Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/2020: Feeling Like Inigo Montoya

Good morning and I’m ticked off…

I know I ran that same clip recently. Never mind; when it’s appropriate, it’s appropriate. (The segment of “The Princess Bride” above is one of the top 6 ethics movie clips used on Ethics Alarms, the others being Otter’s declaration that it’s time to do something really stupid and futile (“Animal House”); “You know: morons!” (“Blazing Saddles”); the Devil speech (“A Man For All Seasons”); the Duke busting a bully in the face after saying that he wouldn’t (“McClintock”); and the Caine mutineers’ lawyer explaining that it is the duty of a crew to support their captain whether they like him or not (“The Caine Mutiny.”)

1. Do people know what “We’re in this together” means? I don’t think it means what they think it does. I just was sent an email copied in to 25 other people who I do not know, touting a 2015 Bill Gates TED Talk  about the dangers of viral contagions (as if his point hadn’t been made more vividly and earlier by Tom Clancy , Michael Crichton, and Stephen King. ) The letter also alluded to the “denier in chief” and once again flogged the Big Lie that the President  claimed that the virus was a hoax. The Pavlovian Deranged on the list immediately responded with short messages all echoing the theme of what an idiot Trump is.

I’ve had enough of this. I replied to all:

Of course, the smear that the President ever called the virus a hoax or fake news has been thoroughly debunked, not just by the Fox News shills but by the Associated Press, CBS and others. Yet supposedly intelligent and educated people keep repeating it.

Now if I were going to give a TED talk (and Gates was phoning it in, a TED talk for dummies—nothing he said hadn’t been thoroughly explained in various movies and novels), as a consultant on leadership and ethics, I would point out that in a nation or organization in any sort of crisis, using that crisis to take gratuitous, bitter cheap shots at the leader is near suicidal—bad citizenship, irresponsible, divisive, and destructive. Yet that is what about half the country, including the list here, is doing while patting themselves on the back like a pack of Mean Girls.

The job of the public in such a situation is to do everything it can to bolster a leader, no matter who he is, recognize that there are no certain solutions, understand that a balance has to be struck between brutal truth and the preservation of hope (You know, there was a lot to fear in The Great Depression besides fear itself, but the news media then did not mock FDR for saying so—by current standards, the Washington Post would list that statement as among Trump’s “lies”), and not undermine leadership when leadership is essential.

CBS has been running ads with celebrities intoning that “we are all in this together.” Masturbating by calling the President nasty names and insulting the approximately half the country that supports him, is not being “together.” It is the opposite.

If, as seems to be the case, you lack the self-awareness to be ashamed of yourselves, I’ll be ashamed for you.

2. Ethics Dunce: Trader Joe’s. The market has by far the best pre-prepared meals around and the prices are reasonable, but the Lefty fascists who run the place have decided that they, not individual shoppers, are responsible for enforcing “social distance,” so a line forms outside the place an hour before opening, and the typical wait for the privilege of shopping there is an hour or more. The elderly are going to do well having to wait standing in 50 degree weather, but hey, this place is run by the young, for the young. I’ll miss their frozen beef and stout pies, but Trader Joe’s won’t be getting any more of the Marshall family business. Over at Safeway, shoppers were keeping a responsible distance just fine without supervision.

3. Notice to all: Ethicists should not be in the hobby horse maintenance business.  I say “should not be,” because sad experience has shown me that most ethicists will gladly defend whatever position their employers want to have declared “ethical.”

In a National Review piece called “Trump Needs a Bioethics Commission to Guide the Coronavirus Response,” the author, Jonathan Tobin, makes it clear why he wants such a commission.  “The lack of someone who is qualified to speak specifically to the moral and ethical issues raised by the pandemic in terms of dealing with shortages and the treatment of the elderly — who remain the group considered the most vulnerable to the disease — is potentially leaving the president without the sort of advice he desperately needs as the crisis becomes more acute,” he writes, “it becomes necessary to ask whether Americans — and in particular, an administration that has prided itself on its pro-life stance — will be willing to ignore Judeo-Christian traditions about the sanctity of life, including that of the elderly, to manage this crisis.”

“It becomes necessary to ask whether Americans — and in particular, an administration that has prided itself on its pro-life stance — will be willing to ignore Judeo-Christian traditions about the sanctity of life, including that of the elderly, to manage this crisis,” he continues.  “Treating the lives of older citizens as a precious and loved resource rather than as the property of a group that has lived too long to be of any use is an imperative for an ethical society, especially one that values faith as much as the United States. As the Trump administration copes with the pandemic, it must reaffirm religious and ethical values that ensure that respect for life also applies to the elderly.”

And if a genuinely objective ethics commission decides that after balancing all the considerations, protecting the elderly must be given lower priority than making certain that the economy survives and the contagion doesn’t spread out of control? Don’t be silly: you just make sure that you only hire bioethicists whose position you are certain about before you hire them!

4. I once called the Southern Poverty Law Center a hate group. It is certainly the embodiment of Eric Hoffer’s  invaluable observation that every cause becomes a business, and eventually deteriorates into a racket.

Yesterday it tweeted,

This is a flat out lie. (Of those 66 “loves,” maybe 24 were those clowns who got the email I discussed above.) How long will supporters of the discredited group tolerate this kind of blatant race baiting? Saying that China was responsible for loosing a dangerous virus on the world when that virus came from China is not anti-Asian racism. He has never uttered an anti-Asian “epithet,” and refusing to join in the progressive practice of suppressing facts and the truth because stupid and vicious people will react badly to them is standing up for American values. It is not racist in any way.

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/2020: Feeling Like Inigo Montoya

  1. As someone who started reading National Review at 17 or 18 I have been disturbed by it being the home or birthplace of many never-Trumpers.

    As for the rest of these people thriving on ignorance, disinformation, hate, and lies, I hope they get what they deserve in a very public and karmic way.

  2. 1–Would LUV too hear any responses that are anything other that informing you that, from here on in, you’re blocked.

    4–Any record of how the SPLC weighed in on ​German measles, West Nile Virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, Ebola, Norovirus (Norwalk virus, Desert Shield virus, Southampton virus, Bristol virus, Lordsdale virus, Toronto virus, Mexico virus, Hawaii virus and Snow Mountain virus), Zika virus, Spanish Flu, or Legionnaire’s Disease?

    Because all were named after the groups/places from which they originated.

    • 4. How does the SPLC verify claims of discrimination? Their tweet sounds like a solicitation for claims (“RFC”). “You make ’em, we report ’em. Get ’em in right away, folks!” And we’re supposed to be horrified by Bible Thumpers?

      • What happens if the accusations of discrimination and violence toward Asians are leveled against non-white , non- binary groups what does the SPLC plan to do with that information and will they vett such accusations in the same manner as they would had the charges been leveled against white heterosexuals?

  3. #1 – I have corrected “Trump called the virus a hoax” countless times among supposedly smart FB friends – and then they post the same thing again and again. Video and actual complete quote be damned. Sigh.
    #2 Must differ with you on Trader Joes…I showed up at Alexandria’s store in Old Town at 8:30 Tues morning, was first one in a short line and the store opened 15 minutes early because staff had completed their morning prep. Shelves were stocked, carts were sanitized, customers were meandering through the aisles – not pushing and shoving, not grabbing things, and the checkout line moved amazingly fast and all staff was extremely helpful. I am aware though that if you go on a weekend, the scene could be far different. In this instance, I don’t consider this leftist control…but concern for cleanliness, safety and efficiency.
    I see the craziness at Costco…where I will refrain from going until this whole thing is over.

  4. As to the president calling the Wuhan virus a hoax, you’ll be pleased to know that our dear friends at Snopes addressed this in their typically distorted manner earlier this month.

    Question: “Did President Trump Refer to the Coronavirus as a ‘Hoax’?”

    Last line in their brief overview synopsis: “…Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.”

    Yet their conclusion was that the claim was a “mixure” of true and false, and they supported this bit of illogic with a rambling, mostly irrelevant, mishmash of “Trump bad” bits of info that really had no bearing on the fact that the simple, factual, honest, answer to the question is, and should be, “False”.

    These are our trusted fact checkers.

    • Thanks, I guess.
      Since we have established that Snopes is untrustworthy, it gives them more credibility than they deserve to see if a particular episode is biased and slanted. The bottom line is that a fact-checker who isn’t objective is useless. Whether a particular piece happens to be accurate or not is irrelevant.

  5. Why in the world would you want a bioethicist? Bioethicists view the world through a completely atheistic, utilitarian view. They would look at the victims, look at the resources, and only keep the young, the healthy, and the educated with no mercy. There would be no real attempt to strain the economy to try to save more. The old are considered of no more use to society and if they die, they die. No problem. See Ezekiel Emmanuel’s Complete live’s system. Also look at Pete Singer who has complained about abortion opponents saying that he doesn’t think that the fact that an embryo is a living human being is sufficient to show that it is wrong to kill it. Once you take religion out of the picture, there is no longer a reason that human life has intrinsic value. It isn’t logical.

    Click to access huntoon.pdf

  6. #2 No one seems to have any line problems where I go (at all different times of day except early morning). Some stores have lines {my 24-hour Walgreen’s has no six-foot markers in the store proper; but they do have them at the entrance to their pharmacy. I couldn’t care less, as a lifelong bus rider, I have always carried a book along with me.

    #3 I’m not sure what can be done to “protect” the elderly more than self-isolating (I prefer the first, more specific and necessary than staying-at-home or whatever it was). The chain stores began reserving one or two hours a day two or three times a week specifically for seniors and now the smaller markets have begun doing the same. The senior services are still going strong with both paid staff and volunteers who, yes, visit less and phone more, but make sure someone is always available, at least to check in once a day On the whole, many seniors are more accustomed to being on their own. And a once a day check in – preferably from the shut-in – is more than most of them got before the pandemic ( more like once a week).

    #4 Personally, I preferred the Pangolin Virus. I passed that around semi-seriously and one of my recipients wrote back calling it the PangoTango — and that spread a lot further. We’re writing a song to go with it now (remember Hernando’s Hideaway? ending each chorus with the words (not the demonstration) “cough, cough.” If it makes it to the East Coast, let me know. [The same namer suggested the Licker’s punishment should insist he be tongue-tied.] On second thought, you have to have been listening to pop songs in 1954 or else been a fan of Broadway musicals.

    There’s a lot of petting other people’s dogs going around. I like it. It always ends with the dogs’ servants exchanging smiles.

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