Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/18: Guns, Tweets And Blackberry Slingshots

Good morning everybody!

1. Oh, well if David Hogg says so… I just listened to an earnest, articulate Florida high school student named David Hogg tell a CNN reporter, his head nodding sagely, complete counter-factual garbage, with no correction, for what seemed like an eternity. “David Hogg wants Congress to act.” the screen said said as the 17-year-old was speaking. This is lousy, unethical journalism—well, it’s CNN– and irresponsible. I don’t blame the kid for believing the crap he reads and hears from people who are lying to the public, but I expect the news media to correct, not circulate, dishonest talking points. Well, maybe “expect” isn’t the right word.

No, David, “thousands of students” do not die every year. No, David, that “18 school shootings” fake stat is designed to mislead: it includes every time a gun has been discharged in or near a school, not mass or multiple shootings or even fatalities. [See Item #2]

See, David, when people talk about “mental health reform” they are often talking about pre-crime, and removing the rights of citizens before they have done anything wrong, much less criminal. But CNN’s reporter kept nodding.

These are complex issues involving rights and practical realities, and a high school student is not an authority that CNN or anyone should be presenting as an advocate. Until the anti-gun advocates stop intentionally distorting facts and trying to mislead while relying on emotion to swamp legitimate debate, there will be no serious dialogue about whether any policies could stop tragedies like the latest Valentine’s Day massacre, and bumper sticker chants like “Do something!” and “If it saves just one life…” lead away from responsible policy, not toward it.

I cross-posted this to Facebook, and can’t wait to read the reactions. At this point, posting facts qualifies as trolling. The anti-gun hysterics can’t stand it.

2. About that phony “18 shootings” stat: The statistic came from the gun control activist group Everytown For Gun Safety. The group had to remove removed one of the”18″ because the building where the shooting took place was no longer being used as a school when the shooting took place. From Liz Shield:

Eight of the shootings could be summarized as “Gun fired but no one injured.” Two (including the one that was later removed) involved “attempted or completed suicide, with no intent to injure other person.” One involved a gun being fired unintentionally, wounding two students. Only seven of the 18 shootings involved an “attack on other person resulting in injury or death.” Even that number proved misleading, however. Three of these incidents involved only one person being wounded by a gun, one of them involved one student being wounded, but not by a gun. One of these shootings took place at a sorority party, two more in parking lots. One person was fatally wounded in a parking lot fight.

Three could be considered school mass shootings, in a broad sense. On January 22, a student in Italy, Texas opened fire in the high school cafeteria, wounding one student and firing at another student, but missing. On January 23, a student opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., killing two students and injuring more than a dozen others.

In total, all “seventeen” of Everytown’s shootings before the Parkland shooting resulted in a grand total of 5 deaths, two from suicide, one from a fight in a parking lot, and two from a true mass shooting.

PolitiFact, The Washington Post and others tried to correct that misinformation yesterday. Then CNN put it right back on TV.

3. And let’s ban blackberry slingshots while we’re at it... Sony felt it had to apologize for a scene in the animated  ‘Peter Rabbit’ movie where the rabbits attack Mr. MacGregor by using a slingshot to shoot blackberries into his mouth. It seems he has a blackberry allergy, so he falls over and appears to be dead as the rabbits cheer. THE HORROR! Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, took deep offense, saying, “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.”

From Reason’s “Sony Apologizes for Weaponizing a Food Allergy in Peter Rabbit, Because We Live in Stupid Times”:

It’s worth taking a step back and observing just how bonkers this (successful!) complaint was, and what it says about the growing consumer demand to be shielded from artistic expression that carries even the faintest whiff of danger for an identifiable outgroup.According to a petition from the Australian allergy-awareness group GlobalAAI, the movie is guilty of depicting “blatant food allergy bullying putting an innocent allergic individual at risk.” I don’t know if I’d call McGregor precisely innocent, but: “To spread a message that condones such victimising and dangerous behaviour amongst children is grossly offensive to worldwide viewers especially those who live with severe allergic disease.” OK. …

Peter Rabbit and McGregor spend the better part of the movie actively trying to murder one another. This involves tit-for-tat attacks with heavy iron traps, low-level explosives, and electrical shocks so severe they blast bodies backwards by more than 10 feet (the most reliable gag in the film). Peter brags hyperbolically about murdering McGregor’s uncle (in fact, the man has a fatal heart attack while trying to kill the rabbit, just like he killed—and ate—Peter’s father); laughs heartily at his compadres hurtling his injured foe in a wheelbarrow down a staircase, and expresses satisfaction when one attack leaves McGregor lifeless and presumably dead. This is all in addition to the constant and mostly unprovoked trespassing, theft, and pillage…

Even if you believe that the allergen-deployment is the most likely tactic in this movie-long war to be aped by gullible children (moreso than, you know, constantly breaking into and stealing from a cranky man’s garden, which is kind of the entire point of the source material…) here are a few reasons to swallow your panic…[Read the whole post..]..

…The moral of the story isn’t murder-thy-neighbor, it’s check yourself before you wreck yourself (and others)….

The …fretful parents have helped midwife what Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have coined as the “fragile generation,” who start by receiving elaborate over-protection from potential physical harm and end up becoming pre-emptive enforcers against speech they might find personally upsetting…I’d prefer not to live in a world where the majority of culture products have been scrubbed clean of Problematics and the remaining sliver consists mostly of transgressive reaction against the prevailing if ever-changing rules about what can be said about whom. Keep art weird, man.


The villains here, in addition to the hypersensitive and censorious parents, are Mendez and his Foundation, who are cynically using the film to get cheap headlines and publicity for their cause, and the collateral damage to the culture doesn’t bother them one bit, and Sony, which like the high school administrators who canceled the student musical rather than have the courage to tell critics that they are logically and ethically full of crap, caved to expediency, and by doing so just made freedom of expression and art a little bit weaker.

4. Back to the massacre. NYT investigative reporter Eric Lipton tweeted last night,

“Impressive how articulate and well educated these kids are from this school. Obviously a good school. Another sad reason for yesterday’s events.”

There is nothing wrong with this statement. My wife made the same observation. But Lipton was immediately flamed for the imagined slur on inarticulate students, so he tweeted again,

“And not saying it would be less sad it there were poor kids, obviously. Just such a waste to see kids with so much opportunity before them wiped out.”

Ah HA! Now he was saying that it’s not a waste when kids with less opportunity get murdered! ATTACK! ATTACK! So rather than deal with the political correctness bullies and the “gotcha!” mobs, Lipton pulled down the tweets, and apologized (and mistyped “insensitively” as “intensively.”  As President Trump would say, “Covfefe!”)

If we do not all stand up to the speech and opinion mobs, free expression in this country is doomed. But cowardice is everywhere. Rights have to be fought for always, or they will eventually succumb to the inevitable human drift toward the abuse of power.


22 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/18: Guns, Tweets And Blackberry Slingshots

  1. RE Item One: Here’s a depressing exchange I had on FB yesterday, on a thread with the “18 school shootings” meme posted by a kind but not particularly bright FB friend. I pointed out that the meme was inaccurate and linked to a story that set the record straight. Another of her friends responded as follows:

    Him: Yeah, right, just like we’re supposed to separate the lingering environmental effects of the military’s use of nuclear technology from the lingering environmental effects of civilian use of nuclear technology… Let’s just downplay the whole thing! Of course, if we can agree that there have been four shootings at schools in the United States of America in 2018 that still puts us in first place in the world! WE WIN!

    Me: You apparently miss my point. ONE is too many. But it’s impossible to have an honest discussion about possible solutions when an argument is based on a lie – even a well-intentioned lie.

    Him: No it actually isn’t. Something needs to galvanize those who are not willfully ignorant in to action because too many of them have been complicit in allowing this due to their complete inaction. Screw it. Lie. Obfuscate, whatever it takes to motivate. That’s what our “leader” did with Cult45 so why not?

    Him: Clearly we are not going to fight stupidity and win using logic, statistics, historical facts, or science. That has been a complete failure thus far so it’s time to out stupid stupid.

    Me: Well done! This is easily the most unethical and Machiavellian post I’ve read on Facebook in months. Step back, take a breath and look at what you are actually advocating: tactics used by despots since time immemorial.

    Him: Yeah, keep looking for ways to do nothing. How impressive.

    I bowed out of the thread. You simply can’t discuss situations like this with people like that. Hope you have better luck, but I doubt you will.

      • “So you want to enact sweeping policy curtailing citizens’ rights based on lies and propaganda?


        Now I wanna go out and buy a few more AR-15s…and I used to think only one in my house was enough…”

        • Now you’ve done it. Once the FBI is done with smearing a duly elected President, start listening for unexpected activity around your home at night. 🙂

          • I think he’s safe. Given the rank incompetence shown by the FBI lately, it’s highly unlikely they would be able to figure out where his home is.

            • Interesting how little time it took to make the FBI so incompetent. In 2012 they quickly figured out who put the video on Youtube that instigated the Benghazi attack, got his address and perp walked him into a holding cell. Today it was impossible to do.

    • I will admit this is more frightening than any one nutjob celeb. That SO many are willingly joining the mob instead of thinking is terrible, and not just a single topic problem.

    • “Him: Clearly we are not going to fight stupidity and win using logic, statistics, historical facts, or science. That has been a complete failure thus far so it’s time to out stupid stupid.”

      Where I come from we have a word for that. It’s “stupid”. If a person rejects a good argument because a bad one is more comforting, they’re certainly not going to be swayed by another bad argument. The next step for a would-be persuader would actually be doing the unthinkable: listening to the person and understanding their power of view.

      Most of the time, I daresay, a failed argument has nothing to do with how well-constructed a person’s points are and everything to do with the fact that they are failing to address the other person’s concerns entirely. Of course, figuring out a person’s concerns may require listening to icky points of view, and laying a groundwork of trust would require demonstrating a level of basic respect for people even if you are socially obligated to spit on them.

      I wrote an article a few months back addressing two bad ideas that seem to have taken over public thought: the idea that considering a position equals accepting it, and the idea that cooperating with people equals agreeing with them. These ideas obstruct the unpleasant but healthy engagement process I describe above. I also need to post my reading recommendation of Difficult Conversations, a comprehensive book for collaborative truth-seeking and one that I recommend to literally all people.

  2. For informational purposes, it should be noted that Everytown for Gun Safety is one of Michael Bloomberg’s Astroturf gun control organizations. Don’t expect general honesty from such.

    A quote, in an unguarded moment, from Mark Glaze, former director of “Everytown”: “Is it a messaging problem when a mass shooting happens and nothing that we have to offer would have stopped that mass shooting? Sure it’s a challenge in this issue.” So, see, citing “18 school shootings” is just a way of improving their messaging. No problemo.

  3. Lies from lie loving liars amplified by willing accomplices in the media.
    Prepare to collect yourselves to defend facts and the Constitution…potentially with items they don’t want us to be allowed to have anymore.

  4. #3: A lot of adventure dtories are resolved by an underdog persisting and finding that small gap in the invincibility of the massive opponent. Iike the little exhaust pipe on the Death Star, and then this big Philistine might not react quickly to a fastball right at him? I guess it was just dirty pool to take advantage of those weaknesses?

  5. It appears today that the esteemed FBI was tipped that Cruz was a potential shooter as recently as Jan 18 of this year. Presumably they were much too busy with Russian Election conspiracies, Trump Dossier investigations, and office adulterous affairs to notice. Oh well at least the Media will hold them responsible?

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