Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: Reverse Racism And Listening To Dead People

“Life is just one damn thing after another.”Will Rodgers.

1. “Dear White People.” Yes, that’s the name of what “Entertainment” calls an eagerly awaited Netflix series. The title is racist. Whites, however, are supposed to ignore constant efforts to stereotype them by skin shade, “otherize” them by designating people of non-color as “you people” (the term the NAACP erupted in outrage over when Ross Perot used it to describe their members), and generally employ the same demeaning rhetoric that if used in the other direction would be attacked as racist.

The  proposed rule appears to be that males and whites, and especially white males, should capitulate to this demeaning double standard, concur that they are twin blights on civilization, and if they do not, and find themselves driven into the arms of the national elected leader and the political party that does not accept the rigged “principles” that constitute consent to be bullied, persecuted and insulted, that means they are “white supremacists” and misogynists.

The gamble, I suppose, is that whites and men are really, really stupid and cowardly, and this divisive hypocrisy will prevail.

I could be wrong, but I think it’s a bad bet.

Post script: From the Babylon Bee: “Ilhan Omar Introduces Resolution Condemning Racism, White Men, And The Jews.”


2. Abuse of authority. In an op-ed, Professor Ian Baruma uses one of my least favorite intellectually dishonest tactics, the “pick an admired long-dead icon and read his mind” trick. The headline: “Churchill Would Despise Boris Johnson.”

Such a title should dissuade any rational reader from proceeding to the text, and no competent editor should let such junk (it is blatant Cognitive Dissonance Scale manipulation, a technique mentioned in today’s earlier post) litter the pages of a publication under that editor’s oversight. Similar arguments are “Mozart Would Hate The Beatles,” “Jesus Would Favor Universal Disarmament,” and “Walt Disney Would Detest Anime.”

These are intellectually dishonest  arguments designed to persuade stupid and ignorant people. It’s not nice to fool stupid and ignorant people. Nor ethical. A history professor who does that is not just abusing his chosen dead icon’s authority, but his own.

Aristotle would despise Baruma’s op-ed.

3.  Related to the futile “What would [Jesus/Lincoln/Martin Luther King/ Mother Theresa] do? ” question is the criticism of some members of the Armstrong family’s monetizing  Moon-Walker Neil’s fame and memorabilia.

Beginning last year,  Neil Armstrong’s  sons began promoting  a series of auctions of about 3,000 mementos from their father’s moon mission, NASA career, and life. They included an American flag that had flown to the moon on Apollo 11; a flight suit their father had worn earlier in his career; and many non-space possessions like Armstrong’s childhood teddy bear.

This has caused a serious family rift as well as criticism from others who knew the astronaut. “I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.” Neil’s second wife, Carol Armstrong (Wife #I  Janet Armstrong is  Rick and Mark Armstrong’s mother) has refused to sell any of her husbands possessions that passed over to her, donating the memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. She and her adult children, Andrew and Molly, believe Armstrong would have opposed profiting from his fame and achievements. Meanwhile, the Armstrong boys have netted $16.7 million in sales to date.

A related controversy involved a threatened medical malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, near Cincinnati. Armstrong died in 2012 after complications from heart surgery.  The hospital paid the family $6 million to settle its  claim that his treatment had been negligent and fatal. Carol’s side of the family refused to join the lawsuit or accept any of the cash. Her husband had considered the cardiologist a friend, Carol Armstrong maintains, and she is certain Neil “would not have wanted her to sue the doctors or the hospital.”

I have strong feelings about this evergreen issue. The dead have no right to constrain the autonomy of the living unless they take legal steps to do so while they are alive—and even then, I think it’s unethical. From the other side of the issue, “X would have wanted Y” is pure speculation and emotional blackmail, unless X’s desires were explicit, in writing, and reasonable.

Previous forays into this realm are here, the tale of the man who made his wife promise to store him above Marilyn Monroe’s body, and here, about a presumptuous deathbed request.

15 thoughts on “Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/19: Reverse Racism And Listening To Dead People

  1. I have often thought about being cremated upon my passing and leaving a list of persons in whose faces my ashes should be thrown. Upon reflection, however, it appears that I have outlived most of all them, so now I guess I’ll have my remains put into an hourglass and just keep working.

  2. 1. Apparently, it’s wrong for white people to be offended when referred to in a racist way.

    I don’t think I’ll comply with the demand to capitulate to their racism, or to the idea I’m part of the problem with the world, or that I’m a white supremacist or misogynist.

    I also choose not to be offended, because unlike some “people of color,” I don’t give a hoot if somebody acts racist toward me. I can always ignore them, and I prefer to do that.

    The Babylon Bee is a national treasure.

    2. You and I are of a mind. When some idiot “journalist” starts reading the mind of dead people, I refuse to read their screed. And it’s always a screed.

    3. More mind-reading of dead people. Rejected. If the rightful owners of the artifacts want to sell them, they have my blessing just in case they think they need it. If one side of the family wants to sue and the other doesn’t, tough titty — as long as the family members in question have standing, they have a right to interpret the facts differently from the other side and either sue or not.

    Plus, Neal Armstrong was a white man, so something about all this must be racist somehow.

    • “Apparently, it’s wrong for white people to be offended when referred to in a racist way.” Minor correction Glenn – it is not wrong for white people to be offended – it racist for white people to be offended when referred to in a racist way.

  3. Yes, it really is clown world. I look at the Babylon Bee story on Omar and it seems less strange that the current ‘news’ about her. How is it that the Democratic Party keeps electing these mystery people? I mean, it appears that we can’t really confirm Rep. Omar’s real name, father, or siblings. Her marital history is so strange that her own campaign staff admitted that discussing it would just make things worse because you can’t explain it in written words.

    (a) Why would you vote for such a person?

    (b) Justice Democrats took a lot of resumes and interviewed a lot of people for this Congressional seat. Was this really the best Democrat they could find?

    (c) We really need some kind of institution that is dedicated to informing the public about crucial facts in the country. This should include the background and facts on things the public needs to vote on.

  4. The gamble, I suppose, is that whites and men are really, really stupid and cowardly, and this divisive hypocrisy will prevail.

    I could be wrong, but I think it’s a bad bet.

    Well, there has been some interesting discussion on that topic. I mean, on what will happen when the ‘beast’ so-called is provoked. I am sorry to keep bringing this up — I say ‘sorry’ but I don’t quite mean that, I mean I regret that I have to keep repeating it — but it is important for thinking people to know the facts.

    Here, Jordan Peterson talks about ‘masculinity’ as distinct from ‘femininity’ and the difference in their respective vision-quests (he is a Jungian of course!)

    You want to know why I keep saying man? Because women do not have a hero’s journey. At best, women – you – are the goal of the journey. The prize, if you will. At worst, you are the temptress. For the true hero to achieve transcendence he must, as Joseph Campbell told us, ‘press beyond the woman, surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond.’ Today you have illustrated that point as well as any story I can think of. And let me tell you something else. You can consider this a prophecy. Inside the collective is a beast and the beast uses its claws. If you wake the beast the result will be violence. Chaos. I’m sorry to say that these continual protests by radical leftists are going to wake the beast. A beast that you cannot conquer but that will conquer you.

    Now, Peterson has referred to the likely eventuality of ‘waking the beast’ (I guess he means Nietzsche’s ‘blond beast’) if the Progressive Leftists keep on with the ceaseless vilifications and reveals its power-mongering hand.

    But Peterson is, after all, a Canadian centrist by-and-large: a conservative-leaning Progressive to put it bluntly. His notion of responsible adulthood is summarized in ‘keeping one’s room clean’. He can’t really speak about ‘preserving Occidental culture’ nor can he refer to the Grand Occidental Project. He steers people away from the more difficult and demanding definitions. And look how he labels what he terms the ‘violence’ of the beast: it is chaos. But wait! The entire Occidental process cannot be summarized as creating ‘chaos’. Thus he mistakes creative effort and creative effort — which is a form of violence if you think it through — as producing a negative state: chaos.

    But the awakening of a man (and I think a woman can do and must do something similar, or exert an influence over men) to creative duties in this life and to a sense of mission is not to create chaos. It is more accurate to say that we live in chaos now. And if we really think of man as capable of using power (another term for violence if you think about it) in creative, cultural pursuits, then awakening the violence of men is necessary, and good.

    And there is no doubt that undermining, disempowering, and reversing the trends of overt Marxianism that are now strongly in operation is a hero’s journey! Maybe that is how it must be defined? and how it must be spiritualized? (I guarantee you though that this language will begin to sound like certain Germanic romanticism and Volkishness . . .)

    I am reading now The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich by George L Mosse. Mosse was of course an intellectual critic of Hitlerism and his book — super-interesting — describes the origins of the Germanism which has been soundly vilified. It was not, in itself, something evil (in my view) but when the state took it over it definitely became an evil use of power and ideology. Therefore, the issue is to pay close attention to what the state is doing in our present.

    What must be understood — it is a vital piece of understanding — is that the ‘war against whiteness’ is really a war against the core of Europeanism. I am not making this up, not exaggerating. It is an ideological position, extremely virulent and aggressive, that is just one of the tools used by Marxianism in a process of cultural undermining. Marxism has a specific toolbox. You can say ‘white identity’ but that is a mis-guiding term. European identitarianism is closer but it also does not reveal the full story. The full story requires a long, foot-noted essay. In order to preserve what is being undermined, one has to be able to see it and explain it. In chaos one cannot do that . . .

    If one does not see, and if one does not clearly recognize, the similarity in time between Weimar Germany and Weimerica in our present (as the right-wing critics ironically use the term) one is being deliberately blind.

  5. Related to Number 3, but perhaps not in line with it, was your post about Peter Cushing’s Post Mortem appearance in Star Wars Rogue One. There, I believe you said the likeness of a performer should not be used unless they affirmative “opt-in” to Post Mortem use, whereas here you seem to be suggesting they need to “opt-out” if you don’t want your successors doing what they want with your estate.

    Maybe I am not remembering correctly, though.


      • There is a fair distinction that could be made there, yes. Thus, the principle requires further definition.

        Along those lines, Neil Armstrong “famously” stopped giving out his autograph because they started showing up on ebay or things like that. He did not like signing things people would use for profit.

        Should THAT restrict his heirs. It is not his likeness, so it is not quite the same, but it is his creation (unlike a teddy bear) and it was something he pretty clearly (I believe) did not give out because it would be sold. Even if nothing strictly legal was done about his signatures, should his clearly established position in life ethically, if not legally, constrain his heirs? Should they be able to sell his unmailed complaint letter to the power company because it has his valuable signature? You might end up getting an unflattering set of “Lazlo Letters” that has little value apart from his autograph.


        • No, I don’t think the autographs change the ethical ruling. Unless he directed his heirs not to sell his signatures, or directed that they burn them, they aren’t his property any more, if they ever were.

          This is why many famous people burn papers, letters and personal documents, as you know. If Armstrong felt strongly about his autographs, he had recourse. He had no way to stop Industrial Light and Magic from developing a cyber-clone and having it hawk toilet paper or do a cameo in an Adam Sandler movie.

        • This is perhaps not a fair comparison, but as a bookseller at science fiction conventions, that has only happened once to me and it annoyed the heck out of us. Most authors are happy to sign whatever books of theirs we have left over at the end of a con — and they know that we will use that to mark up the prices of those books. Many of their readers are willing to pay extra for a signed book, and everyone involved knows that.

          As I said, perhaps not a good comparison but still, we’re selling their signatures. We did have one other author who asked us not to mark up her books until after her death, and we’ve respected her wishes.

          That other author who refused to sign our books? Well, we use him as a counter example of how nice most authors are, pointing out what a jerk he was (and he was, irrespective of the signature issue).

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