Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour.

Provocative Fox News host Tomi Lahren was at a weekend brunch with her mother in Minnesota last week, and once she was recognized, other patrons began yelling obscenities and insults, culminating in one of them  throwing  a drink at her. I’m not going to discuss how unethical this conduct is—do I have to? I’m more interested in what this ugly display tells us about the current mindset of the Angry Left these days. I cannot recall any similar treatment of any public figure in a dining establishment—not Henry Kissinger during the height of Vietnam War protests, not Nixon Watergate figures—and certainly not an opinion journalist. The Minnesotans—I’m so old, I remember when it had the reputation of being a nice state—were taking their cues, not from Trump, but from the hate-mongers on the Democratic/progressive side as well as the late night comics who now do little but denigrate the President of the United States,  his policies, and anyone who supports them.

It is instructive to read the comments on various websites about the incident, for the sympathy of progressives is overwhelming—for the harassing gang of diners. Here , check out the thread following the Mediaite article.

The majority attitude of the progressive defenders of the attack: Lahren deserved it; it wasn’t a really a drink, it was just water; this was free speech, and she can dish it out but can’t take it. Meanwhile, the restaurant managers wereapparently cowering somewhere as if it were a school shooting and they were Broward Count security guards.  Every one of the shouting and abusive patrons should have been thrown out.

Minor kudos are due to Presidential decapitator Kathy Griffin, who tweeted,

“I couldn’t disagree more with @TomiLahren, but I don’t think it’s cool to resort to physical actions to make your point.  The first amendment is a beautiful thing – use it.”

Someone explain to Kathy that there is no Constitutional right to disrupt a restaurant and harass a diner.

3.  A plug. Old friend Virginia Hume Onufer has a political podcast that is free, and if it is anything like Virginia, it must be also funny and smart. You can download it here.

4. Trump can’t block twitter-users. I thought this would come out the other way, and it might yet. The President doing on Twitter what every other user of the public social media platform can do is unconstitutional, a district court ruled. 

On such matters I generally yield to Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, who writes,

[1.] The virtual space provided by Twitter for replying to the President’s Tweets is a “designated public forum” — a space controlled (even if not owned) by the government that is generally open for public speech to fellow members of the public, and in which the First Amendment forbids viewpoint discrimination. The Tweets themselves aren’t a forum, because they are the President’s own speech; but the space for public replies is a forum. The court’s concern is that replies are a valuable means for the repliers to speak to fellow members of the public. The court recognizes that there’s no right to speak to the President in a way that the President is obliged to read; the President remains free, for instance, to use Twitter’s “mute” function, which would keep him from seeing the user’s replies when he reviews his own feed.

[2.] The President controls this space in his capacity as a government official, and not just as a private citizen.

The record establishes (1) that the @realDonaldTrump account is presented as being “registered to Donald J. Trump, ’45th President of the United States of America, Washington, D.C.'”; (2) “that the President’s tweets from @realDonaldTrump … are official records that must be preserved under the Presidential Records Act”; and (3) that the @realDonaldTrump account has been used in the course of the appointment of officers (including cabinet secretaries), the removal of officers, and the conduct of foreign policy — all of which are squarely executive functions.

That is, the President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.

And though the @RealDonaldTrump account was created long before the election, “the President and [his assistant Daniel] Scavino’s present use of the @realDonaldTrump account weighs far more heavily in the analysis than the origin of the account as the creation of private citizen Donald Trump.”

[3.] Though blocked users remain free to read the President’s Tweets, and can even comment on them through various workarounds (such as by creating new accounts), the various workarounds “require [the individual plaintiffs] to take more steps than non-blocked, signed-in users to view the President’s tweets,” which “delay[s] their ability to respond to @realDonaldTrump tweets.” This is not a vast burden, the court concluded, but “the First Amendment recognizes, and protects against, even de minimis harms.”

[* * *]

My quick thoughts: I think the court’s conclusions 1 and 3 are pretty clearly correct; I think there’s a plausible case that the comment space should be labeled a “limited public forum” rather than a “designated public forum,” but that is not relevant here—the key distinction between the two kinds of fora is that restrictions on speech in designated public fora must be content-neutral and in limited publica fora need only be viewpoint-neutral, but here the plaintiffs are alleging viewpoint discrimination, which is equally barred in limited and designated public fora.

Read the rest of his analysis here.

21 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

  1. #4 This absolutely blew my mind this morning. Is the next step in this to rule that no one can block other twitter users, no one can block Facebook users, etc if you choose to engage in topics that are politically related? This really does have wide spread implications for anyone that chooses to voice their opinion about political topics on any form of social media.

    • The part you did not see was the implied “…if you support Trump or are conservative…”

      Such an attitude would kill social media and the money progressive companies make, so will only be applied to the deplorables.

  2. #1 Trump opposition is already saying that Trump pulled out because North Korea insulted Vice President Pence and they mention nothing about North Korean threats of a nuclear exchange.

  3. #2 When will lynching and parading people down the streets, like the French did to women they suspected of collaborating with German officers, begin?

  4. 1. More to the point, let’s see who defends Kim on this one. Let’s not forget that a decade and a half ago Michael Moore praised Iraq in Fahrenheit 9/11 and the UK’s George Galloway actually went to Iraq, interviewed Saddam Hussein, and saluted him as a brave leader on camera.

    2. What can I say? The left has always had its share of people who committed vandalism and property damage, and the early 70s saw it at its height. Actual violence wasn’t that uncommon among the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, etc. At this point it’s gone mainstream, partly because trolling has gone mainstream, and cursing out someone from the other side or throwing stuff at them or worse may actually get you some cred with your like-minded friends. That said, don’t be too surprised if the other side decides to use similar tactics.

    3. ok.

    4 (shrug) The remedy for speech is usually more speech.

  5. #3. I’m a podcast-oholic. And now you’re an enabler.

    By the way, borrow her set up to get yourself hooked… the world is read for “the Siren, your daily Alarm for Ethical Lessons in Current Events”

        • The loose focus of the conversation is the extremism of the left regarding suppression of thought and the “Overton Window”. They briefly touch on the self-styled “Intellectual Dark Web” of recent fame. A loose confederation of “intellectuals”…many many of whom are on the political left but are recognizing the terrifying censoriousness of the hyper left…and a good component of conservatives as well.

          Both are participants in the “Intellectual Dark Web”.

          Interesting to watch on the internet, Twitter most noticeably, is the reaction from various leftists as they reflexively smear every single member of this “IDW” as rabidly and often as possible. It’s almost like the objective of open dialogue free of anger and insult scares the hyper-Left.

  6. #2 No surprise.

    If you can’t unseat the one at the top that you hate (President Trump) then attack anyone and everyone that doesn’t publicly support your hate and use the new “Scarlet Letter” of constant public shaming to destroy the lives of any individual that doesn’t publicly agree with you. The new “Scarlet Letter” is extreme confrontational public harassment and viral video; in other words, make the public at large literally fearful of not openly and publicly agreeing with anti-Trump rhetoric – truth, morals, ethics, etc be damned.

    The end of the United States Constitution is the goal of people like these.

    • Scarlet Letters: The Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism Exposed by Jack Cashill is a worthy read. R is for racist, D for climate denier, S for sexist, I for Islamaphobe, and so on. The author refers to today’s progressives as neo-puritans.

  7. May I take a minute, and express my personal thanks to Jack for his long suffering moderation of this forum? (Too late!) If he did not, I would not have a place to learn and grow. Objective ethics are rare to find, and I believe Jack does a great job standing firm while the world rests on shifting sand…

    1. This letter looks like something Dale Carnegie would have written. Dale’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was my first foray into understanding what makes others tick. Trump spoke to Kim’s level of understanding, invoked NK’s interests, and help firm without pandering. He made the activity a win-win, in the past and possibly in the future.

    The left will hate it, of course.

    2. Progressive hate will go too far, and someone will die. If the someone is a deplorable, the press will shrug and imply that they deserved it. If a deplorable defends themselves (righteously or not) and a lefty dies, progressives will use the incident to further their false claims. Hard to see this stopped without blood in the streets.

    Tomi was assaulted, right? And battered when the drink was thrown?
    Lawyers in the crowd?

    4. This court just allowed the killing of a conduit around the media to the people. Trump can be drowned out by progressives, just like they always do.

    Makes me want the right to start court shopping just like the left has always done!

  8. 4 is interesting, and I think Twitter itself might dislike the opinion. It has ramifications both on and off the platform that I find interesting.


    If Twitter is a… let me copy paste this… “designated public forum” defined as “a space controlled (even if not owned) by the government that is generally open for public speech to fellow members of the public” and “The Tweets themselves aren’t a forum, because they are the President’s own speech; but the space for public replies is a forum. The court’s concern is that replies are a valuable means for the repliers to speak to fellow members of the public.” then is Twitter allowed to ban people from their platform? Can people be banned from a designated public forum without some form of due process, or has the government, by Proxy of Twitter, violated the rights of the people Twitter has banned?


    We like to pretend that Donald Trump is special, but laws rarely apply to only one person. If Donald Trump cannot block people on Twitter, can any elected official? Will all the elected officials on Twitter be held to this standard? Will Twitter be forced to allow the harassment of those politicians? Can Twitter enforce community guidelines if the interaction is with a member of government?

    • I think this is being missed by a lot of knee-jerk reactions by anti-trumps. This applies to all government officials and organizations. This will be a huge bag of worms for the likes of a small town mayor or rural state representative.

  9. #1 – The Washington Post this morning said that sources say “an angry President Trump personally dictated the letter” but that “analysts were surprised by how conciliatory” the North Korean’s statement in response was.

    Morons. If Trump personally dictated that exquisitely phrased and delicately balanced letter, he was clearly not angry, and my respect for his diplomatic and negotiating skills has gone up exponentially. The conciliatory response by the Norks shows that they understood his message and, as far as I can tell, that things remain nicely on track. Or as the Post’s article said, some analysts “even said North Korea was practically begging for the summit to be rescheduled.” The Post, however, interprets this as Trump being out of control and Kim Jong Un being “reasonable, “the adult in the room” and “seizing the moral high ground.”

    As every experienced negotiator knows, one of the most effective strategies can be to walk away from the table. You can do that by stomping out of the room saying, “We’re leaving. Call us when you ready to be serious.” Or you can be less blunt, “I’m sorry we couldn’t reach a deal. It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope we’ll have a chance to do business again some day. If anything changes, give me a call.” Then you leave the room with smiles and handshakes and good will (whether real or pretended) all around. Trump seems to have used that technique with great skill here, yet his enemies can understand nothing their own hatre

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