1. One more time...I’m really going to try to get a year-end ethics review up for 2018. In both of the last two years, I failed miserably, and The Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of Ethics Awards never posted. It is a very time-intensive exercise, and the traffic for the posts have never been substantially more than an average entry that is a tenth as long.
We shall see.
2. The Bad Guys, Redux. It’s a problem: one wants to curb the trend of demonizing political adversaries, and yet we keep seeing escalating examples of unequivocally despicable behavior that deserves to be demonized, because it is constant, self-righteous, and indefensible.
Over at GoFundMe, someone named Brian Kolfage, has posted a petition and a crowd-funding effort to pay for “the wall” if Congress won’t. He writes, “I have a verified blue check Facebook page as a public figure and I’m a Purple Heart Recipient triple amputee veteran.”
This is not encouraging. [Correction notice: I originally wrote “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)” I checked this, but my source was wrong. Facebook does give public figures “blue checks.”] I guess Kolfage is sort of a public figure. He is also a controversial one who has pushed extreme right-wing conspiracy theories. When asked why he doesn’t mention any of his controversial crusades and advocacy in promoting his crowdfunding effort, he has responded, “My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.” Fine: what do his war wounds have to do with building a wall?
Never mind: the appeal has raised over 18 million dollars to date, although the contributions have slowed considerably. It’s a futile effort; I suppose it has some value to show public support for enforcing immigration laws. If people want to donate their money to such a cause, it’s their money to give, though they might as well be making little green paper airplanes out of hundred dollar bills and sailing them into the wind.
Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors. She writes,
Did you donate money to the GoFundMe page to build the border wall? If you did, there’s a good chance this guy/gal or otherkin has doxxed your Facebook profile to millions of other nasty trolls who will now make it their business to harass and punish you with anonymous online mobs. Get ready, because your life is about to get more interesting. Based on my personal experience, once these monsters get your information and the directive to destroy you, the death threats, vandalism, obscene pornography, and harassment at work are not far behind. And the worst part is, no one will help you — not the police or the FBI or anyone else whose job it should be to stop intimidation and harassment.
3. And another attack from Unethical Women. Respected and ubiquitous film critic David Edelstein made a tasteless joke on his Facebook page following the death of “Last Tango in Paris” director Bernardo Bertolucci. Edelstein wrote, “Even grief is better with butter,” and attached a still of Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in the controversial anal rape scene. Schneider was, in fact, sexually abused while filming that scene—I wrote about it here—and her treatment by Bertolucci and Brando was and is no laughing matter. Still, this was a bad joke–on Facebook—to his “friends.” Edelstein took down the impulsive post, but it was too late. A social media mob was forming in the cyber-street.
Thus the consequences of this single lapse in judgment were wildly out of proportion with the “offense.” One or more of the critic’s 2,091 Facebook friends took a screenshot of the post and circulated it to parties lacking a sense of proportion, fairness, or an understanding of the Golden Rule. Edelstein has been reviewing movies for 16 years on the National Public Radio syndicated show “Fresh Air,” and has also been the chief film critic for New York magazine. But feminist actress Martha Plimpton saw the screenshot of the joke, and tweeted it to her 196,000 followers with the message, “Fire him. Immediately.”
So NPR and New York Magazine, both progressive-dominated media outlets with remarkably little tolerance for free speech that doesn’t please its intolerant leftist audience, did.
Laura Kipnis writes,
…It was once argued, among a certain style of feminist, that when women came to power the world would be a more humane place because women’s style of rule would be different than men’s – more peaceable, more fair and collaborative, perhaps even a more moral style of power. To some extent this may prove to be true: certainly there will be less transactional sex in post-patriarchal times; likely less groping and leering. But will there be a more humane treatment of the workforce?
No doubt many will see the evolution of gendered management styles from “Give me a blow job or I’ll fire you” to “Don’t tell a joke I don’t like or I’ll fire you” as preferable. Personally, I think they’re both encroachments. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Amy Alkon adds…
Does anyone else notice that there’s a difference between being female-empowering and simply yanking away power and positions from men, on the slimmest account?
4. “An Inspector Calls.” I finally saw the 2015 BBC adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s 1945 drama, which I had read long ago. Both Priestley and his play are far better known in England than in the U.S., and even in Great Britain, it is a single speech at the end of the three-act play that keeps both the author’s and the play’s flames flickering.
For his part, Priestley was an astoundingly prolific writer and social commentator, with over thirty novels, more than twenty plays, and a mass of essays, short stories, novellas, and published musings on the science of time. He had significant influence on British politics and the rise of the socialist Labor party. It is the speech by the mysterious inspector in “An Inspector Calls,” however, that encapsulates it all.
The play is set in 1912 London. The wealthy (but decidedly non-artistocratic) Birling family is holding a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to the son of her father’s business competitor. The festivities are interrupted by an Inspector Goole, who says that he is investigating the recent suicide of a young woman who once worked in Mr. Birling’s factory. Over the course of the evening, Goole’s questions prompt each member of the dinner party to confess to having contributed to the wpman’s death through their own unethical behavior. Before he leaves, the inspector—who isn’t an inspector at all, but more of a social reform vigilante—says,
But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.
I like the speech, which is a strong statement of what ethics means in the abstract. In a context where all wealthy and successful people are painted as selfish monsters, and the poor are stereotyped as helpless victims, the speech becomes a manifesto. You will not be surprised, perhaps, that “An Inspector Calls” had its premiere in the Soviet Union.