It’s really depressing. I did not expect to see so many professions and professionals debase themselves and their ethical principles because they couldn’t deal with the results of a presidential election. . Historians. Judges. Scientists. Professors. College presidents and administrators. Performing artists. Intelligence community professionals. Judges. Journ–well, no, that one wasn’t a surprise.
My own profession, legal ethicists, booked a seat on the ethics train wreck, a development that was profoundly disappointing. Wrote one member of the profession who has remained clear -eyed while keeping his integrity, Steve Lubet in Slate, “As a liberal Democrat, I have no sympathy for Conway’s habitual disregard for truth. As a professor of legal ethics, however, I think this complaint is dangerously misguided and has the potential to set a terrible precedent…The professors no doubt have faith in the professionalism of the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but the bar authorities in other states may not always be reliably even-handed or apolitical. It is hardly inconceivable that lawyer discipline might somewhere be used as a weapon against disfavored or minority candidates, or as a means to squelch protest movements and insurgent campaigns. In the 1940s and 1950s, suspected Communists and alleged “fellow travelers” found their law licenses in jeopardy in many states. In the 1960s and 1970s, civil rights lawyers were hauled before the bar authorities in the South. The complaint against Conway is an unfortunate step back in the direction of using lawyer discipline against political enemies….”
Now “America’s dictionary,” Merriam-Webster, has decided that it is within its mission and purview to attack and mock the President of the United States..
Almost immediately after his election, the dictionary’s editors began trolling Trump and his administration, defined, by Merriam-Webster, as “to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant or offensive comments or other disruptive content.”
The website Acculturated has observed that on social media and its website Merriam-Webster has ridiculed the President “for his every spelling mistake, grammatical error, and verbal gaffe. In honor of the election, they changed their header photo to a picture of a German word defined as the “collapse of a society or regime marked by catastrophic violence and disorder.” Then they highlighted what they claimed was the word most frequently looked-up, “fascism.” On Inauguration Day, they tweeted “Welp,” a word that conveys dismay or disappointment. The company also derided Betsy DeVos, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, and, of course, Kellyanne Conway.
This, needless to say, is not their job, their mission, or responsible professional conduct. It is, as it is for the other derailed professionals, smug virtue signalling and tribalism. Acculturated again:
[T]he dictionary’s editors are clearly partisan. They didn’t harass Hillary Clinton, and they don’t needle sports stars, celebrities, or, well . . . anyone else like they needle the President and his people.Theoretically, even that could be okay—a good, playful, occasional joke from the dictionary could have the whole country laughing. But if you mock one person too often, you start to reveal a pattern. If that pattern persists, the fun and games lose their light-hearted feel, and begin to betray bias instead.
“Already, the dictionary’s string of frequent, focused stings feel less like jokes and more like subtle, systematic attacks…If Merriam-Webster’s editors aren’t careful, though, they will undermine the very thing that makes their dictionary useful. An accusation of bias is (or should be) a death sentence for a dictionary. All the clever jokes in the world won’t save Merriam-Webster from a widespread perception of political partisanship—and promptly cost them half of their readers. First, they’ll lose the trust of Trump supporters, then the respect of everyone on the Right, and finally all the folks on the Left, even those who despise Trump the most.That’s because conservatives and liberals alike will reject as too Orwellian a dictionary perceived as politically charged. It will simply be too hard to convince people that cultural or political bias hasn’t seeped into and soiled the dictionary’s definitions. When it comes to lexicography, credibility depends on impartiality.
Regardless of their political opinions, Americans still expect the dictionary to be objective and neutral, even more than they expect that from the media. So at a time when trust and confidence in America’s mainstream media is practically nonexistent, why would Merriam-Webster even flirt with the appearance of partisanship?If even the dictionary loses its objectivity, it means politics in America has become entirely inescapable. That’s not just dangerous, it’s sad. It’s unhealthy. It’s not good for a society to be so permeated with politics that there is nowhere to hide.”
Incidentally, I am adding Acculturated to the Ethics Alarms links. It is an excellent, unique, thoughtful site.