Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/1/17


Good Morning, World!

1. Follow-Up on the 7/28 morning post: Sometimes a popular public figure’s words and conduct so obviously show a deficit of character that I wonder if those who admire him or her are not paying attention, or are creeps themselves. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is officially in this category. First, I do not care for foreigners who obsessively bash our leaders, however bashable. They don’t have standing, in most cases, and their opinions are by definition uninformed if they don’t live here. Most obnoxious of all, however, in Rowling’s case, was her indefensible conduct regarding her recent infamous fake news tweet that circulated to her mob of followers a deceptively edited video showing President Trump cruelly ignoring a boy in a wheelchair, when he in fact stopped, crouched, and spoke to the child. She did this (“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou” was the snotty accompanying comment) on July 28, and the same day it was widely debunked, with the actual video being circulated on the web. No response came from Rowling, even as her tweet and libel continued to be liked and retweeted by “the resistance.”

On July 30, even CNN’s Brian Stelter, with extra time on his hands because his alleged news media ethics show avoids criticizing bias in the news media, flagged the bad tweet, and asked why Rowling hadn’t retracted it. Come on, Brian, you know why! It is for the same reason CNN continues to use unethical journalism to attack the President: they don’t believe he’s worthy of fairness or honesty.

Finally,  after various conservatives dredged up this year-old tweet from Rowling to show her hypocrisy and shame her with her own chosen words…

and after left-wing, fellow Brit Trump-basher Piers Morgan expressed frustration with her, and after PunditFact, a spin-off of PolitiFact, rated Rowling’s claim “Pants on Fire,” and after the boy’s mother herself denied that Rowling’s version occurred, the author finally retracted the tweet and took it down. She also tweeted this unethical apology:

Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proferred hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage, multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction. I very clearly projected my own sensitivities around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologise unreservedly. These tweets will remain, but I will delete the previous ones on the subject.

This is a miserable apology, containing the stinking tell of the non-apology apology, “if anyone was offended” in this case the equivalent “if that caused any distress.”  The two people she non-apologizes to had no reason to be “distressed,’ since the tweet wasn’t an attack on them. This is not an apology at all, since it does not apologize ..

…to the person fraudulently attacked, President Trump, as well as his family and supporters

…to those deceived by her retweeted lie, and

…to the people who trusted her and became accessories in the false attack

…for taking four days to take down a lie that had been thoroughly exposes as one.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, it is a bottom of the barrel #10:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

This rot is actually worse than a #10, as Rowling dares to ladle soppy virtue-signalling onto it. She only falsely attacked the President of the United States and spread a lie around the world because she is so, so sensitive and concerned about the treatment of handicapped people! Don’t you understand? It’s because she’s so compassionate and good that this happened!

It is my experience that good people can usually manage a sincere and remorseful apology to those harmed by their words or conduct.

2. This unethical lawsuit could sustain a stand-alone post, but I refuse to devote one to it as a matter of principle.

A dishonest activist named Chris Sevier has filed a lawsuit against the same baker embroiled in legal appeals after Colorado fined him for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage The lawsuit argues that Christian bakers should also have to make wedding cakes for couples like him and his beloved—his laptop, which the self-identified “machinist” says he married  in a civil ceremony in New Mexico. He also has filed a lawsuit demanding that Utah recognize his man-laptop marriage.

The list of unethical individuals is long here. It includes…

  • Sevier, who is grandstanding and abusing process. His stunt was previously a “Simpsons” episode (Homer got an online ministry, and proclaimed that he would marry anyone to anyone or anything. In a TV debate with local reverend who cited the Bible, Homer replied,

If you love the Bible so much why don’t you marry it? In fact, I now pronounce you and the Bible man and wife….and you’re the wife! HAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Funny! But not an ethical case to be made in a real life court. If Sevier really wanted to marry his laptop, he would just be nuts, but his lawyers’ argument make it clear that this “relationship” is just a sham to get publicity.

“If marriage based on self-asserted sex-based identity narratives is a ‘fundamental right,’ ‘individual right,’ ‘existing right,’ based on a ‘personal choice’ for homosexuals, then clearly it is also a ‘fundamental right,’ ‘individual right,’ ‘existing right,’ based on a ‘personal choice’ for polygamists, zoophiles and machinists,”  Sevier and several self-identified polygamists argue in their lawsuit against Masterpiece Cakeshop. In addition to abusing process, the plaintiffs are harassing a Christian baker to do it, as if the legal system hasn’t bullied him enough already. The wedding cake complaint is obviously frivolous, because, according to Sevier, he and the laptop are already married.

  • Sevier’s lawyers. It is not a good faith lawsuit. Sevier doesn’t want to marry his laptop, he wants to expose what he thinks is a loophole in Justice Kennedy’s (sloppy) majority opinion in the 2015 Obergefell SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling. “The Plaintiffs also want to use the government to proselytize the Defendants into converting to their worldview in name of love and equality,” reads the complaint.

The ethical practice of law does not include satirical court actions.

  • The judge who allowed this intentionally silly law suit to go forward.

3. I mention this item because last week, once again, Pete Rose’s name was invoked as a victim of injustice because the slimy, lying, cheating and corrupt all-time  Major League hits leader has been banned from the MLB Hall of Fame, while murderer O.J. Simpson has his bust in the NFL Hall. As I explained here, O.J.’s situation and Pete’s are not comparable, in part because the baseball Hall has a good character requirement, whereas football, appropriately for a sport that makes billions sending young men into virtual combat where their brains will be damaged for life, does not.

Rose’s most recent gag-inducing episode sees him falling into the Oscar Wilde trap by suing someone for defamation when the individual was factually accurate. “Charley Hustle” claims that lawyer John Dowd defamed him in 2015 by telling a radio talk show host that Rose, as a player, had raped girls age 12 to 14 during spring training.  Dowd, who prepared the investigation report on Rose’s gambling that resulted in his initial ban from the sport,  said during the 2015 radio appearance that an associate of Rose’s, Michael Bertolini, told investigators he “ran young girls” to Rose during spring training, which Dowd described as “statutory rape every time.” Now one of those girls has testified under oath that she had a sexual relationship with Rose in the 1970s, starting when she was 14 or 15 years old. Rose, 76, responded that he only had sex with the woman beginning when she was 16, which is the age of consent in Ohio.


You’re right, Pete, you’re not a slimeball after all!


Baseball should fall down on its metaphorical knees and thank the Cosmos that Rose’s gambling infraction ensured that he never entered the Hall.

49 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/1/17

    • Exactly… common Americans have gotten tired of being told how to vote (what to think, how to act, etc.) by those that think they have a right to do so by virtue of being famous. Unlike many countries, Americans have a particular dislike of being lectured to by their ‘betters,’ those who believe they have an unearned right to dictate to the masses.

      This started with King George, and has resounded throughout our history.

  1. On #1, I really think it deserves to be repeated ad nauseum that our actions really do impact and influence other people and can never be considered in isolation. The more private actions have smaller effects, but anyone who stands in the international spotlight should know that her every behavior is scrutinized and evaluated. That level of influence needs to be accompanied by a strong ethical formation, knowing that unethical behavior will end up being a precedent for others to follow. This is also why I’m glad, in #3, that the MLB Hall of Fame has a character requirement. Imagine where the effort to legalize sexual relationship with minors and laptops would stand if Pete Rose had been inducted! Still, I can only imagine how many people, upon hearing Rose’s story, will think to themselves that they can, if they are famous enough, become inured to legal consequences for statutory rape.

      • But, you know, if a middle aged celebrity having sex with a 16 year old is unethical, and it is, and an example of invalid consent, which it is, whether it’s technically illegal or not is irrelevant. It’s disgusting, exploitative, legal behavior at best.

      • 16 is the age of consent in Ohio.

        As it is in Wyoming. However, the woman said the activity occurred when she was 14 or 15. That Rose admitted to sexual relations with her, even at the age of 16, lends some credibility to her account. That Bertolini says that he ran girls of pre-legal age to Rose also gives the credibility to her account.

        But the wider problem is that the age of consent is legally-set limit that could, in theory, be changed. Push the limit down two years, and the woman who said Rose had sexual relations with her at the age of 14 or 15 is now within legal limit. Does that make it ethical behavior? Does it make it behavior that others won’t see as precedent for their behavior?

        Jack, does Rose get any leeway if he thought she was 16 when she was actually 14?

  2. (shrug) JKR has already showed herself to be one of the worst public sufferers of TDS. Why anyone would take anything she has to say about someone she has an obvious and irrational hatred for seriously is beyond me. There was once talk of her joining C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in the pantheon of great fantasy writers that no one’s childhood would be complete without and whose pronouncements on human nature, Great Truths and life generally would be heeded or at least listened to by most who read them. Unfortunately I think she is headed more toward becoming a George Takei, someone who in this case created (rather than just being part of) something that became a pop-culture phenomenon, and is using that pop-culture phenomenon as a platform to push her own thoughts and opinions. Unfortunately, the ability to create compelling characters or keep pages turning does not make anyone an expert on real world politics. Still more unfortunately, these abilities, together with the HUGE profit she made from them, apparently can’t bring honesty, integrity, or the ability to swallow one’s pride (and she is proud, she posted a sign in the hotel room where she finished the HP series attesting to that fact) and admit to a mistake.

    Here’s the thing that’s ironic. She spent a decade and thousands of pages emphasizing how it’s wrong to buy into lies that sound good (the promise of magical rulership for purebloods), how even those who appear villainous can have a good side (Narcissa Malfoy, Severus Snape), while those who appear to be all-wise and all-good can err, sometimes very badly (Dumbledore) and how it’s not our powers or abilities but what we do with them that matter and define us as good or bad. Now she has abused her influence, her audience, and her writing abilities to spread something that was a flat-out untruth for the sake of hatred of the President. One word: hypocrite.

      • Damn, Jack. That said, JKR has made herself publicly a lot less likable in the last few years, pretty much starting with establishing a social media presence. She is a lifelong leftist who came from serious poverty, and I can empathize with her sympathy for folks who are in desperate financial straits because she’s been there. Her views on her own nation’s politics are certainly shaped by that. She has no more business than any other European to comment on our politics, and her comments about them should be treated accordingly.

        Where she lost a lot of credibility with me was responding to criticism from a pro-Trump tweeter by calling him a “lonely virgin.” The supposed greatest fantasy writer in the world, not only showing herself to be thin-skinned by feeling the need to take time to respond to a dumb insult, but responding with a high-schoolish insult that defines the target as worthless, pathetic, or less because he hasn’t gotten anyone to open her legs for him. Given that Rowling identifies as a feminist that makes her a hypocrite, and going by her thinking, a Christian college student who decided to wait for marriage would be worth less than a 16yo whose buddies paid for him to have a night with a girl with a reputation. That is neither the thinking nor the behavior of a likable person.

      • I read her stories, and they are entertaining, in my opinion. The movies were well done as well.

        Tolkien can be ‘not so good’ once you leave the ‘End of the Third Age’ stories (‘Hobbit,’ ‘LOTR’) and get into ‘The Silmarillion’ or ‘Ancrene Wisse.’ The detail can be… distracting, and long passages lead nowhere.

        Lewis likewise had ‘less good’ stories, such as ‘The Space Trilogy,’ an pre-Narnia attempt at science fiction that is more fantasy than science.

        just sayin’

        • Oh, no doubt, mere entertainment is a value of its own.

          And no doubt Tolkien and Lewis produced not great works as well.

          But if the assertion is to claim Rowling ought be considered in the sphere of Lewis and Tolkien, one probably should consider the quantity greatest works in comparison with each other…no?

          By the by, have you solved the logic problem yet from several posts ago?

          • But if the assertion is to claim Rowling ought be considered in the sphere of Lewis and Tolkien, one probably should consider the quantity greatest works in comparison with each other…no?

            Oh, in that case… we are in violent agreement. I did not intend to exalt Rowling and promote her to Tolkien/Lewis status… just came at it from the literary angle of “even Saint Paul had bad literary days.” 😉

            Rowling is progressive twit, who is too rich to understand those from whom she was spawned.

            No more on the logic puzzle: my limited brain capacity is devoted to problems I have to solve these days, not those I would like to solve on a second attempt.

            As an engineer I feel bad about that, but a wife in the hospital this weekend (she is out now, but has had issues all summer) and the last leg as Project Manager of multiple two year long company projects has me exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I am on the last of those projects to close now, and hope to finish it by mid September… but it is herding cats to get everyone to just do it!

        • Her stories are entertaining but sometimes descend into potboiler mode. The Silmarillion is unreadable in a lot of parts – overly descriptive passages that lead noplace, love stories that make no sense, and a never-ending series of depressing fates for almost. every. single. character. in the First Age. Narnia itself has more than its share of downside too, dark references in Prince Caspian that are found nowhere else in the series, the long, drawn out last sea sequence at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which adds nothing to the story, The Silver Chair, arguably the weakest entry in the series, and the illogic of The Last Battle, which posits that the plans of one despicable individual could bring down a whole nation right under everyone else’s nose.

    • I quite enjoyed the HP series. I spend so much time reading studies, commentaries, and textbooks, I almost never get to read for fun. However, that doesn’t change the fact that JKR only seems to care about staying relevant. I think for this reason alone, she has not given up commenting or putting small things out there regarding the HP series instead of just writing a new one.

  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if experts in fairly obscure fields stuck to their area of expertise? If Rowling stuck to writing fantasy, Rose stuck to slapping singles between the first and second basemen, Noam Chomsky stuck to Linguistics and Colbert stuck to… whatever he’s good at? When did everybody become an expert on everything?

  4. “left-wing, fellow Brit Trump-basher Piers Morgan expressed frustration with her”

    Piers Morgan has actually been really uncharacteristically kind to Trump. I’ve heard that they’ve worked together and are friendly… I can’t think of a reason other than that.

  5. I would put JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series a very close 3rd place to Tolkien and Lewis. As an author she’s nothing less than brilliant. Which makes her personal flaws more awful to me. She has damaged her own masterpiece by retroactively making politically correct tweaks. Now she’s just another brilliant author with poor ethics. A state that is not unheard of among great authors.

    • I call your attention to George RR Martin. HBO has apparently thrown up it’s hands waiting for the last installment of ‘Game of Thrones’ and started writing it’s own.

      • I enjoyed GoT for the first few seasons. Then it became horrendously tedious. Now that HBO is running the story on its own, in 2 episodes (haven’t seen this weeks yet) it got me back on board with enjoyable story telling. 2 episodes is all it took to recover the awfulness of the previous few seasons.

        Between 30 second blurbs to remind me what’s going on in the 40 some odd storylines interspersed with bewbs every 15 seconds and having to listen to the blond girl lecture me about the evils of slavery I was about to pull my teeth out.

  6. She’s pretty cutting in answering Tweets. I suppose she’s trying to keep her name out there, but what a way to do it. Fans of the books are blindly loyal, so every nasty/sarcastic Tweet is met with cries of “Brilliant!” and retweeted thousands of times. She’s just another internet snot who has confused snark and sarcasm with eloquence and intelligence. I’ve never read the books, but have enjoyed the movies; sad to say, I’ve lost any respect I had for her this past year or so.
    I don’t (and may never) understand how people can’t see that they’re showing their worst sides to the entire world when they Tweet like that.

    Jack, line 6, ‘most’ is spelled ‘mots’ .

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