Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians.

3. Facebook censorship update: Well, there’s comfort in knowing that it isn’t just me and Ethics Alarms. Over the weekend, Facebook blocked users from sharing two articles on the on the hate crime hoax by gay black star Jussie Smollett, which Democratic Presidential candidates exploited to attack the President and which the mainstream media largely publicized as fact. Both pundit Rod Dreher and Daily Caller reporter Jen Kerns saw their articles censored on Facebook, with messages that the pieces—which are, we now know, factual and true, violate Facebook “community standards.”

I don’t know what can be done about this. Dreher says he has quit Facebook after the social media monster rejected his article at The American Conservative., but Facebook won’t care until the users who have created an oppressive “community standards” hostile to any facts or opinions challenging the “resistance” hive mind start caring about facts, freedom of expression and fair debate. Heaven knows most of my Facebook friends don’t care.

4. The solution to discrimination is more discrimination? Yes, that appears to be the theory. The George Washington University Parliamentary Debate Society will allow only women and transgender individuals to compete in an April debate tournament hosted by the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA). The league, composed entirely of college students, voted on the discriminatory proposal, and the required two-thirds of member schools voted in favor of it.

An op-ed for the student paper criticizing the move managed to miss the ethical problem with it. “While the new debate tournaments have been framed as a way to prioritize women and gender minority debaters, this sort of arrangement does little to actually bridge disparities in the way genders are treated differently when it comes to debate,” GW student argued! Ah! The discrimination won’t work! That’s the problem!

No, you maleducated, biased idiot, that’s not the problem. The problem is that this is gender discrimination.

The former president and vice president of the George Washington Parliamentary Debate Society defended the gender apartheid by writing, fatuously,

“It is essential to create spaces where gender minorities can find support, meet mentors and peers and feel empowered by seeing successful women. The people who compete at the gender minority tournament are still going to be competing against men at dozens of other competitions throughout the year.”

Oh, I see. So discrimination is benign and acceptable as long as it doesn’t continue forever! This a debating organization, and they make arguments like THAT?

Women and anyone who does not identify as cis male will be welcome to compete, organizers say, and gender identification will not be challenged. Perfect! Let’s see how many men sign up, claiming that they feel like female debaters trapped in male debater’s bodies. About a hundred or so should sabotage this nonsense.

5. Jeer, jeer at Old Notre Dame...The University of Notre Dame is responding to the usual political correctness complaints by a vocal minority of campus activists by covering up its 12 134-year-old murals depicting Christopher Columbus discovering the New World.  Notre Dame’s president,  the Rev. John Jenkins, put himself in the running for “Orwellian Weasel of the Year by  explaining that the decision to cover the murals was  intended to  tell ‘the full story’ of Columbus’s expedition.

This episode inspired a trenchant speech by Roger Kimball, which you can read here. An excerpt:

In the background is the conviction that we, blessed members of the most enlightened cohort ever to grace the earth with its presence, occupy a moral plane superior to all who came before us. Consequently, the defacement of murals of Christopher Columbus — and statues of later historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt — is perfectly virtuous and above criticism since human beings in the past were by definition so much less enlightened than we.

The English department at the University of Pennsylvania contributed to the monument controversy when it cheered on students who were upset that a portrait of a dead white male named William Shakespeare was hanging in the department’s hallway. The department removed the picture and replaced it with a photograph of Audre Lorde, a black feminist writer. ‘Students removed the Shakespeare portrait,’ crowed department chairman Jed Esty, ‘and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.’ Right.

High schools across the country contribute to the monument controversy when they remove masterpieces like Huckleberry Finn from their libraries because they contain ideas or even just words of which they disapprove.

The psychopathology behind these occurrences is a subject unto itself. What has happened in our culture and educational institutions that so many students jump from their feelings of being offended — and how delicate they are, how quick to take offense! — to self-righteous demands to repudiate the thing that offends them? The more expensive education becomes the more it seems to lead, not to broader understanding, but to narrower horizons.

44 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

  1. #2. For starters, the administration might call down to the English Department and have someone explain the difference between a “facsimile’ and an “illustration.” Good grief!
    #5. A phobia is defined as “an excessive, extreme, irrational, fear or panic reaction about a situation, living creature, place or object.” These perpetually offended types who seek to erase historic objects are indeed phobic. What differentiates them from the classic phobic is that those “self-righteous demands to repudiate the thing that offends them” are antithetical to proven treatment methods; e. g., the arachnophobe is not cured by initiating the annihilation of all spiders. These people need cognitive/behavioral therapy and possibly medication, not appeasement.

    • #2. I also can’t help but wonder: If the student’s banner had omitted the crossed rifles and had only borne the “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan and second amendment reference, would it have been deemed hate speech and similarly banned? I fear that would be the case.

      • On the other hand, teaching snowflakes to curl into a ball when presented with a picture of a rifle makes them unsuitable as cannon fodder as well as the intended consequence: making them powerless government serfs.

        So we have that going for us…

    • #2. These things will not stop until federal judges start to impose some real penalties for it. The federal courts have ruled several times that you can’t set up ‘free speech zones’ on your campus and force people to fill out paperwork to have their first amendment rights for 45 minutes. However, there are dozens of major schools that do. Why would they set up policies they know have been ruled unconstitutional? Because they want to and there is essentially no penalty. If sued, the worst that will happen is that the judge will tell them not to do it. If a federal judge would have the guts to fine a major university $50 million, this stuff would stop really quickly. You may think $50 million is an outrageous settlement, but many of these schools pay the football coach almost $10 million each year.

  2. RE: No. 1; Clarence Darrow.

    Darrow said, “If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.”

    Here is the text of Darrow’s closing argument:

    http://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/clarence-darrow-plea-for-leopold-and-loeb-22-23-and-25-august-1924-speech-text/

    I didn’t realize that this was a bench trial, where guilt was conceded and the issue was sentencing/punishment. I wonder how a jury would have received the argument – would a jury have been swayed/moved to mercy?

    It is a powerful speech, taking in history and the present day. He recites biblical verse. literature, and poetry, framing the death penalty as the last vestige of barbaric past. He recounts the number of times people were hanged in Illinois prior to that trial. He also discussed the mental states of the accused, claiming bad upbringing, mental disorders (“who in his/her right mind would/could conceive of such a vicious crime against a child?”), and society’s role in their crime.

    jvb

    • Just to have gotten to the end of that speech the judge likely decided against the death penalty! I read at least half of the book Jack co-authored and I was not that impressed with Darrow.

      It may take account of infinite circumstances which a human being may not understand. If there is such a thing as justice it could only be administered by one who knew the inmost thoughts of the man to whom they were meting it out. Aye, who knew the father and mother and the grandparents and the infinite number of people back of them. Who knew the origin of every soul that went into their body, who could understand their structure and how it acted. Who could tell how the emotions that sway the human being affected that particular frail piece of clay. It means more than that. It means that you must appraise every influence that moves them, the civilization where they live, their living, their society, all society which enters into the making of a child. If your honor can do it–if you can do it–you are wise, and with wisdom goes mercy.

      I find all of his arguments rhetorically corrupt and not that hard to defeat. But they are arguments that are emotional at their core. And that is the problem: emotional arguments work.

      The purpose of a death penalty could only be — if my reasoning is correct — to establish protections for the living. Those guilty have forfeited their rights (to special consideration). If you are engaged in killing someone, and it is determined that it in the higher degrees of murder, even if you are under any number of pressures, or had bad upbringing, or have a confused brain — none of this matters: you must be put to death. It makes a great deal of sense.

      Wikipedia: “Felony murder, a charge that may be filed against a defendant who is involved in a dangerous crime where a death results from the crime, is typically first-degree. Second-degree murder: any intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned in advance.”

      It seems to me that in a *sane* society both of these degrees warrant the death-penalty. There should be some exceptions to second degree murder, but few. It is also infinitely cheaper to hang them after an appeal period of one year only. OK, maybe two.

        • Jack wrote: “The argument based on compassion and mercy is still values and ethics based, for they are, in fact, ethical values. Revenge is not. Retribution is not.

          “I wouldn’t have spared them, but as a lawyer, I cannot imagine a stronger argument for not executing them.”

          Definition of ‘retribution’: Late Middle English (also in the sense ‘recompense for merit or a service’): from late Latin retributio(n- ), from retribut- ‘assigned again’, from the verb retribuere, from re- ‘back’ + tribuere ‘assign’.

          Definition of ‘revenge’: Late Middle English: from Old French revencher, from late Latin revindicare, from re- (expressing intensive force) + vindicare ‘claim, avenge’.

          A few notes on the topic

          When I read about Darrow I admit that a great deal about the man did not sit well with me — given naturally my idealism and my concern for intellectual degeneration. He seemed to have seen himself as an agent of modern sophistication and of true intellectualism, and I certainly grasp what he was up to in the Scopes Trial. But I am left with the sense that the method of his argument, and the way that sort of argument *contaminated discourse*, was not (necessarily) positive.

          Since yesterday I have been thinking about the structure of his argument to spare the life of the young men (and I know nothing about the case except the most general outline). Certain questions arise. For example, if you as a lawyer and lawyers in general are of the professional opinion that *whatever argument is necessary to win the client’s case* is acceptable, necessary and good, I think this open up ethical problems right there. It would seem to mean that any kind of argument, any tool, any trick, any manoeuvre, if it works, is permissible. This open up to “the ends justify the means” and I am not sure if that argument could fully function as a defense of shady techniques of argumentation.

          But what if it were required that only *truly sound argumentation* were even recognized and allowed? I mean of course if *general society* would recognize only a good argument and would reject the bad one. I recognize that it would be difficult indeed to control what type of argument is used, and how could one stop someone from engaging in rhetorically underhanded methods of argument anyway. But the larger issue — it seems to me — is that at a certain point within American culture, and it would seem within American jurisprudence, that the use of certain corrupted rhetorical forms became acceptable. Indeed, they became common and perhaps the word to use is *irresistible*. Does this reflect or express some type of intellectual contamination that resulted in myriad bad results?

          It would seem that one could argue that this is a moral or ethical defect within culture, and one would then have before one the task of trying to determine how this came about and why. (As you have gathered this is my area of interest: causation and *the causal chain*).

          It is one thing, obviously, if a lawyer does what he or she must to lessen the penalty of the client or to win a not-guilty verdict. But it seems to me (again from what I read of the book you co-authored) that Darrow was a large influence on general culture and his actions reverberated everywhere: he and people like him. If that influence led to a weakening of the will to be decisive and to *properly administer justice* in the larger context of culture and society, it seems to me that those who participate in the use of such distorted rhetoric and manipulation can be held to account, if only in the realm of post-analysis.

          I have to admit to you that it puzzled me how you could have such admiration and respect for this man given your own strict orientation. He could be painted as a rogue . . .

        • It is a very curious thing: reading today’s NYTs there is an article about the women from Canada and the US that joined ISIS . . . and now ‘regret their choice’. The core of their argument is:

          “How do you go from burning a passport to crying yourself to sleep because you have so much deep regret? How do you do that?” Ms. Polman asked. “How do you show people that?”

          Well, that’s easy! You show yourself to be crying. And if possible let the drops fall on your audience. And then ask the audience how many decisions they have made that later in life they regretted. The appeal is completely emotional.

          But what if there were an absolute rejection of the whole *show*? What if people said: “OK, I understand your personal remorse for the decision you made — makes sense — but you must now live out the consequences of your choices. You wanted to join this organization, now you regret it, but now instead of running home crying you will need to stay there and transform that culture, preach to other people there, and be a lesson so that other people see that ‘decisions have consequences’.”

            • Some part of a fuller story is here:

              You can see that some of the women interviewed by the Times are in this or a similar camp.

              I think there should be no ‘mercy’ for them at all, across the board. Let the people there deal with them. They can *reintegrate* there. Some might be killed, turned out, who cares? It is not the countries they left business to be concerned for them.

              This is sort of what I mean: people should be forced to live with the consequences of their choices. To have *sympathy* is often to enable.

              • Texas has a long tradition of “he needed killing” where the fact that someone committed the act of murder, regardless of circumstances not directly related to the heat of the moment, mean society may kill you back.

                Poor upbringing, mental illness, society being mean to you: all fall under “you had a choice to make, and your choice tells us you are a danger to society and thus should be permanently removed.”

    • Darrow knew he couldn’t sway a jury. The kids were rich Jews in a very anti-Semitic period and city. They showed no remorse at all. They weren’t legally insane. They were gay. The victim was a kid. He got lucky and drew a judge who was known for being fair, thoughtful, and reasonable.

      • I hope he was no longer regarded as reasonable after bowing to an informal logical fallacy (argument from emotion) in a public forum. I’d never heard of this case. If this crime isn’t death-penalty-worthy, none of them ever were. Procedurally though, that would then be the proper judgment of a legislature.

        The idea of a judge who can be swayed with emotional manipulation, pyrotechnics, swelling music, and smoke machines nauseates me. I put it on the same plane as watching LeBron James lose a game of one-on-one to a grade school child – it would cause me to doubt the touted expertise not just of James but the entire enterprise he apparently dominates. Likewise, the application of reason to the determinable facts and the existing laws for the purpose of exacting justice is why we have judges. This one is considered reasonable among judges, therefore &c.

        • The argument based on compassion and mercy is still values and ethics based, for they are, in fact, ethical values. Revenge is not. Retribution is not.

          I wouldn’t have spared them, but as a lawyer, I cannot imagine a stronger argument for not executing them.

          • I agree there’s something there. It seems to be an argument against the death penalty per se, though. It seems misplaced in a courtroom. Ideally, in a state with a death penalty, you argue to a judge that the penalty shouldn’t hold in the particular case and to a legislative body that it shouldn’t hold in any case. The tactics are hard to set aside as mere rhetoric, too. The moral equivalence of murdering the innocent and executing people who murder the innocent is a nefarious means which can’t lead to any good end.

            The poet once said “don’t hate the player; hate the game”. That poet gave poor advice. I can very easily and effectively do both. Prodigiously, I can even hate the player for the sake of his playing said game.

            • “Hate the sin, never the sinner” is also probably Darrow’s most famous quote, though I’ve always liked, “I hate spinach, and I’m glad I hate it because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I hate it.”

              • Hah! If he said that, I can understand your interest in him. I may be at an interpretive disadvantage having only this one anecdote to try to form my opinion. I haven’t said so so far, but I have sympathies to measured death penalty opposition myself – not to say I’m opposed (it’s complicated: a cultivated mind can consider an idea without accepting it – I’m cultivated!).

  3. 2 Totalitarian instincts

    Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses…I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural.

    I’d sure like to see the rest of that. “Meltdown?” “Rebellion?” “Crisis?” Only The Shadow knows…

    So these tenured college professors, all with PhD’s in something, don’t understand that a photographic or artistic depiction of an object is not a “facsimile?”

    How shameful. This is who is teaching your kids, America. They can define “woke” (not a real word) but not “facsimile” (a real word).

    I honestly think they’ve just said “Screw it — we’ll crap on conservative students at every available opportunity until somebody forces us to stop.” Very ethical — in hell.

    3 Facebook censorship

    I don’t know what can be done about this.

    Have it declared a public utility and regulated.

    Or, nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    4 Discrimination to solve discrimination

    Well, we’ve lived with this for decades in the form of affirmative action.

    “It is essential to create spaces where gender minorities can find support, meet mentors and peers and feel empowered by seeing successful women. The people who compete at the gender minority tournament are still going to be competing against men at dozens of other competitions throughout the year.”

    Subtext: You white men are on your own. We aren’t supporting you for shit, and we hope you lose.

    5 Notre Dame

    Well, contra Kimball, only the liberal elite are perfectly virtuous and above criticism. The rest of us are anachronistic Neanderthals like Columbus.

    If people like this gain power, is there any hope of avoiding outright civil war? There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of room in their positions for disagreement.

  4. 5. Notre Dame (from whence the undersigned obtained his J.D. in 1981 at a commencement featuring then President Ronald Reagan) has gone off the deep end. The Holy Cross fathers and the faculty have gone all in on Social Justice. Hesburgh must be spinning in his grave.

    A funny story about the Vietnam war era beneath the golden dome and Touchdown Jesus: In the spring of 1970 following the Kent State shooting, the main quad was filled with ND students protesting… whatever. The Reverend Father Joyce, Hesburgh’s hatchet, er, right hand, man, came out with a bull horn address the assembled outraged masses, informing them that anyone who remained on the quad for more than the following three minutes would be summarily expelled from the University. The quad was clear within the allotted time. Thus ended the Vietnam war era at Old Notre Dame.

    (I remain convinced it was Hesburgh who talked the Kennedys into getting into the Vietnam war to protect the Catholic church from Communism in the former French colony.)

    • (Wrong spot above.)

      Still trying to figure out the ND position. Catholic monarch sends Catholic explorer to new land to initiate trade and represent the monarch’s authority granted by Catholicism.

      How does that differ from ND Catholic founder Father Sorin out in the American wilderness converting natives to Catholicism in the name of the Pope as Christ’s representative?

      Ashamed of one. Proud of the other. Hmmm…

  5. 3. Facebook censorship update: Well, there’s comfort in knowing that it isn’t just me and Ethics Alarms. Over the weekend, Facebook blocked users from sharing two articles on the on the hate crime hoax by gay black star Jussie Smollett, which Democratic Presidential candidates exploited to attack the President and which the mainstream media largely publicized as fact. Both pundit Rod Dreher and Daily Caller reporter Jen Kerns saw their articles censored on Facebook, with messages that the pieces—which are, we now know, factual and true, violate Facebook “community standards.”

    I don’t know what can be done about this. Dreher says he has quit Facebook after the social media monster rejected his article at The American Conservative., but Facebook won’t care until the users who have created an oppressive “community standards” hostile to any facts or opinions challenging the “resistance” hive mind start caring about facts, freedom of expression and fair debate. Heaven knows most of my Facebook friends don’t care.

    Judith Bergman wrote about this.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13583/facebook-blasphemy-laws

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg now appears to be more intent on censorship than ever. In a recent memo, written in mind-numbing, bureaucratic obfuscatese, he described his plan to discourage “borderline content”, a concept appearing to be so meaningless as to encompass anything that Zuckerberg and Facebook might ever want to censor.

    A report published in the Wall Street Journal on January 8, noted that Facebook — and Twitter — executives removed activist Laura Loomer from their platforms after Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area chapter, complained to them. What Facebook fails to disclose is that CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-financing case in US history. CAIR has also been designated a terror organization by the United Arab Emirates.

    Billoo herself, according to Jihad Watch, “In tweets that remain publicly available… has expressed her support for an Islamic caliphate and Sharia law. She also claims, in multiple tweets, that ISIS is on the same moral plane as American and Israeli soldiers, adding that ‘our troops are engaged in terrorism'”.

    Facebook, however, appears to be “creatively” selective in how it chooses to follow its own rules. In France, a prisoner identified as Amir was accused in November of publishing ISIS propaganda from his prison cell using a smuggled phone. Facebook, apparently, took no notice.

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