Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

Good Morning

… to end a frantic ethics week…

(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)

1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:

A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.

The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.

None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.

Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.

2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.)

3. Sort of an Ethics Hero….no, wait, he’s not. Yesterday it was reported that actor Matt Damon was moving his family to Australia to escape the policies of President Trump and to ensure  that his family was “safe.” I was prepared to give Damon a half-ethics salute for at least doing what so many left-wing entertainers have sworn they would do if various Republicans were elected President, but somehow never deliver. Damon is one of the few of their number that I would regret no longer having as a fellow citizen; after all, he is a Red Sox fan. On the other side of the ledger, robbing one’s children of the special opportunities and liberty of being raised in the United States is an excessive price to pay for extravagant political grandstanding.

Now it appears that this was fake news. I should have known. No Red Sox fan would move to Australia, especially this season, when the team is about to win 100 games and smoke the Yankees.

4. More evidence that the Left does not finds free speech an impediment. Rocklin (California) High School teacher Julianne Benzel was placed on leave yesterday after she led her class in a discussion about the nationwide school walkouts sparked by student hysteria regarding gun violence. Benzel said she did not discourage students from taking part in the walkout, but asked them to consider whether the reaction to other protests would be as lenient.

“And so I just kind of used the example, which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time — a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” she told reporters. “If you’re going to allow students to walk up and get out of class without penalty then you have to allow any group of students that wants to protest,” she said.

She is correct.

 Benzel was then put on paid leave because of “several complaints from parents and students involving the teacher’s communications regarding today’s student-led civic engagement activities,”a Rocklin School District spokesperson said. What? I presume that means that any time any parent or student complains about anything a teacher says, this is considered sufficient justification for disciplinary action.

The school’s action chills free speech, and also demonstrates viewpoint bias and indoctrination. Benzel was on Fox News this morning; the question is why every news network wasn’t interviewing her. There are not two sides to this ethics issue, just one. She was trying to teach critical thinking to her students, and was punished for it, because this particular cause can’t survive critical thinking. (Benzel has already been reinstated.)

The student anti-gun protests are among the most embarrassing mass outbreaks of  Stupid Fever this country has ever suffered through, greatly facilitated by social media.

5. Wonder Woman gets ambushed by super-powered, super-dumb political correctness. The actress who has been playing Wonder Woman, Gal Galdot, tweeted out a brief salute to Stephen Hawking:

“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking Now you’re free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”

The social media bully squad was on her in a flash. “This tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t,” responded one critic. Wrote another political correctness addict: “That sentiment affects me personally, it affects all people with disabilities because it impacts how we are perceived. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 70-80% and the idea that disabilities are scary things to be “freed” from is a big reason why.” From another: “Gal I am chronically ill. Can’t shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is.”

The tweet was not ablelist, and we would begin reassembling civility, common sense and reason in our society if Gadot responded with a terse, “Oh, shut up. I’m not going to be reprimanded for a perfectly respectful tribute. Your attempt to make me grovel for an imagined offense is the real wrong here.”

Hawking wasn’t just disabled, he had a fatal, frightening, incurable disease. While he was incredibly productive in spite of his handicap, the mind boggles at what he could have accomplished had he been completely healthy. [CORRECTION: In the original post, I erroneously stated here that Hawking’s illness precluded having offspring. In fact, he had three children and three grandchildren….whom he presumably would have liked to have held at least once.]   Hawking was confined to a wheelchair and relied on multiple life support devices, facing the prospect of imminent death for decades. He must have wished to be “free of physical restraints” many times. Nothing Gadot wrote suggested that there was anything to be ashamed of, or evinced bigotry, and the sentimental imagery of human beings moving on to a new existence without the impediments of their “mortal coil” is routinely applied to anyone who dies while sick or aged. It is not an insult to anyone, except to those who want to be insulted so they can posture as victims.

UPDATE: Hawking’s obituary is here.

 

 

34 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Rights, Social Media

34 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

  1. 3. Here is the link to Daniel McGrath who is in the Red Sox organization via Australia. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?player_id=600011#/career/R/pitching/2017/ALL

  2. JRH

    3. I don’t gamble, but then taking the Yankees against Boston is not really gambling. Good Luck!

  3. #5 is jaw dropping to me. It’s such an obvious statement about liberating your spirit from your physical body that only those who succumb to their victim culture would misinterpret it. Each one of them should be told that stuffing their head up their own ass is a greater physical constraint than anything else life could throw or has thrown their way.

    It’s so ridiculous that I’m curious if some of them were more tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic in nature.

    • No, a long-time friend who once commented frequently here wrote the same silly complaint about a cartoon showing a now walking Hawking silhouetted against a starry sky while his chair sat empty. He wrote that the drawing was an insult. Makes no sense at all. Hawking was trapped in his body for decades..I’m damn sure he wouldn’t be insulted by the imagery, because he was, like, smart.

    • If you believe that once life ends, that is it, finish, kaput, then this attitude sort of makes sense. They are really objecting to the idea of an afterlife.

      I want to think that this is the case: otherwise, they believe that a disability is carried with one in an afterlife. What a depressing thought!

  4. 5: As I age, I have more physical constraints. I would vastly prefer to lose them and keep doing my thing. I am not my disability, isn’t that what they claim? But they are not acting that way to insist that his ALS is the most important aspect of his life.

    Would they insist we keep them if there was a cure? Would they prefer I shoot off my foot after a cure so I could keep struggling to produce and cherish my life? Do they use labor saving devices, drive an Amish buggy to work? If they want more time and energy to do what they consider important, criticizing that someone with a handicap gets tired of the crap of having one is so hypocritical. They have no right to scold. If I could wave, a wand, everyone’s disabilities would be fixed. Living with ALS is exhausting, and no pointless outrage over a well phrased tweet (a miracle in itself) can help with that.

  5. #4: Also an example of the dishonest but increasing tendency to frame the mere mention, use as an example, or explanation of an “unapproved” idea/person/activity, etc. as being advocacy for said idea/person… Sometimes done out of stupidity, but more often with intentionally obtuse malice.

  6. Sharon

    Regarding the school walk outs- I’m glad to see that the teacher got her job back. Anytime there is a school shooting, it is a tragedy but the chances of a school shooting ( or an active school shooter within a school) actually happening is very low. This is probably a very hard sell for a group of students who just watched classmates, friends and teachers die in a school shooting. Not to mention the parents. I can’t imagine the pain and fear many of these people may be feeling. However, just because a person has gone through this type of tragedy does not make this person an expert on school shootings or guns. In fact, their experience most likely has made them biased. And leave it to the schools to do the wrong thing regarding the walk outs…even more so than suspending the teacher for a very logical discussion she had with her students. The irony relating to the school walk outs is that students were actually put in more jeopardy of being harmed by a gun than they would have been if they just stayed in their classes. The chances of gun violence is much higher outside a school setting than in a classroom. Even if the rates of gun violence in a town or city are very low, the chances of gun violence are still much higher outside a school or classroom setting. By allowing a walk out by the students, schools just increased the chances of those students being harmed by the very thing in which the students were protesting in order to feel safe. The likelihood of a student being harmed by a gun during a walk out is obviously still very small (higher in some areas compared to others) but why would a school increase those chances at all?

  7. Other Bill

    Let me get this straight. A teacher was suspended for … teaching? By people who are her paid superiors? At the behest of the students’ parents?

    Is there a better example of inmates running the asylum? I taught grade school and high school for two and a half years. The classroom is essentially a fully contested area. If the teacher doesn’t confront, control and challenge the kids, the contest is lost. If the administration doesn’t back the teacher, the contest is lost. If the administration doesn’t back the teacher vis-a-vis the few awful parents, the contest is lost. If administrators are gutless morons, the contest is lost.

  8. Chris

    1. While that story was false, the larger criticisms of Haspel’s involvement in the torture program, and in covering it up, are still valid.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/i-went-to-prison-for-disclosing-the-cias-torture-gina-haspel-helped-cover-it-up/2018/03/15/9507884e-27f8-11e8-874b-d517e912f125_story.html?utm_term=.3fc9be58393f

    4. If the teacher’s account is true than the school is incompetent.

    • Other Bill

      From a 2013 Atlantic article on John Brennan’s nomination:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/does-it-matter-if-john-brennan-was-complicit-in-illegal-torture/266918/

      There is strong circumstantial evidence that the answer is yes. At minimum, Brennan favored rendition and what he called “enhanced interrogation tactics” other than waterboarding. As Andrew Sullivan put it in 2008, when Obama first considered Brennan as CIA chief, “if Obama picks him, it will be a vindication of the kind of ambivalence and institutional moral cowardice that made America a torturing nation. It would be an unforgivable betrayal of his supporters and his ideals.”

      These days, Sullivan is uninclined to oppose Brennan because “people change,” though Sullivan neither possesses nor presents any evidence that Brennan has changed*. Sullivan adds that the Brennan confirmation hearings could be useful. “We have an unusual opportunity to grill a nominee over the vital issues of torture and accountability, drones and secrecy,” he argues. “We need more sunlight — including public access to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s definitive report on the torture program under Bush-Cheney. But the Brennan hearings are a start.”

      • Chris

        Sullivan has always been a flip-flopper, and an opportunistic one at that. The criticism of Brennan was as justified as the criticism of Haspel.

        • Other Bill

          So no one from the CIA is qualified to lead the CIA? Can you imagine the uproar if Trump put in a non-CIA person? Like Tillerson at State? You’re pretending to be missing the point, Chris. Playing rope a dope. As usual.

  9. Re: No. 4:

    Fox News is reporting that an Ohio high school student has been suspended for not participating in the national student walk-out. Here is the news link, with attributions to the Associated Press:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/16/ohio-student-suspended-for-staying-in-class-during-national-walkout-day.html

    According to the article, “Jacob Shoemaker, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School, said he didn’t want to take sides in the gun-control debate consuming the country. If he went outside for the walkout, he said, he would be supporting gun control. If he stayed in the common area of the school, he said, he would be seen as supporting gun violence and disrespecting the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Fla. High school shooting the month before.” And “Jacob had met with the school’s principal on Tuesday, a day before the rally, for about an hour to find out what exactly the walkout was supporting. But he said the principal reportedly told him it was for the ‘students to express themselves.’” Shoemaker was suspended for not following instructions.

    So, a student stays behind in class, does not participate in the walk-out, and is suspended for 24 hours, for not following instructions. What are students to learn from this (which, oddly, they are supposed to doing during . . . erm . . . school)? Dissent is forbidden? Critical thinking is prohibited? The mind boggles at the implications.

    jvb

    • Other Bill

      Jacob should be designated an ethics hero.

    • Here's Johnny

      And another report says he was offered the choice of walking out or going to the commons area (where there would be supervision). Instead, he remained in the classroom (where there was no supervision) so he was suspended for failure to follow instructions. Initial reports often are wrong or missing important information. That appears to be the case here.

      • Chris

        Even the linked article says that, though, while also implying that he was being punished for his beliefs. Some weird cognitive dissonance here.

    • Chris

      I’m not understanding the framing of this story or the student’s justification for not following directions. At all.

      It says that students who were not participating in the walkout were told to report to study hall. The student said he felt that if he went to study hall with the others not participating, he “would be seen as supporting gun violence and disrespecting the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Fla. High school shooting the month before.” But somehow staying in class wouldn’t send that message? That doesn’t make any sense.

      The “neutral” position was to go to study hall with the rest of those not participating. While some students might interpret that as being opposed to the goal behind the walkout, certainly there were many who simply chose not to participate for other reasons. The headline is misleading; he wasn’t suspended for not participating in the walkout, he was suspended for not going to the school-mandated alternative and remaining in a classroom with no teacher supervision. The walkout itself, I assume, must have been supervised; it was at my school. I assume the study hall was supervised as well.

      I don’t think a suspension was the right call here; the kid seems more confused than anything else. But he was clearly given an objectively acceptable alternative to participating in the walkout, and chose to defy instructions. That’s why he was suspended, not because of his beliefs.

      • I agree with this analysis, Chris. I saw the story, and was considering discussing it until I read it thoroughly. You are spot on.

      • Matthew B

        Would it be OK to suspend a kid for going on the walkout? After all, an administrator could say no one is to go, and if they do, they are refusing to follow instructions.

        This kid did something similar. He exercised his right to speech by refusing to move. Let’s just call him Mr. Rosa Parks, he refused to give up his seat.

        • Chris

          Would it be OK to suspend a kid for going on the walkout?

          Legally? Yes. Ethically? Not in my opinion, no. But I don’t think it was ethical to suspend this kid, either, and I said that.

          This kid did something similar. He exercised his right to speech by refusing to move. Let’s just call him Mr. Rosa Parks, he refused to give up his seat.

          I don’t think you even read my comment, because I just demonstrated that refusing to go to the study hall had absolutely nothing to do with his right to speech. Going to the study hall expressed no viewpoint whatsoever, other than “I don’t want to participate in the walkout.” Staying in class with no supervision expressed that exact same viewpoint.

  10. Paul Compton

    #3: “Yesterday it was reported that actor Matt Damon was moving his family to Australia to escape the policies of President Trump”.

    What makes him think he’d automatically be welcomed here? Australia has controlled borders; something we get constant criticism for. He might find himself in a cage with Boo and Pistol!

  11. ”Hawking was confined to a wheelchair and relied on multiple life support devices, facing the prospect of imminent death for decades. He must have wished to be “free of physical restraints” many times. Nothing Gadot wrote suggested that there was anything to be ashamed of, or evinced bigotry, and the sentimental imagery of human beings moving on to a new existence without the impediments of their “mortal coil” is routinely applied to anyone who dies while sick or aged. It is not an insult to anyone, except to those who want to be insulted so they can posture as victims.”

    Quoted in an obituary article in The Times of London: “In my dreams I’m always able‑bodied,’ Stephen Hawking said.

    • AHA! That was the Hawking quote I was looking for! Thank-you!

      • I burst into tears of joy when I read your comment! Finally! I have proved myself of some minor use … 😉

        • Don’t get paranoid. Even sarcastic paranoid…

          • I am having a deja vu that the word ‘sarcastic’ has come up before. 😉

            sar·casm (sär′kăz′əm)
            n.
            1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to express contempt or ridicule.
            2. A form of wit characterized by the use of such remarks: detected a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
            [Late Latin sarcasmus, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein, to bite the lips in rage, from sarx, sark-, flesh.]

            (Sarz is the word used in the NT to refer to ‘the flesh’. It is the condition of fleshiness. “Soma’ is a similarly used at times but means ‘body’ as in vessel or vehicle. One can have a flesh body or a ‘body of light’).

            Because this blog has helped me so much in self-revelation I have to confess that I have discovered today something about myself. Thanks to Latin and Latin cognates!

            As far as I know, I don’t really have ‘sarz’ (σαρζ) in me: too cutting to mean.

            So, I had to go looking through the Latin dictionary for another descriptive word. And I found it: vexare which gives us the word ‘to vex’: to irritate, bother, perplex, frustrate.

            (Vexare: to shake, jolt, annoy.)

            If there is a physical dimension it might be ‘to afflict’. (As with ‘O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed’).

            I am — I guess if the shoe fits I’ll have to wear it — a vexatious contributor.

            There, I feel better already!

            Interchange today led to self-confrontation, then self-discovery!

  12. dragin_dragon

    Dr. Hawking was a remarkable man in so many ways. However, I suspect Ms. Gadot was considerably more accurate than her critics. My favorite Aunt passed away at age 95…she was suffering from wet age-related macular degeneration in both eyes, had essentially lost her hearing, had suffered several strokes and was very unsteady on her feet. She loved to travel but was unable to do so any longer. Prior to her death, she once referred to her body as a prison. Now, at 72, I am beginning to sympathize. I, too, have the wet AMD, but only in one eye, so I can still read, and I can still hear, a little and my hearing aids help some. I am, so far, a survivor of prostate cancer, and I have COPD (my own fault. I smoked a pack a day for almost 40 years). Thus, my physical activity is somewhat limited. The VA is doing all they can to keep me active and enjoying life, but we both know it’s a losing battle. I’m not looking for sympathy, here. However, I am pointing out that ALL of us lose some or all of the abilities we had when we were young, some faster than others. Being freed from our ”prisons’ is sometimes all we can ask for. Therefore, all I can do is agree with Ms. Gadot.. God bless, Dr. Hawing. Via con Dios.

    Paul Robeson, “Showboat”, lyrics from ‘Old Man River’
    “I’m tired of living, but scared of dying”

    • “This tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t,” responded one critic. Wrote another political correctness addict: “That sentiment affects me personally, it affects all people with disabilities because it impacts how we are perceived. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 70-80% and the idea that disabilities are scary things to be “freed” from is a big reason why.” From another: “Gal I am chronically ill. Can’t shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is.”

      Since I began to study Catholicism in depth I frequently come across prayers that lament life in ‘this vale of tears’. It has made me realize that, not so long ago, and after a certain relatively young age, physical issues quickly began. For one example teeth issues. I remember once when visiting a friend in Colorado that we went on a hike in the foothills and in the undercover of some bushes found an old cemetery. But it was all of children who only lived a few days. It was from the late 1800s.

      With all the advances in medicine one thing is certain (I realized): that just in the last 75-100 years quality of life has significantly been increased. It came to me when reading Andre Gide, I can’t remember now why, that for the modern (and the really quite modern) life has not only become tolerable but really much more livable. Now, one is more or less ‘guaranteed’ many decades of pain-free living when, I have gathered, even not so long ago life was plagued with more physical pain and distress, and then the emotional and spiritual weight that attends it.

      I then realized that it is only recently that the living of life has significantly opened up as a category, and because this is so, and because the ‘vale of tears’ and predictable suffering has abated and been driven back, that people no longer have such an immediate need to resort to turning to God for succor, nor do they have to be ‘spiritually trained’ to accept their suffering. Therefor (it occurred to me and now I remember what Gide had to do with it) life becomes something to be seized and grabbed and, doing that, one does not really need a supernatural agent. So, when people at one time may have hoped that, at least, their physical and emotional suffering would be ended with a reward of painlessness, now this does not seem like a necessary option. It is quite curious but there is a group of reasons why people now feel they can live, quite fell, without God and a link to the supernatural.

      For this reason, life comes 1) really much more into the present and 2) life can be fully lived ‘in the body’. Is it possible in comparison to a long span of human history that only now life and the living of it really opens up? And what does that mean for man’s religiousness? A new religiousness of physical existence? (And like in Brave New Wolrd when you get to the end you just take an extra-big dose of Soma and … melt back into matter).

      So, it is natural (predictable I mean) that the entire sensuous and then the voluptuous world opens up, and the will of man is directed to extracting pleasure; devising pleasure really, and casting off what limits him from getting and enjoying it. Our ‘consumer culture’ has risen up around these new prospects it seems to me.

      Even in Hawkins case: totally crippled he was, with the aid of technological aids, enebled to live a far more tolerable existence than he would have even 40 years ago. His intolerable life was made (much more) tolerable.

      It is curious as well that Hawkins is made a sort of ‘herald’ for a new phase and attitude of materialist existence and ideology. People seem to celebrate him as if he is someone who has successfully toppled both religious metaphysics and any need for a salvific, divine power. It is kind of strange really. Jesus might have commanded him to ‘Take up your bed and walk’ and the ‘crippled man’ is a Biblical metaphor for man who is crippled by ignorance of the (so-called) higher dimensions of life: the angelical ‘higher worlds’. There is something of a enigma in this but I am not sure what it is …

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