Social Media Ethics Conundrum: What Is The Fair, Objective, Rational Response To This?

double-standard

A libertarian website, curious as to how objectively Twitter enforces its standards, registered a complaint about the tweet on the left, and receiving the circled response, sent the tweet on the right, with Twitter responding to a complaint by banning the account.

How should fair, ethical people respond to this?

I do not see the website’s investigation, or this post, for that matter, as partisan or ideologically slanted in any way. A major social media platform used by government agencies, the President Elect, journalists, pundits, and news organizations as well as celebrities, scholars and average members of the public, has a duty commensurate with its power and influence. It can be politically biased and manipulative of public opinion, it can tilt its content to reflect particular interests, policies, cultural attitudes and agendas, but it is unethical for it to do so, particularly when it claims it does not do so.

This is smoking gun proof that Twitter is biased, censoring what it doesn’t like from people and groups it doesn’t like while allowing identical tweets from people and groups it feels an alliance to. It is a double standard. Now what?

Should fair, ethical people continue to use an organization that abuses its influence and trust like that? I use twitter, though only to send out links to Ethics Alarms posts. Am I ethically obligated to stop doing that? Should a non-left biased counterpart to Twitter take away half its business? Well, as we have learned from Fox News vs. the left-leaning mainstream media, competing media entities with off-setting biases still won’t supply what is needed, which is fair, trustworthy and reliable reporting.

Either both of the tweets above should be banned, or neither should have been. The Ethics Alarms position is that determining what is “hate speech” is such a slippery slope as to be ethically fatal, and Twitter’s history shows why. The platform was much applauded when it banned professional right wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos for cruelly abusing “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, leading others to attack her on Twitter as well. Yet how was this conduct any worse than what a Twitter mob did to Justine Sacco with no interference from Twitter at all?

The reaction to double standards should be non-partisan, gender and color neutral, and uniform across ideologies. As long as one group can see a contradiction like the one in the graphic above and react by saying, “Hey, I’m all right with it!,” anger, cynicism, bitterness, the loss of trust and the decay of justice will continue and increase.

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Pointer: Tim Levier

64 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Race, Social Media, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

64 responses to “Social Media Ethics Conundrum: What Is The Fair, Objective, Rational Response To This?

  1. I’m with you on this. It’s very troubling to this liberal to see people on the left behaving in exactly the way they excoriate people in the right for. They make fun of Trump’s hair and face color while blasting him for making fun of Fiorina’s (for example) looks. And they curse “all lives matter” while supporting “Black lives matter.” If they don’t learn, they’re going to make Trump a two-term president.

  2. charlesgreen

    Right conclusion in the specific – wrong logic in the general.

    Worse, this is precisely the kind of logic that got us President-elect Trump – a general whining about mistreatment of the majority population in this country by all those evil minorities who get special treatment, as evidenced by an outpouring of ugly white supremacism.

    To be clear: the logical error is to assume that words mean precisely the same thing no matter who utters them, or in no matter what context they are uttered.

    Suppose a child said “I fucking hate adults and their inconsiderate asses…”, vs. an adult saying the same thing. Should our responses be the same? I would argue no.

    Suppose a TV host – I don’t know, say Dr Phil – said something, and a psychotic guest on his show said the same thing. Should we interpret them the same way? I would argue no.

    Suppose someone tells a joke about a Frenchman, a German and an Italian: are we all supposed to pretend that we don’t get the joke because after all, the same words should apply to everyone?

    This is a form of political correctness practiced mainly by the right – the insistence that power relationships make no difference in interpreting language. In fact, power relationships are grossly unbalanced in the US, and affect every day life in many ways. To ignore it is to live in a fantasy world. Aspiration is one thing, massive reality denial is quite another.

    When John Roberts says “the way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating” he is being childish, abstract and irrelevant. When someone (and it is indeed usually a libertarian or right wing person) who claims, “Well, what if a ___ person said that!” you can bet that they are ignoring the power relationships involved, and pretending they don’t matter – and ALWAYS this is in service to an argument AGAINST the un-empowered.

    Listen, in this particular case, I happen to agree. We should have a single standard for a public sphere forum like Twitter re saying “I fucking hate ___ people.” I can see arguments both for forbidding both, and for accepting both. But that’s not your logic.

    What I can’t accept is your abstract logic for arguing they ought to be treated the same – by implicitly or explicitly denying the relevance of actual power relationships.

    Your logic allows stupid, uneducated, racist-leaning white supremacist people the intellectual fig leaf that somehow they REALLY ARE being discriminated against, that they REALLY ARE worse off than people of color, that they REALLY ARE the victims in this whiney narrative about how the US has been taken over by the two coasts. And they believe this crap.

    Earth to people: Check the actual data. Imagine a Martian coming in to this world and being told, “You can be born into the US as a black person, or as a white person. Here’s the data about what you can expect in this life.” Everybody reading this column knows what the logical answer to the question would be.

    But not everyone reading this column recognizes the false equivalence of logic that claims social statements can be understood absent their social context. And as I said, the refusal to call out that false equivalence gives aid and comfort to the truly disturbed, and disturbing, among us.

    So, your example indeed is an ethical one. But the ethical answer cannot and should not be based on this abstract false equivalency: please go find an ethical answer grounded in real human relationships in the real world.

    • Aleksei

      Charles Green, I find quite problematic the whole lens of viewing everything through a power struggle. The end result of such thinking will lead to collective justice. We would have to throw out the individual rights this country was built on right out the window. For example, if a black guy, or a lady of any skin color does something bad, we would have to have separate rules for them to take in account all the power disbalance they may suffer. For the white guy, we would have to have a power multiplier, to account for all the inherent power he has (especially the hobo under the bridge), so he would be punished with a harsher sentence, since he is inherently evil, and it’s for his own good. If we want to be intellectually honest people, let’s not play the identity politics game, and judge things on their merits, and not on their gender, ethnicity, and race.

      • Aleksei, I actually agree with you. If the ONLY standard for ethics were power relationships, we’d all drown in identity politics. I agree.

        But I never claimed that we should “view everything through a power struggle.” My point was that an “ethics” based on a complete DENIAL of power relationships is no better off than one solely based ON them.

        Perhaps we can agree on some middle, situational ground, one that takes into account both Kantian imperatives and facts on the ground? Like life, that would be complicated–but it would be truthful and real.

        • Phlinn

          I disagree, I think completely ignoring group power relationships IS superior to basing ethics solely on them, or even mostly on them. If you only use it to offset otherwise balanced decisions, I could live with that, but anything beyond that turns into some variant of collective punishment or the pauper’s pass (like the king’s pass, but for “disadvantaged” groups). I also don’t trust people who focus on power relationships to apply them fairly.

          • charlesgreen

            I would only observe that those who want to ignore power relationships in ethics and the law are disproportionately those from in-power groups.

            • It doesn’t really matter. It is just as natural for the powerless to be biased against the powerful as it is the other way around. What matters is whether it is rational or principled to consider a person’s group membership when determining whether what they say is acceptable or not. And it isn’t.

              • “What matters is whether it is rational or principled to consider a person’s group membership when determining whether what they say is acceptable or not. And it isn’t.”

                Envision a black or a white person referring to a white or a black person as the N word. Think it doesn’t make a difference who’s who? It matters not only who the speaker is, but also the one who is spoken to.

                All you’re doing by saying “it isn’t” is doubling down on a definition of ethics that insists on the exclusion of context. The real world is more complex than that.

                Sometimes we allow “extenuating circumstances” even in the law. And even when we don’t, the ethical game shouldn’t be limited solely to words and deeds in the abstract.

                If people are constantly getting hit by cars at a particular intersection, it is not enough to convict every driver of reckless driving. Eventually, the town ought to consider a stop sign at the intersection. The absence of a stop sign may be no excuse for a driver who hits someone, but neither should the ethical issue of hit pedestrians be disposed of solely by reference to convicting drivers.

                • “Envision a black or a white person referring to a white or a black person as the N word. Think it doesn’t make a difference who’s who? It matters not only who the speaker is, but also the one who is spoken to.”

                  False analogy.

                  You set up the scenario as a person from group X calling a person from group Y a term offensive to group Y versus a person from group Y calling a person from group X a term offensive to group Y.

                  A real test would be if person from group X called person from group Y a term offensive to group Y versus a person from group Y calling a person from group X a term offensive to group X.

                  Which is still a dumb test anyway. Offensive terms should be seen as offensive to anyone who *consciously* makes a practice of seeing the world from a civil and ethical motivation. Anyone not trying to do that fails prerequisites to even take the test you set up, and therefore their analysis is flawed.

                  • charlesgreen

                    Do you think that applies to history too? Is an offensive term always and forever an offensive term, or does it change over time? Because, you know, just go back 50 years, not to mention to the time of our Founding Fathers, if you want to find some seriously unethical behavior – by today’s standards, that is.

                    Your absolutist and narrow definition of ethics doesn’t allow for ethical considerations words and actions as defined by a dominant culture at a point in time. If we can’t deal with the ethics of stop signs as well as the ethics of reckless drivers, then we are dealing with a severely narrow view of ethics.

                • Taking into account the audience, the intent of the speaker, etc. are valuable elements of context which should be considered. There is no rational reason the race of the speaker should be considered. Are you saying that if a black guy says that “Obama is a dirty n*** who has screwed the n**s who voted him into office” is actually better than a white comic who says the same thing as part of a bit? Context is important, but only to the extent that it is rationally related to the offensiveness of the remark. The race of the speaker only changes the offensiveness of the remark if the listener is, in fact, racist.

                • “If people are constantly getting hit by cars at a particular intersection, it is not enough to convict every driver of reckless driving. Eventually, the town ought to consider a stop sign at the intersection. The absence of a stop sign may be no excuse for a driver who hits someone, but neither should the ethical issue of hit pedestrians be disposed of solely by reference to convicting drivers.”

                  So you’re an advocate of lecturing young women on not walking alone late at night, not leaving drinks unattended, not getting blackout drunk, as sound methods to limit the likelihood of getting raped? For the record, I certainly am, but I (perhaps incorrectly) assumed that you were the type of person who referred to this advice giving as victim-blaming, with the mindset of, “it doesn’t matter one whit what the victim does that contributes towards their own victimization; the only thing that matters is educating/preventing/punishing the victimizer.”

                  • charlesgreen

                    [you are the type of person for whom] “it doesn’t matter one whit what the victim does…”

                    No, I am not. And I don’t know where you get that from.

                    I believe, and suspect you do too, that every situation is complex. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but at the same time no behavior is fully explainable in single-factor terms.

                    I too advocate not leaving drinks unattended, not getting blackout drunk – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also hold young men accountable for behaving decently toward other human beings.

                    So when you characterize my view as “it doesn’t matter one whit what the victim does” I have to protest – once again, I am trying to argue AGAINST one-factor ethical analyses, not FOR one factor over another.

                    The tendency to argue either/or is part of the problem: most issues are both, which is why the context thing is important.

            • Maybe Im the exception that proves your rule, but you know a) that I am not from the “in-power group”, and b) I think you focus way too much on power relationships. There are many more like me: Jason Riley, Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, Shelby Steele, Taleeb Starkes, and (shudder) Ben Carson, to name a few.

              I know, I know..you said “disproportionately”….

              • charlesgreen

                Chris, it’s always worthwhile to take note of the significant exceptions to a general rule; duly noted, thanks.

                • As much as we may disagree, significantly at times, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out my appreciation that you almost always respond to posts, even ones from topic several days/posts old, and especially when you are (seemingly) in the minority, with regards to the general sentiment of the commenters. That mindset is one of the things that make this blog so special, and keep me coming back day after day.

    • Sam

      “But not everyone reading this column recognizes the false equivalence of logic that claims social statements can be understood absent their social context.” What if anything is the social context of twitter? It is 140 characters flung out into the internet and I don’t see any other social context except maybe a big paddle stirring the crap. Both statements are racially abusive and should not be allowed by twitter. If you must express your hate of other people, there are plenty of ways to do it without bring race into it.

      • charlesgreen

        It’s not hard to figure out the social context of someone who says “I hate white people,” nor is it hard to figure out the social context of someone who says “I hate black people.”

        Are you seriously telling me that if you had to bet $100 bucks on the racial identify of the people making those two statements, you wouldn’t know what to do?

        I absolutely do not believe you.

        • brian

          How much are you laying?

          I would take the author of “I hate white people” as black for 3-1. I have a lot of white friends who say they hate white people, plus whites outnumber blacks be quite a bit..

          I would take the author of “I hate black people” at a touch closer, maybe 2-1 as white, but again I have seem a lot of animosity towards black people from first/second generation immigrants.

          I would not take either at even odds. I suppose my response gives me a better than 50% chance you actually believe me?

          To your larger point, the flaw I find with your argument is the 35,000 foot, or martian, view you take. People, parties, communities, and racial groups are not monolithic organisms. While I understand trying to create generalized conceptual models to help understand and explain complex systems, please be mindful that humans are not atoms and sociology is not physics. When you ask me to understand statements within the broader context within which they are spoken, I have a really hard time. I don’t know the context, and I am agnostic on the existence of a ‘context’ given how Balkanized our society has become recently. There is no longer a shared set of cultural experience which could help to inform all people about a general ‘context’.

          Interesting question about If I was offered generic white versus black parents, I don’t know which I would choose because both would be a serious step down over what I have. My wife, she would take either over what she had. But again I put you not believing me at even odds because you don’t understand our ‘context’…

    • Chris Marschner

      Mr Green
      With all due respect your use of differential power relationships as justification for a minorities ability to harrangue, ridicule, and demean a member of the “majority” fails to consider the effect of gang behavior.
      This behavior is self reinforcing.

      Gangs are nothing more than individuals who band together to achieve power. At this time these gangs have been highly effective at obtaining protected status for themselves while promoting the idea that systemic racism by white society is at an epidemic level.

      I have spent a lifetime working to help inner city communities grow, helping the incarcerated obtain skills and learn to believe in a positive world view such that they were not condemned to poverty by the system. People that espouse what you stated above gives those fighting to make a better life a reason NOT TO ACHIEVE. It’s not someone elses fault when I make a choice and I have to suffer the consequences.

      Mr Green, look in the mirror and you will see what led many to pull the lever for Trump. There are still a great many of us who are tired of being used as the scapegoat for other’s poor choices. If you feel you are privileged that is your business but you have no right to project your feelings of guilt or obligation upon others.

      No one should write what was in those tweets but I am of the opinion that anyone who believes that hatred of one group is ok while hatred of the other is not is a bigot themselves. Furthermore, when a member of the group to which the hate is targeted reinforces such messages that person either suffers from Stockholm syndrome or he/she wants to keep people believing that their lives are destined to be controlled by outside forces so the dont aspire to achieve for themselves.

      • charlesgreen

        You are completely distorting what I said. Try reading it again.

        I did not say that the two statements were ethical, or that they weren’t ethical.

        What I DID say is that to judge them ethical or not, we should rely on something OTHER THAN the pretense that words mean the same thing regardless of who utters them.

        I happen to completely agree with you that the doctrine of personal responsibility is a powerful one, and that blaming others is a dead end. I recommend the same thing to people in situations which may not be of their own choosing.

        That doesn’t negate my observation that the false equivalence argument is disproportionately used by in-power groups, and generally used to condemn actions by out-of-power groups. For me to point that out is hardly to condone bad behavior.

        Another way to put it is that you can condemn individual actions while at the same time taking note of social conditions which disproportionately drive personal behaviors.

        If crimes are disproportionately committed in a particular neighborhood, it is this kind of lazy ethical thinking that says all we have to do is examine crime by crime to determine guilt – never giving any thought to why crime might be happening disproportionately. To explain conditions is not to excuse behavior – pretending that conditions are the same everywhere limits our range of ethical understanding.

        • Other Bill

          In other words, “The State, the State, the State!” All we need is a good five year plan!

          If all there is is power, Charles, watch out for what happens when the powerless have all the power. When the purge comes, you assume you’ll be on the ins and not the outs. Good luck.

          You were clearly born too late. You missed the Russian revolution by about a hundred years.

          • charlesgreen

            “If all there is is power, Charles, watch out for what happens when the powerless have all the power. ”

            Who the hell said all there is is power? I’m trying to make a simple case: that looking at ethics through a single factor is an inadequate view of ethics. You need also to look at a context, and a significant factor in context is power.

            I never said “all there is is power.” You said that. Not me. You.

      • charlesgreen

        “your use of differential power relationships as justification for a minorities ability to harangue, ridicule, and demean…”

        I’m doing no such thing. I’m pointing out that single-factor ethical analyses are too narrow. It’s a long leap from there to “justifying” bad behavior, and it’s not a leap I made – you did it.

    • “Right conclusion in the specific – wrong logic in the general.”

      Charles! It’s been a while. *finger exercises*

      “Worse, this is precisely the kind of logic that got us President-elect Trump – a general whining about mistreatment of the majority population in this country by all those evil minorities who get special treatment, as evidenced by an outpouring of ugly white supremacism.”

      You don’t need to be a white supremacist to take offence to people saying they hate you for the amount of melanin in your skin. You’re one of those idiot liberals who think that white people can’t be the victim of racism.

      Well. You’re right! This is exactly why Trump was elected.

      You see… Black people operate as a vote plantation for the left because they’ve been actively pandered to by the left (Hot Sauce!) for years… And for the last… Oh I don’t know…. three or four years, anyway, I made a point of saying: “If White America ever starts to show the conformity of thought Black America does at the polling booth, Democrats will never (be elected)* again.”

      Whether or not you feel it’s “racist” to be racially rhetoric against white people, I think we can all understand that it’s a shitty thing to do. You need to stop making excuses for shitty behaviour, whether or not you think it rises to the level of racism, and start policing your own… Because despite your pasty ass enjoying the self-flagellation, you’re the minority in the majority.

      Most people, white or otherwise, just want to get on without people hurling racial insults at them. They wake up in the morning, scratch themselves, go to work, eat a meal, pay a bill, fuck their spouse, go to sleep, and repeat for a lifetime without directly contributing to your personal problems. Continuing to pathologize them, or at least abetting their pathologization means that you lose them. And you deserve to.

      *I used to write “form government” but someone pointed out to me that that’s a Canadianism.

      “To be clear: the logical error is to assume that words mean precisely the same thing no matter who utters them, or in no matter what context they are uttered. […] Suppose a child said “I fucking hate adults and their inconsiderate asses…”, vs. an adult saying the same thing. Should our responses be the same? I would argue no. […] Suppose a TV host – I don’t know, say Dr Phil – said something, and a psychotic guest on his show said the same thing. Should we interpret them the same way? I would argue no.”

      Black people likened to children and psychotics? Please continue in your abject whiteness to tell us how much better than them you are. Would you care for a shovel to dig yourself out of that hole?

      But more to the point… Even if I were to grant you that one seems more egregious at face value…. Is either appropriate?

      “This is a form of political correctness practiced mainly by the right – the insistence that power relationships make no difference in interpreting language. In fact, power relationships are grossly unbalanced in the US, and affect every day life in many ways. To ignore it is to live in a fantasy world. Aspiration is one thing, massive reality denial is quite another.”

      And this is the delusion of the left: “Once you have achieved a certain amount of power, you are magically transformed into something Other (*dun dun dun*), No longer deserving of certain universal protections or even human rights. Hell… You don’t even need to have achieved this power individually, by the magic of group dynamics, even the most destitute of homeless white men will always be in a position of power over a black debutante woman. Because really… What matters OTHER than skin tones?

      “When John Roberts says “the way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating” he is being childish, abstract and irrelevant.”

      But also right… Let’s not forget that. Right is important.

      “When someone (and it is indeed usually a libertarian or right wing person) who claims, “Well, what if a ___ person said that!” you can bet that they are ignoring the power relationships involved, and pretending they don’t matter – and ALWAYS this is in service to an argument AGAINST the un-empowered.”

      You know… It’s funny. Do you think that the black person tweeting about their racial hatred towards white people shares your understanding of power dynamics, or do you think they just think they hate white people? I mean… No, I think that implicit in the statement “Well, what if a ___ person said that!” is a (perhaps incomplete) understanding that there IS a power dynamic there. Black people are empowered to say racially charged slurs (to themselves and others) because erudite white people living in ivory towers compare their actions to that of children and psychotics. Wonderful.

      “Listen, in this particular case, I happen to agree. We should have a single standard for a public sphere forum like Twitter re saying “I fucking hate ___ people.” I can see arguments both for forbidding both, and for accepting both. But that’s not your logic.”

      How generous of you.

      “What I can’t accept is your abstract logic for arguing they ought to be treated the same – by implicitly or explicitly denying the relevance of actual power relationships.”

      Perfect, let’s fix that! Let’s create a two tier justice system, where because black people have less financial power than white people they can sling slurs, riot and burn shit without consequence, they’re psychotic children, don’t you know? Hell… Murder is only reasonable when you’re oppressed by The Man… We shouldn’t call that not illegal… but jail time? There’s already way too many black men in jail, we need to put them in school. Like children. So they can learn how to be more white like Charles here.

      “Your logic allows stupid, uneducated, racist-leaning white supremacist people the intellectual fig leaf that somehow they REALLY ARE being discriminated against,”

      That’s not a fig leaf…. They are. This isn’t a zero sum game. “I hate white people” IS racist. “I won’t hire white people” IS discrimination. And you pretending it isn’t is childish and psychotic. Are you sure you aren’t black?

      “that they REALLY ARE worse off than people of color, that they REALLY ARE the victims in this whiney narrative about how the US has been taken over by the two coasts. And they believe this crap.”

      Certain white people ARE worse off than certain black people. Your theories only work through a Marxist lens of proletariat and bourgeois, failing utterly to realise that Marx’s writings never included both the proletariat and bourgeois flipping burgers at McDonalds. Your world view requires a suspension of skepticism that scoots you into the territory of Dogma.

      “Earth to people:”

      Obliviousness, thy name is Charles.

      “Check the actual data.”

      Obliviousness, thy name is Charles.

      “Imagine a Martian coming in to this world and being told,”

      ‘When that person says he hates that person because of the tone of his skin, it’s racist. But when the second person hates that first person because of the tone of his skin, it’s justice.’

      Fixed your sentence.

      ““You can be born into the US as a black person, or as a white person. Here’s the data about what you can expect in this life.” Everybody reading this column knows what the logical answer to the question would be.”

      “Why?”? Perhaps, and then an explanation.

      “But not everyone reading this column recognises the false equivalence of logic that claims social statements can be understood absent their social context. And as I said, the refusal to call out that false equivalence gives aid and comfort to the truly disturbed, and disturbing, among us. […] So, your example indeed is an ethical one. But the ethical answer cannot and should not be based on this abstract false equivalency: please go find an ethical answer grounded in real human relationships in the real world.”

      Oh you self righteous smug fuck. You know why social statements can be understood absent their social context? Because people are different! Not every black person is a childish psychopath! I know this is hard for you to understand… But the reason that racist statements are racist is partially because they assume conformity among a group, one that more often than not does not actually exist. Your entire argument falls to pieces the moment you assign black people names and histories as opposed to numbers and percentage points. God forbid you treat people like people you utterly bankrupt, dog-shit human being.

      • charlesgreen

        “you self righteous smug fuck…utterly bankrupt, dog-shit human being.”

        Stay classy, HT.

        Tell you what…I’ll try one more time.

        Most of the discussion on this website, about this and other issues, tends to focus on the ethics of a particular statement or action. You and others seem to believe that an ethical evaluation of a statement or action can be conducted SOLELY BY REFERENCE TO THAT STATEMENT OR ACTION. And given that view, it would make sense all it takes is the words, and it doesn’t matter who says them, when, or in what conditions.

        What I’M suggesting is that an ethical analysis ISN’T complete just by looking at the words or actions – that to do a decent job of ethical analysis you’ve got to take a wider look.

        I thought my accident/stop sign example was pretty good, if I do say so myself. If all you do is evaluate the driver, you miss the ethical issue of whether there should be a stop sign.

        A more relevant example: southern state death penalties (I think it was Alabama, I could be wrong) were judged constitutional because as long as the juries didn’t consciously apply them in racist ways. Never mind that over umpteen years the cases were something like 95% black. By focusing just on the mental state of the jurors, you get one side of the ethical issue – but by excluding the context, I would argue, you miss another ethical dimension.

        Note: I am NOT claiming that any particular judgment should be judged differently based on context, e.g. race, so you can forget about the suggestion that I’d have one standard for black people and one for whites. What I AM saying is that if you never bother to apply the concept of ethics to the context in which individuals act out, you’re not adopting a complete ethical standard.

        A good example would be the George Zimmermann / Trayvon Martin case. Most of the people on this site insist on viewing the case ENTIRELY in the eyes of whether Zimmermann violated the law, which it appears pretty much he didn’t. The problem in my mind is that almost NONE of the discussion, supposedly about ethics, had to do with the ethics of the stand your ground law and the way it plays out. Where’s that ethical discusion? In my mind, if you’re not ALSO talking about the context, you’re not having a fully ethical discussion, quite apart from the findings of the particular.

        And actually there are even a few cases where I would argue that even teh particular should be influenced by context. The N word is one; shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is another.

        But more generally, my argument is that if all we’re doing is discussing the narrow events or language that took place between individuals, then we’re only addressing a narrow part of a broader ethical issue.

        • “self righteous smug fuck”

          Boy, go away from the blog for a few hours…..

        • “Stay classy, HT.”

          When have I ever pretended that I was classy? On the contrary, I’m class-less. And so when someone says the classy version of “Fuck you, I’m going to ignore what you say completely, and continue lecturing you about how pure and thoughtful my world view is, while simultaneously calling you childish and possibly deranged… My poor classless mind defaults to the position of “Fuck you and the horse you came in on, if you aren’t interested in having a conversation, I’ll at least not pretend I am.”

          It’s a personal failing. I’m not polite enough. I will persevere.

          “Tell you what…I’ll try one more time.”

          How magnanimous.

          “Most of the discussion on this website, about this and other issues, tends to focus on the ethics of a particular statement or action. You and others seem to believe that an ethical evaluation of a statement or action can be conducted SOLELY BY REFERENCE TO THAT STATEMENT OR ACTION. And given that view, it would make sense all it takes is the words, and it doesn’t matter who says them, when, or in what conditions.”

          Right! And it’s legitimate. I don’t think that anyone will deny that factors, often outside the control of individuals might lead them to certain paths in life, and that those paths could be negative and determined in part by race.

          But… But… That doesn’t mean that because of those histories and those propensities we pretend that discrete things did not in fact happen. If a man murders a man, he should go to jail, despite that his childhood may have been rough and that led him on a path not entirely of his own making, at the end of the day he still killed someone, and we as society cannot tolerate that. I like living too much.

          We can have more or less sympathy for someone who had a shorter distance to fall, influenced by factors outside of their control, but that sympathy absolutely cannot lead to a two-tier justice system. We cannot mete out punishments for actions as determined by some kind of subjective liberal purity test, and especially not one that inherently decides that ALL black Americans should have this jurisprudential handicap because as a class they are disenfranchised.

          This is a textbook example of the soft bigotry of low expectations, and you should feel AWFUL to be suggesting it.

          “What I’M suggesting is that an ethical analysis ISN’T complete just by looking at the words or actions – that to do a decent job of ethical analysis you’ve got to take a wider look.”

          You’re an idiot if you don’t think I don’t realise that, I’m just not racist enough to assume individual black people should not me looked at individually, as opposed to that of a class.

          “I thought my accident/stop sign example was pretty good, if I do say so myself. If all you do is evaluate the driver, you miss the ethical issue of whether there should be a stop sign.”

          Your stop sign example is awful, because a stop sign is an inanimate object. You just took away every bit of agency from every black person, assuming they cannot make any more decisions in life than an INANIMATE FUCKING OBJECT. The stop sign cannot contemplate WHY someone should stop, but a man (regardless of the colour of his skin, as alien a concept as that might be to you) CAN consider whether or not it’s right to commit murder.

          “Note: I am NOT claiming that any particular judgment should be judged differently based on context, e.g. race, so you can forget about the suggestion that I’d have one standard for black people and one for whites. What I AM saying is that if you never bother to apply the concept of ethics to the context in which individuals act out, you’re not adopting a complete ethical standard.”

          You… Are… Claiming that though. I mean, you might not be consciously meaning to, but the literal logical conclusion of your words requires it… Otherwise, what’s the point? A murder is more or less ethical because of the race of the murderer? I can’t get behind that… But even if I could, if you admit that at the end if the day, punishment must be determined by the facts… This conversation seems… Useless. Does it change anything for the man facing 30 hard years that you sympathise with him? Or does the real world consequences end at your massaged white liberal guilt?

          “A good example would be the George Zimmermann / Trayvon Martin case. Most of the people on this site insist on viewing the case ENTIRELY in the eyes of whether Zimmermann violated the law, which it appears pretty much he didn’t.”

          Ok… We’re going to file this and juxtapose it with your last statement, and a slightly later statement.***

          “The problem in my mind is that almost NONE of the discussion, supposedly about ethics, had to do with the ethics of the stand your ground law and the way it plays out.”

          I’m going to respond separately to this, because you’re wrong, but explaining it is a non sequitur to the rest of this.

          “And actually there are even a few cases where I would argue that even teh particular should be influenced by context. The N word is one; shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is another.”

          ***juxtaposing complete. So you aren’t saying that we should create a two tier justice system, you’re just saying that justice should be handled differently based on context, and in regards to this conversation, race is a context.

          • “I thought my accident/stop sign example was pretty good, if I do say so myself. If all you do is evaluate the driver, you miss the ethical issue of whether there should be a stop sign.”

            I realise now that in this case you’re assuming the black person is the driver, and not the sign. I feel bad about that outburst now. I should reread more, I’m sorry.

            Regardless… This is still an awful example for a couple of reasons:

            1) The Stop Sign could be necessary.

            If instead of assuming the crimes we’re talking about are petty, we assume that the crime is in fact murder… Then I’m not sure what your contention is. Are you suggesting we make murder permissible because certain demographics cannot but help themselves? You specifically said that punishment and education might not be the answer… I have to disagree not only are they AN answer, they are THE answer.

            2) The Stop Sign isn’t racist.

            This might seem obvious, but the stop sign cannot tell the race of the perpetrator any more than a red light camera can, but if a red light camera started giving out red light tickets almost exclusively, or in a way that was statistically significant, to black people, I think you’re trying to infer that it would be, or that the red light camera was in some way flawed. It could be… And I don’t think that you’ve ever really come to terms with this… That culturally there might be factors (like a lack of respect for the law, for instance) that lead certain groups (like BLM for instance) to break the law more often than other groups.

          • charlesgreen

            “you’re just saying that justice should be handled differently based on context, and in regards to this conversation, race is a context.”

            To be clear, I’m saying that an ethical perspective on a system of justice should take context into account. That is NOT the same as saying that a VERDICT should be changed based on a context, which is what I suspect you mean when you say ‘justice.’

            A verdict is one PART of a system of justice.

            • Taken into account where, and by who then?

              If you’re saying this shouldn’t have an impact on law enforcement (because we must arrest murderers), convictions (because we must convict murderers) and sentencing (Because we must punish murderers) then what’s left? Holding their hands in their jail cells and singing them gently to sleep?

              What are the real world effects of your assertions?

              • charlesgreen

                “Taken into account where, and by who then?”

                1. In the creation of laws in a legislature
                2. In the study of the effect of laws, both for legislative and judicial branches
                3. In the analysis of ethics, on blogs like this one.

                • “To be clear, I’m saying that an ethical perspective on a system of justice should take context into account.”

                  “1. In the creation of laws in a legislature
                  2. In the study of the effect of laws, both for legislative and judicial branches”

                  Can you explain to me… using little words, because maybe I’m slow and I just don’t see it… How working laws explicitly in a way as to have racial outcomes (even if those racial outcomes are designed to overcome biases on behalf of certain aspects of law enforcement) does not per se create a two tier legal system?

                  And then… Could you explain to me, again with as few syllables as possible… How tweaking the system of the front end to correct a perceived racial imbalance is materially different from tweaking the system on the back end for the same reason? That is: If instead of choosing to decline prosecution on a murder based on the colour of someone’s skin you simply make it not illegal to murder someone based on the colour of your skin, does it materially effect the outcome (That is: Murderer not in jail?

                  • charlesgreen

                    Well, let’s see. For one thing, you don’t start with “murderer not in jail.” That is defining the outcome way too narrowly at the outset. That begs a whole lot of questions, like how can you reduce deaths in the first place?

                    Let’s say you find a pattern of discrimination in symphony orchestra hiring – lots of men hired, vs. very few putatively equally qualified women. You and I would probably both agree that a mandated quota system would not be desirable. But if all you can legislate is intent, i.e. “it’s not legal to discriminate against women,” you’re not likely to get very far, as very few men are consciously anti-women.

                    So by focusing narrowly on “not enough women being hired because of sexism” as the ‘problem,’ and “no I am not being sexist” as the be-all and end-all defense, the end result stays the same – few women hires – and a lot of men are pissed off for being accused of sexism when they honestly truly don’t feel that way.

                    The solution in that case was blind auditions. Simple. Look at the social context. The use of blind auditions immediately shifted hiring much closer to gender balance, without resorting to quotas, and without having to rest solely on self-reported conscious intent.

                    Now, that one’s deceptively easy. It’s much harder to come up with solutions for unconscious racism, e.g. in AirBnB or with cops, but in those two cases, an intentional lack of photos and use of body cameras, respectively, are probably steps in a good direction.

                    In all those three cases, however, the argument would never have gotten anywhere had the context stayed narrowly focused on the ‘law.’ If all you have is the law, and the law is defined in terms of conscious intent, then you rule out all social statistics. And then you can’t even begin to have conversations about creative solutions.

                    This is the Alabama (I think it was) law in context. If 100 people are given the death sentence, and 95 of them are black and the only question we ever ask is “were they guilty?” then we never talk about HOW IT IS that we get such skewed statistics. If we never get past “did the cop have racist intent or not” then we never get to envision creative solutions like blind auditions; because the cop is hardly ever consciously intentionally racist, and then we just end up debating “whether murderers should be in jail.” Of course they should – wrong question.

                    The point is not whether to get murderers off or not – the point is to broaden the debate so that you’ve got fewer murders, and therefore fewer murderers, to begin with.

                    If all we focus on is whether Zimmerman was guilty or not, we completely ignore the context: how is it that those two encountered each other in the dark with guns easily at hand, and could that situation have been avoided or ameliorated in some way, before proceeding down a tragic path?

                    Finally, I must say, HT, that I have to thank you for forcing me to be more articulate about this point. I’m not claiming I’m 100% clear on this, but I’m more clear than I was a couple of days ago, and (though I’m not thrilled with saying this) I have you to thank for improving my thought.

        • “”The problem in my mind is that almost NONE of the discussion, supposedly about ethics, had to do with the ethics of the stand your ground law and the way it plays out.”

          You realise George Zimmerman didn’t use “Stand Your Ground” in his defence right? He didn’t need to. Self defence has a burden on the defendant to flee the confrontation before engaging in fatal confrontation if it is reasonable to do so. Stand your ground removes that burden… But even if Florida was not a SYG state, no one in their right mind would say that it was reasonable for Zimmerman to attempt to flee while Martin was kneeling on his chest and pounding his head into the pavement, and so self defence WAS the defence.

          The most generous interpretation is that certain liberals thought that Zimmerman had a duty to flee once he reported Martin to the 911 operator. The reality is that pursuit is not under normal circumstances a fatal action.

          The less generous interpretation is that certain liberals never let a good tragedy go to waste, and despite SYG not being in play in this circumstance, they saw an opportunity to rile the public up in opposition to it.

          At this point, I’m caught deciding between whether you’re either too ignorant about the situation to comment on it from a position of even base knowledge, or if you are one of those people that may nor may not know the exact situation or laws involved, but deem those things irrelevancies, as there an unjust law to topple, and the ends justify the means.

          • Stand Your Ground keeps coming up, because some people just will not accept that in this case, plain, old, ordinary self-defense was in play, and the colors of the combatants didn’t matter. If Zimmerman had been on top of Martin, slamming his head into the ground,and Martin was convicted of murder, the case would be grouped with old South racist trials like in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

          • charlesgreen

            HT, I stand corrected on Stand Your Ground. As you and Jack point out, the narrow issue here is plain old self-defense. On that ground, I have no issue with the verdict. I am not talking here about toppling an unjust law, I’m talking about having a proper ethics discussion – which is after all the subject of this blog.

            What’s missing in most discussions about ethics – including this one – is the broader context, including laws and policies that allow untrained vigilantes to carry guns, practices around circumstances under which to confront someone, etc.

            And for the umpteenth time, let me try and be clear: to talk about context doesn’t mean to overturn a verdict, or suggest someone is innocent who is found legally guilty. It means having a rich ethical discussion that goes beyond the interpretation of the letter of a law.

            To have a full ethical discussion about Zimmerman/Martin, one would have to discuss not only the narrow law (on which there is no argument), but also the broader context in which the law becomes applicable. That raises questions like: are there ancillary laws or policies that would mitigate such an outcome (or, if you believe the law was not aggressive enough, then laws or policies that would allow MORE Trayvon Martins to be shot).

            To pretend that ethics is completely served by omitting the broader context is simply to derive ethics from the letter of the law. That is neither good ethics nor, in the long run, good law.

            • STOP IT NOW.

              You do not get to say this: “Most of the people on this site insist on viewing the case ENTIRELY in the eyes of whether Zimmermann violated the law, which it appears pretty much he didn’t. The problem in my mind is that almost NONE of the discussion, supposedly about ethics, had to do with the ethics of the stand your ground law and the way it plays out. “

              OR THIS:

              “HT, I stand corrected on Stand Your Ground. As you and Jack point out, the narrow issue here is plain old self-defense.”

              After taking THOROUGH part in this conversation where on MULTIPLE OCCASIONS you, directly, were corrected on the SYG assertion. Never mind all other other conversations pertaining to Zimmerman where SYG was pushed as relevant and corrected that you were also involved in.

              You’re doing precisely what a huge number of knee jerk left wingers ALWAYS do. You wait a modest period of time after being corrected, then pretend like a correction NEVER occurred and then go about asserting the same false narratives and conclusions as before.

              Some people would call this dishonesty. But I don’t know…

              This is why I find it harder and harder on a daily basis to think any of the usual group of suspects argues with any modicum of good faith.

              • charlesgreen

                I humbly suggest that my memory, rather than my bad faith, is at stake here…

                • You see, I WANTED to credit a poor memory. I really did.

                  But I couldn’t…

                  This topic was discussed with TOO MUCH FERVOR to be that easily forgotten.

                  This topic was WAY TO FRONT OF MIND to be that easily forgotten

                  You involved YOURSELF THOROUGHLY in the topic for it to be that easily forgotten

                  The only thing that might make it easier to forget when you are corrected on THAT topic is a mindset predisposed to be UNWILLING to accept correction that shakes a worldview one is not WILLING to change.

                  I can quickly accept that as the grounds of forgetfulness.

                  Other than that, pretending like you weren’t corrected really is my only other option.

                  So which is it?

                  • charlesgreen

                    Given that choice, I’d probably cop to “a mindset predisposed to be UNWILLING to accept correction that shakes a worldview one is not WILLING to change.”

                    Which try though I might, is very hard to conquer.

                    In my own weak defense, I’d say it’s pretty much a shared human trait. Though to ruthlessly fair, I can only claim that about myself. You’ll have to be the judge of whether you are better than I at willingness to change.

            • “That raises questions like: are there ancillary laws or policies that would mitigate such an outcome (or, if you believe the law was not aggressive enough, then laws or policies that would allow MORE Trayvon Martins to be shot).”

              What a dumb and provocative mischaracterization.

              If HT were to think there needed to be more aggressive laws it most certainly wouldn’t be to ensure the shooting of more trayvon martin’s.

              Here’s that good faith thing again…

            • Slick Willy

              Late to the party (real life and family REALLY cut into my blog reading), but:

              Equal protection under the law is what this comes down to. Laws cover (or should, anyway) actions, not intentions, not relative power, not background of the accused.

              No one came straight out and said this, though it is central to several posters’ points.

              • charlesgreen

                If all you talk about is the law, and never talk about how the law is made, whether it is just, and how it is applied, then you are talking about a narrow definition of ethics.

    • This is a form of political correctness practiced mainly by the right – the insistence that power relationships make no difference in interpreting language. In fact, power relationships are grossly unbalanced in the US, and affect every day life in many ways. To ignore it is to live in a fantasy world. Aspiration is one thing, massive reality denial is quite another.

      So what power does BeingLibertarian.com have?

  3. deery

    I cannot find a direct link to the story on the website you linked to. Do you have the link?

    But two things struck me:

    1. They investigated both *accounts*, not just the tweet in question. I don’t know if they made a dummy account to send the second tweet, or put it on a longstanding account, but depending on what was on there already, and the length of time the account was open (I know Facebook is very quick to suspend new accounts, much more hesitant for long-term ones) the totality might have made TPTB much more likely to suspend one, and not the other.

    2. The irony of a libertarian website complaining about what a private business does with its customers is pretty rich. Wouldn’t the libertarian solution be to start their own Twitter competitor, to give everyone who wants a voice a voice? Or let the market determine if Twitter will discriminate against some people or not?

    • Phlinn

      It’s not ironic in the least. They aren’t campaigning for the government to step in, just demonstrating a double standard. There are many thing which most libertarians think are a bad idea which should nonetheless be legal.

    • On the second observation: I think libertarians are confused. Not just Gary Johnson, but he helped point me to this conclusion.

      • Phlinn

        I consider myself basically libertarian with some caveats, but I’ll concede right now that there are a number of confused libertarians out there, who haven’t really thought about the ideology and it’s limits much. They aren’t alone (I know I’ve met some unthinking progressives and conservatives) but Libertarianism seems to attract a particularly vocal set of them.

      • Captain Obvious

        I would agree with this, if Gary were actually a libertarian.

        But he isn’t.

      • “I think libertarians are confused.”

        Mostly because there’s a huge strain of people who really ought to be terms “anarchists” that want to be called “libertarians” but haven’t really put a lot of thought into their beliefs.

    • Captain Obvious

      As Phlinn said, there is no irony in libertarians taking issue with how Twitter enforces its policies.

      Of course Twitter is free to have whatever policies it wishes – if it wants to require that we all have avatars of us with ducks on our heads, that’s perfectly acceptable. The issue arises when the Terms of Service are not enforced in an equitable manner. A normal person (assuming you could find a normal person that would read the TOS) would assume that the TOS would be implemented fairly – there is an implied contract that groups will not be treated differently.

      Now, if the TOS flat out said “we’re going to promote SJW bullshit, deal with it,” I and others wouldn’t be so upset. But it doesn’t. Without prior notice, the come down on “bad people” and leave alone the people they happen to like.

      What’s worse, the behavior likely hurts their profits, which impacts the stockholders.

      But, I suppose most folks don’t seem to understand what libertarians actually hold to, so don’t feel bad.

    • 2) How is that irony? Part of the free market is consumers complaining when they think a product is substandard so that producers can improve the product. Twitter failing to be objective as it’s terms imply it will be would be what any normal libertarian would call “sub-standand”.

      I don’t think this line of attack will stick.

  4. Glenn Logan

    I’ll just look at the questions you asked:

    I use twitter, though only to send out links to Ethics Alarms posts. Am I ethically obligated to stop doing that? [my emphasis]

    In examining this question, I think we have to balance the equities. Is your use of Twitter actually “supporting” them? This isn’t that easy to answer. Twitter makes money essentially as an advertising platform. Your Twitter posts are more likely to drive people to your website than to Twitter itself, but there is no doubt some benefit is generated to Twitter when that happens.

    Collaterally, your commentary stands in direct opposition to Twitter’s broken ethics alarms. Those who read your posts with an open mind are forced to confront the questions you raise about Twitter and other ethics subjects. By exposing things like Twitter’s bias and double-standards to public view, you are using their own service, who’s ethics failures don’t reach to banning your commentary, to stand athwart Twitter’s ethics failures.

    This is an unalloyed public good. It’s also a relentlessly utilitarian ethics position. I think you’d be okay either way, but I think the balance of the equities and overall “ethics karma ” argues for continued use of their service, despite their ethical failings.

    Having said that, you may want to stop using Twitter for anything other than an advertising platform for your commentary, and cease to advertise your Twitter address.

    Should a non-left biased counterpart to Twitter take away half its business?

    By all means. A service called GAB is attempting to do just that, although not from the right, but from a free-speech perspective. I’m sure as Twitter’s depredations become more widely known and relentlessly one-sided (as they surely will), competitors will emerge organically as demand increases.

    The reaction to double standards should be non-partisan, gender and color neutral, and uniform across ideologies. As long as one group can see a contradiction like the one in the graphic above and react by saying, “Hey, I’m all right with it!,” anger, cynicism, bitterness, the loss of trust and the decay of justice will continue and increase.

    But is “I’m all right with it” really what you are saying? I don’t think so, especially given your commentary exposing their double-standards. But I can also see where you may be open to criticism from that direction.

    Not the easiest call, but I think overall, the argument favoring continuing use of its service to garner new readers and help draw the public in to better understand ethics alarms outweighs the benefit you provide to Twitter.

  5. Chris Marschner

    The only ethical choice us to be aware of the double standard, inform others when asked of the double standard, and not use a service that violates your standards of fair play

    • Not the only ethical choice. Obviously consumers are within ethical norms to notify a producer when the product they sell doesn’t live up to promised expectations…as in this case where twitter fails to live up to it’s terms and were called out on it.

  6. I don’t use Twitter, never have, and never will –
    even if my life somehow were to depend on it.
    If you intend to communicate with me, you’ll have to use a different medium.
    Facebook is bad enough. Enough already, with the parallel alterverses.

  7. http://www.israpundit.com/archives/5548/comment-page-1

    According to Bill Levinson, “exercise of editorial control makes the owners of a discussion board, whether at the Daily Kos, Bay Area Indymedia, or MoveOn.org responsible for its content”.

    what does this say about Twitter?

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