Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record.

  • I keep getting notes about how my reaction is an over-reaction. This is no slippery slope! I can’t tell if people really believe this, whether they are lying, or just incredibly naive.

The Tom Yawkey situation is the slippery slope on steroids. It ignores all balance and context, is brutally unfair, but as ESPN says, this is the time to strip the name of the man to whom every employee and fan of the Boston Red Sox owe a debt of gratitude,  because “the current political climate might provide the right timing.”

Translation: the current mania for punishing important figures of the past because they didn’t have the benefit of forming their values in a completely different time will allow us to commit a monstrous act of ingratitude, ignorance and disrespect that will be cheered by social justice warriors who couldn’t tell the difference between the Boston Red Sox and a box of Wheaties.

No slippery slope, eh? No race to use each example of public airbrushing as  to justify another, more attenuated example of making all of America a  “safe space” for those who cannot absorb or tolerate dissent, uncomfortable facts or even hints of them?

How about this (a bust of Abraham Lincoln!) , or this (that famous Civil War general, Joan of Arc)? Among the recent targets of the Left’s history-censors noted by the Federalist are…

 …The Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC : in a PBS interview, Al Sharpton called for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC to be abandoned because the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence was a slave owner.

…The  statues In The Capitol: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (of course) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)  both called for statues commemorating Confederate figures to be removed from the U.S. Capitol.

…Mount Rushmore (I told you so!): Vice News’s Wilbert L. Cooper called for Mount Rushmore to be destroyed because the U.S. Presidents honored on the mountainside do not measure up to current moral, ethical and policy standards.

Stone Mountain:  Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the massive frieze depicting Confederate soldiers to be removed from Stone Mountain in Georgia. ISIS has yet to comment, but it approves of destroying art for political purposes…

  • This rueful observation is a segue to Part II. The ethics train wreck is one more example, perhaps the worst, of how handicapped a President or any leader is who cannot communicate clearly, articulately, or in a manner pleasing to the ear and mind. Bush was incompetent in this crucial leadership skill, but Trump makes Bush seem like Winston Churchill. His repeated expositions of correct Presidential positions that reject speech suppression, the chilling of speech by official pronouncements, guilt by association, double standards, the use of violence, the heckler’s veto and historical airbrushing were so inept, so infantile, so plodding and so simplistic, executed in his fifth grade vocabulary, that he crippled all of those  arguments by his utter incompetence. A badly made argument is worse than no argument at all.

 

 

52 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society, War and the Military

52 responses to “Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

  1. “They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage.”

    A GREAT read on why they fought: “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War” by Pulitzer prize-winning/Southern historian extraordinaire James M. McPherson.

  2. Arthur in Maine

    Jack, I crossposted your 8/14 Morning Ethics Roundup to my Facebook page. I have never had a thread that was so active. It’s STILL active, five days later.

    Much like yours, my ‘friends’ list includes people from across the political spectrum. The Congenitally Aggrieved contingent instantly pounced on you for your faulty legal analysis (you won’t be surprised to learn that none of them are lawyers) and on me for having the temerity to suggest, using your post as a starting point, that the First Amendment is essential and that there are more than two generations of SCOTUS decisions supporting the rights of the biggest assholes in the world to say pretty much whatever they want, short of the actual incitement to violence.

    Like you, I rather enjoy a good philosophical donnybrook and a vigorous exchange of views. Like you, I have seen people who really should know better reduced essentially to two sputtering arguments: “…because NAZIS!!!” or “…because TRUMP!”

    One of the biggest problems, from my perspective, is that the mainstream media has deliberately downplayed the role that Antifa played in this shitshow and has largely cast it as a product of white nationalists. Yes, the murder was. The riot was not.

    I’ve had enough to do just keeping track of that thread as it exists, staying dispassionate and objective (which is easier to do when you don’t get sucked into favoring one side or the other and are capable of recognizing that both of these groups can and do behave horribly. I haven’t even gotten into the aspects of airbrushing history – realistically, I’m not interested in this thread going on much longer.

    I will say hat for the most part, the thread has been civil and, to the best of my knowledge, even those most aggrieved that I’m not gnashing teeth and rending garments about horrible Nazis have been engaged; to the best of my knowledge, no one has crossed me off their list. But it HAS been fascinating.

    Scott Adams posted a fine blog entry on Thursday, and it’s well worth a read. It’s about mass hysteria. It’s timely and, as usual, Adams displays his keen eye for human behavior. Here’s the link: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/164297628606/how-to-know-youre-in-a-mass-hysteria-bubble

    Keep up the great work, Jack. We need sane voices more than ever.

  3. Wayne

    Well, Wilbert L Cooper you ignoramous. Mount Rushmore is never going to be razed no matter how much you and your BLM buddies want it to be. There would be no America as we know it without the presidents represented on it and no Constitution to protect the rights you seem to take for granted.

    • Sue Dunim

      Neither is the much larger and more impressive, those less well known, Confederate Monument on Stone Mountain. Georgia.

      • Been to Stone Mountain. Great hike up the exposed granite dome. Amusingly enough, I went for the hike having heard all the locals discuss *that* as the key interest of the area. I only discovered the massive carving after I got there.

        If it’s actually larger than Mt Rushmore then Mt Rushmore must be microscopic. In what dimension is it larger?

        Not that it has any bearing on the merits of the discussion… but really… how is it larger? If so, then Mt Rushmore maybe isn’t all that spectacular.

        • crella

          The Stone Mountain carving is 90 feet tall vs 60 for Mount Rushmore. The total carving is 3 acres. They are both amazing.

  4. Wayne

    Here’s a statement from the California Teacher’s Association that totally ignores the right to free speech and the part Antifa played in this ugly incident:
    http://www.cta.org/en/About-CTA/News-Room/Press-Releases/2017/08/20170817.aspx

  5. Jack,
    I suspect that you are going to lose count of how many parts this is going to generate. The social justice warriors are going to exploit this new found social modification power; they’ve lost their collective minds!

  6. d parts of MacKay’s “Extraordinary Popular Delusions…” in high school. but the tulip bulb craze was too remote in time and Salem witch hunts too crazy. I didn’t dispute the ideas, but the Red witch-hunt wasn’t really taught. (that book should be revised for newer hysterias and modern language) I was peripherally in a group targeted by another hunt in the 80’s, which group doesn’t matter much, but it left me over sensitive to anything that whiff of groupthink, even if it seems benign.

  7. I am getting less and less enchanted with social media BECAUSE they have no breaker mechanism to slow or halt mass hysteria and witch hunts. I read parts of MacKay’s “Extraordinary Popular Delusions…” in high school. but the tulip bulb craze was too remote in time and Salem witch hunts too crazy. I didn’t dispute the ideas, but McCarthy wasn’t really taught. I was peripherally in a group targeted by another hunt in the 80’s, which group doesn’t matter much, but it left me over sensitive to anything that whiff of groupthink, even if it seems benign.

    On my only travel abroad, the tour guide had played a lot of pop music along with info about the sites. In between that,were just a few things about the warped mindview he was trained in during the time of the Hitler Youth. He grew up in a groupthink we think horrible. Would that, SHOULD that negate anything he did for the rest of his life? Should he have been locked away because he had the bad luck to be born then and there so he would not corrupt young minds? Every group in power now was once in a minority and benefited from the tolerance, mercy, and fairness in from the majority in earlier times. But they are unwilling to grant the same in turn.

    The wheel keeps turning and they are unwilling to even consider that their children and children’s children will come up with ideas and morals that will be different and ‘better’ than what they hold dear now. How well and how poorly they treat their enemies will be a pattern for howthey will be treated. (I hope to live long enough to see it) That faith is weak comfort right now, and I wish I could shake the people who are caught up in the hysteria and remind them of whatever proverb would work best. They are allowing these McCarthys to aim them and gather power, because they will not think what the are really doing.

    However, the rabble rousers, the leaders of this witch-hunt have only my contempt. They ARE the lynchmobs who attacked and killed blacks a century ago, howling after whatever Palpy says is bad. They are destroying people just because they are different than they are comfortable with. They would not be comfortable with many people who started their causes. If you dig deep enough, everyone has a flaw that they may be ashamed of, or didn’t know any better. Beware the plank in your own eye.

  8. Other Bill

    Am I the only one who remembers the NAZIs marching in Skokie, Illinois (a largely Jewish wealthy suburb north of Chicago, doubtless filled with Holocaust survivors and their descendants) and the ACLU defending them and nothing much happened? How has half of the country lost its mind since then?

    • Sue Dunim

      At Skokie, the Nazis didn’t carry automatic weapons. Neither did they kill people. They didn’t dare to. Yes, things have changed.

      • Right, there wasn’t a contingent of leftist brown shirts roving from town to town rioting and trashing anything that remotely looked like a right-wing idea.

        The primary difference is the Left no longer believes in free speech.

      • Other Bill

        Gee Sue, I guess they just don’t make NAZIs like they used to, do they? I’m leaning more toward Tex’s theory.

  9. Here is a cartoon going around Facebook.

    • According to the Antidefamation League (2016), 14% of all Americans hold Anti-Semitic views. Among sub-groups:

      African American: 23%
      Hispanic (US born): 19%
      Hispanic (Foreign born): 31%
      White: 10%

      Paradox: which group is being treated as the threat to tolerance?

    • wyogranny

      Astonishing. Has anyone had the reasoning ability to reject this nonsense in public?

      • The poster tells us that any movement that preaches intolerance and persecution must be outside the law. Now read these passages from an ideology.

        If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard [of it], and enquired diligently, and, behold, [it be] TRUE, [and] the thing certain, [that] such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, [even] that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

        If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood [shall be] upon them.

        These passages sound intolerant. According to the poster, this ideology should be outside the law.

        The Nazis agreed.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Ken White’s comment on this argument (briefly put: you shouldn’t tolerate the intolerant because they are not tolerant themselves):

      “Yes, as a criminal defense attorney, I’m familiar with the argument.

      “Criminals don’t give their victims due process or a trial, so they don’t deserve it.”

      It’s patent horseshit. It’s also, by the way, just a riff on the overtly racist arguments that we shouldn’t give rights to Muslims or foreigners or whatever who don’t respect/agree with our culture or values.”

    • This has seemed strange since I first saw it, and because I’m no expert on Karl Popper I’m taking a quick run through what I can find online. I think it’s at best a blurring of Popper’s work, that he wasn’t contemplating unleashing chaos as individuals try to squash one anothers’ rights. I believe that he’s saying that the culture a whole is allowed to shut down the Klan, the Nazis, the Communists, al Qaeda. Once the legitimate authority gives a permit to the Nazis, though, then the people who take it upon themselves to shut down that lawful activity join the Nazis on the list of groups that exist at the pleasure of the majority.

  10. Sue Dunim

    Perhaps I should mention that I have committed extra legal vandalism in the past. Not minor stuff like paint spraying,nothing temporary. Actual physical damage with hammer and chisel specifically bought for the purpose, deliberate destruction of a monument. It took some time.

    I still have some pieces of the Berlin Wall from that.

  11. Sue Dunim

    As a believer in Freedom of Speech, of course others have the right to advocate that the Washington Monument be torn down, busts of Lincoln be destroyed etc. I’ll oppose those words with words and arguments of my own. As I’m sure will Jack. No great drama, nothing worth getting emotional about.

    It’s actions that require opposing with actions, and that’s a different matter.

    Usually the solution is to persuade the civil powers to act for you. When there are no civil powers, due to revolution or abdication, form your own till things get back on track and the rule of law exists once again.

    Sometimes you have to go the Rosa Parks route though.

  12. Mrs. Q

    How come these folks don’t want to tear down the Georgia Guidestones? It’s likely some creepy old white dudes had those put up. Where’s the outrage?

  13. glencora63

    Did those retired Confederate soldiers shake hands with the retired non-white Union troops? The answer is NO! Most of them despised the former slaves and sought to disenfranchise them and their descendants. I am one of those descendants and while I hate no one I despise the Confederacy! I liken the regime to Nazism, the plantations to concentration camps, and the leaders to the SS. Butchers, rapists, thieves; they deserve no accolades. I don’t like Thomas Jefferson either. You can’t choose your family or the circumstances of your birth, but you can choose to be a human being in the face of injustice towards another person. Many people obeyed the Golden Rule surrounded by evil. Alexander Hamilton never owned slaves. The Grimke sisters rejected the privileges of birth to become abolitionists. It’s a lie that we are trapped by our time when it involves morals. St. Paul said the truth is written on our hearts, therefore we are without excuse.

    • I have a couple of questions for you: first, do you have any opinions about why the name “Democratic Party” should not be the first thing stripped? It is the party of slavery, of nullification, of Jim Crow, and of lynching.

      Second, why are the Civil War soldiers being attacked while later segregationists got a free pass? In 1956, something like 97 members of Congress* signed the segregationist “Southern Manifesto”:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Manifesto

      All but two were Democrats.

      After the Civil and Voting Rights Acts were passed, there was surprisingly little retribution against these people. 71 remained in office after the 1962 elections, 36 after the 1968 elections, 21 after the 1974 elections, 8 after the 1980 elections, 5 after the 1986 elections. Three were still in office 35 years after signing the Manifesto. If peace could be made on the fly with these people, who were ardent segregationists in the mid-1950s, then why can’t peace be made today with non-political figures who were active 150 years ago?

      *These are a workable group whose careers could be followed. There were many, many similar politicians, including such heavyweights as Robert Byrd, George Wallace, and Fritz Hollings.

      • Maybe democrats don’t wanna clean up America’s past. Maybe they just wanna clean up their own?

      • Still Spartan

        As a Democrat, I could not care less if the Party was renamed. I also have no issues with not erecting any monuments to anyone who signed the Southern Manifesto.

        • How about those who signed the Constitution, which implicitly allowed slavery?

          • We are rapidly approaching the insanity that will demonize the Constitution and end up abolish it because there were some unworthy people that wrote it.

            There are already signs showing up at rallies saying join the Socialist Party.

        • By saying you couldn’t care less, you’re oddly jumping in while not providing any of the opinions requested. I’ll ask again, do you have any opinions about why the name “Democratic Party” should not be the first thing stripped?

          The second question is based on the historic fact that the signers of the Manifesto were not purged from politics (or from their party), and that they have been honored. For instance, the Russell Senate Office Building is named after one of the authors of the Manifesto. Given the fact (which you are not allowed to evade) that peace was made with these people, why is warfare being reopened with figures who were less directly related with politics and who have been dead for well over 100 years?

          • Still Spartan9I

            Hmmm. You don’t think Lee was “directly related with politics?” He took up arms against the US Government and is directly responsible for orchestrating the killing of more Americans than any other individual (foreign or domestic) in our history … because of politics.

    • I believe St Paul preached about truth and judgement and how it would be done and then left the actual judgement itself to God.

  14. There can be no deliberate and rational discussion about statues until the hyper leftist mobs go home, lest any decision about statues be attributed to their anti-free speech and anti-rule of law rioting.

  15. Tippy Scales

    My only hope is that people see through all this crap, the social media virtue signaling notwithstanding.

    Public schools and television have done a marvelous job brainwashing people, but when the Washington Post columnist writes that only right-wingers commit violence; when the LA Times runs a story about how USC black students are complaining the school’s horse mascot is racist; when the NYT bleats that maybe it’s time for the ACLU to rethink free speech…I think even the lifelong indoctrination process isn’t enough for people to say “This is utter horseshit.”

    I can dream, can’t I?

    • There’s a good chance a lot of this rioting settles down next week as many college campuses begin classes and idle busybodies burning out their remaining summer have to actually be responsible.

      • Of course that’s not really satisfactory as they’ll be returning to fill their heads with the leftist mush that has convinced them this anti-civilized behavior is acceptable.

      • Jeff

        Wishful thinking, Tex. The people who wear masks and protest against free speech and think it’s great fun to throw rocks and bottles at other people are probably enrolled in various ridiculous flavors of horseshit study where such things would count for course credit…

        • Remember this editorial from the Washington Post?

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-make-sure-racism-cant-win-on-college-campuses/2017/05/10/0e9596be-3584-11e7-b373-418f6849a004_story.html

          At AU, African American and other students demanded a “sanctuary space” be established for minority students at a campus cafeteria; a policy granting extensions for final exams to minority students; and an open-door policy for outside groups such as the NAACP to investigate hate crimes and racial incidents at the university.

          Eager to ease tensions, administrators granted those demands, and have gone the extra mile, or miles, by agreeing to additional nighttime patrols and racial-sensitivity training for students; offering a $1,000 reward for information that helps to identify the banana vandal, whose blurry image appears on security camera videos; and contracting with a prominent historian of American race relations, Ibram X. Kendi, to set up an anti-racism center on campus.

          That’s a smart, proactive agenda, one that might serve as a blueprint for other universities facing similar problems.

          the editorial board of a newspaper endorsed segregation.

  16. I hope people understand the asymmetry of the access to Free Speech between powerful groups and marginalized groups.
    The “Marketplace of Ideas” really means “If you have more money, you can buy more Free Speech”. All that remains for disenfranchised groups to exercise their Free Speech is through illegal means like vandalism. But then we’re told we’re ‘sinking to their level’.
    Never mind the fact that ‘Free Speech’ which consists of telling lies that cause direct harm to people is morally reprehensible…

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