Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/1/2019: May Day! May Day!

Good morning to you,

me, not so much…

I’m ticked off at myself this morning for being cripplingly anxious. I have a looming appointment with a specialist later today regarding a medical issue that could be minor or, in a worst case scenario, could be “curtains.” My father taught me better than this: my anxiety is completely irrational. If I dropped dead tomorrow, I would have no basis for complaints; as Clarence tells George Bailey, I’ve had a wonderful life. Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention….

1. About the cultural literacy test...To be fair, I’m going to put up a second test that requires recognizing the name and significance of various figures rather than identifying photographs. They are indeed two different kinds of knowledge, although some of those in the current test are also iconic images. I tried to include some visual clues when I could: the guy with the cigar was famous for his cigar, and that basketball player is an iconic basketball player. The complaints about the figure holding the gun are fair, but literally every other photo I could find of him gave his identity away. Commenter Zoltar’s scoring method of taking half the points when he knew why the person was famous or important but couldn’t fetch the name was justified.

I checked the score of the photos I felt culturally literate Americans ought to be able to identify, and the total was 40. Let’s check the most recent poll…ah! 21 of the 46 results so far met that benchmark. And someone score a perfect 125! My score was only 118…

I felt a little guilty about including the old movie star, but she was the inspiration for the test. Her Academy Award-winning turn was on TV, and she has always been a favorite of mine, as well as legendary with film buffs for her comic technique. I wondered how many Americans recognize her today, for once she had one of the best known faces in the nation. And what a face it was!

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias–Columbine anniversary division. Times reporter Julie Turkewitz produced journalism museum exhibit-worthy example of biased hype, fake news and fake history while reporting on a 20-year reunion of Columbine survivors in Littleton, Colorado. The result was anti-gun propaganda and fear-mongering. I hate to repeat myself, but no ethical newspaper editor would have let her account be published. Examples:

  • “Twenty years after two students attacked Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 12 of their peers and one teacher and marking the beginning of an era of school threats and mass shootings, Columbine’s survivors are now parents.”

This is simply untrue. There have been school shootings since the 19th Century, and no identifiable increase since Columbine (in 1999) that would justify the label “era of mass shootings.” This is particularly true if we omit colleges and universities from the definition of “schools,” which we should.

  • “Kari Bryan, who was a senior at Columbine when the attack happened, drove from Utah to attend the event in Clement Park. “I’m terrified to send my son to high school next year,” she said.”

The tone and context of the article suggests, as the news media has since the New Town shooting, that such fear is rational. Of course it isn’t:: the risk of her son being killed in a high school shooting is considerably smaller than his risk of dying while driving to school.

  • “But nationally, the country has not been able to stop these shootings, as officials struggle to close gaps in mental health care, and as gun defenders and gun control advocates fight over appropriate prevention measures. Many in Colorado thought the Columbine attack would be remembered as a uniquely horrifying moment, never to be repeated. Instead, they have watched similar attacks play out again and again.”

“Again and again” is deceitful journalism. There have been exactly three “similar attacks” on schools, which I guess would be “again and again and again,” but the phrase suggests, and is meant to suggest, constant attacks. If one includes the Virginia Tech shooting, which was at a college and not truly similar, that would make 4 such shootings in 20 years. Too many, but hardly a trend or regular occurrence. The statement that “the country has not been able to stop these shootings’ is also deceptive writing. The country hasn’t stopped all such shootings, because that would be impossible. Of course it has stopped potential shootings.

3. Is the only way to stop craven companies from caving to anti-speech boycotts from the Left to punished them with anti-censorship boycotts from the Right?  As the King of Siam used to say (or sing), “Is a puzzlement.”

Fox News host Laura Ingraham lost a sponsor this week when the men’s wellness line Hims dropped its sponsorship  after  Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick mocked 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke as “light in the loafers” on her show. Yeah, that’s an anti-gay slur, and Patrick should be slammed for it, but trying to punish Ingraham’s show is unjust and a transparent effort to kill the messenger. Also this week, the foriegn language-teaching company Babbel apologized after one of their ads appeared on  “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” releasing this virtue-signaling grovel: 

“If you saw our ad on Tucker Carlson’s show, you’re right to be upset. We are too. While we did place our ad with Fox, we did not know it would air on a show so repugnant and at odds with our mission and values. We are blacklisting the show going forward. We are deeply sorry.” 

Such boycott-triggered attacks threaten the exchange of ideas and open debate in a free society. Ingraham is so far right of me that I need binoculars to see her, and I have many issues with Carlson as well, but trying to silence them, which is the intention behind the boycott threats (largely organized by Media Matters) is a threat to democracy. Of course, companies have no obligation to sponsor shows they don’t like or that their likely customers object to, but i wonder if companies that cave to the totalitarian, pro thought-control and censorship Left don’t deserve to be taught that abandoning free speech has its penalties.

4. In related news: Conservative Hollywood blogger Christian Toto indicts Stephen Colbert and other TV comics for lying outright about the Mueller report and other matters, like the Steele dossier, Biden’s false statement that the President called white supremacists and racists “fine people,” and more. That they do, and he closes,

Late night hosts crack wise with impunity. They serve up biased or downright fake news and never pay a single consequence. What’s to stop them from doing it all the way through the 2020 presidential campaign? How many viewers will listen to their rants and think it’s the cold, hard truth?

The next time you read a survey saying Americans get their news from late night comics be afraid …. very afraid.

Yet I don’t see how we can legitimately hold comics to journalism ethics standards. If Americans get the news from late night shows, Maher or “The Daily Show,” or, for that matter, fake news from Russians on social media or even MSNBC, whose fault is that? The schools? Their parents? The web? Smart phones?

Is a puzzlement…

52 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/1/2019: May Day! May Day!

  1. Listening to “Lusty Month of May” again brings back memories of a Camelot production quite a while ago where the leads were terribly, terribly mismatched. I like the show but that production is low on my list.

    • I have fond memories of Camelot, actually, since my older brother played King Arthur in his High School production when I was still in Elementary school. I heard the songs OVER AND OVER AND OVER while he would practice, and far from getting sick of hearing them . . . they got better.

      Today I use “C’est Moi” as my go-to song if someone wants to hear my singing voice.


  2. 3/4. I saw this quote on Althouse today:

    Th[e] argument—a speaker is responsible for harms that are theoretical, indirect, and so diffuse as to encompass actions of strangers who put themselves on the same side of a controversy — is untenable. Suppressing speech because it might indirectly cause danger depending on how people other than the speaker may react is an authoritarian move. And this approach to speech, applied consistently, would of course impede the actions of the anti-Paglia protesters as well.

    It’s by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. At least not everyone on the left feels like you should be guilty by association. Perhaps its worth a quote of the week?

  3. Good luck with the doctor’s visit. You’ll be fine. I’ve gone through the same sweats a time or two myself.

      • Let’s hope not. However, if so, maybe you will get better? I talked to a friend of mine yesterday who died for several minutes last week. He is much better now. I also had a friend who was sent to ICU and then told he either had mono or an almost certainly incurable leukemia and they couldn’t tell which. He asked me what to do. I told him to go to a better doctor (he had mono).

    • It seems like that should have happened earlier. Applying a law retroactively to someone really shouldn’t be upheld by any judge…but it was.

  4. Jack wrote, “I have a looming appointment with a specialist later today regarding a medical issue that could be minor or, in a worst case scenario, could be “curtains.” ”

    I do hope your appointment goes well but don’t spend a single moment worrying about it, worrying about tomorrow will detract from the things that are important today which are the the people you love and the things you enjoy. Worrying won’t change things that are out of your control, it only strips you of the ability to really enjoy life now. You are you today, and you’ll be you tomorrow both before and after the appointment.

    So let it be written, so let it be done. 😉

  5. 2. Media bias

    The country hasn’t stopped all such shootings, because that would be impossible. Of course it has stopped potential shootings.

    It would be impossible even if the wet dreams of every gun controller came true the day after Columbine. Criminals will always have guns, because they don’t care what the law says. They will always sell guns to others, regardless of their intended use, because…criminals.

    Well, this sort of unethical bias isn’t going away. When all you hear from your peers day in an day out is how horrible gun violence is and how much better it would be with gun control, it’s understandable people who simply don’t value critical thinking would adopt that position.

    3. Boycotts from the right

    Of course, companies have no obligation to sponsor shows they don’t like or that their likely customers object to, but i wonder if companies that cave to the totalitarian, pro thought-control and censorship Left don’t deserve to be taught that abandoning free speech has its penalties.

    For the record, I have decided that the only way to meaningfully fight back is to boycott such companies in retaliation. I no longer purchase Levis or buy anything at Dicks, for example, because of their unethical positions on gun control. This has hurt me as well, as I’ve had to pass on things I like. Dicks is very close to my home, and now I have to go much further to shop for the things I used to buy there.

    I guess that’s only fair, though. I hate boycotts, but at some point, you have to fight fire with fire.

    4. Late night comedians

    You’re right, of course. I don’t get exercised about comedians not getting their facts straight — their job is to get laughs, and if the truth must be tortured a bit, who cares?

    And your point about the stupidity of relying on comedians for news is spot on.

    • The best case study is Mexico. The Mexican Constitution guarantees Mexicans the right to own firearms. However, that right was allowed to be chipped away until it became the right to own the firearm in your home, but not to use it to defend yourself or to take it outside your house. What a wonderful paradise Mexico has become because of it.

      • It also shows that constitutions can be “amended” by judicial fiat.

        It does not take thirty-eight states and two-thirds of each house of Congress to eliminate a constitutional protection.

        It only takes five people.

        • Michael Ejercito wrote, “It also shows that constitutions can be “amended” by judicial fiat. It does not take thirty-eight states and two-thirds of each house of Congress to eliminate a constitutional protection. It only takes five people.”

          Something in that seems out of whack? A majority of the Supreme Court of the United States can “eliminate a constitutional protection”; did I read the totality of that comment correctly?

          I think I read it correctly and I think it’s incorrect, maybe it’s the use of the word “eliminate”.

            • dargin_dragon wrote, “He was talking about Mexico, Z.”

              I couldn’t tell that from the numbers he provided.

              But he wrote, “It does not take thirty-eight states and two-thirds of each house of Congress to eliminate a constitutional protection.”

              Mexico only has thirty-one states plus one federal entity and two-thirds of the states in Mexico would be 20 or 21 states depending on how they round, whereas two-thirds of the states in the USA is 33 or 34 depending on how they round it. His number of thirty-eight isn’t accurate for either but it’s a lot closer to that of the USA than it is for Mexico. It’s a bit difficult to tell exactly what country he was writing about in that regard so I figured it was the USA.

              The part that’s really out of whack to me is that he seems to think that it only takes a majority in the Supreme Court in the country he’s talking about to, and I quote, “eliminate a constitutional protection”. Eliminate, really?

              • Michael Ejercito wrote, “Remember that four justices ruled that D.C.’s handgun ban did not violate the Second Amendment.”

                However, they were overruled by the five other Justices. That’s how it works and now it would be even more difficult.

                They tried to do the same kind of DC ban of handguns in our area but all they were able to achieve was ban the sale of pistols within the city limits. I was directly involved in the public debate with the City Counsel, it was quite heated.

        • I still think they should have gone with the original idea of him using the crop dusting plane rather than the jet. Apparently they even filmed that version. Yes, it would have been stupid, but no dumber than the rest of the movie.

          • Things wrong with this plot device:

            -Vietnam era pilot flying modern fighter aircraft. (ANYONE who does not fly this particular fighter flying it is iffy as best, even military pilots who currently fly other aircraft)

            -Crop duster climb rate and stall speed to deliver a missile the plane could not carry anyway (too heavy)

            -Using air to air missiles against a flying city (not enough bang for the buck)

            -single point of failure on primary alien weapon system (the military contractors who sold THAT weapon to the aliens should be executed for failure to effectively QA test)

            But worst of all? The lack of computer security and open system architecture of the alien fleet. This was so bad even CERT announced an advisory:

            The CERT Coordination Center has received reports of weaknesses in Alien/OS that can allow species with primitive information sciences technology to initiate denial-of-service attacks against MotherShip(tm) hosts. One report of exploitation of this bug has been received.

            When attempting takeover of planets inhabited by such races, a trojan horse attack is possible that permits local access to the MotherShip host, enabling the implantation of executable code with full root access to mission-critical security features of the operating system.

            The vulnerability exists in versions of EvilAliens’ Alien/OS 34762.12.1 or later, and all versions of Microsoft’s Windows/95. CERT advises against initiating further planet takeover actions until patches are available from these vendors. If planet takeover is absolutely necessary, CERT advises that affected sites apply the workarounds as specified below.”


            (PS: The movie is still a guilty pleasure, like ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’ The ‘Resurgence’ sequel? Not so much)

            • I’m not too sure how well ‘reverse engineering’ would work on totally alien systems. Much less design and construct a defense system encompassing Terra and Luna in the limited time they had available, based on that reverse engineering.

              • The sequel is just a step too far. They made the alien craft absurdly large, the premise of the movie was stupid, and the resolution was asinine.

                And they did not get Will Smith back, which was the best part of the original, IMHO.

  6. I don’t understand how “light in the loafers” is an anti-gay slur. My immediate reaction or understanding was it referred to his inexperience as in being a lightweight.

    Who decides what is a slur? For example why is the statement about shithole countries any more insulting to some than calling them banana republics. Where do bananas grow? Here we have one that has a relative geographic reference whereas the other requires the other to impose their own prejudices and biases to determine what country is a shithole. I would venture a guess that some antagonists of the US consider us to be a shithole. All those SJW may think so as well. For all those that immediately thought the shithole countries reference was specific to only non white countries then they may want to ask themselves why they felt that way.

    • How is a good question, but that phrase was a euphemism for “queer as a three dollar bill” so long ago that calling someone “queer” wasn’t considered in bad taste.

      • Queer as a three dollar bill was not originally a gay slur. Queer simply means something out of the ordinary, unusual, odd or something rarely seen. It cannot be a gay slur today because gay people are ubiquitous so the word queer has lost its original meaning; as such relating queer to non-existent currency denominations makes absolutely no sense.

        Also, I wish you well.

    • From the Dictionary of Euphemisms, Oxford U. Press: ” “light-footed – pertaining to a homosexual male. Cf. ‘light’ (sense 1). Light on his feet. (U.S. slang, 1900s.) light – 1. lewd; wanton (numerous writings attest since the 1300s).” Loafers – the slip-on shoes – came in in 1937. At first, they were not considered “proper” men’s footwear [real men must tie their laces, even better, wear boots, or just take off their work shoes when they came home and get into slippers or walk around in their socks but not “loaf” around.], They were fancy, and the advent of “penny loafers” made the whole thing worse. Supposedly, men who wore them, especially the ones with tassels, had to walk differently: they minced. Thus: “Light in the loafers” is (idiomatic, slang, derogatory, dated, euphemistic for Gay; homosexual). You don’t hear it very often these days; as the definition said, it’s dated.

  7. Jack, I remember what a shock it was when both my wife and I were diagnosed with cancer within a year of one another. Colonoscopy’s, however, are to prevent the kind of things that happened to my ex-mother in law. Just keep thinking that all will be well and it will be.

    • My mom passed of colorectal cancer. She did not get checked for decades, and paid the price. This disease is CURABLE up to stage 3, and many stage 4 diagnosis recipients live many, many years.

      The sad irony? My mom worked as a endoscopic nurse, literally traveling three days per week to give exams from both ends. She KNEW the risks.

  8. “If you saw our ad on Tucker Carlson’s show, you’re right to be upset.”

    What a stupid statement. If you saw their ad on Tucker Carlson’s show, it’s probably because you’re the sort of person who watches Tucker Carlson’s show and wouldn’t be upset about seeing the ad.

    It’s amazing how utterly convinced the left is of its own moral correctness that it would just assume that agreement with it is every good person’s default position. Such a childish inability to even fathom diversity of opinion, nevermind respect it, is not a good look for those who would grant themselves the role of society’s moral compass.

          • The prep is the worst part. There’s no way to make that glop taste good! But I got lucky with the exam: because of a bit of a-fib and age, I got to have it in the hospital which provided a topical anesthetic. And the suspected heart problem proved to be of little concern. What’s more, they’re only every ten years now.

            • By then (or in 5 years, Jack, whatever sentence they gave you), I hope you will have found a kinder doctor … or an Ativan. The anxiety makes everything worse, and Ethics Alarms generates enough as it is. (It even makes me anxious reading it. Sometimes. Especially the baseball stories.)

  9. 1. I recognized Dressler only as her character from Dinner at Eight, who incidentally has exactly the same problems as John Barrymore’s character, the difference being she acknowledges and actually DOES something about them (while he won’t even accept work to pay off his hotel bill). As in a lot of Edna Ferber’s stuff, you could almost call it feminist.

    I’m glad Jack’s fears were unfounded and appreciate the venue for thoughts like this.

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