Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/2018: Twitter Revelations

Good Morning!

I know I’ve been belly-aching about the decline in views on Ethics Alarms this year. There are a lot of theories, but one certainty: I’ve written fewer posts.  Beginning in July, I’ve had an unavoidable two-hour commitment during the work week that has compressed my schedule, and removed crucial time that would normally be used, in part, to create one or two additional blog commentaries. The task also left me fatigued and frequently caused time crunches with other projects. That commitment finally ends after today. I would celebrate, but I don’t have the energy.

1. Twitter bites Bill James. James, the free-thinking, courageous baseball iconoclast often credited with creating the discipline of sabermetrics, has been an inspiration to me for decades in his relentless commitment to banishing bias, majority beliefs and conventional wisdom from his analysis. (“Signature significance,” often mentioned here, is Bill’s term.) Yesterday, I learned that Bill was once again the target of fury within the baseball establishment (it doesn’t “get” Bill, and never will), this time because of a series of tweets he issued in discussing baseball with some followers.  Inspired by Washington Nationals free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper’s rejection of a 300 million dollar offer from his club, Bill was musing about the conventional wisdom that players. especially stars, are the reason people watch baseball. Among other tweets, he wrote,

“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are…The entire GAME is the product…We’re all replaceable, the players as much as the beer vendors. If they’re unhappy about that, talk to God about it; I don’t make these rules.”

This attracted the ire of the Players Association, which deliberately or  foolishly misconstrued what James was trying to convey. As a long-time reader of James’ work, I have seen this theme before. It’s a simple (but too complex for most players and broadcasters, essentially) proposition: even if the over-all quality of the players was reduced, the game being played would look and feel the same, its thrills, strange bounces and dramatic turns would be unchanged, the new, lesser players would yield new stars, and the popularity of the sport would not be significantly diminished. James makes such observations to jolt people out of comfortable assumptions, and force them to think. Too many people in baseball don’t want to think, or don’t know how. James also suggested that for a baseball player who was paid $3,000,000 a year to feel underpaid was ridiculous in some respects. Of course the Players Association and the players themselves couldn’t let that go without objection.

James is a consultant to the Boston Red Sox, and the team felt it had to reject James’ theories in this matter…mustn’t make the union mad, after all. The team wrote:

“Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group. Our Championships (sic) would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players — they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

Of course, James never said that the game could be played without players.

To his credit, and typical of him, James took full responsibility for the mess. “I understand that the Red Sox are not in business to offend people, and certainly regret that I gave offense to anyone,” he wrote. That was clearly not an apology, nor was it intended as one. James has not retracted his statements. He has said that he should have been clearer. Speaking of his rebuke from the Red Sox, he said,

“I’m not offended. None of us in the organization — or, like me, sort of attached to the organization although not exactly in the organization — none of us should give offense unnecessarily. If I did that — and obviously I must have — it isn’t their fault; it’s mine. I do think that my remarks, taken in context, could not be misunderstood in the way that they have been. But it is pathetic for a writer to say ‘I’ve been misunderstood.’ Our job is to make ourselves understood.”

Yesterday, I heard one of the Sirius-XM Major League Baseball hosts ridicule the idea that a millionaire player shouldn’t feel underpaid, citing the salaries move and TV stars get. But James point, if anything, is more valid in reference to that industry. In my tiny corner of professional theater, I have encountered literally dozens of actors, actresses and artists who are as talented and accomplished as many, indeed most, of the stars who get paid multiple millions for their performances. If every film actor alive decided to emigrate to Denmark, it would take less than three years to replenish the talent pool. It would not even take one.  For the most part, he public goes to see good movies, not stars. Movies, not actors, are the product.

2. Just so you know that I’m a nice guy...A lawyer representing someone I criticized in a post from several years ago contacted me and asked if I would take the post down. His client, he told me, has been periodically contacted on social media by individuals who have read my post, and she is embarrassed by the episode I was writing about. The lawyer did not demand that I remove the post. He did not claim that I had defamed anyone; he conceded that I had published an opinion within my range of expertise, and that he had no grounds to force me to do anything. He just said that his client would be very grateful if I took down the post.

I checked the statistics. I rather liked the essay, but it had attracted few comments, no more than a hundred or so people had read it, and the topic was now moot. I took it down.

3. The Bad Guys (cont.) Matt Yglesias is an infamous left-wing pundit, and not a very bright one, in my experience. Naturally, he writes for Vox. In the wake of another leftist mob setting out to intimidate those with whom they disagree (Note: I will NOT take down a post if a mob outside my house demands it) Yglesias tweeted,

I think the idea behind terrorizing his family, like it or not as a strategy, is to make them feel some of the fear that the victims of MAGA-inspired violence feel thanks to the non-stop racial incitement coming from Tucker, Trump, etc….I agree that this is probably not tactically sound but if your instinct is to empathize with the fear of the Carlson family rather than with the fear of his victims then you should take a moment to reflect on why that is….I met a woman who didn’t leave the house for months because she was afraid of being picked up by ICE and never seeing her US citizen kids and husband again. What sense was there in terrorizing her family?…I honestly cannot empathize with Tucker Carlson’s wife at all — I agree that protesting at her house was tactically unwise and shouldn’t be done — but I am utterly unable to identify with her plight on any level.

The entire series is signature significance for someone with no ethical comprehension or bearings whatsoever. There is nothing here but bias and rationalizations, and no news  organization who employs such an ethically-handicapped writer can be trusted or taken seriously. Because an illegal immigrant is frightened of the fair and legal consequences of her own actions and choices, it is legitimate for a mob to terrify the family of conservative news commentator. Allow me to add intellectual bankruptcy to Yglesias’s undeniable maladies.

Now he’s deleted all of his tweets. Too late! We know you’re a vicious, biased idiot, Matt.

22 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/2018: Twitter Revelations

      • How come it always seems to be Democrats discovering new votes in close elections after the polls are closed? How come Republicans don’t ever seem to discover news votes like this?

        The Universe is full of these strange coincidences…

        • If ever there were two sides of the same coin argument….

          The democrats are probably saying “How come it always seems to be Republicans who have their votes properly counted in close elections before the polls are closed? How come Democrats have to force a recount to get our correct vote totals?”

          In a situation like this, I can’t help but root for the referees – the ones who are tasked with being as impartial and correct as possible under extraordinary circumstances.

          • That’s a pretty pathetic argument. But let’s play along.

            My suggestion if Democrats really think that, they should get their own house in order. In most of this country, the elections are overseen by a local, county by county elected official. Just like everywhere else in politics, you see rural areas with republican election officials, suburbia with a purple mix, and the urban core with solid blue officials. The rural counties votes come in early and clean. By “clean” I mean that there is negligible differences between the first vote and all of the recounts. Suburbia is slower and less clean but usually not too bad. Where do the votes keep getting “found” in recount after recount? Urban cores. If your pathetic argument is true – it is up to the democrats to clean up their own house and get election results right.

            When the first count and the first recount showed Dino Rossi winning Washington Governor in 2008, King County (Seattle-Tacoma) kept “finding” more and more votes. The third recount got Rossi down to 10 votes ahead and then the FOURTH recount finally showed Christine Gregoire winning so they went with that one. In your argument, how exactly were republicans responsible for democrats being unable to find those votes the first three times they counted?

            Ditto for the Norm Coleman / Al Franken election. At least in that one it only took one vote to get the results the democrats sought.

  1. #3 Matt Yglesias just wants to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. I also find the the tone of his post very telling. In essence, he supports the protesters and what they stand for, he just disagrees with this one incident, because it make the cause look bad. There is no condemnation, it’s just, I would have done it differently. It’s also another point that shows that the leftist are about leftism and nothing else. If recall, Tucker Carlson is a member of The Media, which are above reproach and totally not enemies of the people, as the president likes to keep saying. Yet, being a right wing member of the media is clearly not enough to get the same deference from your colleagues in condemnation of attacks against the media, so on and so forth. Here we just get victim blaming, and he had it coming rationalizations. People who will still argue that there is no bias in media must just be really obtuse, or very cynical.

  2. Didn’t the Pittsburgh Pirates do this after the players strike? I seem to remember they traded their expensive players for a bunch of AAA talent. They moved the best of them to the majors and paid them the league minimum. They weren’t the best team, but they were far from the worst and their payroll was drastically less than everyone else’s After a few years, the best of those AAA players were wooed away by other teams and they started paying the outrageous salaries again.

    I think baseball lost their way during the player’s strike. It was like the Teddy Roosevelt quote “I would have sworn the union leaders were the most ignorant and unreasonable group of people I had ever met, had I not met the owners.” (paraphrased) I think Marge Schott’s idea that a major league baseball game should cost less than a movie in the theater was the best idea for the future of baseball.

  3. 3. One of the main tactics of extreme leftists (or generally unethical people) a is crude system of tit for tat-ism where a perceived wrong is repaid in full by acting out similar behavior. Notice Mr. Yglesias said “make them feel some of the fear” meaning make the perceived guilty feel the same perceived pain as the victim. It’s a pretty obvious bottom of the barrel approach that calls to mind a few unethical rationalizations including Ethical Vigilantism, Sicilian Ethics, and The Psychic Historian.

    At 19 I had a black female advocate who encouraged me to refer to whites as “people of non-color.” She explained it would “balance the scales” and in essence demote whiteness into nothingness as a means of justice. Being naïve I tried this on a few friends who were (understandably) insulted and the result was that I felt like an asshole because I was in fact acting like one.

    The Root recently wrote an article about an incident here in Portland a couple weeks ago and referred to the white woman as “a woman bearing the skin color of an American terrorist…” So yes whites are now terrorist colored according to this black run website. Are whites supposed to feel offended by such terminology? Are whites supposed to feel as bad as people of color? Are whites supposed to feel scared? Somehow such roguishness makes everything magically equal & fair right?

    Wisdom & time usually demonstrates that it’s all fun, games, and social justice – until they come for you.

      • Slick, you just reminded me that I have often been unfair in not repeating the item I was responding to; I often forget that. So: I went back to the unfairness [what unfairness?] you [Mrs. Q?] are ‘righting’ was made up by your side [what side?] in order to have a grievance [?].

        I read over Mrs. Q’s once moe, then further back in case you were responding to someone else but still came away confused. And curious to know if I missed something obvious. (that’s happened a few times in my life!)

  4. Re 2

    Well done.

    Not that you did it for my praise, or anyone else’s. You did it because, after careful deliberation, you decided it was not a wrong thing to do, and because it was an act of grace and kindness that would make this sorry world suck just a little less for someone you don’t even know.

    In one respect, you didn’t have to do it. In another, It’s the kind of thing Jack Marshall does because he’s Jack Marshall. Unavoidable.

    I repeat, well done.

    Well done to the Lady’s lawyer too, for taking this unusual approach in the best interests of his client.

    • Regarding the latter: No kidding. If it was a tactic, it was a brilliant one, but based on my exchanges with the lawyer, I don’t think it was a tactic. He was honest, he made a humanitarian case, and he was persistent. He began by avoiding an adversary position too, the secret of successful negotiation.

  5. Okay, so I’m just a random viewer here who comments very irregularly.

    However, I think you would increase your readership if you’d commit to writing at least one ethics hero/ethics hall of fame post every two weeks, or even better once per week. While I always read this blog (and it’s the only one I read religiously), it does get a little bogged down in the negativity, (I’ not blaming you for that, you’re just doing your job based on the ethical decisions you see others making) and I think that may be part of why you are losing some viewers. I think some of your best writing comes when you are talking about persons who have great ethics. That’s just my personal opinion.

    Of course, this is just random internet advice. Feel free to ignore me.

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