Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

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.


15 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

  1. “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)”

    Looks like it does. I looked up the guy’s Facebook page, and it has a blue check which says, when you hover the mouse over it: “Verified page. Facebook confirms this is an authentic page for this public figure, media company, or brand.” To make sure it wasn’t something put there by the user, I looked up Ryan Reynolds on Facebook, then Burger King, and their pages have the blue check as well.

  2. On point 2.
    Isn’t contributing a small sum to a political candidate the same thing as making a paper airplane out of your bills you contribute?

    As for Meghan Fox, her comment seemed to be more of a complaint against doxxing and trolls than against contributing.

      • No, I don’t think I was unclear: I wrote, “Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors.” I changed the subject. I think contributing money to “the wall” is silly.

    • On small candidate donations: Why is that futile? They add up, and there’s a way to spend the money for exactly what it is given to do. There is no way to build the border wall with private money.

      • Jack, my point was that small donations to political candidates are often outweighed by larger donors wants.

        If the money donated for the wall cannot legally be added to allocated funds for border security then all the funds will go back to the donors. Technically they are restricted donations for a specific purpose. While 18 million may be just a bit more than 1% of the 1.3 billion that Democrats are willing to offer it does represent enough money to build some wall portions or acquire some of the private property needed. When people put up their own money for a given use it should carry far more weight than when they demand something using OPM.

        Perhaps we should consider the idea that Congress votes a fixed amount of money as the budget cap and let the people determine the allocation of their taxes to different departments using the United Way model. Far more democratic with respect to how our funds are used.

      • This is the problem, exactly. I would gladly donate to the wall if there were some way to get the money to fund the project. There simply is no such mechanism, and I’m not in the habit of throwing my money in a hole.

        I admire the concept, but before setting up such a project, the proprietor had an ethical duty figure out the mechanics of it, and not to proceed if it was untenable. It’s unethical to raise money for a project that cannot be funded by the proceeds.

  3. 3. “Fire him. Immediately.”

    Martha Plimpton is a third generation of the acting Carradines, so it might not surprise that she would make demands as if she were a member of an aristocracy.

  4. 1) good luck with that!
    2) ok first of all I am a fan of controlling our borders, I am not a fan of the wall as I have lived along the border and know there are ways under and over that we will never stop, ask any 15 year old gay kid who knows he can go to gay clubs in Juarez. But the areas that already have wall they are ineffective and only a fool through more money at a solution that does not work, but then That is how bankruptcy happens which I am now aquinted with, and Trump should be even more Aware of. But some do not learn from their failures. I also do not think our Asylum program is broken. It has been effective, some of our friends on the left want to widen it. Trump wants to narrow it. I say it needs mostly to be left alone. Enforcement of our current laws are what was needed, unfortunately we have become Overzealous in enforcement by being less then humane. We our Americans our kindness use to be legendary. We need to find a balance here and neither side is listening. Yes we had a problem which is demonstrated by the 16 people in the two bedroom apartment above me! But overeating to problems does not work and makes us look like jerks.
    3) did not know this story and am sicker by it! But all these years later it serves as a cautionary tale! Shame it puts a stain on a favorite actor! A different time he would have done better,but when you are in love with your straight best friend in a society that forces you into the closet. He was a strange man. But a true artist and one of the saddest people I ever met. Met him through the theatre shop I use to run about 28 years ago! He was a verousous reader. Yes joke was in bad taste but I will never be able to watch film again!
    4) love that show.

  5. A minor point: the original spelling of proper names should be used out of respect, even if that is different from your own usage of the words involved. Just as it would be wrong to write “National Inquirer”, so also it is wrong to write “Labor” when writing of the (British) “Labour Party” – even though it is right to write “Australian Labor Party”, for the very same reasons. It gets trickier with groups like our Australian DLP (“Democratic Labour Party”) that have chopped and changed over time; I incline towards using whichever spelling was in place at the time of the reference being cited.

    This is all part of the Rectification of Names.

  6. I do find it interesting that women seem to prefer working for a male boss more than men do. Below are not exactly right-wing extremists articles about this. It makes you wonder if Al Bundy was right “Don’t try to understand women. Women understand women and they hate each other”.

  7. I donated a very small amount to the Wall gofundme. It is more about letting politicians know of the base of support (~310,000 people and counting) who are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

    I understand that a private person CAN donate to government, though. I do know that the IRS takes donations, so not sure why this money could not be designated to the intended use. Maybe someone will educate me?

    As far as getting doxxed, good luck: no active Facebook page (or any other) and I could not give a hoot what progressive haters think in any case. (Try harassing me in person and learn why an armed society was a POLITE one)

    This makes me immune to online hatred, interestingly enough.

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