Tag Archives: First Amendment

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

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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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

The NYPD Turns Its Back On De Blasio: What’s Going On Here?

NYPD backs

The rift between New York Mayor de Blasio and his city’s police department  is more than an internal spat. It has the potential to divide and harm the city and citizens, not to mention crashing the Mayor’s already self-jeopardized political career early in his term. Both sides if this dispute committed hostile acts that the other considers grievously disrespectful. Neither combatant appears ready to apologize.

De Blasio crossed what many of his department’s officers consider an uncrossable line when he suggested, in the immediate wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case, that his own bi-racial son was at risk of harm should he be apprehended by the NYPD. As I have written before, this was not, as the spinners would have it, just a case of a mayor being candid about genuine problem in community relations. This was a tacit endorsement of the “hands up” protests and their contention that Garner, Mike Brown and others were the victims of police racism, that police are killing, likely to kill, want to kill, black kids. It doesn’t matter that de Blasio may not have intended that implication: under the circumstances and in the context of events, this is what police officers interpreted his remarks to mean. He was siding against them. He was suggesting that the grand jury was wrong not to indict. He was suggesting not that some NYPD officers were racially biased, but that black children like his son “may not be [Translation: “are not“] safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.”

The police have responded with multiple demonstrations of anger and contempt for their boss. Most recently, there were boos and jeers when De Blasio spoke at a police graduation ceremony this week. Over a hundred officers symbolically turned their backs when the mayor spoke at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was assassinated by a man who suggested that he was seeking vengeance for the deaths of Garner and Brown. That had followed the theme of an airplane-towed banner over the city that read,“Our backs have turned to you,”which in turn was inspired by the spontaneous gesture by officers present when de Blasio visited the hospital where the bodies of Officer Ramos and his partner lay.

The New York Times, which has been guilty of bolstering the “hands up” lie by carelessly linking the deaths of Brown and Garner as well as Trayvon Martin, none of which can be fairly blamed on racism based on available evidence, has come down squarely against the police, writing in an editorial: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Public Service, Race, Workplace

I’m Dreaming Of A Zombie Christmas

Zombie Nativity

I didn’t say it was a pleasant dream.

Hmmm, how should I describe this? I would say that a law is being used to violate the First Amendment rights of an unethical jerk who is intent on abusing them.

Or, in the alternative, Jasen Dixon may just be an idiot.

Sycamore Township, which is just outside Cincinnati, has responded to complaints by neighbors by applying various ordinances against Dixon’s unusual Nativity scene that he constructed in his front yard. It features life-size figures portraying Joseph and Mary as the walking dead, and a zombie baby Jesus, who has pale skin and pure white eyes. Here, here’s a close-up of Zombie Baby Jesus:

Zombie-nativity-scene

Awwwww!

Dixon suspects that the township laws, which prohibit structures in the front or the side yard of a residence that occupy more than 35 percent of its total area, and require that the primary structure must be 3 feet from the street and 6 feet from the dwelling, are really being selectively enforced against him because his holiday display offends some people….well, almost everyone. I suspect this as well.

Poor Jason says he doesn’t mean any harm: he’s just doing the best he can to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. “I wanted a Nativity and I worked with what I had,”  says Dixon, who manages a nearby haunted house called “The 13 Rooms of Doom.” He says his First Amendment rights are being infringed.

“I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’ve never had a violation of any kind,” Dixon said. “It’s a holiday decoration. I know if it was a real pretty Nativity scene they wouldn’t be saying anything.”

I’ll agree with that too. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Unethical Quote of the Week; Chris Rock

Shut up, Chris.

Shut up, Chris.

“You say the wrong thing — you see what happened to [Donald Sterling],” Rock said. “I’m not defending what Sterling said at all, but if that’s not the First Amendment then what the [bleep] is? And what did he say, ‘I don’t want my girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players’? Me neither!”

—Black comic and “truth-teller” Chris Rock, discussing the fear in Hollywood as a result of the Sony hacks.

Gee, Chris, that’s courageous, fair, perceptive and true.

What a shame you didn’t have the integrity or guts to condemn what happened to Sterling while every other black pundit, columnist, athlete, and celebrity was comparing him to Satan. You just allowed everyone to pile on the old, rich white guy, take away his team and make him the face of racism for telling his slutty black  girlfriend—in his own bedroom!—not to flaunt the fact she was only hanging with him for the money by showing up at his teams’ games with her real boyfriends. You Hollywood types are hilarious–as in disgusting— in your selective belief in rights, privacy and fair play. First Aaron Sorkin, who didn’t object to the media feeding frenzy over Sterling’s private remarks, suddenly argues that his friends and business associates’ equally damning comments shouldn’t be reported because they aren’t about crime and corruption, and thus aren’t news. Then you suddenly decide to defend Donald Sterling’s rights of privacy and free speech now, when there is no cost to you at all, and the damage is done and irreparable.

Here’s what’s unethical about your statement, Chris: it’s too damn late.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Rights, U.S. Society

The Rams’ “Hands Up!” Gesture: Of Course The Players Deserved be Disciplined

rams protest 1201

The five St. Louis Rams who entered their NFL game last week with their hands up aren’t going to be disciplined by the league, for reasons that have nothing to do with the appropriateness of their conduct. The NFL is up to its faceguards in bad public relations already, and understandably wants to avoid wading into the Ferguson quagmire and being perceived to be taking sides, a move with no up-sides at all. Sportswriter Sally Jenkins also took issue with the St. Louis police demanding that the players be punished, in an emotional statement that seemed to threaten vague consequences if they were not. She was right to point out that government entities may not use threats of non-performance of their duties to members of the public in order to control their speech, like, say, the Federal government is doing now to try to force Dan Snyder to change the name of his Washington, D.C. NFL team.

Jenkins’ conclusion, however, was an ethics mess:

“Five members of the St. Louis Rams made an edgy gesture on Sunday, and you may not agree with them. But they merely joined a long tradition of athletes using their celebrity for symbolic public protest, and the NFL was right to reject the call to punish them. Punish them for what, after all? For showing an alertness and sensitivity to current events in their community, and holding an opinion on them?”

1. The “long tradition” argument is “everybody does it,” and nothing better. Professional athletes are paid to play games and entertain. Few of them have any qualifications or expertise that elevate the value of their opinions on public policy and politics above that of the regulate citizens watching them, and it is an abuse of their position and an exploitation of the venue for any athlete to exploit both to make a personal statement. Earlier, Jenkins says that to punish the Rams players “would also smack of 1968, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Olympic Games for their black-gloved salutes,” as if that’s an argument. Smith and Carlos should have been expelled. The Olympics wasn’t theirs to co-opt for national political statements, no matter how valid or worthy. The Rmas players can hold opinions, and nobody is saying otherwise. Once they are in uniform and on the field, however, their opinions are not for display. They don’t own the forum. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Sports

The Fire Chief’s Book

Chief Cochran

Chief Cochran

I may I agree with this result. I think. My problem is that I don’t see a natural stop on this very slippery slope.

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department has suspended Chief Kelvin Cochran for a month without pay this week after employees complained about the content of his self-published religious book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked,”  which is available in paperback on Amazon.com. The Chief’s book calls homosexuality a “sexual perversion” that is the moral  equivalent of “pederasty” and “bestiality.” Elsewhere, Cochran wrote that “naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”

The Chief apparently distributed his book to some of his subordinates, who found his published views offensive and complained.  In handing out the suspension, the Atlanta Mayor’s office said, “The bottom line is that the [Mayor Kasim] Reed administration does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” Cochran, said the Mayor, will be prohibited from distributing the book on city property; he will also be required to undergo sensitivity training.

Ah yes, now comes the brain-washing.  Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Workplace