Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(Where did the morning go?)

1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to  program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,

“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.

I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.

As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available.  It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.

2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless.

The audience roared when Hillary showed up last night at the televised Grammy Awards, in a skit where celebrities were supposedly auditioning to be the reader on the audiobook of “Fire and Fury,” Michael Woolf’s dogs breakfast of rumors, gossip, lies and inside dope on what the Trump White House is like. Why was it ethically nauseating? Let us count the ways…

ONE…The Grammy Awards were dedicated this year—of course—to “Time’s Up,” the #MeToo follow on project dedicated to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault. Yet one day earlier, before the audience roared, Hillary Clinton had cynically brushed off a New York Times report about how she has responded to the sexual harassment complaints of a female staffer by moving her out of her job while the harasser—Clinton’s “spiritual advisor” remained in his.—and, we have learned, continued to harass other women. When will it be “time up” for Clinton, who is the most famous and shameless enabler of male sexual misconduct in U.S. history? That the Grammys would trade the integrity of its concern for the  victims of sexual abuse for a cheap joke to (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..) insulting the President tells us all we need to know about how serious the music industry is about making real change in its culture.

TWO…”Fire and Fury” has been thoroughly exposed as a dishonest and unreliable hit job, calculated to appeal to “the resistance”market by a serial hack journalist. Reading from it on the air was another example of gratuitous insults and hate aimed at the President of the United States, a pursuit both divisive, irresponsible, and harmful to the nation. Dredged up to defend this indefensible and repetitive activity at a music awards show was John Kerry’s former PR flack, who told Fox News this morning that since Trump wrote mean things about people on Twitter, it was fair for people to say mean things about him at the Grammy Awards.

This logic was devoid of ethics comprehension. She was evoking three closely related unethical rationalizations: #2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad,” #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming,” #7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse.

All of them embody what I call playground ethics, which is excusable in ten-year-olds, but which ethical adults are typical acculturated into discarding by the time they have mastered critical thought.The light typically switches on when Mom’s mass repetitions of “two wrongs don’t make a right” start to make sense.

THREE: How many other defeated Presidential candidates continued to make the equivalent of ugly faces and farting noises at the winner more than a year after going down to defeat? Only one, the single woman in the group. Nice role modelling there, Hillary! The pettiest, most bitter, most ungracious loser in Presidential history is the women. Some researchers say that girls are not taught sportsmanship as a values like boys are, handicapping women as the engage in competition and conflict as adults.

Well, handicapping some women anyway. Hillary embarrassed her gender, her party, the nation and herself last night.

3. A Day in the Life. The thing about being an ethicist is that you can’t stop thinking about ethics. More than a year ago, I was told by one of my CVS assistant pharmacists that he had never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I said I would get him a DVD, because he needed to see it. I promptly forgot about my promise until the 2o17 holidays, when I apologized and told him he would have his DVD before the New Year. I didn’t get to the CVS, though, until last week. There was my friend, handling the counter, and there I was, waiting to pick up some pills, and again without the DVD. (It’s somewhere in my house.) I looked around the CVS shelves and saw an interesting item, some “LED helicopters,” small flying whirligigs that lit up when you launched them into the air.

When I got to the front of the line, I apologized yet again, and checked out the pills and the toy. Then I handed the LED helicopters to him. “I got this for you, ” I said. “To keep you entertained until I bring the DVD.” To my surprise, the man beamed. “I love these things!” he said of  my gift. “That is so thoughtful. You made my day!”

Those little spontaneous acts of care and kindness really do make the world a nicer place. Best ten dollars I ever spent.

Now I have to find that $!@*%! DVD…

20 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

  1. You could have got him an Amazon gift card and said use it to download and watch the movie. Keep the extra for something you enjoy.

  2. Regarding item 2 and its One, Two, Three, this has never been about taking the high moral ground or ethical ground. The resistance is dedicated to undermining our foundations as a society and to remake it in Saul David Alinsky’s image.

    They could not possibly care less about who they let into their little seditious club as spokespeople. Their goal is clear.

    Are we clear enough ourselves to call them out in a way to stop them from fooling people into following them to totalitarian hell? We’ll see.

  3. Jack wrote, “It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door”…”Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.”

    To me these two statement seems to be contradicting each other.

    • Opening the door isn’t the same as what comes in. It’s like cloning, and a lot of technological advances. They are harmless by themselves, but could lead to dark places.
      Creating a slippery slope is not unethical unless it has no stops and the slide down is unavoidable. This one isn’t. The fear of it is ick, as in “this is creepy.”

  4. (shrug) I have given up watching awards shows. They are just going to be Trump hate until he is out of office. Looks like he may have to pull the plug on the White House St. Patrick’s Day gig as well, since the Irish leaders don’t want to go near him and no Irish musicians will take the gig. So be it, who gives a damn about some lonely, foggy island whose chief export is grudges.

    • Well there’s also Jameson’s and Guinness. Protestants all who made their massive fortunes incapacitating my Irish forebears. But yes, I’m coming down with Irish Alzheimer’s.

    • The only good thing is that people are showing us who they truly are. That’s not a bad thing. Some of this is so nasty and abusive, coming from the party that’s supposed to be the champion for fairness and rights. The eager willingness to engage in playground style taunts for over a year (often about something as insignificant as a typo…I was seriously embarrassed for people who harped on ‘cofvefe’ for weeks) says so much more about them than they do about Trump. And it’s endless.

      We need a version of Godwin’s Law for Trump. I swear I’ll go out of my mind the next time an online discussion, an event, birthday party, Christmas party or something is being enjoyed, everyone’s in a great mood, and somebody starts in on Trump. It completely sucks the joy out of everything. I just can’t think of a snappy name for it….

      I mean, enough already. Do people who do this think that others can’t see the President’s faults? We all need to be schooled as often as necessary? Are they looking for validation? I have no idea, but I do a huge internal eye roll when they start up…

  5. Regarding Hillary Clinton at the Grammy Awards

    I found the dialogue between Clinton and James Corden kind of sad for Clinton.
    First have a look at

    JC: That’s it. We got it. That’s the one.
    HC: You think so? Oh.
    JC: O yeah.
    HC: The grammy is in the bag?
    JC: In the bag.

    Clinton positioned herself as a small child asking and expecting a too big present from Santa Clause while all the grown-ups know that it will not happen.
    Especially the last sentence of Clinton has the tone of a small child. And Corden as a father figure goes along and says, “In the bag” but the way he looks first in the camera and then looks away from her to his left side signals that he knows he is giving Clinton ( as the small child) a white lie.

  6. I have zero problem with awards shows or any other platform for arts and entertainment taking satirical aim at Trump, but I do have a problem with them doing so incompetently and incoherently. You are absolutely right about Hillary’s appearance and the readings of “Fire and Fury.”

    There was a time when I would have objected to your characterization of her as an enabler of sexual predators, but after the revelations from the other day, and Clinton’s abhorrent response to them, it is impossible for me to object. I still don’t know whether Bill Clinton was guilty of the crimes three women accused him of, but my main reason for finding them hard to believe–that Hillary wouldn’t have stood for it–is now gone. I can thus no longer find fault with those who accept the accusations against him as true.

    • You make a great point. Her conduct has undermined the Clinton cover story, and even those inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt are finding their loyalty increasingly hard to maintain.

      • Who in their right mind would ever, ever, give Bill or Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt? They’re both Grade A, certified grifters.

        • I’ve been told here repeatedly that I’m wrong for not giving Trump the benefit of the doubt in certain circumstances, and at times, the people who told me that have been right.

          Trump is also a Grade A grifter.

          We all have our biases. I still believe that Clinton would have been better than Trump, but nearly any other politician would have been better than Trump. Her conduct since the election has made me reluctant to ever defend her on any other level again.

          • One thing Trump has going for him the Clintons don’t: his scam is “branding,” at which he’s evidently made quite a bit of money, not as much as he pretends to have made, but a goodly amount. The Clinton’s scam is liberal politics, at which they’ve made quite a bit of money, but evidently no amount is ever enough for Hillary. Trump doesn’t need politics to make money. I think that’s a plus.

  7. How far have we fallen? 25 years ago at the Academy Awards Richard Gere asked that the Dahli Lama free the people of Tibet: he was resoundingly criticized for politicizing a show dedicated to excellence in the art of film. Now you can’t watch any awards show, or even a Broadway show without the insanely frustrated Democrats going out of their way to damn Trump, Republicans, conservatives, and anyone else who is not as angry as they are. I honestly think Hillary has lost her mind: does she think that — at least in the general public — she has an audience, power, or more and more, even respect? An increasing number of liberals of my acquaintance just roll their eyes at any mention of Hillary, and surprisingly, even Obama. They may still hate Trump, but their love of his adversaries seem to be waning.

    Of course this will never happen with the entertainment industry: actors and musicians are not rocket scientists, after all, and move like a herd until someone like Weinstein stops them. Then they just create a new herd: no analytical thinking there…ever.

    Moan, wail.

  8. S. E. Cupp’s varnish-free observation:

    “There is a big problem with Hillary’s wannabe #MeToo-ism, And here’s the deal: Hillary Clinton is not a credible champion of women. Not because of these bizarre gimmicks but because when it really counted she did the wrong thing every time.” (bolds mine)

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