeting a photo of his seven-year-old daughter wearing a t-short reading “I will take what is mine with fire and blood” even after it was proven that the line is a well-known pop culture reference to the Game of Thrones. They did finally back off several months later, but it was too little, too late. In mitigation: if you’re both an idiot and completely unengaged in popular culture, that line might actually make you think about recent school shootings. In aggravation: the shirt is obviously inoffensive, the process was obviously flawed, and the school’s defense of their actions is the perfect balance of irrationality and pomposity.

2. A cadre of incompetents at Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, NY, who cancelled the school’s traditional kindergarten show because of concern with making their charges college-ready. In mitigation: I can think of none. In aggravation: these people have no comprehension of child development, of what goes into making a show, of real college-readiness, or indeed of anything other than their own hubris, from what I can tell.

3. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is likely the worst cabinet member of the 21st century, but he outdid even his own high standards of incompetence and arrogance with the proclamation that even students with disabilities will be expected to attain basic standards of reading and math: “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.” Actually, no, Arne, we know no such thing, and if you think we do, maybe you should get off the hard stuff. In mitigation: I got nothing. In aggravation: Duncan’s plan has no upside, will cost pots of money, and ignores differences between students’ innate ability and preparation while pretending to privilege individuality.

4. Wasatch (UT) High School officials, for puritanically altering female students’ yearbook photos without as much as giving the girls the opportunity to fix their alleged transgressions. In mitigation: there was indeed a sign warning students of the need to obey the school’s dress code. In aggravation: the policy was enforced inconsistently and apparently whimsically. More significantly, the level of sexism involved is positively stunning: boys had their pictures taken with shirts gaping open, tattoos, copious amounts of visible boxer shorts… and a cutline “Studs doin’ what studs do best.” I couldn’t make this up.

5. There were plenty of cases of schools’ and universities’ over-reacting to the Ebola pseudo-crisis. We’re going to give the specific nomination to Cline Elementary in Friendswood, TX, not because their craven stupidity was any worse than that exhibited by several other schools, but because of the distance the teacher in question was from an actual outbreak while traveling in Africa relative to the distance to the nearest confirmed case to the district itself: roughly 11 to 1. In mitigation: there was lots of false information circulating, and parents (especially) were nervous. In aggravation: you’re supposed to be a school. Educate. When people are being paranoid idiots, it is your responsibility to keep your collective heads and do the right thing.

6. The administration of Rhame Avenue School in East Rockaway, NY, for taking teacher Vuola Coyle out of her classroom because her students’ test scores were too good. Yes, too good. It costs the school because students supposedly learn too much in 4th grade and therefore don’t show enough improvement as 5th graders. In mitigation: we haven’t really heard the school’s side of this story. In aggravation: even if everything else is false, the school’s addiction to testing, and to practice testing, is demonstrable.

7.The University of North Carolina for allowing a corrupt system of allowing athletes (especially) to enroll in “paper courses” for the sole purpose of keeping them eligible or off suspension to continue for nearly two decades. In mitigation: the real offenses are in the past, as are the worst of the offenders. But if the release of an investigator’s report marks a new event in the minds of SACS accreditors, it can for Curmie, too. In aggravation: it is impossible to believe that a lot of people currently in powerful positions at UNC didn’t know exactly what was going on and did nothing. And if “everyone does it,” it is the portent of very bad things to come, indeed.

8.Assistant Principal Paula Johnson and the rest of the administration of Bayside Middle School in Virginia for suspending 6th grader Adrionna Harris, who took a razor away from a classmate who was cutting himself, immediately throwing it away. But she dealt with the problem instead of calling a teacher. In mitigation: Adrionna was technically in violation of a rule that actually makes sense if not applied irrationally. In aggravation: the administrators wouldn’t have known about the incident if Adrionna hadn’t told them, so she was punished for being honest as well as being heroic.

In part because Rick was very busy this year, his nominations do not include as many subjects of Ethics Alarms posts as usual: only #2, #7 and #8 of Rick’s nominees were discussed here. On the other hand, Rick left un-nominated some truly awful examples of unethical teachers, administrators and institutions that flipped my bippy, such as, these, currently being assessed as I prepare my Best and Worst of Ethics 2014 list. They are a miserable list too, and include… Continue reading

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