A Hopefully Calming Word From Your Host [Updated]

I would not have predicted that the NFL Anthem Protest (Or is it the anti-Trump protest? The “there are still injustices in America protest”?) Ethics Train Wreck would be the topic to cause multiple meltdowns, name-calling bouts and potty-mouth attacks among the veteran commenters here. I’ve given up on predicting which issues will ignite the assembled, however.

I am proud of the passion and intelligence with which the regular participants in this forum attack the varied matters I throw down for consideration. At their best, even the most intense debates usually bring more light than heat, to use the dichotomy poor Howard K. Smith employed when William F. Bucklet snapped, called Gore Vidal a “queer” on live TV and threatened to punch him out.  However at least four veteran commenters here have had Buckley-esque flip-outs of late, and that will not do.

I don’t expect this blog to ever be “safe.” Bad, lazy, poorly reasoned, biased and partisan opinions should always be called out, and in terms that fit the offense. I do not want to police words, but when we move beyond fair or at least supportable assessments of comments into insults and the denigration of commenters, I expect the ethics alarms to ring out. If they don’t sound, I don’t know what the purpose of Ethics Alarms is. Theoretically, we are here to learn from each other, and that means giving each other the benefit of an assumption of good will, and occasionally a damn break.

Those who have contributed positively here for a lengthy period build up credits that will allow them to commit one or more egregious breaches of decorum without any adverse action. Ironically, I also expect the veterans and frequent commenters to be role models, and lead by example.

I also want to urge some commenters here to make an effort to curtail endless, circular one-on-one debates  in which the objective deteriorates into getting the last word. In the past, Ethics Alarms has seen some epic debates resembling the Hundred Years War. What is remarkable about all of them is that it was clear as glass from the start that neither combatant was going to yield, and indeed was even fairly processing what his or her adversary was saying. I confess: outside of checking in periodically and making sure that the exchange isn’t resembling a Tarantino film, I don’t read these very long. They are boring. And because they are boring, they make Ethics Alarms boring.

Commenters with agendas are also a problem. If you approach every issue here knowing immediately what position you are going to take before you even read the post, I submit that your objective is less helping us nourish an ethical society than something else. You need to think about that, because it makes you a less valuable participant here. It also can make you annoying.

One more thing I need to add (and am adding as I am in a Fairfax, VA hotel after a horrible sleepless night as I prepare for a presentation to local lawyers about legal ethics and technology: occasionally pushing another commenter’s buttons—you know who has them, and what to push—is occasionally justifiable, but becomes sadistic and abusive if engaged in as a regular tactic.

You know, I’ve met a lot of you. There isn’t one commenter that I have met that I don’t like. Every one is a smart, passionate, interesting person. I would recommend that before you start hurling abuse at another empty face in cyberspace, consider that, as Marge Simpson sang in “O Streetcar!,” “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.”

We can get our work done civilly and respectfully. I’ve seen it. If all else fails, consider the advice of Elwood P. Dowd:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.

I recommend both.

180 thoughts on “A Hopefully Calming Word From Your Host [Updated]

  1. It’s interesting that in a blog that is specifically about civility in comment threads, we have an intentionally uncivil commenter, ImJust Saying, that has taken the definition of a troll and literally put it into practice in this thread by veering well off the topic of civility, baiting absolutely everyone, insulting anyone who disagrees with him, hypocritically chiding those that use pseudonyms while “he” is intentionally unwilling to use his real name, claims that others don’t know the law without providing one shred of evidence that he has any knowledge of the law or professional training in the law or provided others with his professional law credentials.

    This troll’s purpose here is three-fold:
    1. To harass Jack.
    2. To backhandedly defame Jack.
    3. To anger/goat Jack.

    It is quite obvious that the uncivil trolling facade calling himself “ImJust Saying” is a shill for Walter E. Tuvell. It’s quite likely that this unethical individual is an attorney or a paralegal shilling for the plaintiff by cyberstalking this website to try and anger the defendant into making incriminating statements because the plaintiff hasn’t got a legal leg to stand on.

    TROLL: is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

    SHILL: also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.

    CYBERSTALKING: is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization. It may include false accusations, defamation, slander and libel. It may also include monitoring… or gathering information that may be used to threaten, embarrass or harass.

    Special note to Walter E. Tuvell (I know your reading); it is my opinion that every comment you posed on this website was rooted in anger and unethically trolling for responses that you could try to twist into a frivolous lawsuit to harass Jack. This shill launching to cyberstalk this website and intentionally deepen the level of harassment shows the morally bankrupt character of the shill and anyone that promotes the shilling.

    Expect an attack on the messenger in…




    • A few cherry-picks from a list of comic Steven Wright’s absurdities, which a friend shared with me this morning, seem in order:
      “When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”
      “Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.”
      “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”
      “The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.”

    • I, and others, have presented to you with several options that an objective person would consider to be “holes”. It is my opinion that your insistence that the complaint is still “water-tight” and “without holes” provably demonstrates your personal bias in favor of the plaintiff. Others have suggested that you and the plaintiff are one-and-the-same and I am now of the opinion that this suggestion can be taken as true. Do you deny it and if so, why is your personal bias in favor of the plaintiff so resilient and strong?

    • Out of a 400 word post about ImJust Saying’s shilling and that’s what he chose to cherry picked out and comment on?

      ImJust Saying’s initial comment in this thread was not about the topic of this thread and the case itself is only tangentially correlated, but only because ImJust Saying says so. I’ve read the comments related to the case and the case claims, the case is twisted nonsense from an egotistical self-centered intellectual who wanted another participation trophy to put on his shelf; the plaintiff is trying to twist the water out of a rock to get a smiggin of argument to push a frivolous law suit – he failed miserably. I assumed there might have been an inkling of genuine intelligence behind the morally bankrupt ImJust Saying facade but I was terribly mistaken.

      Using the same kind of “logic” that ImJust Saying has presented here, ImJust Saying didn’t address any of the other points in my comment because they were all true; thus they are “water-tight” arguments.

  2. I read the case study and i have seen thecomments writing by Mr Tuvell in this blog site. I have to say it’s disappointing that Mr Tuvell would react the way he has. It was also disappointing to see the biased language of the site containing said case study. Jack is a man of integrity and when is is wrong he admits it. I don’t know why individuals such as yourself have an axe to grind with Jack especially as he himself has confessed as to the limited reach and impact of his blog.
    Not to mention if you notice commenters of contrary views are in defending Jack and no one here is agreeing with you or the Tuvell suit. But i appreciate the fact you revealed Tuvell’s true nature to me, i had a gut feeling about it when I read his comments here. I don’t want to be that last word guy , I guess I am just disappointed with you IMJust saying”. You didn’t improve the discourse here at all.

    • I have to disagree, I saw the exact post and comments where this case would have had it’s genesis. Jack was reprimanded by Tuvell in the comments, and Jack apologised and acted exactly as a man dedicated to ethics would. Based on Tuvell’s comments on the post. I could tell he was.not pleased at all, yet Jack did apologize in that post in that instance. Tuvell at the time accepted that apology. I was quite pleased to see another well educated individual contrast against Jack’s view on this site..however to find out that Tuvell has I’m fact not buried the hatchet and has commenced legal proceedings against a blog that Jack writes on as a hobby; does more damage to my opinion of Tuvell’s character then anything Jack could have said.

  3. Walter Tuvell was and possibly still is a sick man.

    Reading Tuvell v. IBM Tuvell writes about his sickness. http://www.judicialmisconduct.us/CaseStudies/WETvIBM/Story

    Tuvell was/is a long-term victim of whistleblowing/bullying-instigated PTSD, stemming from previous defamatory/abusive workplace incidents he’d experienced more than a decade previously while at another employer, but which was since in remission (“passive”/“dormant” phase).

    IJM and Tuvell are likely one and the same. I suggest you stop responding to IMJ. Let Jack handle it when he returns.

    (This reminds me of the mess I had to clean up at Electric Minds when a fellow host lost his mind and trashed The Commons.)

    • The following is posted on Tuvell’s About Page…

      Walter E. Tuvell was educated as a mathematician (BS MIT, PhD U.Chicago), spending his working career as a software engineer, garnering several patents in the process. He is happily married, with two grown children, and is fortunate to have lived a very good life overall.

      And now, he’s a “lawyer-in-all-but-degree.” His interest in law and judicial reform stems from traumatic experiences visited upon him by unethical/corrupt employers/judges. His case, Tuvell v. IBM, provides the impetus and nucleus for this website, which he dedicates to good law-abiding citizens everywhere who have been victimized by bullies, particularly those who cloak their perfidy under black robes, masked by public trust.

  4. I always enjoyed W.F.B’s Firing Line – much later I actually got to meet him following an annual meeting where he was the paid, guest speaker – and I’ve read most of G.V.’s historical fiction & essays & plays and found them insightful, hilarious, and provocative (in the best sense of the word). If it weren’t for the Politics, they had a lot in common: they both had a similar irreverent bent, were intellectuals, contrarians, and very entertaining commentators. For those interested in The Feud, I suggest checking out the documentary “Best of Enemies (2015).”

  5. Based on your suggestion, I reviewed Mr. Tuvell’s presentation. The information presented does not lead me to share your assessment of the case. Most of the statements that Mr. Marshall made in his blog appear to be matters of personal opinion rather than fact. The statements of fact offered by Mr. Marshall appear to be basically accurate, such as his claim that the plaintiff’s blog is apparently intended to publicize his personal grievances.

    I wouldn’t presume to know how the courts would rule (and am not offering any sort of professional assessment), but Mr. Tuvell’s complaint reminded me of one of my old professors’ statements: “You can always sue: You can’t always win”.

    • To clarify: The suggestion I referred to above was “ImJustSaying” claiming that someone who reviewed Mr. Tuvell’s case would find it “compelling” or “watertight”.

  6. I can’t decide whether the laugh or weep: I was regretting that I was not able to get a post up until now today except for this non-substantive moderation post, and arrive at my office to find a lively brouhaha going on because one banned commenter, proving by conduct the justification for his banning, illicitly came back on the blog while I was not available to spam his nonsense, and referenced a website that got an earlier commenter banned.

    My lawyer (me) advises me not to comment at this time about that website advertising its proprietor’s amusing defamation suit. It is the irony of irony, however, that the second banned commenter, intending to harm Ethics Alarms and support his fellow bannee has in fact helped Ethics Alarms no end, in a respect that I’ll leave to legal minds more nimble than some that have been on display in this thread to decipher. However, Imjust is still banned, and will be banned til the stars turn cold, and I am going to have to spam the comments he has deposited here. I have to be ungrateful, but there it is.

    I should clarify that Imjust is self-banned, which means in his case that he said “I quit” before I could write “You’re fired.” As I have written before and note in the comment policies, grandstanding “Goodbye, Sir!’ exits are treated here exactly as other bans. In rare circumstances, I have allowed some self-banned commenters back, because they had previously proved their worth, if they managed to leave with out a tirade. In fact, one such valued commenter participated in this thread.

    I’m also got going to read any of Imjust’s posts—continuing to post on a blog after you have been told to stay away by the blogger is signature significance, by the by—as is my practice.

    In the future, I ask that everyone else here follows the same policy.

    • I initially felt really bad for taking the bait and responding (“Just one post!” multiplied by 30 commenters becomes a problem). However it’s almost nice to see commenters that normally verbally go at each other with such vigor end up on the same side and be friendly (towards each other).

      Silver linings and all that.

        • I said a few weeks ago; as much as I despise racism, if I had to “stand next to a racist…in a foxhole that is also fighting to protect the United States Constitution” I’d do it in a heartbeat, the same concept applied in this thread fiasco today.

          Heck, as much as we routinely disagree around here, even Chris and I crawled in the same foxhole together for a worthy cause today. These moments have a tendency to show us that there are no chasm walls created so distant by ideologies that cannot be bridged by the solid foundation of underlying human commonalities that support those ideologies. Conceptually speaking, sometimes we forget, me included, that that we have core commonalities that are worth standing side-by-side and fighting fiercely together as brothers, instead of being fiercely opposed as “enemies”.

          Peace to all. 🙂

      • I don’t delete the comments attached to banned comments, but apparently WordPress does now. It didn’t use to. I’m sorry. Its current policy attaches the babies to the bath water. I’m sorry. Next time I ‘ll just empty the comment from the banned commenter but leave it up. But then we won’t be replying to banned commenters, will we?

        • I very diligently avoided replying DIRECTLY to anyone who I thought is a banned commenter, in this thread. (just saying that, in case it helps with understanding more fully how WordPress works) Jack, you need not say you’re sorry to me. You’re doing what you can (which is to say you do amazing work!), I know you have integrity, and I trust you. I take any “offense” at seeing any of my comments disappear. I just didn’t want to miss any message that might be meant, and that I might need to “get,” in response to any comment of mine that disappears, in the event I post any disappearance-worthy (in your judgment) comment.

  7. Whew! 27 comments from a post-banning commenter! To be fair, he only got in that many because by sheer moral luck, I happened to be otherwise engaged. I have read some of the replies to those comments, and as I would have expected, everyone did an excellent job.

    I apologize for the distraction, however.

  8. Here is the relevant provision in the Comment Policies that applies to Imjust:

    19. Grandstanding: If you make grand and indignant exit, and announce your permanent withdrawal from the blog, you are gone for good. An e-mail to me with an appropriate apology and a request to be reinstated will occasionally work if you change your mind. Maybe. Don’t count on it.

    I guess I should have included a note that linking to a revenge site by another banned commenter will NOT work.

  9. Rats. I had to work all day, so I missed I’m Just’s barbs at me other than the first one. Jack, you should have left them up. What did I miss?

  10. When I saw Jack’s post today, I expected the 100+ comments to be more than…well…more of the same but worse.

    Holy crap people!

    It’s as if something is in the air. Last night for the first time in years my wife and I got into an argument that was unnecessary and pointless. We forgot to abide by the words on the plaque that hangs in our foyer. It says among many things:

    Love is patient, love is kind. It doesn’t dishonor others, doesn’t delight in evil, it protects, hopes, and perseveres. Jack’s post today asked us to believe ultimately in the good will of others despite occasionally offending each other. He asked me once to have patience with Chris for example. We may never see eye to eye but he is a wonderful teacher of patience here and has been more nuanced in his opinion and approach lately.

    Can’t we be just a little bit more civil before we lash out? Yes and no. We can through the discipline of patience and mutual respect find a way to meet each other where we are. This includes not responding to disrespect with disrespect. But some days we will fail. A joke at someone’s expense or calling names or attacking someone’s innocuous statement will happen. But we can forgive ourselves when we lose a grip on grace & we can forgive others who are just as human as we are. Then we fail and try again and again.

    Isn’t that in a way what family is about? You put up with the drunk uncle, the shrill mother in-law, the egotistical brother. You shoot your mouth off at them when fed up and suddenly see pain cut across their eyes from such rudeness. Seeing their hurt makes us next we see them, refocus on what they may be saying, rather than their imperfect delivery. Instead of vying for our point to be heard, we pay attention to theirs, and see their humanity again.

    Maybe because we don’t see each other we assume we are not hurting each other.

    EA functions well when people of disparate ideologies, politics, and world views come together here to explore and find truth. Ethics is a discipline, that like a religion, requires regular troubleshooting of ideas. Constant thoughtful consideration and scrutiny, especially of our own ideas about right and wrong, helps us be more ethical. Ethics alarms ring inside us, but the choice is ultimately whether or not we listen to it and make more contentious decisions. This blog helps us listen to those alarms and explore them together.

    Here we find perspectives that truly enhance and challenge our understanding of a given topic. Isn’t that how we sharpen our minds and learn to truly live among one another? I love that a Jewish white supremacist can have a thoughtful exchange with people of color. Or that two gay people can disagree on LGBT rights. It’s enriching to find myself agreeing with someone I usually disagree with and disagreeing with someone I usually agree with. That is the gift of Ethics Alarms on a good day.

    That’s enough Pollyanna style ramblings from me for the moment but one last thing I wish to add is this (I share these words not to proselytize my faith but to address sin as making a mistake in being rash or unkind):

    “Ironically, the patience we need with others’ sins begins with looking at our own, not theirs. Only when we’ve felt the awful weight of our wickedness, and the miracle of our forgiveness and freedom, will we be able to extend undeserved mercy and grace to someone who has sinned against us — and to do so with supernatural patience.” -Marshall Segal

    • It DOES seem like everyone here has gotten fed up with everyone else. The people on this blog, like all the people in this nation, have been divided and banging heads for almost 2 years now. Division, anger, and hate are tiring, but they’re also insidious. The more you get triggered the less it takes to set you off again, and the more you get set off the longer it takes to come down from it. Eventually your tolerance reserve is exhausted and you start reacting and overreacting to stuff you might not have. You tell the egotistical brother to rein it in or don’t come. You tell the shrill mother-in-law it’s time for her to leave. You grab the drunk uncle by the belt and the collar and throw him out, telling him never to come back. A lot of us are there now.

      • Funny, Jack is probably the only commenter here who annoys me.

        Chris? Zoltar? Spartan? Nah. Okay, zoltar maybe, but he. He can take it as good as he gives it.

        I gave up on IJS, or whatever it was, because there was no point.


  11. Yes, hard. Very reasonable for you to ban commentators. It’s your ‘house’. And spammimg comments within a reasonably short period is fine too. And on rare occasions you should delete blog content too, eg if it is dangerous. But I’d prefer the blog to be as far as possible a record of what was said. And once it is said, it can’t be unsaid. This time a miscreant got past the Jack Russel while you were out and made a nuisance of himself. I don’t see any point in you censoring the record. Your ‘guests’ stopped him wrecking the place. The censored record, as it is now, makes little sense.

      • Oh, home addresses and family details for police and armed services; DIY bombmaking; security passwords; credit card details; who is or isn’t working for the CIA; pedophilia ring contacts etc. etc.

          • But if it did get through, and I can’t imagine how you could be 100% sure such stuff couldn’t be posted whilst you were distracted elsewhere, you would delete it asap. And of course you’d be right to. My sole suggestion is I think you should minimise the extent to which you clean up the historical blog record.

            • I agree with that, absolutely. There are about three posts (out of over 7000) that I took down after specious lawsuit threats. They were nonsense, but even nonsense in the courts can cost a lot of money. Nobody noticed. I also took down one post because it caused some genuine and unintended hardship to its subject, and another, long ago, that I decided was botched by me, and would haunt me forever if I left it up. In that case, I retracted the post publicly and took it down. But even with posts that were based on hoaxes that tricked me, the policy is to leave the mistakes up.

  12. Jack,

    One of the things I’ve always liked about your writing is how you create a framework for ethical thinking. That framework is bigger than any one “issue”. I often, but not always agree with you on a conclusion. However, because of the framework that you champion, we (the readers and commenters) have a path we _should_ be able to travel together. If we (more or less) dispassionately follow that reasoning, we can see where differences emerge and learn from it. It’s fairly silly for me to dispute someone who took one path when I took another at step #37 of our common path–so long as we agree we are on it together.
    For those who reject even the framework, it’s a much more difficult conversation. (For me, a very infrequent commenter, the “conversation” is typically a silent one.)
    I fear that this is amplified in society at large as we increasingly lack that shared sense of framework/values/culture/history; something you have been observing increasingly of late. (Indeed, “values” has come to stand for “positions on issues”, rather than for “core beliefs”.)

    Thanks for all you do!

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