Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/19: Insomnia Edition

Jeez, what time is it?

This stuff  kept me awake, gave me nightmares, or made me wish I was dreaming. Started this post before 5 am…

1. Idiotic meme of the week:

A lawyer friend whom I can vouch for having a brain actually posted this thing, apparently approvingly. In zombie movies, the equivalent is when a previously normal friend suddenly bites off your nose. Jules Suzdaltsev is hard left progressive journalist whose background is in film and psychology, and would be a fine example for teaching purposes of what someone sounds like who is so far on one side of the ideological spectrum that he is incapable of finding the center. He’s an ideologue and a Leftist incapable of objective analysis or non-compliant thought, who was steeped for seven years in the  rarefied politics of San Francisco, and who tweets deliberate misrepresentations like “There have been more MASS SHOOTINGS in 2019 than there have been DAYS in 2019” and such cliched “resistance” bile like “Hey do you guys remember when the generation that grew up breathing lead fumes ended up voting for this guy as President?”

The scary thing is not Suzdaltsev—he’s a professional left-wing echo chamber provocateur, and good luck to him, glad he has a career. The scary thing is that lawyers, trained in critical thought, can reach the point where they find extremist agitprop persuasive. Society relies on educated, trained professionals to steer us clear of such rot, not to embrace it. The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck has seen one professional group after another abandon this duty for mob-pleasing expediency.

And how can someone post a statement that Bernie and Warren are barely left-of-center as anything but satire?

2. Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, hanging himself in his cell. This was gross incompetence by the New York City jail, as well as federal authorities. If there ever was a prisoner who was a candidate for suicide (or murder), Epstein was it. He needed to be on a round-the-clock suicide watch. Epstein was allowed to cheat the justice system and his victims. He is now officially innocent of the crimes he was charged with.

Aside from all that, good. The world is better place without him in it.

3. The nature of politics in a democracy means that when enough people insist that leaders “do something,” they have to do something even when it’s counter-productive and stupid. President Trump’s infuriating and unrepairable deficits really come to the fore in situations like this. He has few convictions, doesn’t think deeply about anything, will take almost any position for expediency, and lacks the communication skills to change anyone’s mind. Thus he’s likely to support so called “red flag” laws, which are dangerous and lead to the pre-crime slippery slope, and more background checks, which probably wouldn’t have stopped any of the attacks that have pundits, progressives and the public screaming, “DO SOMETHING!

This is where strong, smart, articulate, courageous and principled leaders are crucial—when, in an approximation of the words of my father’s favorite poem, all about them are losing their heads and blaming it on him or her. At this point in its history, the United States has no such leaders, and none are on the horizon that I can see.

Professor Turley has a rational analysis of the current gun control “do something” hysteria here.

He compares the efforts of anti-gun advocates to undermine gun rights through “incrementalism” and a “death by a thousand cuts” to the long term strategy of the foes of Roe v. Wade. The analogy has some validity, but the Second Amendment is a much stronger and reliable bulwark against weakening a right than a Supreme Court case asserting an implied right that was never envisioned by the Founders.

4.  I hadn’t noticed, but apparently the President has suspended press briefings. The last one was March 11 and new press secretary Stephanie Grisham has not held a briefing yet. It’s possible that they are training Grisham before her first, perhaps by hiring free-lance antifa agitators to scream insults at her while she tries to keep her composure—you know, just like the White House press corps.

It would be better if the White House could hold regular briefings before  competent and fair reporters, but since there isn’t a competent and fair press corps, and since news organizations don’t possess the professionalism to remove grandstanding, partisan hacks like Jim Acosta and April Ryan when they repeatedly breach basic journalism and civility standards, stopping the regular briefings is the best of the bad alternatives. The purpose of press briefings should be to inform the public and allow the press to ask clarifying questions. When news organizations agree to stop using them to make partisan arguments, grandstand individual reporters’ opposition to the President , and compete for “resistance” favor, then the briefings should resume, and not before.

5.  Speaking of suicides…and Netflix ethics…Netflix deleted the key suicide scene from the first season of “13 Reasons Why,” the series exploring teenage suicide, more than two years after the episode premiered. The stated reason was ongoing complaints, some from psychiatrists and medical professionals, and new data showing that juvenile suicides spiked when the show premiered. From the beginning, there were protests from educators and mental health experts who said the show’s portrayal of suicide was dangerous, and might inspire copycat behavior. Netflix held its ground until a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that suicide rates spiked among boys (boys?) aged 10 to 17 in the month after the release of the first season.  April 2017, the study claimed, had the highest overall suicide rate for boys in that age group for the past five years.

Pttui! Netflix is wrong one way or the other, lacking integrity or responsibility. Either it should have deleted the scene earlier, or not at all. My vote would be for not at all.

Netflix is now just capitulating to censors, something we are seeing with increased frequency in the arts, especially when large corporations are involved. How long will it be before post-release edits “for the greater good” are inflicted on thousands of films and TV shows on the theory that they might promote violence, or gunplay, or risky behaviors?

The study doesn’t prove a link between increased suicides and the scene cut. It doesn’t even prove a link between juvenile suicides and the show itself; correlation isn’t causation. The study didn’t have evidence indicating how many of the teens and pre-teens watched the show, or even had access to Netflix. A later study interviewed those who watched the show, but obviously they hadn’t killed themselves. How many 10-13-year old boys would voluntary watch a grim show about a suicidal teenaged girl, or use such a character as an inspiration? I suspect that the study group was cherry-picked to get a desired result.

This is an unethical precedent that endangers free speech and artistic expression. Netflix is just pandering at this point; it hasn’t touched other suicide scenes in its inventory, of which there are many: just this week I watched the finale of the third season of “The Fall,” featuring a very graphic suicide by the series antagonist, a troubled young man. Why is that scene intact? When I was 13, I know “The Fall” would have been far more appealing than “13 Reasons Why.”

Post script: You don’t think they let Jeffrey Epstein watch “13 Reasons Why”, do you? Talk about negligence…

32 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/19: Insomnia Edition

    • I think Epstein did himself in because word got out he was an embezzler rather than a “financier.” “Embezzler” has none of the cache of “financier.” I don’t even think it’s a French word, is it?

      Which reminds me of the Simpsons where Bart is sent to France for foreign study but is placed with some wine growers who abuse him for child labor purposes. The French authorities let the child labor abuses go when they realize the abusers are actually cutting their wine with gasoline. Sacre Bleu! Mon Dieu!” Now THAT’s a punishable offense!

  1. When they demand do something about gun violence I offer this:

    Effective immediately all public and subsidized housing will be subject to random searches for illegal firearms.

    Now watch the left twist themselves into knots.

        • I just knew if I read further down in the Comments I would find someone who had already made my point. Yes, it is indeed the children’s lives they are playing with. The film is played in schools along with backup from professional counselors and suicide prevention people. Thing is, the book was out and about in the teen populace in 2007 and the film debuted on March 31, 2017. Both book and movie have already entered the voluntary “must read/see” universe — That was decided by The Children Themselves … not the overprotective adults, and their comments were almost universally positive: We saw a lot of them. “Finally, someone understands, has had the same problems . . . This is the truth about what happens and it’s not the way I thought it was.. . .Thanks for showing me (not just telling me); now I can get over it, get past it, get help/ for my friend, for my brother, for me.”

  2. I am highly suspicious about Epstein’s death. Highly. Suspicious.

    There is no way incompetence explains this. He was simply too high-profile for that much incompetence to take over the entire penal institution. I am not inclined to believe incompetence was the cause, and I am disinclined to believe his death was a suicide.

    This is just the beginning of this story, I guar-on-tee.

        • Oh Andrew; is nothing sacred…/sarc…

          Not sure how I feel about this; usually, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

          But “temporary problem,” this?

          Abusers of the under-aged don’t fare well, AT ALL, in the joint because many of those in the joint were abused when they were under-aged.

          Reminds me of a line from True Detective/Season I/Episode VI (outfreakin;standing program!) Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) to Charmaine Boudreau (Azure Parsons) after extracting her confession to killing her young children:

          The newspapers are gonna be tough on you. And prison is very, very hard on people who hurt kids. If you get the opportunity, You Should Kill Yourself.”

      • This from CNN:

        Former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who left the Justice Department in May, said in a tweet Saturday that “pedophiles facing federal criminal charges are at high risk for suicide.”
        “It happened in several of my Maryland cases when defendants were released on bail,” Rosenstein, a former US attorney for the District of Maryland, wrote. “Detained pedophiles require special attention. Stopping people from harming themselves is difficult.”

        Rod seems to have come down with a bad case of former federal employees saying dumb sounding things at the wrong time disease.

  3. Even leaders we believe are strong in their convictions are backing red flag laws, or the possibility of them. I saw an interview with Rep. Crenshaw, where be explained the only way he would consider red flag laws is if the person accused could speak before a court, amongst other things.

    I’m not certain how someone can prove that they’re not mentally unstable, even if they’re allowed to testify in their defence (whether that testimony would be before or after the person’s firearms are taken away was a distinction that I do not recall Rep. Crenshaw clarifying). Would not a supposed mentally ill person tend to say things to convince people that they were not mentally ill?

    “I’m not crazy!”
    “That’s exactly what a crazy person would say!”

    Even with all the talk of guaranteeing due process, unless being mentally ill is a crime in and of itself, I can’t see how red flag laws preserve due process.

    • What I’m thinking is we don’t need to worry about every person with a crazy look in their eye, just those who’ve already displayed a destructive pattern of behavior. If someone’s racking up restraining orders, harrassment, stalking, and assault charges, etc. that might indicate they need more serious intervention than a few nights in jail.

    • The Ex Parte nature of them makes them ripe for vengence. A dispute with a neighbor over a barking dog becomes fodder for someone adding to an application for a TRO “… and he has guns and said he would shoot the dog and me….” The target party (no pun intended) should at least be able refute such claims before an order issues.

      And, when found that a moving party was untruthful in the original complaint, they become responsible for the defendant’s legal costs,as well as suffer prosecution for making a false report and/or perjury.

  4. 5. Speaking of suicides…and Netflix ethics…Netflix deleted the key suicide scene from the first season of “13 Reasons Why,”

    I stopped trusting media giving first amendment its due and not censor stuff they didn’t like when Bugs Bunny, as well as Tom and Jerry, were butchered by screaming parents and mental health people. Funny, I don’t notice lessoning of violence in the decades since they did this and we lost the joy in seeing those toons as newer stories with those characters are bland and unfunny. That’s happening in a lot of places.

    The media does not believe in free speech, even if they use those laws as an excuse for bad behavior! I’d rather have more Bugs, Roger, and Tom back in all their subversive cleverness, even if some doesn’t age well/

  5. Re: 1, this sort of thing is a common trope among progressives because they regard politics in most of the rest of the Western world—where “soft,” generally gradualist socialism (usually associated with “Labor” or “Social Democratic” parties) is center-left—as normative. Most Europeans I have met are puzzled by Americans’ resistance to socialism and our relative comfort with nationalist rhetoric and symbolism. I think it’s fair to say that the political center in the US is further to the right than it is in nearly all of Western Europe.

    That has far more to do with the enduring and stabilizing influence of the Founders—Europe and her colonies have seen far more political upheavals since the French Revolution of 1789 than we have—than it has to do with the influence of fascism and ultranationalism. Fascism and ultranationalism emerged in Europe as populist reactions to international socialism and communism, and gained power after the devastating collapse, in WWI, of the conservative political order established a century prior by the Congress of Vienna. They came into power partly because conservative power-brokers supported them out of expediency as bulwarks against socialism and communism.

    Fascism and ultranationalism never made substantial inroads in the US, which never felt the influence of revolutionary nationalism since it had already successfully thrown off aristocracy and monarchy at its inception, and where socialism has always been weak. At the beginning of the 20th Century, socialism was already low on the cognitive dissonance scale by virtue of its association with radical anarchists in the late 19th Century. Despite some gains for socialism in the period before WWII, the October Revolution in 1917 and the Cold War struggle against communism after WWII further dragged all forms (including European-style “soft” socialism) way down the cognitive dissonance scale in the minds of the American people (except, of course, among artists, actors, activists, and academics).

    There’s a certain element of truth to the tweet, in that our center-left Democrats (pre-Trump, anyway) would likely be regarded as center/center-right in the context of Western European politics. But it’s grossly incorrect about the specifics: mainstream Democrats are not “classical conservatives” (which conjures up Burke and the Tories), and certainly mainstream Republicans aren’t “extremist nationalists.” Moreover, genuinely far-right white supremacists or Neo-Nazis are almost certainly less numerous than avowed communists and left-wing anarchists.

  6. “You don’t think they let Jeffrey Epstein watch “13 Reasons Why”, do you?”

    If Epstein was watching a show about teenage girls, it was for reasons other than the suicide drama.

  7. Thus he’s likely to support so called “red flag” laws, which are dangerous and lead to the pre-crime slippery slope, and more background checks, which probably wouldn’t have stopped any of the attacks that have pundits, progressives and the public screaming, “DO SOMETHING!”

    The proposed red flag laws do not go far enough.
    * any licenses to practice law or medicine should be suspended.
    * any form of intimate contact or relationship should be prohibited.
    * wearing a distinctive badge on the left sleeve while out in public should be required.

  8. 1. This sort of thing does not help leftist causes in America. Gas lighting does not work when information has alternate routes to get to the populace. Of course, the leftists are working to eliminate that as well.

    2. Just another Arkancide. Surprised he was not forced into a small plane on the way to some sort of deposition, which mysteriously crashes somewhere in the mountains. Nothing to see here…

    3. I don’t think Americans are ready for Red Flag laws. I think the push back is going to be… severe.

    4. Never hold a press briefing ever again. The press can go pound sand, after their behavior the past 5 years.

    5. Looking at my bill to see how I cancel Netflix…

    6. There is no number 6.

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