Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3 Of 3: Potpouri!

The Charlottesville  fiasco combined several ethics train wrecks, as I mentioned before, creating The Perfect Ethics Train Wreck. We have the airbushing away historical figures now out of favor ETW, the progressive anti-free speech ETW, the long-running 2017 Post Election ETW, which involves the news media’s determination to blow up any word or deed by the President, large, small, ambiguous or insignificant, into a justification to remove him. We have the burgeoning “pro-violence as long as it is against the far right caboose,” and the “Let’s figure out what the motives were behind specific statues, regardless of whether they were legitimate heroes or admired historical figures in the times in which the lived” cattle car. And, of course, the intensifying assault on free expression locomotive, bolstered by the guilt by association diesel engine.

What a mess. It is made worse by the fact that many of these rooted in fascinating and nuanced ethics problems, but being discussed on line and elsewhere by  single-minded, narrow-view, partisan, doctrinaire, hypocrites and  fools.

I’m going to root through some of the wreckage now…

  • Former African American NBA star and freelance social commentator Charles Barkley weighed in on the controversy by saying, “Who the hell cares about Confederate statues?” Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t: it’s like the Washington Redskins. The controversy is driven by small, intense minorities forcing people to take sides over issues that they never thought about before. Adds conservative blogger Allahpundit:

“Remember, 62 percent told Marist that statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should remain in place as historical symbols. That includes a plurality of blacks (44/40). If you nudge people to state an opinion on whether CSA monuments should stay or go, you’ll get a divide but one that leans strongly towards leaving them in place. If you include a “there are more important things to worry about” or “eh” option, the numbers that are effectively in favor of the status quo can only rise. Most people, I suspect, just don’t care much either way. In the end, to Barkley and to many, many others, we’re arguing about scenery.”

But apathy and ignorance don’t mean that important principles are not at stake, or that we are not facing a dangerous slippery slope. The blogger continues,

There’s peril in that, though, if you believe firmly in leaving the statues in place. The number of people who feel passionately about smashing monuments may be small but they’re motivated and have a defensible argument that these are tributes to white supremacy more than to the Confederacy or “gallantry” or whatever. If they succeed in pressuring local governments to remove them, the “eh” contingent (which includes Barkley) will flip the other way: “Now that they’re gone, there’s no sense obsessing over them anymore. What’s done is done.” The politics of “what done is done” are slippery here, easily mutating potentially from justifying the pro-statue position to the anti-statue one. Which, I guess, is why we’re destined for a big public argument over it despite wide apathy towards the subject across the population. Dedicated believers in leaving the statues alone know that if they don’t push back diligently, the tear-’em-down contingent will prevail through sheer agitative will.

Cultures can take tragic and destructive turns when a radical minority steers the ship after the majority shrugs and says, “Oh, let them have their way.” Freedom of thought, expression and communication often die by millimeters.

  • The New York Times interviewed various artists and scholars regarding the statue-toppling orgy. These are  not  balanced sources: I’d guess that 95% of artists are very leftward in their orientation, and scholars are only slightly less so. Adam Pendleton, and artist, brushed away the problem by denying it: the statues are propaganda, that’s all, he said. “The artistic merit is irrelevant, ” he argued. “they are instruments of a political agenda…We don’t think about who created the statue or what her intentions were. We think of who and what Robert E. Lee signifies.”

I find it amazing, even knowing the bias here, that an artist could say that as a justification for tearing down a statue: First, how many statues and memorials are not at least partially propaganda? How is Robert E. Lee’s statue in that regard any different from Martin Luther King’s statue on the Mall, or Thomas Jefferson’s in his memorial?  They are all artistic works as well as historical statements. Second, speak for yourself. Statues send different messages to different people, and that is as it should be. Pendleton is saying that what the statue means to him and those who think like him is the only meaning that matters. Pendelton also embraces the popular argument among the speech suppressors that removing artistic expression is artistic expression. That adds Wesson oil to the slippery slope toward “1984”: “No speech IS speech.”

  • I wonder how different the discussion would be about “the equivalency of violence” had not James Fields not rammed his car into the crowd and killed a young woman. It does not appear that this was planned by Fields. and certainly wasn’t planned by the organizers of the pro-Lee rally. What if one of the violent antifa Leftists had rammed a car into the crowd of “peaceful” white supremacists? Would the counter-protesters then be the villains of the confrontation, in the eyes of the news media? I doubt that very much. Fields shifted the discussion into sheer consequentialism, however:  a woman died who was one of the peaceful marchers, and the killer was neo-Nazi, hence the entire episode was sparked by far right hate speech, hence all of the blame and condemnation must fall on the far right.

That’s facile, dishonest, convenient, and nuts.

1. The woman who was killed had voluntarily placed herself in a group that included hood antifa thugs, ready and eager to fight.

2.The protest she participated in was called “peaceful” by the news media to  magnify and emotionalize her death, but it was not peaceful. The anti-protesters were fighting and skirmishing with the legally-licensed protesters, while the police stood down. Don’t tell me that her segment of the protest was peaceful: I’ve been in riots between two groups. Nobody says, “Well, those protesters shouting are peaceful, but those over there, on the same side, are not.”

3. There was a legal demonstration, however ugly. Those demonstrators may have expected to be confronted, but there is no evidence that they would have engaged in violence had they been allowed to carry their signs and make their racist chants–as the Constitution allows them to do—and leave.

4.  The counter-demonstrators, by deliberately seeking to disrupt the protest, were at least as responsible for the violence as the white nationalists. So were the police, and the authorities who ordered them to allow the dueling demonstrations to spin out of control.

5. The President was correct to condemn both sides regarding the violence.

The culture is being slowly pushed to accept the dangerous and toxic-to-democracy philosophy that violence used to subordinate unpopular political views, positions and speech is justifiable. That was one of the more sinister currents in this episode, but at least progressives are starting to be candid about it.  Chuck Todd gave an antifa apologist a forum on “Meet the Press,” as Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray argued for physically beating far right activists out of their rights.  Todd was, as he often is, a weenie, calling antifa only (it won’t get a captial A from me) “a far-left political movement that argues it’s necessary to confront hate groups sometimes with force.”  (It is an anarchist, Communist, violent, anti-speech, totalitarian leftist cult.)

Bray argued that, “.. a lot of people recognize that when pushed, self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence.” By “violence’ he meant “words.” The Far Left—but increasingly Not-So-Far—wants words redefined as weapons, so it can get speech banned. For his part, Todd acted as a neutral mediary in a debate, as if “free speech”/”punch people who speak” is an open question in this democracy. “Richard, why do you believe this is a mistake?” Todd asked Richard Cohen President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as if it were a hard question. Cohen said,

“I think it’s a spectacularly bad idea to give one group of people the right to silence another group of people.It’s contrary to our values embodied in the first amendment.”

Any sixth grade student should be able to give the same answer without having to think about it.

The same day CNN posted a profile on antifa describing the gang as “seeking peace through violence.” Later it edited the text.

(Continued in the next post)

19 Comments

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

19 responses to “Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 3 Of 3: Potpouri!

  1. fattymoon

    ETW? Enjoy the weekend?

  2. JP

    Cultures can take tragic and destructive turns when a radical minority steers the ship after the majority shrugs and says, “Oh, let them have their way.” Freedom of thought, expression and communication often die by millimeters.

    This.

    I feel like I am the group that says, ‘eh, its a statue. I don’t really care.’ However, there is something to be said about standing up when its needed. How’s that meme go, at first they came for x and I did nothing because I wasn’t x?

    “I wonder how different the discussion would be about “the equivalency of violence” had not James Fields not rammed his car into the crowd and killed a young woman. It does not appear that this was planned by Shields. and certainly wasn’t planned by the organizers of the pro-Lee rally. What if one of the violent antifa Leftists had rammed a car into the crowd of “peaceful” white supremacists?”

    I think you mean Fields not Shields, unless I’m missing something.

    “No speech, is speech.” I completely disagree (though I’m pretty sure that is the opinion you are expressing). For my job, I never comment on anything political and a lot of times, cultural (it depends). In my first month, someone posted a misleading meme and I corrected them. My boss comes up the next day and let me know about it. I said, in the future, I’ll just ignore things like that. I know people like Taylor Swift have been quite deliberate about not talking about politics and have taken some flack for it. If you are going to stay uninformed (Hollywood) then you should. Point being there are a lot of reasons not to comment or say something and if anything should make that more clear is being uninformed.

  3. “It is an anarchist, Communist, violent, anti-speech, totalitarian leftist cult.”

    At this risk of someone having already pointed this out, remember when the fascists of the future were going to call themselves anti-fascists? Welcome to the future.

    It’s depressing how easy human mistakes are to predict and how often they happen anyway.

    • Other Bill

      I’m going to come to Charles’s (as he’s affectionately known in Phoenix from his days with the Suns) defense. I’ll admit my bias. I really like what the guy has to say about most everything. Sure, he’s an iconoclast and he said “I’m not a role model.” But he went on to say right after that sentence that “Your PARENTS are your role models, not basketball players.” He was simply saying, “do as is say, not as I do,” which is fair enough if you’re up front about it.

      But anyway, back to Charles and the confederate statues. More of his comments are as follows:

      “That’s wasted energy,” the NBA legend said.

      “I’m not going to waste my time screaming at a neo-Nazi who is going to hate me no matter what. And I’m not going to waste my time worrying about these statues,” Barkley said.

      “I’ve always ignored them,” Barkley said of the Confederate statues. “I’m 54 years old. I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. I think if you ask most black people, to be honest, they ain’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues.”

      “What we as black people need to do is we need to worry about our education. We need to stop killing each other. We need to try to find a way to have more economic opportunity in things like that,” he said.

      So the “I don’t worry about no stinkin’ statues” was just the opening line. He’s saying black people have bigger fish to fry. Given the state of the black underclass, there are more extremely urgent things to worry about and if those more important things are worried about, Confederate statues won’t matter. I think Charles deserves a spot in the Ethics Hall of Fame. But as I said, I’m biased on Charles. I get a huge kick out of him. Any celebrity jock as self deprecatory as Charles is is okay with me.

      • Other Bill

        By the way, the title of his book is, “I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It.” Come to think of it, I should lose that line more with my kids who are Sparty and Chris’s age (and therefore of their persuasion politically and policy-wise).

      • It sounds like he’s got his priorities straight. That’s wiser than most people we hear from, and I wish that were saying something. I just hope that it’s not unusually wise among people in general, because we need as many such people as we can get.

        I assume that wasn’t in response to me specifically?

        • Other Bill

          Sorry Epod, I was rocketing off in a different direction. Must have mistakenly clicked on the “reply” button.Should have started on the left margin. I like your mentioning priorities. We sure could use some of those in the marketplace of ideas these days. Maybe someone could update “Common Sense.”

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