Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/2019: Fat-Shaming, Race-Baiting, And Terrorist-Tarring [UPDATED]

ARRGH!! Half-way through the day, and not out of my pajamas yet!

1. Here’s the kind of comment that won’t get an aspiring  new commenter approved…From Erik Guettler: “It’s sad that you think you actually know anything about ethical behavior by criticizing Bill Maher, while Donald Trump’s the most unethical, openly racist and corrupt president Americans have ever had.”

The comment fails on many levels. To begin with, it’s stupid (there is a stupidity justification among the Ethics Alarms banning tenets.) Criticizing Maher for his frequent absence of functioning ethics alarms cannot make me think I know anything about ethical behavior. The opposite is true: it is because I am an ethicist that I criticize Maher, though it hardly requires an expert to recognize his unethical conduct.A relatively well-raised 17-year-old could do it.

Second, the comment breaches basic ethical analysis principles, not to mention common sense: President Trump’s conduct is irrelevant to how unethical Maher is, as is my criticism, or not, of the President. Third, his list of Trump failings is—oooh! Let me finally use this!NPC junk. Neither he nor anyone can find me any “openly racist” conduct or statements on the President’s part, for this is one of the Big Lies (#4, to be exact.) I have gone through this dance with many Trump Deranged Facebook friends. Challenged to back up the “openly racist” lie, they babble about how he challenged Obama’s birth certificate, and go downhill from there. The statement that he is the “most unethical” President, personally or professionally,  is proof of historical ignorance and bias. Unethical he is, but whether Trump’s lack of ethics is more or less substantive than that of Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton is a matter of legitimate disagreement. The “corrupt” accusation is also non-substantive, unproven, and based on supposition and bias rather than evidence.

But never mind all that: the claim that Ethics Alarms has somehow ignored Donald Trump’s ethics deficits is so easily disproved that the insulting comment is an example of reckless disregard for the truth.

Bite me, Erik.

And don’t come back.

2. While we’re on the topic of Mr. Maher’s ethics…Here is the professional asshole in his most recent HBO episode:

I know this is a controversial thing to say now in today’s America but being fat is a bad thing. We shouldn’t taunt people about it. And overeating shouldn’t be singled out as the only vice. It isn’t. We all have something. But there’s no smoking-acceptance or drunk-acceptance. When did it become taboo in this country to talk about getting healthy? Weight Watchers had to literally take the words Weight and Watchers — I’m not kidding — out of their name. It’s now WW. Because merely the idea of watching your weight is now bullying. What’s next? Banning scales? …

In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty thousand. Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform…

Being fat isn’t a birth defect. Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane. Here it is in a nutshell from the New York Times: Poor Diet is the Leading Cause of Mortality in the United States. Everyone knows that obesity is linked to terrible conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and virginity.

As usual, Maher is playing to the idiots in the audience. There is no “taboo” in this culture about advocating being healthy. Weight Watchers didn’t have to change its name to WW, any more than Kentucky Fried Chicken “had” to become TFC and Dairy Queen “had” to become DQ. Forty thousand Americans did not die from obesity; that’s a gross misrepresentation. They may have died from conditions that have been linked to obesity, or exacerbated by obesity, but they were not killed by obesity.

Maher begins by saying that people shouldn’t be taunted because they are obese, and later says, in the same statement, that they should be shamed. Then there’s the evidence that he lives in a bubble: who  says there’s no “smoking acceptance”? I guess Bill never hangs out with anyone who has to really work with their hands for a living. In blue collar America, smoking is accepted. There is also “drunk acceptance,” because alcoholism is a disease, and shaming alcoholics makes their problem worse.

Maher is making the fatuous and ignorant assumption that all overweight people choose to be fat. Sometimes obesity is a “birth defect.” Often it is the result of inferior nutrition and shopping options: America’s fattest citizens are also its poorest.  In a free society—Maher is supposedly a libertarian–people should have the option of making their own priorities.  At this stage of my life, I prefer to write about ethics than to take an hour a day going to the gym. Go ahead, shame me for that, Bill, you jerk.

Shaming people for their weight also can kill them, as any eating disorder specialist will explain. My father battled his weight his entire life; he was a chubby kid, a chubby teen, a chubby Boy Scout, a chubby life guard, a chubby GI, and chubby war hero, His extra pounds didn’t get in his way when he dived into a pond under fire and dragged two soldiers out of submerged Jeep, saving their lives.

Obesity is unhealthy, and those who are obese are usually more aware of this than anyone. It is not, however, bad, and being obese doesn’t make them bad. Wanting to shame them, however, does tell us a lot about Bill Maher, most of which we knew already.

3. Good. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has filed a lawsuit against San Francisco over the resolution denouncing the organization as a “domestic terrorist organization.” You can read the complaint here.

UPDATE: “Among all likely voters, 23% favor declaring the National Rifle Association to be a terrorist organization in their home community, while 18% think it should be against the law to belong to pro-gun rights groups like the NRA,” says a new Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday.

Be very afraid. This is almost 25% of the public, and it has the grasp of our Bill of Rights of the average Welsh Corgi. Maybe the below average Welsh Corgi. Do NOT tell me how wonderful our public schools are and how dedicated teachers are. If a quarter of our students are graduating that uninformed, then the school system is an expensive fraud.

4. Somehow, I don’t think Barack Obama would have raised a son like the real Trayvon Martin…Among the events facilitated by Barack Obama as he tore down decades of progress in U.S. race relations was his unconscionable interference in the Trayvon Martin case, including his statement that Martin could have been his son.

Documentary-maker Joel Gilbert will preview his new film, “The Trayvon Hoax,” in the 500-seat Ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In preparing the film, Gilbert researched the culture of urban black Miami. He visited all the relevant Miami-area high schools, the neighborhoods where Martin and his friends hung out, the streets of Miami’s Little Haiti, and the community where Martin died. He reviewed  thousands of text messages, tweets, Facebook and Instagram postings sent and received by Martin and his friends.  Far from being the innocent child depicted to the public by his parents and by the news media, (which persisted in using a photograph that made the 6 foot Martin look about 10) the Trayvon Martin Gilbert discovered was deeply involved in a culture of  street fighting, guns, drugs, burglary, and sex.  The narrative pushed by activists, the news media, Obama and, unethically and disgracefully, by prosecutors was completely imaginary and at odds with the facts.

Yet Martin is still referred to a a martyr to racism in America, by Black Lives Matters, Democratic presidential candidates, and others.


34 thoughts on “Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/2019: Fat-Shaming, Race-Baiting, And Terrorist-Tarring [UPDATED]

  1. All the other accusations aside, claiming Trump as the most openly racist president in US history has got to be a tough row to hoe. He’d be vying for that title against several white men who openly owned black people as property, at a time when being openly racist was utterly normal and accepted.

    • Frankly, I love when I get comments that “Trump is the most ____ President ever.” I like them because, while I don’t have an extensive knowledge of presidential history, I am probably above average. I can probably rattle off the names of 35 of them pretty easily, which already puts me ahead of many; when our firm was trying to decide whether to take President’s Day off, I asked the staff to name the Presidents who shares the last name with another President (some are obvious, some are tricky).

      As far as the “Trump is a racist” question goes, I would’ve defaulted to Woodrow Wilson; he actually re-segregated the Federal Government; Jefferson merely maintained a racist status quo.

      Or, with some other random question where Trump is the ______ist President, I just ask how they evaluated X President in that statement. Rudest President? So, how did you decide he was more rude than Andrew Jackson? And, the funny thing is, I don’t even have to have a clue. Least competent? Less than Tyler? I don’t even have to know the answer. I just have to know a name. All I risk is that I might learn something about a President.

      Haven’t yet, but I might….


      • Actually, interesting little tidbit, perhaps.

        I was in DC and one of the museums had a display with street signs for streets named after Presidents.

        Well, there is a section in my City where the streets are named after the Presidents (in chronological order); this section of town was largely populated by Polish immigrants, so you can imagine the jokes that would lead to.

        Anyway, the museum in DC had several street signs from that part of town because, probably nowhere else in the country, did anyone decide to name a street after Harrison, or Pierce, or Tyler. I forget whom exactly appeared in that museum, but they were the more obscure presidents.


        • A development called Presidential Heights in a city in MA has several streets named for Presidents, among them Cleveland, Hamilton, Truman and Harrison. I can’t find a list of all the streets there, and unfortunately I can’t recall all of them. Are we former neighbors?

  2. The press doesn’t realize how much damage they do to their own cause with coverage like the Trayvon Martin case. It was obvious to most people how much they distorted this, much like the Michael Brown case. When the press tells me there is a crisis we need to deal with, they select a few ‘poster children’ to illustrate the cause. I look at those as the most sympathetic cases the media could find. If i don’t find those hand-selected to be the most persuasive cases sympathetic, I reject the whole premise. It may not always be fair, but I think it works well most of the time. These cases made me realize the ‘innocent black people being murdered by police’ epidemic was fake. There is a problem and there are good examples out there of people being killed by overzealous (or worse) police officers. The guy killed in the hotel when he couldn’t follow the overly complicated orders of the officer on the scene, that was a good case. The couple killed in Houston (murder charges have actually been filed against those officers) was another good case. However, the good cases I have seen happen to be whites killed by police.

    For another example, when Congress was debating extending unemployment benefits yet again to people who couldn’t find jobs, they brought out the sob stories. The examples they chose were a woman who lost a $90,000/year secretarial position by embezzling money (and she hadn’t been able to find a job that paid over $45,000 after), a worker who lost a sweet job paying well over average for their trade whose company went bankrupt (and who had rejected 5 or so job offers), and a loan officer who had made bad loans. OK, I’m not supporting them. When they show the sob stories about student loans, I have yet to find one I find sympathetic. Sorry, if you can’t find 1 good example, I am going to assume your ‘epidemic’ is smoke and mirrors.

  3. 4. And the Press Club is actually letting it be shown? No protests to shut it down? No intimidation to make the Press Club tell Gilbert it can’t protect him and is cancelling for his own safety?

    While the narrative prevails that Trayvon was murdered by a racist “police officer” (because Trayvon’s death is constantly being lumped in with other deaths connected to law enforcement), nothing about his personal life will matter. His defenders will argue that nobody deserves to be murdered because of their Facebook posts.

    …unless they’re Nazis, of course.

    • Doesn’t this film maker know you can not under any circumstances whatsoever allege there are any weaknesses in black culture? What on earth is this guy thinking?

  4. 4. The way the press misrepresented Trayvon Martin personally is, to me, the least of their sins in the case. His personal predilections are almost all completely irrelevant to the actual trial that followed. I’m more concerned with how they relentlessly, universally, misrepresented the law and the facts of the case. How many times have you heard some of the following talking points?

    -“Florida’s Stand Your Ground law allows people to shoot people any time they feel threatened.”
    -“Trayvon Martin was shot while walking home with Skittles”
    -“Zimmerman had no right to confront Martin”
    -“Zimmerman disobeyed police orders to break off pursuit”

    All of the above are lies, and they’re just a small sampling. The Zimmerman case prompted me to carefully read the Florida homicide and self-defense statutes. I followed everything that was actually said or presented at the trial. I researched the Florida Model Jury Instructions. Reading the news became like stepping through the Looking Glass and ending up in Wonderland, so disconnected was it from the real world.

    • Martin’s true character and activities are not entirely irrelevant, though, right? The misrepresentation of these were essential to teh narrative: innocent black kid with candy wanders into a racist white enclave, is confronted by white Hispanic racist playing cop, and is shot for being black. Such a kid would never physically assault anyone, much less make him fear for his life!

  5. 2. Obesity is a huge problem in contemporary American society. Is glamorizing “plus size” women and their lifestyle really a good way to go? Normalizing obesity? Making it cute? You go girl? Something has to be done.

    • Different question, though. I’ve been pondering posting on the obvious increase of overweight models and actors in routine ads for just about everything. Yeah, they look”normal”—is this an improvement, or not?

      • I think there is a big difference between plus size and obese. The use of plus size models was a response from complaints that models created a false image of what healthy real women look like. Plus size women include Vanessa and Serena Williams who may be technically obese because BMI measures the relationship of weight and height. I bet either could outperform any “normal” male or female in aerobic exercise. Muscle weighs far more than fat. The problem with BMI as an obesity measure is that it fails to account for musculature or bone thickness and density.

        You must recall the many cases of anorexia and bulemia that were part and parcel of the 80’s and 90’s. The pressure to emulate their emaciated female icons such as Kate Moss, the Olson sisters led to many deaths.

        No one chooses obesity it happens for a variety of reasons. I have struggled with my weight since childhood. I was a low birth weight baby and until I was 8, I was skinny as a rail. but after taking some prescribed medications for what was thought to be some lung infection I started gaining weight and ballooned to 160 lbs but my height was unaffected.

        If you believe that obesity is a behavioral disorder that’s fine but don’t criticize anyone that believes homosexuality is a behavioral disorder because the thinking is the same.

        • Chris, it’s a huge problem. We are all food processors at the end of a massive food industrial and advertising complex that is very good at providing a continuous flow of food for us to shove down our gullets. Is there anything more powerful than large, color photos of food on a television screen at, oh say, right around dinner time? There are all sorts of causes, but the fact remains, food only goes in through the pie hole which is not operated by involuntary muscles. Do we really need adverts with “normal” looking people? Why not healthy looking ones. Can’t advertising be a little aspirational and inspirational? Is that inherently bad? Sure, work out pros riding exercise bikes in their million dollar homes are annoying, but so what. Should BMI charts be adjusted for inflation? For race? Big Papi, Serena Williams, Pablo Sandoval, even LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal are all probably obese on the BMI charts. Charles Barkely probably was even when he was younger and playing. I’ll look forward to Jack talking about this.

          • OB

            I do agree that as a nation we are indoctrinated to eating fatty great tasting processed foods in large quantities. I am simply believe shaming is counterproductive. Instead of fat shaming it would make more sense to show people engaging in living active lifestyles. If we are to solve the problems of obesity in certain populations we must examine the cultural, demographic, and community issues that lead to poor eating habits and address those first or we risk causing the heavy among us to avoid the shaming and the activities that burn calories.

            What if we framed this around something else that impacts others directly, say firearms, should we shame those people into not consuming more firearms. I know they are not the same but not wholly different either. The argument is that consumption/ purchase of X creates third party costs. Why does anyone worry about the fat person? I doubt if it is for some compassionate concern, the obese are invisible to the athletic socially so it can only be that their medical costs impact the athletic’s personal costs.

            • Chris, when there’s a mass shooting, I worry about the mental health of young guys. when I see tons of obese people in the population, I worry about their health and their kids’ health. The diabetes, the joint replacements, the cost of health care, mobies, you name it. And how do we learn to eat properly and take care of ourselves and be active? At home, from our parents. My dad grew up on a farm, my mother was shanty Irish. She cooked almost every meal we had from fresh. My wife and I did almost as well with our kids and our kids are doing great with their kids, our grand children, which is very gratifying. These are deeply imbedded behaviors and are not likely to be affected much by large government programs. But the results of obesity running rampant in the population are going to exact huge costs on the nanny state.

              • If there were a government program called “Eat Your Blankety-blank Vegetables!” I’d be all for it, even if it was considered “shaming.”

  6. Conceptually, if the NRA whose mission is to protect American’s second amendment rights is labelled a terrorist organization, what do we call the ACLU who defend Nazi’s right to march. Are those same people that rely on the ACLU to protect their other civil liberties willing to label the ACLU as a white supremacist terror organization and all those who support it neo nazi white supremacists?

    I hope that the SanFrancisco supervisors are sued and also found to be acting outside their scope of authority so they, as individuals, are held financially liable.

    • While I appreciate your attempt to make sense out of the insanity that is the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s … whatever it was, it’s just impossible.

      They don’t care if they are hypocritical, or if their logic is an archetypal nonsequitur. The only benefit gained from this entire exercise is virtue signalling. They don’t care if the judge finds against them, because they believe they can politic their way out of any consequences other than to the taxpayers. Plus, they can stand up and claim how brave they are to take action against an evil so profound as a constitutional right to own and speak about firearms in any positive way. Insert [If even one life could be saved… argumentum ad populum] here.

      So the people of San Francisco will wind up paying some kind of damages to the NRA, if any are ever awarded. The Supervisors don’t care, and they don’t believe they are vulnerable to being sued in their persons regardless of what the suit says.

    • No need to worry on that front, Chris. Today’s ACLU is a far cry from the organization that once defended free speech with such fervor, they would even defend Nazis. The ACLU has devolved into just another “social justice” racket, and would probably sooner disband and force their employees to get real jobs than defend someone who was espousing anything other than the approved leftist narrative of the day*.

      * Approved narrative is subject to change without notice.

  7. Shamed into wearing seat belts?
    I was habituated into it. Driver’s Ed.: he said, “just put on your seat belt every time you get into the car.” I don’t think twice about it. I do it even if I am moving the car 6 feet.

    Never shamed into it, but 20 years later, they passed a law that said I have to. Basically, they threaten us to do it. Doesn’t change my behavior one bit, but it still pisses me off that they order me to do something I already did voluntarily (for my own benefit) for my own good.


    • But it’s scary how many people still die (and not just elderly baby boomers) from being ejected from cars. I was in drivers ed well before seat belts became ubiquitous and used much (late ’60s). I’m not sure lap belts were very safe anyway. I got used to wearing seatbelts once I was hauling our kids around and they always buckled up (1980s).

      • Yes, it is scary.

        And, it is sad.

        Stupidity often causes sadness.

        We never buckled up, and we rode in the front seat (without car seats).

        We were “lucky” (I am not sure I would call it luck when the vast, vast, VAST majority of car trips end without an accident, much less a fatal one).

        But, I will buckle up because it is easier to do it every time without thinking than to rationally consider each time whether this car trip is the sort where the likelihood of a serious crash is increased.

        Of course, my kinds don’t know any better than to buckle up. When my older one was 3 or 4 (4 or 5?), even shifting the car into reverse before she had buckled her seat belt would result in screaming from the back seat.


  8. “Do NOT tell me how wonderful our public schools are and how dedicated teachers are. If a quarter of our students are graduating that uninformed, then the school system is an expensive fraud.”

    Personally I don’t think it’s a quarter of the students that are graduating uninformed, I think it’s a much, much higher percentage especially when it comes to things like critical thinking, civics, Constitution. Some of these people truly believe right down to their bones that anyone that disagrees with their ideological point of view shouldn’t have the right to share their opinion and should be sent to reeducation camps or prisons.

    This is the resulting mentality that our public schools and our emotionally charged society is producing in the 21st century…


    The indoctrination starts at a young age…

    How about threats…

    The “ok” symbol is now racist?

    Public education has produced Constitutionally ignorant people…

    I think it’s true, there really are Hoards of Anti-Social “Stupid” People Stomp Civility Into Submission!

    The following are from the Forward of Charlotte Iserbyt’s 1999 book “the deliberate dumbing down of america”.

    “Anyone interested in the truth will be shocked by the way American social engineers have systematically gone about destroying the intellect of millions of American children for the purpose of leading the American people into a socialist world government controlled by behavioral and social scientist.”

    “Mrs. Iserbyt has also documented the gradual transformation of our once academically successful education system into one devoted to training children to become compliant human resources to be used by government and industry for their own purposes. This is how fascist-socialist societies train their children to become servants of their government masers. The successful implementation of this new philosophy of education will spell the end of the American dream of individual freedom and opportunity.”

    “The American people are underwriting the destruction of their own freedom and way of life by lavishly financing through federal grants the very social scientist who are undermining out national sovereignty and preparing our children to become the dumbed-down vassals of the new world order. It reminds one of how the Nazis charged their victims train fare to their own doom.”

    “Social engineers use a deliberately created education “crisis” to move their agenda forward by offering radical reforms that are sold to the public as fixing the crisis – which they never do. These new reforms simply set the stage for he next crisis, which provides the pretext for the next move forward. This is the dialectical process at work, a process our behavior engineers have learned to use very effectively. Its success depends on the ability of the “change agents” to continually deceive the public which tends to believe anything the experts tell them.”

  9. Jack, you know I frequently post in favor of our public schools and teachers, but somehow it really didn’t hit me until today what lies behind part of your problem with the system. Many of the complaints you have with our education system are (or would/should be) taught within the realm of the Social Studies department. Bill of Rights, history of this or that, etc. Well, I can tell you that in Michigan, anyway, the standardized testing people who want to make sure we can measure everything and prove our kids are smarter than yours, don’t really count Social Studies in their testing. The Michigan state tests are heavy on math and reading comprehension (we use the SAT for every junior in the state). Social Studies is a separate test entirely. Why? Who knows? But I can tell you after three decades of teaching that our curriculum reflects that fact. We require four years of English and (basically) four years of math (it’s not officially four years, but the state requires a math class be taken during senior year, so…). I’ve said before, if it can’t be measured, the powers that be aren’t interested in it. A test that measures whether you comprehend the passage of text you’ve just read is easy to write and score; one that shows you understand the nuances of the constitution is not. Could teachers do better? Maybe. They have a whole lot of stuff required of them, and teaching is often not at the top of the list. But I don’t put the blame on our teachers and schools as much as I do our legislators.

  10. I don’t recall shaming had anything to do with seat belt usage. My sister and were taught in driver’s ed (mid 60s) to wear seat belts and it was just an automatic part of driving. That extended to the passenger seat and, later, to the back seat. We were merciless to our parents about that sort of thing, but it took several decades for them to be totally into the seat belt thing. Then, much later, the states decided to make it a traffic offense not to wear seat belts and the various state police organizations have gotten behind it with their Click it or Ticket campaigns. And it’s worked. That’s one reason highway fatalities are down to much since when I was a kid.

    I also remember (me particularly) nagging my mother about her smoking and mangling statistics to show that smoking had already eliminated her life expectancy (just to spite me she still lived another 30 years). Of course that didn’t keep me from becoming a smoker for over four decades…..

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