Unethical Website of the Month: “Smosh” OR “Let’s Give A Big Hand To The Hilarious Comedy of Will Weldon!”

Blurry face boy

In a twist, this Unethical Website found me. Smosh’s despicable montage titled by the ethically clueless creep who concocted it, Will Weldon, “19 Funniest Examples of Kid Shaming” includes, among its hilarious examples, the photo above from an Ethics Alarms essay I posted about a year ago, with a link back here. Weldon appears to have stolen his post idea from an earlier version of it on the website Heavy, this by an equally warped wag named Elizabeth Furey. Heavy would have been an “Unethical Website of the Month” if I had known about its post last May, and everything I write about  Smosh applies to Heavey, just as everything I write about Will applies to Elizabeth.

In the linked Ethics Alarms post, I specifically condemned the practice of  parents forcing children to hold up a sign “confessing” some transgression, taking a photo of him or her*, and posting it on the web.  I wrote:

“I think any aspect of a punishment that outlives the effects of the offense and a continues to do harm long after the original wrongdoer has reformed is unfair, abusive and cruel. If, as seems to be the case, the boy’s parents added to his punishment of having to return his Play Station 3 by first photographing the kid holding a sign describing his transgression, and then memorializing his humiliation by posting it on the internet, they took the lesson into unethical territory. Punishing their child for his spoiled and ungracious behavior by taking away a cherished gift is a legitimate exercise of parental authority, if a bit excessive for my tastes, especially at Christmastime. Turning him into the web poster child for ungrateful and spoiled children everywhere is, I believe, an abuse of that authority.”

I was feeling uncharacteristically equivocal that day, it seems, infused as I was still by the holiday spirit. Let me be more assertive now.  Dog-shaming using this device is a “thing’ on the web now, and such photos can be funny. Needess to say…or rather, it should be needless to say, but apparently I need to say it for people like Will and Elizabeth…children are not dogs. Dogs can’t read, won’t be humiliated by photos on the web (if they could be humiliated, poodle owners would have to sleep with one eye open), and don’t live long enough to have one bad moment haunt them on the web for decades. Parents who force their children to pose with signs that describe some misconduct or supposedly amusing escapade so millions can view it on the web, laugh at the kid, use the photo for idiotic features on low-rent websites like Smosh, and do so long after the kid is old enough to be embarrassed by the photo in his job, personal life and career are…

1. Engaging in child abuse.

2. Using their kids as props, a classic Kantian ethics violation.

3. In the same class of unethical parents as the fools who follow the exhortations of ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who regularly uses cruelty to children to get big laughs from his despicable fans, encouraging parents to play practical jokes on children too young to understand why their folks lied to them to make them feel bad, and then to post the uproarious videos of the kids crying on YouTube.

3. Ignoring the Golden Rule, since such parents would be mortified if a photo of them as children standing by, say, this sign…

kid-shaming-floor-pooper

…followed them around on the web for the rest of their lives and beyond.

In most of the alleged “hilarious” photos, the child involved is too young to read or know what the web is, and is thus not old enough to be shamed. The parents are not really punishing the child to improve his or her behavior or teach a lesson, but simply trading in the child’s future dignity for laughs, at least from callous individuals like Will. Will describes himself thusly on Smosh:

“Will Weldon is a comedian from Canada, a country you may recognize from any map and/or atlas of the world. Now residing in Los Angeles, he goes on stage and either complains about or mock (sic) things around him, often to laughter! He’s also appeared in a number of tiny roles on television and in commercials, and generally enjoys not taking things too seriously. So relax, bro!”

Apparently they like exclamation marks in Canada. He writes, as an introduction to these rib-tickling examples of child abuse and exploitation,

“Kids have a lot of talents, but the one thing they’re all VERY good at is ruining their parents’ lives. Sometimes, though, the parents get to strike back! No, this is not a pitch for a new action movie, where a disgruntled parent goes around beating up kids. It’s just parents shaming kids for their terrible behavior. YEAH!”

Stop! Oh, stop, Will, my sides are splitting from your witty Canadian humor! Apparently kids ruin their parents lives, in Will’s view, by being kids, raising the question of why such parents decided to be parents in the first place if children behaving like they have since the species evolved will “ruin their lives.” Oh, I know, Will’s writing something this stupid is justified by the endless mirth it causes. Those Smosh editors were screaming, let me tell you! After all, what could be more uproarious than a parent posting a photo of their baby with this sign (From now on, I think I’ll use Will’s face to hide those of the web-shamed children):

kid-shaming-interrupts-mom

Then there are the incidents that really are a bit amusing, but certainly not 40 years later when a day care accident is used to infantilize them as you’re running for Congress or trying to get appointed CEO of a major financial institution. But then, as Will points out, those vile kids still ruined their parents’ lives, so taking revenge on them was only fair and appropriate…like this…

kid-shaming1

And what could be more hilarious than going to that extra extreme, forcing your child to carry a sign in public, and then posting the photo of it online so his identity will forever be defined on the web by one of the worst moments of his life (actually, parents who treat their children like this are good bets to inflict far worse as the years pass):

kid-shaming-fake-dealer

Will is obviously aspiring to be the next Jimmy Kimmel, and recruited Smosh to help by encouraging parents like the child-abusers who took these 19 photos to find ways to “strike back” at their teens, kids, toddlers and infants for “ruining their lives,” by ruining (or at least scarring)  theirs, on the web, forever. Good work, Will! That phone call from ABC may come any minute.

*NOTE: I  want to  thank the commenter, crella, who suggested that I blur the child’s face, which was not done in the  photo the parents posted, and also the reader (was it you, Jeff Hibbert?) who sent me the altered photo that now accompanies the article on this site.

_________________________________

Sources: Smosh, MommyShorts

135 thoughts on “Unethical Website of the Month: “Smosh” OR “Let’s Give A Big Hand To The Hilarious Comedy of Will Weldon!”

  1. I suspect that those parents who choose to post such pictures are either emotionally immature and unbalanced or are people stressed out by modern life and expressing their need for help.

  2. Jack’s contrast of dogs against kids reminded me of something sad.

    I believe it was a child raised in 20th century Germany, described in a book by Alice Miller.

    He had worked out the hierarchy of the household (Daddy on top, for example) by observing how everyone acted toward each other.

    He concluded that the dogs were more important than the children, since the adults treated the dogs better.

  3. Could the parents actually think they were doing the kids a favour, in getting them part of their life ration of 15 minutes of fame? Or could this ‘teeny tot shaming’ possibly stem from naievety and an instinct to commemorate innocence (like Grandma keeping bare bum baby photos in the family album, for future display to grown up baby’s girl/boy friends and employers)? Is fame an absolute good, independent of consequences?

    In the case of good intent of the parents, would that reduce the level of ethical alarm, or increase it?

      • Normally I’d say a crime was worse, given equal consequences. But in this case, that feels wrong. The parents have an absolute duty to the child to prevent harm coming to them? Something like the fiduciary duties you asked about on another post thread? Would dog-shaming of kids as a blunder be a ‘signature error’ bespeaking neglect of that duty? That might explain my intuitive reaction, or rationalise it anyway.

    • In case any Weldonite has this on email response or is still reading. If you had read the blog at all you would know there is more than enough quality and quantity of internal sceptics that Jack is kept permanently on the straight and narrow and in good fighting trim.

      That for all but one of you, your superficial politeness turned so tellingly quickly to mindless vitriol when challenged shows me all I needed to know. Your bully boy, gang-handed, pre-planned, Blogger swamping attack was not honest, decent or fair. It just trolled Jacks attention from proper business. I deeply regret any words of moderation I may have previously used on the substantive issue, in the comment above. Congratulations, you just earned yourselves a number of new enemies.

      Badly done, sirs.

      And anyone not understanding why AblativeMeatShielld is unique – can go fuck a lamp post.

      And just so we’re clear: I’m quotable, on the record and accountable. Bruce Bartup@yahoo.co.uk. NHS professional registration number CS37007 IIRC (I’m not supposed to use the word fuck online, its not professional – so go fuck a fucking duck)

        • Well, thanks, but could you perhaps go a bit easy on the language to antagonistic outsiders, maybe just a tad? I took Jack’s bread, so the rest: indebtedness, mutual aid, whatever goes with. But I’d rather not get sacked for misconduct every week if it’s all the same to you. I can appreciate your inner specialness, not everyone has that strong a stomach. And where you lead linguistically I must folllow – so’s not to leave a gap. So pretty please with a cherry on top? Steady does it on the anglo-saxon terminology with foreigners? Maybe.

          FYI My jib isn’t so much cut as it’s severed with an axe and thrown overboard.

            • Fair enough. I’ll look up your comment. That won’t change my position though. An attack on one is an attack on all. No gaps. If I stick to anarcho-socialism and you happen to stick to capitalism individualism and I come out on the losing end – no worries, no regrets, no obligations on you.

                  • Found it on the Chimpmania and petition post. I think. If I’m right you have an venturesome position on freedom of speech and zero point zero tolerance of anything that even looks like a 1st Ammendment breach to the extent of being positively and extremely offensive to prove the point. To be continued elsewhere if you like, but just for this bit and for now:.

                    I’ll go to the barricades with you again as above in theory or actually in practce, alone if I have to, But I’d prefer to be shoulder to shoulder with someone who uses their full name. As you didn’t give yours and as you may feel some lingering unwelcome obligation because i did, I’ll extract a price so you know we’re even. My penalty comes as public free advice, that is I am insulting you by presuming you need some and that I am qualified to patronise you.

                    You practice calculated boundary keeping offensiveness. Fair enough, but understand that the real boundary is being physically present while telling a bereaved parent to go to hell where their dead 9 year old son is and watching them collapse, and feeling very badly about it. And then doing it again, crying bitterly, to prove the point again and watch them crumple further.

                    If you won’t go that far you are not sincere in your practice and have only given yourself verbal licence and a bullies charter. The bullies charter is that the obligation is on your victims who should toughen up. Fail the higher test and you forfeit the right to be gratuitously offensive as a habit. Even though you intend to use your self appointed executive power for good it can only end one way. With you and me on opposite sides. I don’t like bullies.

                    I’ll still be on those barricades with you. You do have an absolute right to be wrong in any reasonable community. But no right to be a bully, cyber or otherwise. Thin ground I think. Pull back now. End of advice.

  4. Yes, it was me who blurred the face. I’m a Photoshop sorcerer.

    Also: it’s “Hibbert,” like the doctor from the Simpsons. (since that other commenter “Jeff” was on, maybe I should go by Jeff H.)

  5. I think there should be some sort of way that Children’s Social Services can monitor the Internet, and not just for sexual child abuse. Emotional abuse can have as lifelong an impact as sexual abuse, albeit in different terms.

    WHO ARE THESE PARENTS? A person has to be investigated to ADOPT A DOG, for God’s sake, but millions and millions of morons procreate and then set about imposing their moronic ideals/behaviors/ethics on their children.

    One can’t set totalitarian standards for human reproduction (as governments can for sub-human reproductions), but society as a whole– if it has any ethics, feelings, morals — CAN.

    There are too few child advocacy agencies/organizations in the country, I know that. And one can’t depend on the schools to do it — because they’re worse than the parents.

    Any ideas on how to set up a monitoring system — by “civilians” — to help these kids? I am totally ignorant about how one gets to posts on the Internet like those… but if every parent that posted that kind of sadistic shit on the Internet got thousands of negative e-mails/responses/comments — — they might think twice about doing this.

    And as for Will Weldon and anyone else who thinks any of this is funny is not only a moron but a sadist. What’s next — pictures of tomorrow’s serial killers torturing animals?

      • I would say that you’ve mixed-up “things you don’t like” with “ethics”. While I understand there is no universal agreement on what is ethical or moral, you make a lot of bold statements, like accusing these parents of child abuse. That’s (to put it lightly) a strong accusation, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. Yet you offer no empirical evidence that any of this has any significant and/or long term consequences on a kid (or, really, any consequences at all). which would actually qualify the behavior as abusive. As much as you’d like to define ethics as “a feeling in your gut”, feelings are not facts. So, if you have no hard data to back up your assertions, I guess this raises the oft-asked: What gives you the right to tell these people how to parent their children? If this dumb bit brings them some catharsis, as well as something to potentially laugh at later with both their partner and/or the kids themselves, I would argue it’s more unethical to then accuse the parents of abusing their children; that must be something which is deeply hurtful and damaging to even the most sure of themselves childrearer, but you don’t seem to have any concerns for the consequences of YOUR accusations. The rate of suicide is, I suspect, higher in new parents than it is in toddlers. You might think “It’s absurd to imply that my calling these people abusive parents would be the thing that pushed them over the edge into suicide”, but that’s no less absurd than claiming these pictures would haunt these children for the rest of their lives. As the internet grows older, having embarrassing photos live forever in the archives of the internet becomes more and more commonplace, but having someone accusing you of intentionally harming your child is always an act of aggression and violence. Your lack of empathy towards the parents who took these photos is, simply, nightmarish and unbelievable to me, and I hope one day you realize your words have meaning.

        • I appreciate the tenor and seriousness of the comment, Will, and this sort of discourse is welcome and valued always, and any time. That said, you are really, really wrong.

          1. I would say that you’ve mixed-up “things you don’t like” with “ethics”.

          No, I dislike unethical conduct, especially that involving children.

          2. “While I understand there is no universal agreement on what is ethical or moral, you make a lot of bold statements, like accusing these parents of child abuse.”

          There doesn’t have to be universal agreement. I’m a professional ethicist, and this is my call. Others are free to disagree, but most won’t. Most experts regard public humiliation of children before strangers as a form of cruelty and child abuse. I don’t like euphemisms, and yes, bold statements are the rule here. All the better to get a discussion going. And if a parent hears that description and thinks “Holy crap! I never thought of it that way!” and stops the conduct, GOOD.

          3.”That’s (to put it lightly) a strong accusation, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly.”

          It’s not made lightly. I believe it strongly, and I’m right.

          4. “Yet you offer no empirical evidence that any of this has any significant and/or long term consequences on a kid (or, really, any consequences at all). which would actually qualify the behavior as abusive.”

          Uh, the point of the punishment is humiliation. Humiliation causes psychological pain—that’s its purpose. I am a parent. My own son would have rather been beaten with a stick that paraded in public with a sign on his back. As I just wrote one of your fans, I’ve researched this. If public humiliation were not considered cruel, child psychologists would be recommending it. None do. They deplore it as cruel and dangerous. What research did YOU do before pronouncing cruel parental practices as funny and worthy of praise? My guess: none. You have the burden, not me.

          5. “As much as you’d like to define ethics as “a feeling in your gut”, feelings are not facts.”

          If you are going to debate here, do your research. The mode of analysis I use is a matter of considerable information here, and it has nothing to do with “gut feelings.” I specifically cited the Golden Rule as well as Kant; also the violation of specific ethical principles and values.

          6.”So, if you have no hard data to back up your assertions…”

          Res Ipsa Loquitur, Will. Look it up.

          7.”I guess this raises the oft-asked: What gives you the right to tell these people how to parent their children?”

          Oft asked, and always misguided. Society has an interest in promoting ethical standards, and protecting the young. I have the same obligation as all members of society to speak up, loudly, when people are engaging in unethical conduct and harming others, regardless of the context. Parents have no immunity from being called on unethical conduct towards their children, any more than comedians do.

          8. “If this dumb bit brings them some catharsis, as well as something to potentially laugh at later with both their partner and/or the kids themselves. If this dumb bit brings them some catharsis, as well as something to potentially laugh at later with both their partner and/or the kids themselves,…”

          The ends justify the means, then? No. Laughter is great. Laughter at the price of engaging in callous and risky conduct towards children is not justified. You validated cruelty by shrugging it off as a hoot. Indefensible. Some of those Abu Ghaib photos must have had you rolling on the floor.

          9. “I would argue it’s more unethical to then accuse the parents of abusing their children; that must be something which is deeply hurtful and damaging to even the most sure of themselves childrearer, but you don’t seem to have any concerns for the consequences of YOUR accusations.”

          First, the post was about how unethical your post was, and it was. Whether or not my pointing that out was unethical doesn’t change the verdict on your conduct—this is a common ethics reasoning flaw. Second, if they are engaging in cruelty, and they are, and child abuse, since being cruel to kids is obviously abusive, they parents should know, if they don’t know already. Am I concerned about the reactions of parents who know they are abusing kids when they are accused of doing so? Of course not. Am a concerned about the reaction of parents who didn’t know that’s what they are doing, and mu accusation brings it to their attention? Since the reaction would presumably be to stop, no.

          10. “The rate of suicide is, I suspect, higher in new parents than it is in toddlers.”

          Please. So your argument is that we should celebrate child abuse as hysterical rather than point it out as wrong because telling parents who are abusing their kids that they are abusing their kids might make them jump out a window. If this is joke, it needs work.

          11. You might think “It’s absurd to imply that my calling these people abusive parents would be the thing that pushed them over the edge into suicide”,

          You are correct, sir!

          12. “but that’s no less absurd than claiming these pictures would haunt these children for the rest of their lives.”

          Do I have to explain the internet to you? I don’t think parents should post videos or photos of their kids in embarrassing situations on line either. They didn’t consent. I wouldn’t want my photos on the web. The fact that young users of the web are insensitive to basic autonomy and privacy issues doesn’t mean that they should set the new standards out of ignorance.

          13.”As the internet grows older, having embarrassing photos live forever in the archives of the internet becomes more and more commonplace…”

          Ah. So as long as wrongful conduct becomes commonplace, it’s OK. This is how people get named “Ethics Dunces” here. Check the site, and you’ll learn why yours is an ethically ignorant statement.

          14. “but having someone accusing you of intentionally harming your child is always an act of aggression and violence.”

          Apparently your brain turned off somewhere along here. Yes, the truth sometimes hurts. When it involves cruelty, flagging it and stopping it, I could not care less. And neither should you.

          15. “Your lack of empathy towards the parents who took these photos is, simply, nightmarish and unbelievable to me, and I hope one day you realize your words have meaning.”

          I could base a post on the foolishness of this statement, and might. What does empathy have to do with it? I can empathize with the desperation sick mother who drowns her kids in post-partem hysteria, but its still murder, and still should be condemned. I empathize with the terrified children being drowned by the person they trust most far more. You think, out of empathy, it is ethical to celebrate cruelty to children as funny, thus endorsing it, rather than pointing out that it is wrong in the interests of the children. I empathize with the kids, who are weaker, dependent, without power, and at the mercy of clueless fools who think that humiliation is funny. What is nightmarish is that you would side with the abusers, and think that constitutes humor.

  6. Wow, you really struck a blow for ethics today with your long, boring takedown of something a comedian wrote on an entertainment website. Looks like you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Sorry this month didn’t have enough unethical websites for you to fill your regular quota – here’s hoping someone does something genuinely bad next month so this farce you’ve engineered won’t look so farcical!

    • Let me try to explain the concept of “ethics” to you. You see, child abuse is bad, as in cruel and an abuse of power. It doesn’t matter why or where some soulless creep shows examples and pronounces them hilarious. It mislabels bad behavior as good, encourages more parents to abuse their kids, and makes society uglier and more dangerous for the weak and innocent. This is the essence of “unethical”…Hopes this helps.

      But I doubt it.

      • You really think someone’s going to read an article by a canadian funnyman and go, “Abusing my kids sounds like a great idea!”

        Child abuse existed long before blogs, let alone blogs sounding alarms about ethics.

        Additionally, the fact that you “doubt” that I could understand the concept of something unethical in itself unethical, and you should be ashamed. How dare you judge someone you’ve never met just because they have a different opinion than you. I hope someone comes along and sounds an alarm about your gross lack of empathy – the hallmark of a lack of ethics.

        • Good to see that Weldon’s fans are as fucking annoying as his website would suggest.

          And FYI – Empathy is entirely unnecessary for ethical behavior, and in fact it can be counter-indicated. Lots of politicians have “empathy”, and yet are devoid of any ethics. The whole bullshit around “think of the children” is based on empathy and motion and yet is the antithesis of ethics.

          But being a raging fuckwit, you wouldn’t grasp this concept.

        • Oh, this comment’s even more damning than the last!
          1. So an unethical web post isn’t so unethical because not many people will see it? A pure rationalization, #10 on the Rationalizations List.

          2. “Child abuse existed long before blogs”..so encouraging it doesn’t matter! .Everybody does it, #1 on the list Strike two, and further proof the my earlier diagnosis of a pathetic ethics deficit was dead center.

          3. I doubt you can understand ethical analysis because your first comment shows that inability, and your second is worse. Spare me your righteous indignation—I judge you to be ethically clueless because of the quality of your opinion and the logic you offer, or lack of it, in support of the opinion, not because it varies from mine. It’s an ignorant position supported by misconceptions and rationalizations, and judging such an opinion is as easy as judging its author is justified.

          • You said this article “encourages more parents to abuse their kids.” That’s patently absurd. I could make the same claim for your website, which is so poorly written, it could encourage frustrated readers to go out and abuse the hell out of their kids.

            If you had any ounce of ethics in your entire unethical body, you would retract your terribly unethical claim.

              • Ah, name calling, the hallmark of a gross lack of ethics and a lifestyle devoted solely to the destruction of our fair society. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to write an 800 word blog post excoriating the joke you just made

                  • I’m kind of impressed that characters like the ones Seth Rogen plays in his movies appear to actually exist, and will run like trained attack puggles to come to the defense of a lousy Canadian comic who thinks shaming toddlers on the internet is, like, cool and stuff. Ray, Atom, and Asterios are all getting their next comments spammed unless they approximate the ethical seriousness of Plato’s “The Cave.” I have no time for gang-trolling.

            • I don’t argue further with 9 year olds. Praising bad conduct and celebrating it encourages it; condemning it discourages it. As I said initially, these basic techniques of building ethical cultures are beyond you, and I am not wasting my time further. Go look at more photos of kids being abused, and laugh, laugh, laugh.

  7. I’m just curious, but do any of these abusive photos have names, addresses, social security numbers, or mother’s maiden names attached them? While I can see a case being made that these kids’ friends might see the photos and tease them, I followed all the links on the Smosh site and the Heavy site, and I seem to find mostly blogs where these were submitted to and not the names of the parents or the children. So can you elaborate what you mean when you say:

    “Then there are the incidents that really are a bit amusing, but certainly not 40 years later when a day care accident is used to infantilize them as you’re running for Congress or trying to get appointed CEO of a major financial institution.”

    Is your assertion that in 2054, job interviews will entail some sort of computer program that will scan your face, reverse-age it and then do a systematic computer search for any and all embarrassing photos that could jeopardize one’s career? Also people have been elected to Congress or even the Presidency with records of D.U.I.s and cocaine usage, so you really think that the more concerning case is that someone will be embarrassed by a picture of them having been a mischievous child?

    • I’m saying that web images live forever, and placing your child online in humiliating circumstances risks it embarrassing and humiliating him or her later. It’s not hard tracing down the origins of most such photos. Here’s the safest, most ethical, fairest, responsible, kindest, reasonable course…or can you guess? Don’t post them at all.

      • I see you conveniently didn’t actually address my point and simply repeated the rhetoric from your post. If the origin of such posts is a blog that doesn’t contain names, where they were pseudonymously submitted by people, like they seem to be based on the source links for every single photo in the articles you linked to, then any attempt to track them down, say via a reverse google image search, would only lead back to that blog, which doesn’t identify the children in any way.

        So, again, I ask you what scenario exists where this would cause an issue with someone’s employment search and/or run for public office? What is the scenario you imagine where someone *starting with the candidate* would be able to work backwards and find these photos? Because your nightmare scenario involves someone starting with the pictures, so are you really asserting that some futuristic internet busybody is very likely to see these fairly innocuous, to the point of being absurd and silly, photos and think that they need to check them against any leads that may link them to the adults they possibly could be?

        It also seems ludicrous how easy you think it is to identify an adult based on their childhood photos. Sorry but this seems like just a digital version of a naked baby photo that at worst will embarrass someone in front of a potential romantic partner in their teens. Also, like naked baby photos, since pretty much everyone’s parents have them, if parents also in significant others posted similar shaming photos there would be next to no stigma about it because almost literally everyone would have one anyway.

        So explain again how ethical it is to compare posting a silly photo is to actual child abuse, such as physical, sexual, or neglect? If the most abusive thing that happens to you as a child is that your parents put a picture of you on the internet because you peed in a boot once, this is what is affectionally referred to as a “first world problem” or a “white people problem.”

        • It’s obvious, and 99% of the readers got it. it’s psychological abuse, often the worst kind. And parents who treat their children like dogs and props to make their friends chuckle will predictably do worse. There is no justification for the conduct; it’s wrong, and this is just bleating and thrashing. Neither you nor anyone else in your child abuse fan club has offered anything but lame rationalizations, because there is no defense whatsoever. The next comment absent a coherent argument, and one that doesn’t consist of defensive insults is a goner.

          • I fail to see how any of my responses haven’t been a coherent argument. I know that statement is opening myself up to an easy retort, but I haven’t been making defense insults, but rather legitimately trying to understand your point here. I have tossed a few playful barbs your way, sure, but you have back at everyone else as well, so to single mine out would be fairly hypocritical. Especially considering the language and bile coming from ablativmeatshld. That you’re calling us immature and letting him call someone a c*nt without reprimand tells me how much weight I should put into what 99% of your readers “get.”

            For a second time now you have completely disregarded the actual question I was asking you and simply repeated points you made in the article above. Listen, I understand you think this is psychological abuse. But what I do not see is the step between what is actually happening, which are a few, admittedly immature, kind of stupid memes, and long term detrimental damages to someone over the course of their lives. It’s a legitimate question.

            You have not actually proven or even provided a valid example of how pictures like this could actually harm someone’s livelihood as a grown adult. You have also not given any example as to how someone could discover that these pictures in relation to an adult years later. Even the retort from ablativmeatshld is not a true answer to that because it requires someone who already knows that it is the person in the photo to tag them. The second suggestion he made is that the parents would post them thinking it was funny. But currently those parents are posting them pseudonymously, so there is no evidence that they would later decide to not do so. There’s nothing about these photos that suggest there is a true long term detriment to the people in them except for you saying there is.

            You want to paint us who defend Will as lovers of child abuse. I honestly had never seen this particular meme until he posted the link to your piece on his facebook page. I could really care less about the pictures themselves but as someone who finds actual child abuse to be horrific and disgusting, I do think you deserve to be called out for comparing these photos to true abuse. Something that can easily be written off with the statement “My parents had a lame sense of humor” is not abuse and to label it as such is absolutely doing a disservice to true victims of child abuse.

            • Ok, Rye, I’ll cop to being unfair to you. My apologies. But your points are just unsupportable.

              Most child experts and child psychologists, including my personal expert, who’s area is emotional pathology in children and is one of the top authorities in the field, regard public humiliation as 1) not very effective, 2) cruel, 3) dangerous and 4) a bad sign regarding the parents proclivities. Frankly, I would think this would be obvious. This is why putting minor criminals in the stocks is considered an 8th amendment violation.

              Child abuse doesn’t require long term damage. If you tortured a child, and he grew up just fine, would you say that it wasn’t child abuse? Your argument is consequentialism, which is just “the ends justifies the means” backwards. It doesn’t matter if the abuse in any particular case causes long term damage. One episode? Maybe not. How about 20? Will thinks one is hilarious: why wouldn’t 20 be even funnier? Why do you have such a hard time seeing this?

              Not all such photos are posted anonymously’ many have turned up on Facebook abd personal blogs. Why, by the way, do you think the parents don’t attach their names? One likely reason is that at some level they know it’s wrong, and that it could spark a visit from child services. Doing anything anonymously is a tell that the actor knows he or she is crossing an ethics line.

              I didn’t write that Will “loves child abuse,” but rather that he thinks what he should but obviously does not recognize as child abuse is funny, meaning that his ethics alarm is defective. Now Jimmy Kimmel loves child abuse.

              As for AMS’s invective: this is a long-standing debate hear, and you may read about it here if you are really interested. AMS is a regular, substantive commenter who has proved his worth and seriousness: I would not permit the same verbal leeway in a newcomer; this is a privilege. I still prefer and argue for civility here, but I respect…well, read the post and the thread. The point is that his calling a male commenter a “cunt” is simply an expression of disdain, and substantively less of an insult, and less disturbing, than more conventional accusations, like, for example, some expressed here by Will’s loyal defenders.

      • You mean like you reposted them, unedited, before one of your more “ethical” readers alerted you to the fact that reposting them was grossly unethical?

        The only thing “alarming” here is your “unethical” hypocrisy!

  8. Congrats Jack. You run a website about ethics, and instead of writing about atrocities like the killing of minority Muslims in Myanmar, or the incredibly violent riots in Kiev, where democracy is slowly disappearing, you chose to write scathing articles about Justin Bieber, and attempted to take down a comedian for making a post on an entertainment website. I mean, those are the real tough ethical issues that everyone cares about, right?

    You’re a prime example of what can be accomplished if you throw moral compass, research, and humility to the wind. It’s pretty amazing. I had no idea a grown man with a degree from Harvard could write the same articles that a fifteen year old with access to TMZ could. But hey, here we are.

    If you want something unethical to complain about, complain about my review of this website. It isn’t so much a website as much as it is a sideshow featuring you jerking off into your own mouth and hoping people with empty afternoons say “Yeah! Good work doing meaningless thing that nobody asked you to do!”

    • Thankfully, “you didn’t write about an ethics thing I consider important” and “you wrote about an ethics thing I dont consider important enough” are bannable offenses.

      You wanna see a post about Burma? Go write one, fuckstain.

    • Good one.
      Tell me, what commentary needs to be offered on riots and wars? Even you can figure that out what’s wrong with killing people, presumably, without help On the other hand, people like you who promote the idea that child abuse is a hoot are the ones whose ethical rot makes such wars more likely. If you can’t contribute anything positive but silly caviling about what you would write about if you had the wit and training to write coherently, then buzz off. This is trolling, nothing better

      • Easily anyone can tell why murder is wrong, unless they’re a psychopath. But again, that could be said about 90% of the material you write about. The fact that you write article after article about pop-culture bullshit, or try to discredit a comedian for writing a comedic article really just makes you a troll, but you try to mask it by having an atrocious blog. I’ve gone through and read some of your other articles. They’re basically just long YouTube comments.

        Also, it’s a bit of a leap to accuse someone of supporting child abuse. Especially when the argument is over pictures of children holding (or laying with) signs their parents made in an attempt at humor, some may be punishment, but mostly humor. While some people may not agree with what these parents did, it doesn’t hold a candle to the level of abuse and physical violence other children suffer. And any parent with a rational mind could see that. I’m sure your son Grant would probably find some of these pictures amusing. So go give him your boring lecture on ethics instead of plastering it all over your tiny corner of the internet.

        And don’t try and make yourself sound more important by talking down to someone by saying that they can’t write coherently, or they lack the wit to create something on the same level of the garbage writing you produce. Majority of the people posting defensive responses to this could write a better structured article and argument on 2 hours of sleep and a handful of acid. And they don’t even have Harvard degrees. You have a degree from Harvard, and look what you do. You write empty diatribes that a fraction of the internet reads, and a fraction of that number finds them childish or unintelligible.

        And again, your background art should be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity.

        • Well, Adam, since you’re a troll and an unintertesting one at that, I had already decided to spam you before I came to this, the most diagnostic of your comments. I was also overdue in changing the site’s background, but I’m going to leave it up just to make you happy. I have to say, repeatedly attacking the graphics of a substantive site is a new one on me. Get help quick.

          As to the rest, and I’ll spend more time on your rant that I normally would since it’s your final appearance here…

          1. “Easily anyone can tell why murder is wrong”..

          Which doesn’t explain why you wrote previously that I needed to be writing about foreign massacres. Actually, the point of the blog is precisely for people like you, who somehow missed basic ethical instruction and can’t see what’s wrong with, to cite the Bieber post, a corporation keeping a young sociopath as its symbol. It had nothing to do, except incidentally, with pop culture, but you are, of course, immune to nuance.

          2. “But again, that could be said about 90% of the material you write about.”
          It could be said, but it would be a ridiculous statement. Like you read, or are capable of comprehending, a sufficiently statistically representative selection of the 4500 posts here to make that conclusion. In fact, 99% are not obvious at all, since I only write about ethical issues that require some inquiry.

          3.”The fact that you write article after article about pop-culture bullshit, or try to discredit a comedian for writing a comedic article really just makes you a troll,”

          Ethics lessons apply across genres and topics, and lies are lies, so pop culture can teach an ethical lesson as well as a biblical story. But readers here, and anyone involved with ethics, knows that. Pop culture falls far behind journalism, professional ethics and politics here—but again, you’re just throwing out insults because you have no argument. I’m psychically wounded though, I promise.

          4. “but you try to mask it by having an atrocious blog. I’ve gone through and read some of your other articles. They’re basically just long YouTube comments.”

          You’re welcome to your ill-informed and minority opinion. Nobody forced you to come here. It would still do you a lot of good if you read 10% of the content you claim to have.

          5. “Also, it’s a bit of a leap to accuse someone of supporting child abuse.”
          Nice segue. It’s not a leap to say someone supports child abuse when they gather photos of the abuse and make a post that says, “It’s this fun?” Obviously.

          6. “Especially when the argument is over pictures of children holding (or laying with) signs their parents made in an attempt at humor, some may be punishment, but mostly humor.”

          Wow. Good thinking. So as long as the abuse is done to be humorous, it’s OK. Yeah, I’m really desperate to hear what someone who reasons like this thinks of my ethics posts. Did I mention that you should get help?

          7. “While some people may not agree with what these parents did, it doesn’t hold a candle to the level of abuse and physical violence other children suffer.”

          Regular visitors to this pop culture, graphically immoral blog will instantly identify that fatuous statement as a classic example of the heinous rationalization known here as Comparative Virtue. I won’t bother to explain it to the likes of you, because my sock drawer is a mess.

          8. “I’m sure your son Grant would probably find some of these pictures amusing. So go give him your boring lecture on ethics instead of plastering it all over your tiny corner of the internet.”

          He’s a teenager. I would have found them amusing around that age too. He has time to learn some things about ethics, autonomy and cruelty, and he’s not a parent. He’s way ahead of the general population as it is. And my corner isn’t as tiny as you think, in the field, but if I helped just one deluded, ethically inert individual like yourself to begin to comprehend how to tell right from wrong, it would all be worth the work, and having to read comments from jerks like you.

          And the rest of your comment is just childish insults.

          This topic isn’t even one of the controversial ones. Anyone sane and fair would see that these photos memorialize child abuse, and that pronouncing them hilarious was a mistake at best, and proof of a genuine ethical blind spot at worst. “Gee, I didn’t think of it that way, but you know, you’re absolutely right” was the proper response. This barrage of bad reasoning, insults and rationalizations to avoid confronting bad conduct is as cowardly as well as it is sad.

          I have now wasted enough, indeed too much time on you. (Will acquitted himself comparatively well, in contrast.) Now you’re banned.

          Go in peace and ethical ignorance. my son.

  9. I know I shouldn’t let this kind of thing bug me, but it does, The now-banned Adam/Atom, in his full bore assault to undermine my delicate self-esteem, said, and I quote, “you write article after article about pop-culture bullshit.” This seemed like a baseless accusation, but I had to check, and did: of the more than 50 posts in January 2014 so far, exactly THREE could conceivably be categorized as being about pop culture (I won’t speculate on the bullshit part.). One was the Bieber post, which was really about corporate responsibility; one was the Jack Reacher post, though all the issues covered were in the field of legal ethics, and the other was the Shia Labeouf post, which was really the single pure pop culture post of the month.

    I’m glad I spammed him.

    • For the record, anyone whose avatar is a picture of them wearing sunglasses inside probably won’t ever have anything useful to add to an conversation that isn’t about some aspect of douchy dudebro culture…

  10. Hello Jack, I have some questions: Your comment policy page clearly states: “Keep the comments civil…” and “I will delete comments that include gross personal attacks” and,”… don’t think you can get away with an unsupported, badly-reasoned or purely emotional argument and not get called on it…” and, “…If insults are all a comment has to offer… it is out…” Considering these guidelines, isn’t Ablativemeatshld’s comments like, “…Oh fuck off, shitstain….” and “…You wanna see a post about Burma? Go write one fuckstain….” and “…Not all of them, you worthless cunt….” and “…Because fuck you, that’s why…” among others, a clear violation of your comment policy? You say repeatedly in your comment guidelines that you want to promote civil discourse, yet, you haven’t deleted any Ablativemeatshld’s comments, nor have you given that particular commenter any warnings. Yet, you have banned Adam/Atom because you feel his comment undermined your “delicate self-esteem…” and “seemed like a baseless accusation…” Do you only police comments that threaten your self-esteem while letting pure invective stand as long as it comes from your sycophantic supporters? Isn’t your selective, and capricious enforcement of your own comment policies an ethical violation? Finally, is Ablativemeatshld your sockpuppet alter ego?

    • 1. I have explained the obvious conflict between my official standards and the courtesy extended AMS. Thanks for reminding me to revise that part of the policies, which predates his entry and cause. I included a relevant link to that debate on this same thread—I’m not going to re-hash it. You can look it up easily if you’re interested and not just trolling.
      2. Adam was banned because he made factually untrue accusations and misrepresentations, engaged in ethically unhinged arguments, and was part of a gang-trolling exercise without any valid points to make or any intent to make them. He and the gang kept repeating the same “arguments” and were obviously not interested in honest debate. Then his comment descended into pure name calling.
      3. Yes, I am less tolerant of insults directed at ME than insults directed at others, especially those who deserve to be insulted…and AMS has persuaded me that some do. Like Adam. I’m the host, you’re the guest.
      4. I have, on rare occasions, asked AMS to be an enforcer. I am an ethicist and a lawyer, and do not engage in deception, lies or false identities, on my blog or elsewhere, and you are a jerk for insinuating otherwise.

  11. Well THAT was unpleasant. And all to defend a guy who thoughtlessly applauded cruelty to children to (HAR!) get even with them for “ruining their parents’ lives.” Twisting like a fish on a hook, all to avoid just admitting the obvious and undeniable—yeah, it’s wrong.

    Even the inveterate cynics at Cracked figured it out…http://www.cracked.com/blog/3-reasons-you-shouldnt-shame-your-kids-internet/ ….all by themselves.

    If you think the comments that got through were bad, you should see the ones that didn’t…

    • And, as quickly as they arrived, they were gone—and not one of Will’s fans, or Will himself, offered a single justification or defense of the post that wasn’t a pure rationalization.

      • Can you envision a defense that isn’t rationalization? If a stance is so far gone that it lacks any logical support, then all you can get are rationalizations.

        Leading us down a road, if there is one right answer for any given debate, when pressed, would the arguments of the wrong side ultimately boil down to premises that are only rationalizations?

  12. As an attorney that works specifically with children who are victims of abuse and/or neglect, as well as someone who studied ethics extensively in my undergraduate years, I feel inclined to contribute.

    I. The Legal Definition of Child Abuse is Not Categorically Met By the Described Conduct
    First, I’ll go with the assertion that this is child abuse, and specifically, psychological abuse. I’ll begin by pointing out that this doesn’t qualify as child abuse on any sort of legal level. While definitions may vary slightly from state-to-state, I’ll use the California definition since that’s where I practice and because, as I mentioned, the definition varies only slightly.

    Under Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300, a child is at risk of abuse or neglect if the parent or guardian’s actions cause a substantial (and case law holds that this must be non-speculative) likelihood that a child will suffer serious harm or detriment. In the case of emotional abuse, legally, that emotional detriment must be severe. This is in large part to protect from every divorce (which tends to be an emotionally traumatic experience for children) from resulting in child abuse cases.

    The abuse must be either intentional or neglectful (meaning the parent knew, or reasonable should know, of the harm caused by their conduct).

    In the cases provided, many involve very young children. So young, in fact, that they are unaware of the content of the signs being hung on them. They are unaware of facebook. Most child development experts agree that children only begin to development self-awareness around 15-24 months (http://www.parentingcounts.org/information/timeline/baby-begins-to-develop-self-awareness-15-24-months/), meaning that, prior to that, the children would have no concept of feeling “shamed.” We can speculate about how they might feel, many years into the future, seeing such a photo, but that does not rise to the level of child abuse. Moreover, it seems equally likely that a child, many years later, would have little to no reaction to a sign on their infant selves that stated that they peed in a shoe or kept their mother from resting. My father used to constantly bring up that I ate a snail as a toddler. Slightly embarrassing, but surely that was not child abuse, even when he shared it with my childhood friends or extended family.
    There’s no evidence then that this qualifies as psychological abuse as to the infants and toddlers depicted.

    With the adolescents and teens, it is apparent that the reason (or at least one reason) for this practice is, in fact, to shame them. You mention at one point “My own son would have rather been beaten with a stick that paraded in public with a sign on his back.”
    The fact that your son would prefer physical abuse does not make the alternative psychological abuse. I would rather be punched in the gut than lose my job, but firing me would not be abusive. I would also prefer a punch in the gut to being sexually rejected, but certainly someone who refuses to sleep with me is not abusing me, no matter how embarrassed I might feel about it.

    Emotional and psychological abuse is deeply individualized and whether or not a specific act is emotional abuse is dependent not just on the action in isolation, but on the individual child’s response. I would agree that public humiliation by a parent, carried out with that intent, when it is successful in its goal, is abusive. Having spoken to a number of mandated reporters, I suspect they would report it to child services if a teenager’s parents forced her to wear a sign that said that she’d snuck out of the house to see a boy at 3AM, took a photo, and placed it on the internet with the specific intention of humiliating her (if she was actually very emotionally distraught as a result).

    However, we don’t actually know the reactions of these individual children. If done to your son, clearly wearing a sign would be abuse. It is incorrect to say that all forms of public shaming are child abuse and, specifically, that if the child does not feel shamed (or is not of an age that they are capable of feeling shame), then it is lazy academic work to try to shoehorn the conduct into the category of child abuse.

    II. Kant Stated People Should Never Be Used As Mere Means, But As Ends In Themselves

    As an ethicist, it’s irresponsible to misquote Kant in order to mislead people. You state that these parents are “using their children as props, a classic Kantian ethics violation.” However, that’s not the language that Kant uses.

    Kant states that we should never treat rational beings as mere means to an end, because rational beings are ends in themselves. The reasoning is that, when we use rational beings as mere means, we denigrate them and undermine their autonomy.

    While I think the assumption that infants and toddlers are “rational beings” or one’s whose autonomy we, as a society, respect is pretty weak (we deny toddlers autonomous choice regularly), clearly you have begun with that assumption, and I’ll leave it be.

    So, assuming arguendo that infants and toddlers are rational beings (and, of course, I believe it’s fair to call adolescents and teenagers rational, at least within Kant’s definition), is your assertion truly that parents produced offspring, for the sole purpose of humiliating them on the internet? The children as not being used merely as means. These parents had them, have been raising them, and theoretically are doing so for purposes that are not internet entertainment. You have made a tremendous logical leap here and there doesn’t appear to be a bridge to support your reasoning.

    III. The Golden Rule Is A Subjective Test And Is, Therefore, Ineffective as A Normative Ethics Test
    Your use of the Golden Rule is an interesting choice, especially since you could have used a different Kantian principle which would have been more appropriate: that, if we believe an act is ethical, it would be ethical when universalized. It’s similar to the Golden Rule, but has broader logical applications. Anyway, specifically you make this statement: “[S]uch parents would be mortified if a photo of them as children standing by, say, this sign [photo] followed them around on the web for the rest of their lives and beyond.”
    However, by standing by the Golden Rule, you are specifically endorsing a subjective test while claiming that there is one thing that is definitively child abuse, regardless of intent or consequence.
    This internal inconsistency has serious implications for the strength of your argument. Many people were raised in households in which physical abuse and domestic violence are the norm. When DCFS or law enforcement question them, they often respond that they were unaware that it was not okay to pull their children by the ears or to hit them with a belt because the same was done to them. To say that someone is violating the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), you must know what they would have others do unto them.
    You have no idea how these parents would actually react to such a photo of themselves. As I mentioned, I would not be embarrassed by a photo of me as an infant, describing some typical infant thing I had done. I probably would be embarrassed by a sign saying I’d sneaked out to see a boy.
    The Golden Rule is, by definition, subjective and cannot be used to prove the objective point that you are arguing.
    IV. Even If An Action Is Not Best Practices Ethically, That Does Not Necessitate It Being Unethical
    Finally, you claim that these photos could affect children’s job prospects in the future and hurt their chances for political office. Other posters have pointed out that this seems speculative (and I generally agree with that), and you’ve responded that it is, nevertheless, best practices to not do so because, why take the chance?
    Briefly—since others have argued this—I will say that this argument seems totally baseless (if we’re speaking of infant photos about pooping on the floor) at worst and speculative (in the case of the teenager who pretends to sell drugs) at best.
    I don’t know if you fancy yourself in the realm of Peter Singer, but this feels as though you’re trying very hard to make an argument he would approve of. Singer has argued that indulging in luxuries (and he speaks of luxuries very broadly) is by definition unethical because of the existence of extreme poverty. We only feel an obligation to rescue or help those we are close to (in terms of affinity or proximity), but we should feel obligated to help everyone who suffers. No one should own a big screen television. No one should own a home more expensive than they need. We should all give until it hurts (and then give a little more, because someone else always hurts worse).
    The criticism of this is that it is overly simplistic. We cannot guarantee the money we give goes directly to the poor, for the most part. We cannot guarantee once we’ve given it, that it will do greater good there. We cannot discount the relative good done by such luxuries as education that might enable us to build better infrastructure in the future.
    For that reason, we might say it is good to give, and arguably it is best practices to give as much as one possibly can, but people who are not Peter Singer will not hold you responsible for the death of a malnourished person in a developing nation because you decided to see 12 Years a Slave in theaters rather than donate $15 to Red Cross.
    Your reasoning is similarly overly simplistic. It says, “Sure, it’s a long shot that a future employer will see this photo, a longer shot that they’ll recognize who it is, and a longer shot still that they will care, but WHAT IF in the future this information becomes even more clearly linked together and WHAT IF that boss puts incredible weight on the fact that this prospective employee was once ungrateful for an action figure?”
    First we might look at the relative benefit. For the younger children that are less self-aware, the relative harm is very low: they’re less likely to be recognized and their actions are less likely to be seen as indicative of their employee performance as an adult. The benefit is some level of amusement to their parents and parents’ friends. Possibly they bond over how tired they are and the trials and tribulations of new parenthood. The parents are building a support system of other stressed and tired parents.
    In the case of the older children, the stakes are different. The relative harm is higher: they may feel ashamed. Maybe mildly ashamed, maybe humiliated. This is a less speculative harm and most likely a parent will know, more or less, how a child will react to this. What are the relative benefits? It’s possible that the 12 year old who was ungrateful learns humility, begins thanking people. It’s possible that the teenager who pretends to sell drugs stops doing so and, as a result, gets hassled less by law enforcement. Maybe the girl who sneaks out of her house stops doing that. Then again, maybe it destroys the trust in the parental relationship or maybe that teenage girl is slut-shamed at school.
    In this sense, it is most likely not best practices to use shaming—and particularly public shaming—as a parenting method for redirection. However, that does not necessarily make it unethical. I think it is fair to say that these parents know their children better than you know their children and, while they might not always be making the choices that you believe are ethically ideal, their intentions and the children’s reactions to these methods are intrinsic to calculating how ethical those decisions are. Those are unknown variables and to attempt to assert that something is unethical without knowing individual intent or individual effects is, again, lazy and irresponsible ethical and academic work.

    • Kim, thanks for this opus, which certainly is preferable, much, to the collection of rationalizations previously used to defend the despicable practice of public child-shaming. You put thought and time into it, and it’s a terrific contribution to the discussion. I am sincere. Now I’m going to to be frank. Nothing personal.

      It’s also useful to demonstrate the ability of scholarly claptrap and rhetorical smoke blowing to obfuscate common sense and truth, and suppress responsible standard-setting and action. I’m a lawyer; I’m familiar with the technique. Why one would employ it to justify the unjustifiable is a mystery, unless this is just a game for you. To address, in far less detail because it is hardly necessary, the points you raised:

      1. The shaming technique is cruel, and humiliation is cruel. I regard it as abusive—I did not say it was illegal, or constitutes the crime of child abuse. Verbal abuse can also constitute child abuse. This:

      “However, we don’t actually know the reactions of these individual children. If done to your son, clearly wearing a sign would be abuse. It is incorrect to say that all forms of public shaming are child abuse and, specifically, that if the child does not feel shamed (or is not of an age that they are capable of feeling shame), then it is lazy academic work to try to shoehorn the conduct into the category of child abuse..”

      —is the worst kind of sophistry. Yes, you’re right—maybe the kids enjoyed being humiliated; we can’t tell, and I’m pretty sure the babies would not realize they had been humiliated until much later, so no, I can prove any particular child has been abused, just as I couldn’t prove from a video of a parent belting a child that it wasn’t a fake punch. The one way to make sure that the humiliation isn’t humiliating, however, is not to do it. Common sense and experience tells us that a child subjected to this treatment is more likely to be harmed than not. But I’m sure your argument will come in handy for any parent criticized for such child-rearing, and especially any juvenile comic who publicizes it on the web as just another gag. Your comments would suggest that you agree the conduct it is rather more serious than that, yet you are defending the conduct nonetheless, on the specious grounds that we can’t be sure just how abusive it really is.

      Why would you, or anyone, do that?

      2. “Kant states that we should never treat rational beings as mere means to an end, because rational beings are ends in themselves. The reasoning is that, when we use rational beings as mere means, we denigrate them and undermine their autonomy.” By my interpretation, that fits the definition I was applying exactly. There was no misquote. Kant, by rational beings, meant human beings, and Peter Singer to the contrary, I believe that includes infants. I believe that Kant would be horrified by a baseball team using a Terri Schiavo as second base, for example. Using children as hapless props for web gags is despicable, and fulfills the breaches of human dignity and autonomy that Kant’s rule aims to forbid.

      3. “The Golden Rule is, by definition, subjective and cannot be used to prove the objective point that you are arguing.” Baloney. You are saying, then, that nobody can ever say that another individual has violated the Golden Rule. That’s garbage. The Golden Rule is not constructed to apply to sadists, maniacs, masochists and fools—it presupposes a rational human being, objectively defined. Perhaps one of the parents enjoys humiliation, and really wants to be ridiculed by his baby pictures on the web for life—in which case, your analysis would argue that humiliating and abusing his child DOES comport with the Golden Rule. That would render the Rule useless, and in fact dangerous. The Golden Rule begins with the assumption of a rational actor who desires justice and fair treatment from others. That’s an objective standard.

      Your essay reads like an over-zealous defense of an unethical individual, with the intent of confusing a hypothetical, semi-literate jury. Nice advocacy exercise, but terrible ethics.

      4. In many ways, this is the worst of all. You begin by essentially jettisoning the entire concept of personal privacy. Well, you may choose to do that for yourself, but you have no right to do that for others, including children. ALL privacy can be argued out of existence as you attempt to do here. “Well, it may cause harm, but maybe not”—the loss of one’s own control over where one’s image appears without one’s express or implied approval or knowledge is inherent harm, and disrespectful of the individual. And you trade that off for the parents “bonding” by using their child as a cheap internet joke? So, you apparently like Will’s “kids ruin our lives, so we should get back at them in this hilarious way” reasoning, eh? I don’t. My position: Parents should not post photos or videos of children on the web, ever. I regard the “maybe it’s unethical and maybe its not, and since it might not be, you shouldn’t speculate that it is” argument you are using here as the ultimate cynical rationalization that enables terrible conduct. And you follow it up with a worse one—the parents know their children better than I do, so they are the best arbiters regarding whether their treatment is cruel and harmful or not. This is an excuse for allowing child abuse and worse, and the same logic that gets children killed every day of the weak. Note that I am not taking these abusive parents’ kids away from them or hauling them to court: I’m saying, for public discussion, that what they are doing to their powerless children is an abuse of parental control and authority and is wrong, an act that has a considerable lesser burden of proof.

      There are people who see what is wrong and call it out, and they are sometimes mistaken or over-zealous. They are infinitely more responsible , however, than those who run the duties of responsible citizenship through a rhetorical and pedantic meat-grinder, so they can rationalize doing and saying nothing at all, because “while they might not always be making the choices that you believe are ethically ideal, their intentions and the children’s reactions to these methods are intrinsic to calculating how ethical those decisions are.” Since only the abusers know whether or not what they are doing is really abuse, nobody can ever criticism them. How nice for them. How tragic for their kids.

      But Will gets a funny (to some) website post out of it, so there’s that.

      I admire your exercise, but I find the philosophy and orientation behind it repulsive….and the antithesis of ethical.

      • I actually didn’t defend Will’s post. I just criticized your reasoning.

        “Yes, you’re right—maybe the kids enjoyed being humiliated; we can’t tell, and I’m pretty sure the babies would not realize they had been humiliated until much later, so no, I can prove any particular child has been abused, just as I couldn’t prove from a video of a parent belting a child that it wasn’t a fake punch.”

        That’s a fine straw man you’ve constructed, but I never suggested in any way that children enjoy being humiliated. I first questioned if they regard what is being done as humiliating–in the case of infants, certainly not in the moment and, most likely, not ever.
        Would you feel humiliated if your parents stated publicly that you pooped on the floor once you were one year old? If so, why? There is nothing embarrassing about an infant doing things that are typical of infants.

        Moreover, I don’t think anyone was suggesting that this is something that children enjoy. Do you really not have the capacity to recognize anything that exists in a spectrum between humiliation and enjoyment? Children do not enjoy being grounded. They do not enjoy punishment. They do not enjoy delaying dessert. Whether they enjoy is not the point.
        Do you regard anything a child does not enjoy as abusive?

        The question is whether the child is at substantial likelihood of harm. I provided some discussion of this under my IV section, that there was really no basis for thinking there’s any harm when we’re speaking of children who are of an age that would not register humiliation engaging in actions that are age-appropriate (and will therefore not register as humiliation later either). You state that, “Common sense and experience tells us that a child subjected to this treatment is more likely to be harmed than not” but that’s not actually true or supported. I’m reasonably certain your experts would not back up the claim that a 1 year old feels humiliated by their parent saying that they pooped on the floor. I’m very familiar with the criticism of shaming as a method being largely ineffective but it simply doesn’t make sense to discuss that when we’re speaking of infants (and the child psychologist that I asked agreed that applying it in that case is a baffling application).

        2. “I believe that Kant would be horrified by a baseball team using a Terri Schiavo as second base, for example.”
        But this example is nothing like parents taking photos of their children, either for entertainment or for child-rearing purposes. I do not think that baseball team loves Terri Schiavo, brought her into this world, and aimed to provide her with both her basic needs and with tools to be successful.
        Again, you glaze over the language–MERELY. He said MERELY as a means to an end. The parents of older children are pretty clearly NOT doing this as a means to an end–their goal is discipline. And it may be misguided, but they are attempting to alter their child’s behavior.
        As for the younger ones, they are doing it for entertainment. However, I believe a better analogy than the dated one of using a comatose woman as a base would be how people often treat their sexual partners. If you do not love or at least respect your sexual partner and regard them strictly as a sexual object, then you have degraded them. However, if you do respect your partner (and obviously you would show this in different ways than you would show that you respect your child, and their needs) then the exact same sexual acts are not degrading. You can’t reference Kant and then decide that intent doesn’t matter. Kant cares deeply about intent and your intent and your feelings towards the person who you are acting upon matter.

        3. Again, you go with “enjoys” or “wants” and the lazy conclusion that anything we don’t specifically enjoy is somehow abusive and humiliating. There is a range of emotions between those things and feeling abused and I urge you to give them a try. Just because someone does something that I do not specifically enjoy does not mean that they are not observing the Golden Rule (as I mentioned before, there are a number of things that people could do to me that are not disrespectful but would nevertheless make me very unhappy).
        I explicitly stated that I would not care if an infant photo of me was on the internet stating some infant thing I had done.
        Again, I’m truly curious why you WOULD mind. (If you honestly believe it is abusive in all cases for a parent to post a child’s photo, including family photos or school photos, under some specious argument that it invades their privacy and corrupts their autonomy, then you’re operating in some moral absolutist realm that bears no semblance to reality and perhaps there’s nothing left to say.)

        I would not feel my sense of privacy was invaded in the case of such a photo, particularly because I do not consider things done in my infancy to be an important milestone in my life. They would be important to my parents. They experienced the things I did as an infant in a way that I did not. A parent who shares things their infant child did is sharing THEIR experience, not invading their infant child’s privacy. And there are a number of laws that mirror this particular broadly accepted social standard. One of them has to do with the fact that children under the age of 12 can presumptively have their medical privacy rights held by a representative–their parent or, if they’re in foster care, an attorney like myself.
        We might also see this in the fact that small children habitually shed their clothes and run around naked in front of strangers.
        I also thinking it’s telling that you’re shifting your argument to a concern over “violation of privacy” since it’s clear that the humiliation argument as to very young children makes no sense.

        • 1. I said Will’s post was unethical, and was clear why. If you believe it was unethical and don’t or can’t articulate why while nit-picking my analysis, then this is a giant troll. The post was specifically about calling photos memorializing child abuse funny and praising them on that basis, which encourages wrongful behavior. If the shaming was not wrong, the website post wasn’t wrong. Any good lawyer can pick apart an argument, but here you have an obligation to state your position, and you are waffling. As I said. Cheap, and easy.

          2. I regard public humiliation as abusive. I presume no one enjoys it. You can explain why it isn’t abusive, or drop that part of your argument. It’s cruel. It’s unnecessary. It outlasts the punishment. Your turn.

          3. Obviously, my Kantian argument only applies to the toddlers and infants, as did your criticism of it. “Merely” still applies. There is no purpose for using the child as a prop other than for the parents’ amusement/benefit. Just like Terri. Except that the infants are MORE rational than Terri, and may feel the harm later.

          4.‘I would not feel my sense of privacy was invaded in the case of such a photo, particularly because I do not consider things done in my infancy to be an important milestone in my life.” Good for you, but the parent who posted that photo would have no way of knowing that or getting your prior consent, and thus doing so is presumptuous and wrong.

          5. The argument about not posting embarrassing photos was a privacy argument from the beginning—what’s telling about the fact that I re-state it now? What would you call the right not to have photos of you being mocked by your parents posted for the world to see forever? Privacy. Reputation.And yes, a presumption should be that a normal person does not want accounts of them defecating, whatever the circumstances, publicized. And if a strange individual doesn’t, that does still not excuse a parent assuming he doesn’t. Yes–how and why my child defecates is his business and family privacy…and if the family doesn’t value that privacy, it still does not have the ethical right to violate it for the helpless toddler who may feel differently by the time he learns about it.

          This…“A parent who shares things their infant child did is sharing THEIR experience, not invading their infant child’s privacy”…insufficiently respects the infant as an individual. Sorry. You are dead wrong, and the fact that a parent has the legal right to do this doesn’t make it ethical.

          Your critique is sound and fury signifying nothing. Your previous argument boiled down to “This MAY not be unethical.” Now you say “I’m not saying that it’s not unethical, I just don’t like why you say its unethical.” OK–I want your reasons, which must not use Kant or reciprocity or privacy concerns or abuse of power, dignity, love and autonomy, and you are on record, absurdly, as saying that humiliating children in public isn’t abusive, because who knows? They may not mind it! Or they do mind it, but not sufficiently to call being humiliated “abuse.” If a kid has a thick skin, it’s not abuse. Also if he can take a punch, presumably.

          You are refusing to deal with the issue, which is betrayal of a child’s trust. If I saw a photo like these involving my parents setting out to make me look bad to the world when I was too helpless to stop it, I would be humiliated all over again, for my family, and for my parent’s behavior to me, when I was in their care. I would be furious, and it wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t a single person that I knew had seen it. My photo, at any age, should not be on the web without at least my implied consent. And those who supposedly love and protect me should not betray my trust by placing them there.

          All any of us can do to judge how mistreatment would feel is to place it in a personal context—you are manipulating the abstract to avoid facing the truth.

          Given the effort you put into this exercise, I honestly expected genuine insight. What I see is specious arguments, word-bandying, misunderstood ethical concepts so narrowly construed as to render them useless, and a complete disregard for privacy. If one out 19 of those photos recorded a child feeling debased, or a parent using a child as a helpless prop for a web gag, then the representation of it as laudable conduct by the “comic” is wrong and harmful. Meanwhile, all of the photos model abusive conduct to others, on their face. And we still don’t know how you feel about that, just that you have concocted theories that might excuse some of them (though I couldn’t disagree more.)

          • How much of your analysis is contingent on the fact that once posted to the internet, the embarrassing stories are magnified by Forever in the time dimension and by Everyone in the space dimension. That is a clear upper window for determining “this is wrong to do”

            Is there a lower limit? Or would you consider even divulging a story that embarrasses your child to only your brother to be an abuse?

            • No, the internet, with his worldwide reach and permanence, is so far over the line that the line doesn’t need to be placed perfectly. Personally, I think sharing any embarrassment within the family to third parties, including family third parties, is a breach of trust. But I recognize that I’m a near absolutist on this.

          • 1. I didn’t waffle. Not once. I’m presenting a much more nuanced argument than you care to deal with since your position is, by your own admission, much more absolutist. In fact, you think that “sharing any embarrassment within the family to third parties, including family third parties, is a breach of trust.” The way you’ve argued so far, it sounds like you’d about equate a breach of trust with abuse, which is, again, a pretty tremendous leap.
            Here is my position, in full:
            In order to think a comic is memorializing or encouraging child abuse, you would need to show A. that what he is depicting is CLEARLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY abuse and B. that he’s depicting it in a positive light.
            Since he is depicting it as funny, let’s say B is met. However, I am saying that the vast majority of what is being depicted is clearly NOT child abuse (as it involves small children who are unable to grasp shame and/or acts which are not actually shameful for children of those ages) and that whether the other couple are would be dependent on those particular children’s reactions and their parents’ intentions.
            Ergo, prong A is not met and your attack is unjustified. (There. Now I’m defending Will’s post. I had not done so yet.)

            2. “I regard public humiliation as abusive. I presume no one enjoys it. You can explain why it isn’t abusive, or drop that part of your argument. It’s cruel. It’s unnecessary. It outlasts the punishment. Your turn.”
            Again, for it to be abusive, there must be intent, or negligence, and actual harm. And these are ethical principles as well as legal ones. The harm in the case of the unaware child is non-existent. The harm in the case of the older child is speculative. I don’t know how much clearer or how many more times I can say that.
            It’s not cruel if the intention is not cruel and the child doesn’t experience it as cruel.
            The fact that it is unnecessary is immaterial to whether it’s abusive. Moreover, if it WERE abusive, arguing that it IS necessary would not make it less so. Stay on point.

            3. “There is no purpose for using the child as a prop other than for the parents’ amusement/benefit.”
            Now you’ve narrowed the argument to absurdity. This would be the same as to say that “there is no purpose for using a lawyer for legal advice other than to benefit legally” or “there’s no purpose for paying a masseuse for a massage other than receiving a massage.” Kant referred to treating the PERSON as an end in itself, not one specific action having only one specific purpose. Again, when the PARENT does this, unless you have demonstrated that the PARENT literally regards their child as nothing more than a source of entertainment for them and their friends, you have failed to demonstrate that they regard their child as a means to an end.

            4. Unless they used an average reasonable person standard under the Golden Rule and realized that they would not be upset by such an action and therefore their child likely would not be upset by such an action.

            5. I actually did address the parental trust. I addressed it when I stated much earlier in my argument (did you even read it? It sounds like you didn’t, since you thought I was waffling.) that, with older children, it has the POTENTIAL to “destroy the trust in the parental relationship,” depending on the intent, depending on the response, and for that reason it might not be consider “best practices” in terms of ethics and parenting. I also acknowledged a spectrum, which you’re apparently deaf and blind to, which treats things not as either enjoyable/public humiliation or ethically ideal/morally devoid, but instead recognizes that a huge number of actions fall into gray areas where perhaps harm is done and perhaps there is still a benefit.
            You can ignore it and embrace your moral absolutism if you’d like, but I think you ought to recognize that most people operate more in the gray areas, that we consider principles as well as effects, and give up the ghost on assuming that whatever moral maxims you’re embracing are those of an “average reasonable person.”

            • 1. THIS is waffling: “I would agree that public humiliation by a parent, carried out with that intent, when it is successful in its goal, is abusive. Having spoken to a number of mandated reporters, I suspect they would report it to child services if a teenager’s parents forced her to wear a sign that said that she’d snuck out of the house to see a boy at 3AM, took a photo, and placed it on the internet with the specific intention of humiliating her (if she was actually very emotionally distraught as a result)” when the rest of the comment is devoted to arguing “maybe it is abuse, and maybe it isn’t.” Let me remind you that the premise of the website post that was the subject of my essay was that these were 19 examples of webshaming, and that they were hilarious, as in “fine and dandy.” Thus the unequivocal message of the post that I focused on was “Webshaming by parents is fine and dandy.” Webshaming, by definition, involves a parent intentionally enbarrassing their child by exposing the conduct in negative terms to the public, and thus strangers, via the internet. The rest of your argument is then devoted to intellectual gymnastics—when is webshaming not really webshaming, how can we be sure of the intent of the parent, etc, to undermine and blur what you appeared to concede in the first paragraph. That’s not “nuanced.” That’s equivocation and waffling.

              2.” Here is my position, in full:
              In order to think a comic is memorializing or encouraging child abuse, you would need to show A. that what he is depicting is CLEARLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY abuse and B. that he’s depicting it in a positive light.”

              A. I can think a comic is encouraging child abuse when my common sense, ethical instincts and undersatnding of human nature tells me that this is going on. You can use whatever impossibly narrow criteria you choose so you don’t have to lift a finger to stop the glorification of child abuse on the web.
              B. I never said, not do I believe, that Will’s intent was to encourage child abuse. I believe that he and the website did that, however, and were irresponsible to do that, by taking what appear to be photographic records of child abuse and to praise them, and thus the conduct—posing the photo, taking it, making the child endure it, and posting it so that a stranger could access it–that created them
              C. “Unequivocal” is an impossible standard with photography today. Who knows if those are real children? They could be CGI, or photoshopped dolls, dummies or actors. So could child porn photos. You call that “nuanced”? I call it avoiding the issue.
              D. This is a clear example of res ipsa loquitur, yet you are denying it. The parents are shaming the children to strangers, which requires intentional humiliation. You are making a definitional argument that humiliation, done for the purpose of punishment, is not necessarily abuse under the law (but might be, though you aren’t waffling. I think its abuse, as in abusive, just as I think teachers who subject young kids to criminal style grilling and humiliation by suspension when they, say, bite their pizzas into the shape of a gun is abuse. Schools call it “no-tolerance,” and so far, the law and culture hasn’t had the wisdom to agree with me. That doesn’t make me wrong. In fact, I am right on the ethics, and they are wrong.
              E. Of course he’s depicting it in a positive light. What other reading can you give to…

              “Kids have a lot of talents, but the one thing they’re all VERY good at is ruining their parents’ lives. Sometimes, though, the parents get to strike back! No, this is not a pitch for a new action movie, where a disgruntled parent goes around beating up kids. It’s just parents shaming kids for their terrible behavior. YEAH!”

              Are you arguing, in nuanced fashion, that “YEAH!” actually means, “I deplore this violation of a child’s dignity and autonomy”? I submit that “YEAH!” unequivocally means “I enthusiastically endorse this conduct.”

              3. “It has the POTENTIAL to “destroy the trust in the parental relationship,” depending on the intent, depending on the response, and for that reason it might not be consider “best practices” in terms of ethics and parenting.”

              Waffling. The intent can be presumed, as can the response. Outlier intents and responses don’t mean that the conduct isn’t per se wrong, cruel, and abusive

              • Sorry, was busy helping abused children all day, so I didn’t get to this until now.

                Waffling suggests I’ve switched sides, or failed to take a side. I’m saying you haven’t proven your case. Moreover, that these are context-less photos and you CAN’T make the case that you would like using them. You would need to actually know almost anything additional about the individuals being depicted–their temperament, their relationships, their feelings at the moment the photo is being taken. You don’t. You don’t care, because you’re just here to pontificate and to shame parents who use different (and maybe inferior) methods.

                A. Thank God you are lifting a finger (10 even!) to halt (your specific perception of) the glorification of (your limited definition of) child abuse on the web. Bravo. Btw your “common sense, ethical instincts and undersatnding [sic] of human nature” might also be referred to as your feelings.
                B. You don’t think he encourages child abuse but you think he’s glorifying it? Well, if that’s not the pot calling the kettle a waffle…
                C. Clearly I’m not talking about CGI (as evidenced by the fact that I never brought up that ridiculous line of reasoning) and, btw cool NEW strawman. Emotional and psychological abuse are more complex than physical abuse. You can see a parent strike a child with a belt and be pretty unequivocally certain that you are seeing physical abuse. Maybe they’re CGI, maybe they’re acting in a play, but no one is making that asinine argument.
                Yes, it’s called “kidshaming.” It’s also called “dogshaming,” despite the fact that the dogs are CLEARLY unable to conceive of the shame we (as viewers) attribute to them when we see the photos. The question is whether the actual children feel shame. Whether their parents intended shame. That’s what would determine whether it is, indeed, abusive.
                D. Res ipsa loquitur is actually the inverse of what you’re trying to argue. It requires that you already see a harm and that the harm wouldn’t be there but-for someone’s negligence. It MIGHT be an appropriate argument if we were witnessing a child having an emotional breakdown and somehow determined the parents could be the only cause. You’ve literally proven no harm to these children other than extrapolating based your feeling that you would feel bad and that your son would feel bad wearing signs.
                Res ipsa does not apply.
                E. I actually never questioned this point, not sure why you’re bringing it up.

                3. It’s a comedy website. It makes sense to criticize a comic who is being socially irresponsible by glorifying and/or minimizing real social ills, including child abuse–yes, actual child abuse–racism, violence against the poor, rape.
                And, it is my stance, for all the reasons already articulated, ad nauseam, that what is being depicted here is either absolutely not abuse or, in the alternative, certainly not clearly abuse.
                You keep reverting back to it being cruel, wrong, or unethical.

                Tell me: are you sincerely under the impression that comics should not make jokes about UNETHICAL or WRONG things? That it is somehow inappropriate to make jokes about cheating? About lying?
                Follow up: whose comedy do you expect to listen to once Bob Newhart has died?

                • I understand why you value Jack’s specific high leagal minded answers . But considering the amount of time and passion you are both spending on this, if you have real doubts about the issue as such, would you mind if I answer for your objections my way first? And you knock down my weak advocacy first? To possibly save yourelf and certainly save Jack some time, and given the levels of passion on show, some heartache?

                  If you’re agreeable:
                  Your point that Jack cannot absolutely prove harm occurred or will occur is not relevant. This being a blog not a court, the ultimate test is for fair comment so any matter at all will do, the proof need not be substantial or preponderant or beyond reasonable doubt. Determining the absolute truth of an issue is not what we’re equipped to do here.

                  Therefore exaining commonsense first is appropriate.

                  Comonsense indiactes that having breached the absolute parental duty to protect the privacy of their children, it is is on the parents to ensure that no harm can come to the child from that breach. For professional child actors there would be careful conditions built into contract and a careful junction in that contract with any general rights the child may have to ensure there is no gap in tat protection.

                  I do not hear you say in anyof your points so far that any such contract has been used or any such care has been taken. Therefore the children are exposed to risk of harm and that risk of harm is in further breach of parental duty and its fair comment to call it abusive. Although, as no harm may result, it would also be fair comment to call it not abusive.

                  Until your case passes the commonsnse test you should not being raising legal or ethical or deep philosophical argument against Jack. It’s expensive (unless it is a learning exercise for you and he’s agreeable on that basis). Therefore in ethical principle Jack need not and indeed should not engage in further discussion until such protections of the child are assured and demonstrated for a reasonable sample of the cases in question.

                  You are both making fair comment and should let the matter lie for the sake of efficiency. Unless you actually enjoy what you are doing. In which case the children in the videos aren’t the issue. It’s you two children.

                  Thank you.

                • No, waffling suggests you actually refuse to pick a side. Granted, in this case I would agree that you aren’t waffling, but only because you are just trolling Jack in defense of some asshole’s idiotic website.

                  And for the record, the CDC lists a number of likely conditions that are met by psychological abuse, and these pictures satisfy a great number of them.

                  That you quibble still over this is telling.

                  But at least you’re putting some effort into your trolling, so there’s that.

                  • AMS I really have a big problem with you using any bad language or allegations against individuals at all at the moment. See my comment on the Frat Race post if yoiu want to know why. Kim is a guest. Unless you carry a brief from Jack, Back The Heck Off.

                    • And like I said if your language bullies Kim I will not cope, I will fight for her 1st amendment rights. For the same reasons I tried to protect you from trolls. Read the post on Frat Race.

                    • My speech can in no way infringe upon her speech, and if you think it does then you don’t quite grasp the concept.

                      Not that I should be terribly surprised if you don’t. You are British, after all.

                      I do not require your protection from worthless trolls. Regular commenters Beth and Kayla have tried to have me muzzled. What do I care what some fuckwitted retard of a drive-by troll might say or do to me?

                      FFS, I had a guy threaten to kick my ass if only he had my address. Now, granted, he never took me up on my offer to contact Jack to get my address, but let that sink in – I had a guy who at least claimed Marine combat knowledge express a clear desire to beat the fuck out of me and I offered my address.

                      Precisely what reaction do you think you will witness when you tell me to do something in a manner that suggests that you actually have some kind of authority?

                      Spoiler alert: it won’t be compliance.

                    • Oh, and I’m using my real name now. Does this please you, m’lord? Does it meet with your approval? Do I now have your permission to speak freely?

                      Spoiler: I don’t care.

                • “Sorry, was busy helping abused children all day, so I didn’t get to this until now.”

                  Good for you. I won’t dissect the subtle insinuations you meant to convey in that, other than starting off like that makes it harder to take the rest of your passage seriously.

                  “Waffling suggests I’ve switched sides, or failed to take a side. I’m saying you haven’t proven your case. Moreover, that these are context-less photos and you CAN’T make the case that you would like using them. You would need to actually know almost anything additional about the individuals being depicted–their temperament, their relationships, their feelings at the moment the photo is being taken. You don’t.”

                  You’ve over-complicated everything on this discussion. Parents, by nature, are compelled to protect their children. Part of that is defending and preserving their privacy. Posting images to the Internet (which means, visible by EVERYONE, FOREVER) is a clear violation of that duty. Violating that duty, for a laugh, implies an ounce of cruelty behind the conduct… hence the abuse. It may not be on the level of beating a child senseless, but disregarding it with that rationale is just the Comparative Virtue rationalization (#22).

                  Then, as diversion, claiming the child doesn’t know any better at the time the abuse occurs is the “Unethical Tree in the Forest” rationalization (#10); which is especially egregious, because someday, that child WILL KNOW BETTER, at a point that the damage cannot be undone.

                  To then say, “it may not affect some kids”, does nothing to alleviate those it does. Here are your options and effects:

                  1) Post humiliating images of your
                  a. Sensitive Children: personally crushed by the betrayal of their parents
                  b. Non-sensitive Children: no bad effects.
                  2) Do not post humiliating images of your
                  a. Sensitive Children: no bad effects
                  b. Non-sensitive Children: no bad effects.

                  This is why, in scenario like these, we ASSUME the children will have a negative reaction, because that course of action compels behavior that doesn’t expose the child to the possible humiliation.

                  BUT, that is irrelevant to determining the rightness/wrongness of the parent’s conduct. It’s consequentialism. The rightness/wrongness of the parent’s conduct boils down to determining if their conduct fulfills or breaches their duty to protect their child’s privacy.

                  YES, they breached that duty. Now, is it abuse? YES, they breached the duty for entertainment at the expense of the child.

                  “You don’t care, because you’re just here to pontificate and to shame parents who use different (and maybe inferior) methods.

                  A. Thank God you are lifting a finger (10 even!) to halt (your specific perception of) the glorification of (your limited definition of) child abuse on the web. Bravo. Btw your “common sense, ethical instincts and undersatnding [sic] of human nature” might also be referred to as your feelings.

                  So, when you haven’t gotten your opponent to budge, your method shifts to degrading the objective of your opponent?

                  “The question is whether the actual children feel shame. Whether their parents intended shame. That’s what would determine whether it is, indeed, abusive.”

                  Nope. As stated before, the relevant questions are:

                  Did the parents breach their duty? (YES)
                  Did the parents breach their duty for a laugh? (YES)
                  Did the comic endorse this breach of duty for a laugh? (YES)
                  “3. It’s a comedy website. It makes sense to criticize a comic who is being socially irresponsible by glorifying and/or minimizing real social ills, including child abuse–yes, actual child abuse–racism, violence against the poor, rape.”

                  Just because it isn’t the WORST form of child abuse, doesn’t mean it isn’t abuse. That’s Comparative Virtue, and fallacious.

                  “And, it is my stance, for all the reasons already articulated, ad nauseam, that what is being depicted here is either absolutely not abuse or, in the alternative, certainly not clearly abuse.”

                  Ask the right questions. You’ve overcomplicated it as well as falsely determined that the right questions are centered on speculated best case reactions of the children.

                  “Tell me: are you sincerely under the impression that comics should not make jokes about UNETHICAL or WRONG things? That it is somehow inappropriate to make jokes about cheating? About lying?”

                  Diversion. There’s nothing wrong about making jokes about unethical and wrong things. This comic however did not make humor ABOUT child abuse, he made actual abuse of children the humor itself.

                  “Follow up: whose comedy do you expect to listen to once Bob Newhart has died?”

                  Lead in with snark, close out with snark. You are on the verge of demonstrating yourself to be a fool.

                  • Ditto every word. But taking Kim at face at value she may just be an overworked professional on the edge, child support work is tough. Examining her last 2 points i detect some logical disconnects. Caution.

                    • At this stage of the game probably both. Does it matter? I only mean be gentle if you can, please. Just for today. Thanks.

                    • Her last two points, below. Numbered 1 and 2. seem to be internally disconnected or jumbled more than the others. Maybe she was rushed or maybe desperate I don’t know. Or just wrong.

                      Sorry, getting tired myself now.

                    • And the more I think about it, my comment “Part of that is defending and preserving their privacy. Posting images to the Internet (which means, visible by EVERYONE, FOREVER) is a clear violation of that duty.” does not go far enough.

                      Parents, you need to vigorously teach, nay, INDOCTRINATE your children to be JEALOUSLY selfish with their privacy. One of the lynchpins of our society and it’s protection of the individual legally and personally is the sanctity we place on privacy and it’s relation to property and security.

                      This kind of flippant attitude in regards to children’s, and by extension our own, privacy is the exact cultural slide necessary to create subservient and docile creatures ever ready for a central authority to decide what’s best for them, because hey, as individuals, they don’t matter.

                      Screw that.

      • Two more things:
        1. You made much ado of the fact that I used a legal definition rather than an “ethical” one, which you describe as the average rational person. However, it’s clear that many others do not agree with your definition as a “average rational person.” Laws are developed through democratic systems and I think it’s fair to say that the law is AT LEAST as good an estimate of the average rational person’s view as your theory (which, as mentioned, several people disagree with).

        2. Asking how the child responds to what is alleged abuse actually affords much greater respect to the child and their autonomy. This is what I do literally every day, is ask children whether they’ve experienced things that qualify (legally, socially) as abuse and how they feel about those acts. You use the extreme example of a tortured child who somehow, miraculously, turns out just fine. That’s your prerogative as an ethicist/philosopher, is to use absurd hypotheticals to extract an ethical rule. But it’s not a realistic hypothetical and moreover it’s not a useful one. Most ethicists–and average people, for that matter–weigh ethics on both principle and consequences. You’d like to ignore consequences because you don’t have that data and it makes this easier. Again, that’s lazy. The consequences matter. How a child feels matters. And if you’d like to ignore that so you can chastise a particular parenting method, then you’re welcome to, but you certainly shouldn’t be making an argument from a stance of respecting autonomy when you are specifically disregarding autonomy.

        • Just to ensure Jack doesn’t feel lonely. Ethics are a basis of law not the other way around. If you are going to the law for a guide to ethics I suggest you go to common rather than statute as it is older and wiser than either of you. There are some relevant precedents I believe.
          http://www.macdonaldpartners.com/article_files
          /Summit_Paper_October_2010_Tort_Remedies.pdf

          Is there a duty of care, was there a breach, is there a harm, did the breach lead to that harm.

          In this case points 1,2 and 4 fall immmediately and without further consideration to favourJack’s argument. Personally I’m not interested in any further legalistic pushing and shoving on those points.

          On harm I am content that any form of emplyment of a child, any use for personal gain of any kind whatever, is innately essentially abusive, and any parent of a child actor will have to be darned careful about conditions of employment and protection of privacy to evade my displeasure. As no one has suggested that any such care has been taken for what I’ll call these amateur unpaid child actors and there is consensus between you that the parents intended and brought about the public exposure the cautious presumption is to protect the child.

          I might add that the foregoing is obvious and that Kim’s arguments brought in a low court might be considered a naughty waste of everyones time. And an ethics blog is a very low court. And this jurist votes for the plaintiff, Jack. I don’t think Jack is obligated to consider the matter any further. Though I’d welcome a comment from Tex, Fred Beth, wyogranny or other of Jack’s main critics. And Mister AMS had better stay silent or polite for now, any bully boy tactics to Kim would be unwelcome.

          Especially if she wins.

            • To answer your questions in one fell swoop.

              My authority: someone had to grow some and be diplomatic. So I did. And grow some more and stand up to you. I won’t privately email Jack about you. We’ll do it here. Where we know a Weldonite is probably watching for someone to say someting actionable.
              Your name: glad to have you give yourself some credit. Violent language goes with a name.

              Your position: If you fear attacks from Marines Join the club. I’ve had similar threats, surprise, some time ago true but I remember how scared I was. And a scar or two borne for justice in case you were interested, Life with head above parapet gets a bit real. If your ‘art’ gets too scary stop your art, but don’t hit people from cover that’s cowardice and bullying. I wouldn’t normally go as ar as I have. I have been driven to this extreme. By you.

              Kim’s status: Until Jack decides she’s a troll she’s a guest, and as deserving of my protection as you are. More so since she hasn’t been violent yet. Judging you and her only by your words she seems passionate, you are a bully or behaving like one. Should she ‘cope’? No, expecting otherwise is the bullies charter, if your speech is absolutely free your responsibility for all possible effects it may have is equally absolute. No free hits and no free lunches.
              My motives: To do good and avoid harm. To use this blog to sharpen my skills in argument. To oppose bullies. Pure heartedness – Calon Lan (nearest I can come in two words – google it)

              Your motives: Other than an instinct for bullying I can’t see a consistent one. Your declarations of non-compliant intent and offensiveness in speech as an art form strike me as very loud empty cheap excuses, I would need to see your pain before I believed a word of it.

              My expectations: your compliance, yes. Immediately and temporarily at least, on a precautionary basis, while we talk this though and out of respect for my wishes as I deserve your respect and I will have it.

              Your concept or art: elsewhere you’ve explained your concept as exactly to cause offense, and Jack has explained that you’ve persuaded him that some people deserve to be insulted. Boy did he accept bad advice that day. if it is offensive and insulting then it is bullying by definition. Your speech will affect her freedom of speech and action and life, that as you have explained it is your intent, to change her mind and behaviour by verbal force or have revenge upon her for trespassing your absolute freedom to offend. Do you not understand what bullying speech is? What reaction do you expect from me a registered professional as a guest on Jack’s blog (another registered professional) to a self-confessed cyber bully in our midst, of other professonal people who have names? What impact did you think there would be on Jack’s blog? All his colleagues and clients clapping approval? You really think lawyers as a body approve of bully boy force?

              Your rights: to a defence and to offfend in free speech, within the responsible limit. Go beyond that responsible limit to bulllying and you are ‘painting with your butt’ setting Jack up for an accusation for ‘the naked advocates principle’ that toleration of your art on his hobby blog robs him of the capacity to do his primary job with the required dignity. I’m sure he’s considered that, I hope so but i don’t actually know so, so I shout out.

              Use of force is the opposite of civilisation. If a goverment cannot hector Kim into silence what whose authority do you do so? Jack’s? If so,, you have got the bettter of his good judgement..

              Am I British – yes. A good citizen of he world? By being a good British citizen, I hope so. An advocate of free speech, yes again.

              And therefore your opponent. And almost, not quite yet, an enemy. Certainly at minimum a rescuer of you, a lost soul. And yes I am consious of the insult. If I see someone walking to a precipice i raise a racket – what would you have of me, respectful silence for your lemmmig like autonomy?

              And now I’m being distracted from my proper business by your inconsideration and misconduct so who’s troling whom here?

              • One last thing – about your terrible experience with the Marine. Child support workers have to face physical threats every week. They take people’s children into care. Think about what that means before you post carelessly to Kim again. Often they have, and need police protection. And that’s in the UK. What they face in the land of the free and the home of the gun I can well imagine.

                Case for an apology, maybe? You think?

              • “Use of force is the opposite of civilisation.”

                Situational. Civilization is under constant threat from barbarism (that is to say, cultures or individual attitudes centered on the belief that force in pursuit of individual desire is OK). Barbarism, being centered around force, responds only to one thing, an equal or greater measure of force. Which civilization must be prepared and willing to apply at all times, when barbarism, in all its forms– from the criminal to the invader– arrives.

                When civilized individuals engage other civilized individuals, force is unnecessary, as the key building block of civilization is an individual who is self-disciplined (that is they’ve internalized force against themselves).

                But force is always present.

                • Thank you Texagg your logic is as welcome for it’s tone as it’s content. I am not the sharpest advocate in the box I know. But you remind me of where we are and that only tight logic and accurate laguage are tolerable when passions are inflamed. Thanks again.

                  And in case it matters I disagree. I won’t attempt to argue it today thoughj

              • At some point you really need to remember that you have no fucking authority here, and your opinion doesn’t mean dick.

                Not sure how you came to think it did, but there ya go. Sorry to break it to ya.

                And Kim can continue to fuck right off with her – frankly – cunty little “I’ve been busy saving children all day”. Her job and/or activities during her time away from here give her argument no more weight than if she had been fucking for money and kicking puppies.

                • I am only too conscious that i have no support and am speaking to Jack’s formally appointed enforcer. And we’ll see. If I have to be a majority of one until Jack kicks me off I’m game. I’ll defy you, Jack, the whole blog or the whole world, even if Kim turns out to be a complete troll. I don’t like bullies. Freedom wthout responsibility is licence and can only lead to trouble. Force is barbarism and can only be met in the very end when all else fails by countervailing force. But I still give you the opton to tak this through without bad language or unauthorised allegations. I hope you are not a bully but you do persist in behaving like one. And use of foul language gives your arguent no more weight than if you were simultaneously saving fallen women and abused little doggies. So why not be nice? You are also free to be nice you know.

                  • Bruce, I essentially agree with your position on civility. Scott is far from my “official enforcer”—on one occasion, because the commenter was virulent racist and it amused me to give Scott the go ahead to unleash the best venom he could muster on the creep, because normal discourse, however sharp, was not adequate somehow to express the contempt this hate-monger deserved. (And Scott did a bang-up job, too.) He and I do not always concur, nor am I incapable of expressing my own displeasure, as I already did with Kim, and more than once.

                    I don’t have a dog in this hunt—the argument with Scott is of interest, and one I know I seeded by changing my policy regarding insults and invective. This: “if it is offensive and insulting then it is bullying by definition”—I do not agree with, and is the position that drove me away from my earlier stance…as well as such factors as the unscrupulous and partisan use of political correctness, the abusive anti-bullying measures by schools, the constant race-baiting to suppress legitimate dissent, the effort to “ban” words like nigger and retard, the silly use of euphemisms like “F-word,” my ejection from Barry Deutsch’s blog for literally being frank about the bias of the commenters there, but too harshly for their delicate sensibilities, and my own evolving preference for cultural battle to settle standards and allow them to evolve, rather than to declare matters settled. That’s not ethics. That’s morality and law.

                    I’m still thinking. On one hand I don’t want commenters to fear to express opinions for fear of being flamed. On the other, I don’t believe that calling a genuinely stupid or ignorant statement stupid or ignorant is an insult. I don’t think it is even kind to pretend that someone’s badly reasoned opinion is something better. Kim, if she was not a troll, was cognitively disabled, in that she appeared to be reasoning under a blanket of heavy rationalizations and resistance the beckoning of fact. Lazy reasoning causes a lot of damage in society. If being nice to such people keeps them from recognizing a flaw they need to address, is that really productive?

                    On the one hand, I believe in mutual respect as a bulwark of civilization. On the other, I think debate and the exchange of ideas, and passionate ideas, should not be artificially restrained. I also believe that not every position or argument deserves respect. Some deserve contempt, vividly and forcefully expressed.

                    So I am not convinced. But while you all hash it out, I’m paying attention.

                    • Thak you Jack. My main worry was that I was taking on something way beyond my pay grade offending by monstrous vanity from a worm like status, patronising, giving insult by wordiness, and wounding feelings especially yours, doing damage to the blog. I know that’s not the coin you have chosen to deal in but worrying about such matters is the standard I have set myself. I am sufficintly reassured on that matter now, thanks once more

                      I hope my thanks take a form you approve of. Your general rule is ‘never back down when you think you are right’. So I won’t and don’t. You and AMS are wrong, mightily so, and the blog just recently took two steps toward the dark side. I do not agree that gratuitous offensive insult is legitimate as a cheap shot, it is bullying. Nor do I beieve in your ‘trial by combat’, Far from it, I distrust n as a tool of truth seeking.

                      With that said and that baggage as my burden, no matter what the rules allow, I’ll say this. I am one foreinger non-trained advocate partly diasabled guy amongst many home-crowd spectators – and by your rule accept no quarter on those grounds With an uneven contest and a harsh judge before me the only certainty is my defeat. Stuck under the gap beneath your door is my good left arm; so that if my sincerity is ever in doubt it may be cut off,

                      Name a suitable ante and stakes, not a joke, not a monetary sum, defeat or dishonour has to hurt. I don’t consider these matters to be lightweight so the penalty should be proportionate. But I’ll know the penalties beforehand if you please. I’ll brawl pointlessly to dishonour myself but I’ll not get caught like Antigonus by Leontes in an honour trap by being compelled to hurt another.

                      Those preliminaries being dealt with:. En Garde! (with a probable side order of ‘Rosinante, Chaaaaaarge!’, i.e. I expect ridicule as well as pain)

                      Over to you AMS – best shot.

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